Friday, July 1, 2022

“I’m Single, But I’m Going to Be a Mum” – How Sperm Donors and Egg Freezing Are Helping a Kiwi Woman Realise Her Dream

In partnership with Fertility Associates

Where have all the good men gone?

Look, if you’ve clicked on this story in search of answers to that question, you’re out of luck because God only knows.

It’s a dream a lot of girls have, ever since they can remember – find a nice boy, settle down and pop out a few kids to call your own (stupid bloody Disney movies).  

But what happens if you don’t get your fairy-tale, but you still desperately want that last piece of the puzzle, and aren’t willing to hang out in a Ponsonby bar late into a Saturday night?

Traditional ways of having a family – straight boy, straight girl fall head over heels in love – are wonderful, but the fairy-tale no longer stacks up to what society needs in 2021. Now, love is a gorgeously complicated, colourful thing that means very different things to very different people, and unfortunately, the biology doesn’t always match up.

Or, it just hasn’t happened – such is the case with 37-year-old Anna Squelch (pictured main).

“I just haven’t had any luck with relationships,” she says. “I wasn’t able to find someone who I wanted to have a family with, and I think dating app culture has created some real jerks, both in men and women. They can just be so much more fickle – you don’t even have to show up to dates. The number of guys who ghost me is just incredible.”

Women of New Zealand, can I get an amen?

Fed up with trying to find a Mr Right online but knowing deep down she wanted to be a mum, Anna decided to take matters into her own hands and investigate egg freezing and maybe sperm donation.

“It was actually my mum that inspired me to freeze my eggs and join the waitlist – I wasn’t that keen actually, but she kept pushing. And now I’m glad that I did it, and it’s nearly two years on.

Now, Anna is getting ready to become a mum thanks to an anonymous sperm donor. She froze her eggs in November 2020, wanting to preserve as many good eggs as she could to maximise her chances of falling pregnant, with the help of IVF.

Fertility Associates Dr Kate van Harselaar says she’s noticed a massive upsurge in single women coming through her doors who want to have a baby.

“They’d hoped they’d meet a Mr Right, and suddenly they’ve found themselves in their late 30s and their biological clock is ticking and they’re going ‘holy shmuck – where is he?’

Dr Kate van Harselaar

“But when it comes to doing it yourself, the stigma has definitely lessened and there are so many women who are wanting to do this themselves,” she tells. “And not only single women, same-sex couples too.”

EGG FREEZING, IVF, IUI AND ALL THE OTHER ACRONYMS

Anna also made the decision to freeze her eggs off the back of her AMH test, which measures how many eggs you have left in your reserves. Says Dr Kate, younger eggs are always better, and if a woman is able to afford to freeze them, it’s a great way of maximising your chances of conceiving.

“If you can afford it, you seriously want to be doing that. But the downside of egg freezing is that you’re committing to IVF rather than ovulation induction and inter uterine insemination, which is the less costly option and less invasive option.”

Ok, so what’s the difference? We’re all familiar with IVF – In Vitro Fertilisation – where the sperm and egg are popped together in a little dish, grown into an embryo and then put into the woman. Or for the more science-y explanation, here’s Dr Kate.

“I prefer ‘delicately transferred’,” she says with a laugh. “But yes, you’re right! That’s IVF, and there’s also something called Ovulation Induction, which we use together with Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI).

“We can track the cycle and when a woman is ovulating, we can get an ejaculate of sperm, condense the sperm down and concentrate it and place it into the uterus at the time of ovulation – that’s IUI. That will give you one egg. Now if you’ve got someone who wants to increase the odds, you can add in Ovulation Induction, which is a tablet you take for five days at the beginning of the cycle, which encourages the ovaries to maybe produce two follicles.”

So, what about money?

“If you’re looking at IUI and Ovulation Induction, you’re looking at around $2,500, whereas IVF which is around $13,000,” says Kate.

“And then there’s the differences – the advantage (and the cost) of IVF is that you’re getting multiple eggs in one go.

“With IUI, say you take a 35-year-old woman who I have 10 eggs from. Fifty percent of them will be abnormal. If they do 10 IUI’s, five aren’t even going to work off the bat – and the eggs age.”

SPERM DONATION

New Zealand is in need of more sperm donors, Fertility Associates says

Along with egg freezing, sperm donation is (obviously) a key part in making a baby, and Dr Kate encourages those thinking about taking that route to put themselves on the waitlist as early as they can.

A faster option is a personal donor – someone from your life who is willing to donate. But how on earth do you ask a mate if you can have some of his sperm?

“Well, there’s another way to approach it,” laughs Dr Kate. “Rather than just asking, ‘Can I have some sperm please?’, you can start by saying, ‘Hey, I’ve just seen a fertility specialist to look at my options and guess what? The waitlist is at least two-years!’ You’ll be surprised at how many mates might say, ‘Oh, I have sperm – do you want mine!’ You don’t ask, you don’t get! Just sow the seeds – if you’ll pardon the pun.”

Anna chose to join the anonymous sperm donor list and has been waiting for her turn. Once she’s at the top of the list she’ll get a call from Fertility Associates to tell her it’s time to come in and browse through some profiles.

“I think there’s about 12 profiles you can choose from – you don’t see a photo or find out their name, but the donor has written a letter to the child so you’ll know a little about his characteristics and where he grew up and what he’s into, and you can choose either a donor who wants to have contact, or who doesn’t.”

Anna admits she never thought this would be her path to having a baby, and has definitely come up against some prejudice, including her own.

“I definitely had a lot of judgements towards it – I think society places so much importance on whether you’re in a relationship or not. If you are in a relationship, you’re lovable and successful, and if you’re not you’re haggard or something. The modern-day spinster.

“I think I had my own work to do around dismantling that belief, that it meant that I had failed or that I was too picky. I chose to share it pretty early on with my Instagram followers and my podcast, and that really helped me to remove the stigma and judgement around it, and it became something that I’m quite proud of.

“Mum is obviously all for it, it was her idea! But my dad is a little more conservative – he doesn’t say that he doesn’t want me to do it, but I can tell that he really wants me to have a partner. My friends have always known that I do things a little differently, so they weren’t surprised at all. So, mixed reactions, but mostly positive.”

ANNA’S JOURNEY

Anna says she’s glad she froze her eggs last year and reckons the build-up was a lot scarier than the actual process.

“Injecting yourself is obviously not going to be pleasant, but it was actually fine after the first go. I had other women who had done it before reach out and say that they treated it like a bit of a ceremony, and it is a really empowering experience. They’d light candles and put music on and just feel like they were really in charge of their future.”

Now, Anna says she’s just excited, and feels very empowered herself.

“It’s not something that’s in the distance anymore, that I have to get up the courage to do anymore. It’s done and dusted and I’m really happy.

“It’s just about having all the knowledge to make a decision that’s right for you. I feel really blessed that I had options and grateful that I took the time and effort to figure them out for myself.” 

You can book a free nurse consult with Fertility Associates here

And, if you know any good men who might want to donate sperm, send them to Fertility Associates or spermdonor.co.nz!

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