I had always dreamed I would have a family. I always thought that if I kept on living my life, doing the things I enjoyed, working and travelling then at some point I would meet the right partner for me and we would have children. In my late 30s I began to think about other options as I knew that time was running out for me fertility wise. I was blessed to have two successful IVF cycles with the same donor sperm, one when I was 39 and the other when I was 41 resulting in my two beautiful children Jack and Poppy. Jack has just turned 4 last week and Poppy is nearly 2.
Deciding to try for a second child as a solo mum was a different decision making process to deciding to try for my first child. I had already experienced the joy of pregnancy, giving birth and caring for a new baby but I felt that for us a sibling would complete our family. Not only would I get to do it all again but Jack would have a sibling who was conceived the same way so hopefully then both of my children would get some extra support from each other. For me it also meant that if something happened to me they would still have each other (as well as all of my extended family!). Watching them both grow is amazing and I have the added bonus of watching their relationship with each other develop. What delights me is how different they are even though they have the same sperm donor. They have very individual personalities and I think as a mum of donor conceived children I’m particularly interested in the nature/nurture side of things so it’s fascinating to see two children with the same genetic heritage, parented the same way by me, be so different (exactly like me and my own brother!).
Parenting two small pre-school children on your own isn’t easy. I think this is true for most parents even if you have more than one person doing the parenting. Balancing both of your children’s needs, a demanding job, running a house and trying to find a little bit of time for myself is quite a lot of balls to juggle! What has been invaluable for me is creating a support network. I always knew my family would support me but my parents in particular have gone the extra mile many many times.
I have been overwhelmed by the kindness shown to me by friends. People I have been friends with for many years have become closer, attending IVF appointments with me, being my birth partner, giving up their annual leave to stay with me when I had a newborn baby, donating clothes and baby equipment and most importantly of all spending time with us and looking after me and my children, telling me to sit down and have a cup of tea, playing with them whilst I tidy my house or inviting us to go on holiday with them so that I’m not the only adult whilst away which means I get chance to have a little bit of holiday myself!
I’ve made new friends through baby groups and I have formed a network with mums who have children of a similar age to mine. Again I have been humbled by their kindness, cooking for me when I had a toddler and a new baby, driving me to hospital at 5am when I had a haemorrhage after my second child was born and sharing play dates with me, helping to look after my toddler so I could sit and breastfeed a newborn baby. My work colleagues are very understanding of me being a single mum balancing the needs of work with the needs of a young family and this has been invaluable.
An unexpected source of support has been the new friends I have made through the Donor Conception Network. This began when I went on their Preparation for Parenthood workshop where I made friends with a group of women, some of whom are still good friends 5 years on. Through attending the DCN conferences and local groups in the North I have met some lovely strong like-minded women, all of whom are doing an amazing job of parenting their donor conceived children. Living in the North of England we are all a bit more spread out than those that live in the South! I am a member of the North East Group which stretches from Scarborough to Morpeth (a 5 hour round trip!) but we take it in turns to host meetings around the region. I’m also in the Yorkshire DCN group whom I meet up with in the summer for their fun annual camping weekend. I’ve made other solo mum friends whom I spend time with - it’s important to me that Jack and Poppy grow up knowing other donor conceived children. I’m in a wonderfully supportive online group with women from around the world that I’ve never met in person but that feel like friends I’ve known for years, these are the women who understand what it’s like to really want a baby but also the demands of parenting on your own.
Parenting donor conceived children is just like parenting in any other family. We all have our own family story to tell. Ours is of a mum who really wanted to have a family but hadn’t met the right man and so went to the hospital for some help (and some sperm!) to create her family. We talk about who is in our family and how Jack and Poppy were made. We have the Our Story book and also lots of books about different families and how babies are made. Jack had a phase when he used to call all men daddy and we would keep talking in a positive way about who was in his family. Now Jack is very matter of fact about who is in his family. I have been very open with friends and people who are involved in the children’s lives such as nursery staff and have used the DCN resources where appropriate. We have met with nothing but love and support.
Jack and Poppy are my joy but what has made this journey easier than it might have been is all the wonderful support we have had along the way so this is my opportunity to say thank you to all those who have been there for us and with us.