For as long as she can remember, Stephanie wanted to have a child. She always loved the idea of being pregnant, giving birth and nurturing a baby.
But when Steph fell in love with a woman during her 30s, their family planning raised a few conundrums.
“As a lesbian couple, there’s no having fun on a Friday night and then surprise, we got pregnant!” she says. “You have to mindfully go about finding a donor and working through a lot of things.”
For a start, Steph and her partner Dani had to decide whose eggs to use, who would carry the baby and who would donate sperm.
Even though Steph was five years older than Dani, she wanted to carry a pregnancy, so they decided to search for a donor who could hopefully help them conceive.
They did a lot of research about different donation arrangements but settled on looking for a known sperm donor. It was important to them to choose somebody who their child could have a connection with. Some male friends had offered to donate to them in the past, so they went on some ‘donor dates’ to discuss it more seriously with them.
“We decided we wanted a known donor who could be involved but not have an active parenting role,” Steph says.
After quite some time and meeting with a few prospective donors, Steph and Dani found a family friend who they felt comfortable embarking on this journey with. The three of them had an open and honest dialogue about their expectations and discussed future possibilities around contact and communication. Determining they were all on the same page they agreed to move forward. They started by trying at-home insemination when Steph was ovulating.
“We tried that five times but it didn’t work,” she says.
Steph was 40 at the time, so she consulted her doctor about fertility tests. The doctor ordered an Anti Mullerian Hormone test (AMH) to gauge her ovarian reserve. While the test can’t tell you if you’re fertile or not, it indicated Steph had a very low egg count.
It was confronting and prompted them to consult a fertility specialist who recommended trying IVF with Dani’s eggs. The first cycle resulted in one embryo to try, but it didn’t work. They moved to another fertility specialist for a second cycle. They focused a lot on their health during this time. They were taking supplements, avoiding toxins, and eating a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables and iron-rich foods.
“We were really, really committed. We made sure we were sleeping well, we did everything we could to improve our chances."
When they did their second IVF cycle, it produced another embryo to be transferred into Steph’s uterus. To their delight, it worked and nine months later, Steph gave birth to a healthy girl named Alexandra. Steph was 45 and Dani was 40.
To complete the cycle their donor also had to make several semen donations, complete thorough medical testing and the three of them had to attend counseling. All up it took them three and half years to have a baby. Steph says being an older pregnant woman was hard at times because she was classified as higher risk. Even though she was fit and healthy, and ended up carrying a baby made from Dani’s younger eggs, she was monitored very closely by her doctors.
“Everything was ok, but they handled me with kid gloves. I had no issues at all. It was a beautiful pregnancy. I just loved it,” she says.
Looking back, Steph says same sex couples should know how long it can take to find a donor and then get pregnant. There were silver linings to the same sex journey, though.
“Doing it this way was really beautiful in a sense because I could carry Dani’s eggs. As a same sex couple, the technology allows us the opportunity to make a baby together, which is incredible,” she says.
The couple also enjoyed creating a family on their own terms. Alexandra calls them Mum and Mummy and her donor by his first name.
“As an unconventional family we are able to chart our own course” Steph says. “In many ways it's quite exciting”.
While there’s a range of options with donor fertility treatment, Steph says same sex couples should prepare themselves for the potential costs, too. Because Dani was considered an egg donor and they were using a sperm donor, it cost them about $15,000 per IVF cycle.
“Look into your options, ensure you can find a fertility specialist that is a good fit, and don’t leave it too late.”
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- Preconception health checklist
- Ways to improve your chance of becoming pregnant and having a healthy baby
- Age and fertility
- Fertility treatment