Sami Lukis is almost 40. She wants to have a baby – always has – and she’s single. So are a lot of other women who, for a variety of reasons, are straining at the edges of their fertility – or have passed it altogether. She’s now trying to get pregnant through IVF and there is no father in the picture.
Columnist (and mother) Susie O’Brien, writing for the Herald Sun and The Punch, argues that the technology exists to leave actual men out of the equation almost entirely (sperm notwithstanding). And if a woman wants dearly enough to have a child, shouldn’t she avail herself of all the options to increase her chances?
This is the million dollar (baby) question. Susie spoke to media personality Sami Lukis, about the concept.
“I asked TV and radio personality Sami Lukis whether she was worried about her child not having a biological father. Did she think some people might see her as selfish for putting her own needs to be a mum before the needs of her child to have both a mum and dad?
But as she sees it – and I agree – “having children is the least selfish thing you can do”.
“You are giving all your heart and affection and attention to another human being,” she said. “These days there are many different versions of families today and my child will have some wonderful male role models. It’s about putting the child first, this child is so wanted, it will be so loved,’’ she said.
And in the end, isn’t that the only thing that really matters?”
Sami’s journey to motherhood is being documented by LifeStyleYou in a series called Australians Exposed. You can follow more as the doco unfolds but now we want to introduce you to Nicky, who has also been searching for the right moment and the right way to have a baby. But sometimes you can’t wait forever. And sometimes, your choices are drastically limited. Nicky writes:
“I’ve wanted a baby since I was 15 years old. Too early, I understand, so through a marriage and two long term relationships, I patiently waited for my significant other at the time to tell me he was ready to have a baby with me.
But simply wanting a baby is never enough. And fate had other plans (as did the men in my life). So it was that a few years ago I looked at a calendar and realised I was forty. Forty, divorced, single and childlessWhat options are there for an older, single woman who desperately wants a baby? I’m glad you asked.
USING A SPERM DONOR
On my 41st birthday I made the decision to have a baby on my own. Thankfully I was living in the US at the time. Why? In Australia sperm banks wont deal with a woman if she’s single. That’s why so many single Australian women are now turning to the American sperm banks for donors.
Online sperm shopping is a rather bizarre experience. You can choose everything about your baby daddy including height, weight, hair color, hair texture, eye color and of course religion. When you first look at the number of donors, it’s daunting, but once you whittle it down with your choices, it becomes manageable. I had a specific religion and eye color, so there were maybe 15 or 20 to profiles to pour through.
In the end I bought four vials of sperm at a cost of approximately US$5000 and prepared to begin my IVF journey.
At first I was fairly optimistic. . I’m healthier than most people I know, I hardly drink, I don’t smoke and I exercise most days. But it wasn’t enough.
I completed four IVF cycles. Each time when my period arrived I was devastated.
You can read about my IVF journey on my blog here
So now what? My options include another round of IVF using my own eggs, donor eggs, surrogacy or adoption but I’m not sure how much more of a beating my psyche can take if the IVF is unsuccessful, so I’m looking at the alternatives…
You don’t need me to tell you that the adoption situation in Australia is difficult. Even more so if you’re a single woman over forty.
At present, no Australian states will allow a single woman to adopt a child.
So what about overseas? Australia has “intercountry adoption agreements” with fourteen countries. Of those countries, only five (Colombia, Lithuania, The Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand) are willing to consider allowing single women to adopt. In most cases however you are only permitted to adopt older children. And in every case except Colombia, single women will only be permitted to adopt older children with special needs who are otherwise unable to be placed.
For more information click here
Next stop, looking at an egg donor …
USING AN EGG DONOR
Egg donation is legal in Australia as long as the eggs were donated voluntarily. There can be no monetary contracts.
The donor must be under 35 years of age and have already completed her family. This is because in rare cases a complication occurs which jeopardizes the donor’s chances of having further children of her own. Unfortunately though it’s increasingly difficult to find a woman who feels ready to “close the door” on having children at the age of 35.
Thankfully my fertility clinic has affiliate clinics in Greece, South Africa and New York. These are the countries they recommend going to for donor eggs. They have them ready and waiting at their clinic. So, how would it work? I’d fly to, say, Greece, at the right time of the month, and meet with the nurses at the clinic, where the eggs would have been fertilized with my chosen sperm (again I’d have to buy sperm from a sperm bank in the US). I would then have the embryo implanted. Unsurprisingly, it’s expensive. There’s the return airfare and all the medical costs. Because it’s being done out of Australia, none of the procedure is covered by either Medicare or my private health insurance. Then there’s my accommodation for two weeks. I don’t have to stay that long, but if, on the off chance, the embryo doesn’t stick, I am on-site to try again. If I were already back in Australia, this would mean buying another plane ticket.
Clearly it would be easier to find an egg donor here in Australia. But it’s no less expensive. Whilst Medicare covers some of my costs, it covers NONE of the (generous) donor’s costs. I would pay those. The outlay of one IVF cycle is upwards of $6000, plus the cost of the sperm from the US, which is approximately $2500 for two vials.
What about surrogacy?
Whilst altruistic surrogacy (where no money is exchanged) is now legal in Australia, commercial surrogacy is not. Therefore, going overseas to find a surrogate is the only alternative for anyone wanting to go this route. This, in itself, is a HUGE undertaking.
The two most favorable countries that people choose to go to are the US and India because they have more relaxed laws. I would use both donor eggs and sperm, but other people can use their own eggs and partner’s sperm, their own eggs and donor sperm, donated eggs and partner’s sperm, or the surrogate’s egg and partner’s or donated sperm. I could go to either country, but most couples choose India, because the monetary outlay is significantly lower in India. Agency fees, medical fees, two round-trip plane tickets (because you have to go twice), accommodation and food costs between US$30,000 – US$35,000.
In the US, there’s what’s known as a traditional surrogate. A woman who uses her own eggs and either your partner’s or donor sperm. This will set you back between US$45,000-$55,000. The price goes up if you want to use your own eggs and is even more if you’re working with an egg donor. It can cost upwards of US$100,000. In both India and most states in America, the parents’ names go on the birth certificate. The surrogate’s name is not listed anywhere.
As if all that wasn’t difficult enough, commercial surrogacy is now illegal in NSW. An amendment has been made to the NSW Surrogacy Act that states NSW residents who travel overseas to enter into commercial surrogacy arrangements, would now be guilty of a crime even where said arrangements were legal in the country where the arrangement took place. This new law means that NSW residents will face PROSECUTION (think two years in jail or a $100,000 fine or both) for using commercial surrogacy overseas. And that’s for any parent who pays for a surrogate to carry their baby either in Australia or overseas.
The law was passed because the Government believes it commodifies women in poorer countries, such as India. They believe that the women are being exploited. Through everything I’ve read and seen on TV about the Indian surrogacy clinics, the women do not look uncared for, or unhappy. They are making enough money to educate their own children and have a more comfortable life. The USA is not a third world country, but the bill blankets it as well as any other country we infertile people want to try to find a surrogate in.
So now what? I’m not sure. Just wish me luck …
Can you relate to Nicky’s story? Would you consider a sperm donor if you were unable to find a partner to have a baby with? Do you think it should be illegal to use commercial surrogacy?
Nicky will be reading your comments and responding where she wants to…..