Go­ing solo: the joy and sad­ness of hav­ing kids with­out a dad


Llanelli Star - - HEALTH & LIFESTYLE -

CHILDLESS sin­gle women in their late thir­ties and early for­ties face the prospect of never be­com­ing a mother – un­less they em­brace the chal­lenge of solo par­ent­ing.

That’s ex­actly what journalist Genevieve Roberts did at the age of 37, when she found her fer­til­ity lev­els were dwin­dling. With­out a part­ner, but des­per­ate for chil­dren, she took the brave step of try­ing to get preg­nant through a sperm donor.

Three years later and still sin­gle, she has an adored two-year-old daughter, Astrid, and is ex­pect­ing another baby, and has writ­ten the book Go­ing Solo (Pi­atkus, £13.99) to share her ex­pe­ri­ence of go­ing it alone.

Here she dis­cusses her un­usual par­ent­ing jour­ney.

Why did you choose to be­come a sin­gle par­ent?

I WAS 37, sin­gle and found out I had low fer­til­ity. IN my twen­ties and early thir­ties I’d al­ways imag­ined I’d have chil­dren with a boyfriend, as a de­lib­er­ate con­se­quence of a lov­ing re­la­tion­ship.

But when I learnt my fer­til­ity was dwin­dling, I found the thought of not at least try­ing to be­come a par­ent heart­break­ing. So, with no time to lose, I de­cided to do my best to be­come a par­ent – and then hope­fully meet a part­ner later down the line.

Was it hard to choose the sperm donor?

I SPENT a lot of time look­ing through a sperm bank web­site. My main cri­te­ria was health – there were de­tails not just of the donor’s health but that of his rel­a­tives.

I didn’t find one fam­ily that was en­tirely can­cer-free, but looked for those where most peo­ple lived long lives. It’s not the way I’d choose a part­ner but I felt it was a good ap­proach.

The donors filled in char­ac­ter de­scrip­tions, so I picked some­one who was ac­tive, loved be­ing out­doors and sounded like he had a huge pas­sion for life.

How did you get preg­nant, and how quickly?

WITH my daughter, I was very lucky to find my­self preg­nant after the sec­ond round of in­trauter­ine in­sem­i­na­tion (IUI) – de­spite my low fer­til­ity lev­els.

The process of in­sem­i­na­tion is straight­for­ward: When I was ready to ovu­late, I had a trig­ger in­jec­tion mak­ing sure I’d ovu­lated, and 24 hours later the sperm is di­rectly in­serted into the womb.

IVF is a lot more med­i­calised with hor­mone in­jec­tions to stim­u­late ex­tra eggs to grow.

I’m now preg­nant with my son, who’s due in May.

He was con­ceived us­ing IVF be­cause I tried sev­eral rounds of IUI but it didn’t work.

How much sup­port have you had from friends and fam­ily?

I’VE been so lucky with the help and love I’ve re­ceived from friends and fam­ily – this has ranged from prac­ti­cal sup­port to enor­mous gen­eros­ity.

The emo­tional sup­port I re­ceive is in­valu­able: Friends and fam­ily lis­ten to any con­cerns or de­ci­sions about Astrid; they share my ex­cite­ment when she learns to do some­thing new.

This is the big­gest de­ci­sion I’ve ever made and I’m very lucky peo­ple have been so sup­port­ive. Peo­ple un­der­stand fam­i­lies come in all shapes and sizes, but as long as chil­dren re­ceive love and se­cu­rity then they have the ba­sis to thrive.

Does the baby you’re ex­pect­ing now have the same fa­ther?

THE baby I’m ex­pect­ing now has the same donor. I was en­cour­aged to re­fer to him as a donor rather than a fa­ther when I talk about him to my chil­dren, be­cause oth­er­wise they could be­lieve he’ll swoop in dur­ing adult­hood as a dad fig­ure.

They’ll be able to con­tact him at 18 if they wish to, but that’s so they can un­der­stand their his­tory, rather than es­tab­lish a fa­ther-child re­la­tion­ship be­lat­edly.

What have been the most dif­fi­cult things about hav­ing chil­dren on your own?

“IT WOULD be won­der­ful if some­one loved Astrid as much as I do. There are times when I’d love the emo­tional sup­port – dur­ing the tough times when Astrid is un­well, then I’d love some­one to tell me I’m do­ing okay and give me their opin­ion on when we should call med­i­cal help.

Of course, not ev­ery­one with a part­ner can count on this sup­port at the mo­ments they want it.

Any re­grets?

I HAVE no re­grets, and for ev­ery tough mo­ment there are many more where I feel so lucky to have the chance to watch and help Astrid dis­cover the world.

I know the first years of be­ing a par­ent can be hard, whether with a part­ner or not, but I’d hap­pily ex­pe­ri­ence this a mil­lion times to have such an amus­ing, won­der­ful daughter.

Would you ad­vise other women to try for a child like you did?

FOR some women hav­ing chil­dren feels des­per­ately im­por­tant, oth­ers are ful­filled with­out chil­dren.

What I’d like women who do want chil­dren to know is that in their thir­ties they need not feel the pres­sure to swiftly find some­one – any­one – to have chil­dren with be­cause time’s run­ning out. I think if women feel they have the op­tion of hav­ing a child alone then they need not settle down in a panic with a part­ner who they per­haps wouldn’t con­sider if they weren’t aware of dwin­dling fer­til­ity.

For me, hav­ing chil­dren is the very best thing I’ve done in my life, but I think ev­ery­one has to make the right choice for them.

How do you feel about Astrid not hav­ing a fa­ther fig­ure?

I WANT the world for my daughter and so there’s a sad­ness that she doesn’t have a dad. It’s very im­por­tant to me that she has male role mod­els in her life who she knows she can al­ways turn to.

I em­pha­sise to her how loved she is, not only by me but by her rel­a­tives. I will al­ways en­cour­age her to ask ques­tions about the donor and share her feel­ings about not hav­ing a dad.

Why did you write the book?

ONE on level, Go­ing Solo is a love let­ter to my daughter. I hope if she reads it when she’s grown up, she’ll feel the love for her on ev­ery page.

Se­condly, I want peo­ple to know they al­ways have a choice. It’s good for ev­ery­one to know more about dif­fer­ent types of fam­ily which don’t fol­low the con­ven­tional form but are brim­ming with love.

Most im­por­tantly, I wanted to share my ex­pe­ri­ence of life not fol­low­ing the path I most ex­pected. It’s turned out so much bet­ter than I could pos­si­bly imag­ine, and I want ev­ery­one to know that when things don’t go to plan, it can make room for the best things in the world to hap­pen: In my case, my won­der­ful daughter, and – all be­ing well – her new brother.

Genevieve and Astrid en­joy­ing time to­gether on the beach

Genevieve on hol­i­day with Astrid and, left, the book in which she shares her experience­s

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