Katie Barnes decided to have a baby on her own after she was unlucky in finding a partner.
She searched five sperm banks in three countries to find the perfect donor.
This is Barnes' story, as told to Laura Cooke.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Katie Barnes. It has been edited for length and clarity.
When I was younger, it was never a question of if I'd have children — it was always a question of when. But I've quite simply been unlucky in love; I had several long-term relationships, but nothing lasted.
My last relationship ended when I was 37. I quickly became aware that the clock was ticking; I've seen the statistics about older women trying to have children.
When that relationship ended, I decided to explore my options. I ultimately chose to have a baby on my own, using a sperm donor — which was a journey that spanned three countries.
I started my fertility journey by going to a fertility clinic to learn my options
I went to the TFP Thames Valley Fertility Clinic in the UK for an assessment and discovered I was of average fertility for my age.
From there, my doctor told me I had a choice: I could go with IVF or intrauterine insemination. I chose the latter because it's less invasive and cheaper. But the chance of getting pregnant with IUI is much smaller.
Around the same time I was speaking with my life coach because I was struggling with aspects of this journey. I was worried I'd be depriving my baby of a father.
Through more honest conversations, I decided to move forward and have a baby on my own.
The process got even harder when I had to choose a sperm donor
First I looked at a sperm bank in London, but there weren't a lot of choices. Donors aren't paid a huge amount in England compared with other parts of the world, so I don't think many men come forward to do it.
From there I went online and explored the options at two sperm banks in Denmark, but nobody really caught my eye.
At the same time I looked at two sperm banks in the US. In Georgia, I was really drawn to one donor. He seemed nice and was an obviously good-looking man. The bank had great photos of him as a child and as an adult.
At this sperm bank, the donors could write a letter to their future offspring. The donor I was interested in wrote a wonderful letter. It was something I imagined showing my child one day. It won me over.
After searching 4,000 miles, five sperm banks, and three countries, I finally found my donor.
Shipping the sperm wasn't complicated — the sperm bank arranged the whole thing.
Then it was time for my procedure
I had to call the fertility clinic on the first day of my cycle and then take ovulation tests.
When we finally did the procedure, there were three nurses in the room. There was just a really nice, positive vibe.
The procedure was pretty painless, but then I had to wait two weeks to take a pregnancy test.
Because the statistics aren't great, I wasn't expecting anything — but it worked
I got a positive pregnancy test. I just couldn't believe it had worked on my first try.
I had a textbook pregnancy. I felt very sick and exhausted during the first trimester. Luckily, the second trimester was much easier; I just felt great. The whole time I imagined that having a partner would make the ups and downs of pregnancy easier.
As the due date got closer, it started getting a bit more real. I started to freak out about what I was doing, knowing my life was about to change forever. It was daunting, and it was scary. I couldn't help but think again that all of this would just be easier with a partner. We could have been excited and nervous together.
In late 2021, I went into labor. I ended up getting a cesarean section because my labor lasted 36 hours.
Then my beautiful baby girl came, and it was amazing. I was in a bubble of love even though the first six months as a single parent were really tough.
Looking toward the future, it would be great to meet someone and have a second baby with a partner. I'm now 40, so whether that's going to happen or not is unclear.
But I'm so grateful that I have my child. It's what I've always wanted.
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