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"I've never envisioned a man by my side." I'm 40 and considering having a baby alone.

I'm 40 years old, single, and currently in the depths of trying to make a big decision: Should I have a baby on my own?

I know you think you might have read this story before. A woman reaches a certain age, hasn't met The One, and so decides to go it alone, before her biological clock stops ticking.

Only for me, a man has never been part of this equation. I've never envisioned a man by my side when trying to decide whether I want kids.

The reason is a combination of factors, but if I was to distil it down to a singular focus, it would be that I am super independent and have never felt the need for a long-term partner.

Listen: Childfree by choice. Post continues after audio...


For those in relationships, this might sound strange and sad. I get that. I'll admit to being strange, yes, but I am not sad at all, I promise you. In fact, I'm the opposite of sad, and it's a big reason why I'm wrestling with the decision to have a baby in the first place.

Because the thing is, I love my life. To me, it's full and rich (not in a materialistic way - I am a writer after all). I have a family I adore and friends who I cherish. I have a cat who I named after Murphy Brown… a fictional character who was a single mother, by the way. I live in an apartment I scraped money together to buy. It’s run-down, but it’s mine. I have a role that pays me to write anything and everything, including Married At First Sight opinions and reviews of zombie movies. Needless to say, I love my job.

Yet for all the things I've written, this is the most personal story I have told about my life thus far. And while I am writing it for myself, I’m mostly writing it for you - the person who is reading this.

What I’ve come to appreciate, at the ripe old age of 40, is that the more I hear of stories similar to mine, the more I feel a sense of community and kinship. It’s good to know I’m not alone. I’m hoping that by sharing my story, you might also feel the same.

*****

Sometimes I think everyone else has it all figured out while I'm floundering in a sea of indecisiveness. I ask myself, "What the hell is wrong with me?" But I've gotten a lot better at telling my inner critic to shut up. Her name is Norma. She can be pretty mean.

I should tell you now that there's no neatly wrapped conclusion with a bow on top when you get to the end of this. This is real life, and it’s messy.

So, I didn't start thinking seriously about the possibility of having kids until I was 37. That's because 37 tips into "late 30s" and I just figured I should "know things" by my late 30s. Of course, I had fielded the "When are you going to have kids?" question for years prior. It's a woman's cross to bear, although it really shouldn't be.

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When I was 38, I visited an IVF clinic to see what my options were. I wanted to know if it was still possible to have kids, considering my age. That pesky biological clock, right? The one we women get told about when we’re just young girls.

Except the clock isn’t really a clock. It’s a time-bomb. It counts down, tick, tick, tick… Boom. It’s all over, Red Rover.

Pardon my French, but Mother Nature is seriously f**ked up.

At the clinic, the first thing they did was take some blood to test my fertility. My results showed that I was within the healthy fertility range for my age, which means I was producing enough eggs for my age bracket. 

The doctor explained that there were two ways to fall pregnant (well, three, but if the third way was an option, I wouldn’t be at the clinic in the first place): Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).

Now, I am not a doctor or an expert, but this is how it was explained to me: The process of IUI involves the sperm being artificially inseminated into the woman’s body. So it travels up the fallopian tubes, hopefully meets the egg of its dreams, and hey presto, an embryo is formed and a baby is on his/her way.

For IVF, the process involves incubating the egg and sperm outside of the body. Fertilisation occurs, an embryo is formed, and this is inserted directly into the woman’s uterus. It bypasses the fallopian tubes.

More and more people are talking about IVF when it comes to having children. (Image: Getty)

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From my understanding, most women try the IUI first. While IUI has a lower chance of falling pregnant, it also has a lower cost at $5,000. IVF has a higher chance of falling pregnant but you’re out of pocket around $20,000. These prices are from two years ago, so they might be a bit higher now.

By the way, each appointment with the doctor is also hundreds of dollars, so it’s safe to say that the business of conception is an expensive one indeed.

I was booked in to get a hysterosalpingogram (HSG). It’s an x-ray procedure that checks your fallopian tubes and uterus. Usually, the process is pretty simple. It’s a little like having a pap smear, except there’s an x-ray imager taking pics of your insides and a liquid with iodine is inserted inside you. This is so that the x-ray pics show how the liquid is moving through the tubes and uterus. Does it hurt, you ask? It depends on the person - for me, it was tolerable. It didn’t hurt per se, but it certainly wasn’t pleasant.

So, you know how I said the process is USUALLY simple? Well, I was a special case. When I first did it, the doctor couldn’t see clearly whether the liquid was moving through my tubes. The same thing happened the second time. For the third time, I had to go to the Women’s Hospital to use another machine. Thankfully, it worked and we found out that my tubes were working.

You know what the weird thing is? If my tubes weren’t working, I would have had Medicare help for IVF because IUI would have been out as an option. As it stands, there is no Medicare help for fertility procedures.

After all this came the hardest part - finding a donor. Of course, if you have someone already on hand to donate sperm, that’s much easier. I was put on the list of people who could access the donor options as they came in (there can only be a certain number of people accessing it at any given time). You do have to pay to be on this list, so that's another expense. 

The way in which it was explained to me was that each state has different donor laws. Some are more strict than others. NSW has one of the strictest donor laws. Unlike in the States, where donors receive financial benefits from providing sperm, it’s illegal in Australia to pay donors. So, those who donate must do so for reasons other than financial restitution.

As a result, the donor options are quite small. There is definitely a demand vs supply problem - and it’s the reason you have to be really quick if you find a donor that matches what you’re looking for.

Watch: Meshel Laurie talking about IVF. Post continues...


Video via Mamamia.
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Everyone has different criteria in mind when looking for a donor. I wanted someone who is physically and mentally healthy, comes from a family who is also healthy, and who was open to maybe one day meeting their child. I don’t want to meet them necessarily, but I wanted the option for the child, just in case he or she ever wanted to know who their father was.

Donors are an added layer of complexity because they do have legal rights over the child if they become known to the child and mother, rather than just remaining a stranger. There was a case a few years ago where a family wanted to move overseas but the donor father didn’t want his child to leave the country, and the court ruled in his favour.

I searched for months on end while on the donor list. Most of the time, I focused on the donor’s answer to the last question: “What would you like to say to your future child?” If it was blank, I discarded that donor. I just figured you’d say SOMETHING, even if you never want to meet your kid.

Some of the answers were brilliant. Moving and profound, and in some way, always sad. One guy wanted his child to look after their mother, another wished his a child a safe upbringing, something he himself didn't have. I was often in tears reading them.

But still, I held back.

I’ve been holding back for a while now.

*****

Choosing to have a child is a privilege that not everyone has. I understand that. To say that it's a big decision is an understatement. It's the biggest. And so, I am treating this choice with the care and respect it is warranted.

In case you need to hear it, there is no right or wrong answer. And I firmly believe that. Whether you decide to have a child or not, your life holds meaning and wonder. I don't believe that a child somehow makes your life more worthy, with the implication that the life you led before motherhood is thus diminished and lesser. Sometimes you get told otherwise, but don’t listen to those naysayers. That’s negativity you don’t need in your life and, pardon my French again, that's just utter bullsh*t.

As I said earlier, I still don't know what I'm going to do. But the upside is that I’m closer to knowing than I was two years ago.

And for me, right now, that’s good enough.

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