Solo Motherhood using donor conception

Mel Johnson
Founder of The Stork and I, The Stork and I

Emotions and Support

Solo motherhood using donor conception
From this video you will find out:
  • What support network will I need in place to be able to manage solo?
  • How and when do I make the decision to stop looking for a partner to conceive naturally with and start fertility treatment without a partner?
  • Will my future baby be negatively impacted by not having a father in their life?
  • What finances will I need in place to be able to embark on this process?
  • How do I choose a sperm donor?
  • Anonymous or non-anonymous sperm donor?

Solo Motherhood and donor conception options

Mel Johnson, the founder of “The Stork and I”, a coaching company for solo mums, has answered the most common questions about solo motherhood and donor conception.

Mel is a solo-mum herself who is a mum to a 2-year-old daughter Daisy, Mel has gone through IVF with a sperm donor and explained that she felt quite alone in her circumstances when she was going through the IVF process herself, and as she was a qualified life-coach, she decided to specialize in coaching for women in the same situation.

My absolut passion is to make sure that no other woman feels alone on this journey and that everyone’s empowered to understands the options that are available to them.

- Questions and Answers

What support network will I need in place to be able to manage solo?

This is a common question that I get from virtually everybody, and it absolutely depends on you. Everyone is different, people need different levels of support. One of the things that I say to people is that you need to be able to know that you can do it on your own, but you don’t have to do it on your own. You can set up a support network to help you to make things easier for you. There are ways of setting up a really great support network. Many women come back to me to say: “I actually feel more supported than some of my friends in a couple because I’ve really built this amazing support network”. What I help people with is how to build that support network, like an onion diagram. The people you need in the middle – the key supporters, who will be there for you, the first people you call in an emergency. Then you’ve got your local people, who live close to you and can get to you quickly. Then you’ve got your best friends, who can offer you emotional support or they can come and stay with you and offer you support at various stages. There is also paid support – depending on your financial situation, there are lots of different options to pay for. You can pay for a doula, you can pay for a night nurse to come and help you overnight, you can pay for childminders, for nursery, for a cleaner – lots of different people to help you in life to make it easier. And then, of course, there is online support. One of the things that I absolutely love about this community is the online support that’s available – people getting together in the same situation, chatting about their circumstances and supporting each other through it. I have a support group called “The Stork and I Mum Tribe”. There are 800 women from around the world there, and they ask each other questions, provide support, they have meetups so lots of online support. Sometimes that turns into a face to face support if you’re living nearby. One of the things that I would say is that when I started on my journey, I moved to a new area, so I didn’t know anybody. But I’ve set up brilliant support at work, and now I have very good support. So I can try to reassure people by saying that you can build that from scratch if you need to. I won’t go into all the details now, but I have lots of ways of building that network up from scratch. It’s personal, but there are ways you can do it, and I think one of the key things is identifying which sort of support you think you might need. You might need emotional support, child care support, practical support and social support – so nothing to do with childcare but someone to just come and keep you company. It’s about identifying all the things you think you would need. One of the things is that it’s very important that you tell people what support you might want because people are not mind readers. A lot of women come to me to say: “My friends aren’t supporting me in the right way” but actually when I ask them it turns out they haven’t said what support they needed. We need to be in control of telling people what support we want. We can’t expect them to guess. That’s what I would say about the support network elements.

How and when do I make the decision to stop looking for a partner to conceive naturally with and start fertility treatment without a partner?

This is a really common question I get. People who are in the very early stages of still considering if this is the right route for them often say: “I’m just going to give it another six months to meet a partner because and if I can I would like to do this with a partner”. They almost come to me to say “When do I stop giving it another six months? At what time do I make that decision to say: I’m going to do it on my own?” What I would say is that there’s a couple of different things to think about. First of all, it’s a completely individual decision, and it really depends on your priorities. Some women don’t want to have a child without a partner. Therefore, they would continue to search for somebody. The second thing is your age so you would need to get more information from a fertility clinic about this. One of the things you can do is go to it, and you can have a fertility MOT, and that will give you an indication on whether this is something that you might need to do quite quickly or might you have a little bit more time. So you could equip yourself with a bit more information by having a fertility MOT at a clinic, or you can actually have an online test sent to your house from one of the online testing companies. Each time you’ll have a session with the consultant that will talk you through your fertility, and that’s good information to help you decide whether you need to start straight away or you have a bit of time. There’s no guarantee because there’s no test that tells you that you will definitely be able to get pregnant at a certain time. However, it’s some information that you can use to make a decision. The thing that I work through with people is letting go of the fantasy of doing this with a partner. Some people had a very clear idea they were going to embark on this journey with a partner, and they’re struggling to let go of that idea and embrace the idea of doing it in a different way. Some of the things that you can work through are how you can reframe it and how you can understand that your life script – how you thought your life would play out – was one way, potentially doing it with a partner. But actually, circumstances mean you’re going to do it in a different way, and it doesn’t have to be worse. It’s just different, and it’s about starting to embrace doing it in that different way. There’s not a black-and-white answer to this. There are just some of the things that may be considered when trying to make the final decision.

Will my future baby be negatively impacted by not having a father in their life?

I think there’s a couple of things to say about this. The first thing is to point you in the direction of some research that’s been done on it. Susan Golomb has written a book called Modern Families and in that book, she’s done some research on the impact on children being raised by solo mums. It’s not a huge study, and there haven’t been lots of studies done, but the finding from her research says that children are not impacted by being raised by a solo parent. In fact, what impacts children more is if they are involved in a divorce situation where it’s not amicable. The impact on children is the stress from parents, which is sometimes associated with going through a divorce. If a solo mum also is feeling that same level of stress that might impact as well. Susan Golombokonly studied up to the age of when the child was seven, and she concluded that there isn’t any impact on the child’s development when being raised by a solo mum. The other thing to say is they don’t have a father in their life, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have loads of amazing people in their life. One of the things I advise people to do is to say what you would have liked your child to get from a father, where they can get that from instead and if you’ve got male relatives e.g. a grandad, a brother, cousins and friends. They don’t have to be male friends, it can be a male and a female but it is nice to have some male role models in the child’s life. I’ve spoken to people who’ve said: “You’ve considered more who’s in your daughter’s life than I have, she has just the two of us whereas your daughter has a whole heap of people because you’ve given it real thought”. So that would be my advice, to see what role models you can put in place.

What finances will I need in place to be able to embark on this process?

Again, with all the questions there’s no one answer to this. It completely depends on which treatment you’re having, if you need drugs, how many drugs you need, if you’re doing it in your home country or you’re doing it abroad. There are lots of different considerations for different costs. There’s a really good cost calculator, and if you want a ballpark figure Access Fertility has got a cost calculator on their websites, and I sometimes point people in the direction of that. It is based on the UK, but it gives you the average cost of the different elements that you might need to do. It’s depending on whether you’re doing IUIor IVF and how much you’re going to spend on donor sperm because there’s a big range. I’ve coached probably over a hundred women on this and the stories I’ve heard about how people have got finances in place to be able to do this are phenomenal. There’s a lot of creativity – people getting second jobs and moving in with their parents, downsizing their houses, moving further out of London and all sorts of things to get the savings in place to be able to make this happen. If you want specifics, you would need to get the costs from your clinic after you’ve had the consultation so they can give you an estimate of what that’s going to cost. But the cost calculator will give you a nice average estimate if you want a ballpark figure.

How do I choose a sperm donor?

Again, a very common question and very personal to different individuals. When choosing a sperm donor, depending on the clinic you use, there’s a lot of different information available and there’s a lot of different choices. You can go from one clinic where you get a choice of two – you fill out a questionnaire, you say what your physical characteristics are and they say: “These two meet your requirements” and it’s physical characteristics and maybe a letter explaining why someone donated. If you go to the other extreme you’ve got pictures of them when they are a baby, pictures of them when they’re an adult, voice, their emotional intelligence test – every single thing you could possibly think of. So it really depends on your preference and a little bit on how you see a donor. Some people see a donor as a person and they are trying to get to know that person and know as much about them as they can to make a decision. Other people view it more as a piece of biology that needs to be there to make a baby. It depends where you are on that scale of how much information you need. I’ve spoken to women who say “I love the fact I only had two choices, and I would be overwhelmed if I was doing a spreadsheet of a hundred different options”. Other women say “I prefer all the information I can possibly get”. It’s similar to an Internet date – I have been on many Internet dates and I am an absolutely romantic and an optimist. Every time I would go on an Internet date I would think: “This guy is definitely the one, they sound amazing. I can see something happening with this guy”.And when you meet them that’s not how you feel about them in real life. Likewise, I would caution a little bit with choosing a sperm donor. You don’t get to meet the person so you’ll never fully know. You just need to get comfortable with that and decide what is important for you– is its physical characteristics, the medical history or that you can hear their voice or whatever it might be. Choose what’s important to you and then stick to that. People often tell me they’ve made a decision based on their gut feeling – this one just felt right. There’s no right or wrong way, it depends on what works for you.

Anonymous or non-anonymous sperm donor?

A good source of reference is the Donor Conception Network, they are really specialized in donor conception, and they have some good material on this. What I would say in terms of choosing anonymous or non-anonymous is that there are three different things to think about. The first one is the legal side of things –in some countries you have to choose an ID release donor, which means that your child will get access to the information when they are 18. First of all, you have to check the country that you’re having the treatment in, what the legal requirements are. For the UK, for example, you have to have an ID release donor. If you’re going to another country to have the treatment, then you could choose an anonymous donor. So checking what is needed legally is the first thing. The second thing is thinking about what you want for your child – whether you want to give your child the opportunity to know who that sperm donor was. If that’s something that is important to you, then that would be part of the consideration. The third thing is about genetic testing and the fact that there isn’t really any such thing as anonymous anymore. With the advancements of genetic testing, it’s quite possible, particularly as we go into the future, that you would be able to identify the donor. They may have thought that you wouldn’t so they’ve gone into it thinking it would be anonymous. Because of genetic testing, the reality is you may be able to locate them later on. So it’s a slightly different mindset than going in thinking that you’ll be totally anonymous. You can do research, and there’s lots of information out there on this and about genetic testing and what’s possible.

Did you find it hard to manage work and baby when the baby was born at the beginning? Because I heard the first six months when a baby was born you will not be able to work?

I think it depends on how long you’re having on maternity leave. I had a corporate role, and I had nine months maternity leave soI didn’t do my corporate job for the first nine months, but in that time I set up my coaching business. A lot of this is dependent on the type of baby you have, and there is just no predicting it. Some babies sleep really well, they sleep quite a lot, they’re rather predictable, they have a routine, and then you have quite a lot of time to do work within that time. Some babies need a lot of attention, they always want to be on you, and it’s very difficult to work. So partly you almost don’t know until you’re there. I think it depends if you’re having the time off on maternity leave. I very specifically allocated nine months so I could have a break from my corporate job. In the evenings when my daughter was asleep, I worked, and from about three months I definitely had quite a lot of time free in the evenings to do that.

I live in Dubai, so I need to return to Europe to become a planned single mum. I am Irish, but I have a place in Spain. Would you recommend moving home in terms of a support network? Or maybe the first few years at home?

It depends what sort of person you are, how much you think you’ll be able to build up a support network where you are. So if you have a really good support network at home – and I know many women who’ve moved home, even moved in with their parents and have found it a really big help. I moved – I lived in Budapest, and I moved to Manchester and my parents are an hour away, so I do get help one night a week from my parents. I’ve built my support network just from being here and interacting and really focusing on how I build that support network. It depends how much support you’d have at home, how important it is for them to be there, would they come and visit you if you lived somewhere else – lots of different considerations. The more support you have the easier it is, so don’t underestimate how much easier it makes your life if you have that support.

I do not have a family member who could be at birth (who I actually would want to be there!). In the lead-up to the birth and during the birth are doulas a good option in your opinion, Mel? What are the other options?

Many of the women I coach use a doula. I haven’t got personal experience, but I know a lot of women who used a doula and have been really pleased with them. You can spend time with them beforehand, you can make sure that they know what support you need and I’ve had really good feedback from women who have used a doula, and they said it’s been a really good support. The other option is to just choose someone else from your support network so if you’ve got a friend or someone that you know that would like to be there you can also ask them. Quite a few women asked two people. When I was in labour, I was there for three days before anything happened because I was being induced. That’s quite a lot to ask one person. You might be asking one person who doesn’t live close to you so you have someone who’s closer as well, who can help and share so you can definitely ask more than one. Some people ask a friend and a doula so they’ve got the doula to help them, who’s really got the experience but then they’ve got a friend for some of the more emotional support so that’s also an option.

I would like to know if you tried IUI before going to IVF. Did you use a UK clinic or clinic abroad? Anything you could advise?

I didn’t try IUI, and this is a completely personal decision so let me tell you a little bit about my circumstances. I was working abroad, in Budapest, but I’m from the UK, and I did have my treatment abroad but weirdly in a reverse way because I lived in Budapest and I had my treatment, in Manchester. I was flying back for treatment so I’ve had that experience of having treatment in a different country it’s just that the country was the UK. The reason I didn’t try IUI first was twofold. One was because of me personally managing my emotional journey – I wanted to give myself the best opportunity of it working the first time. The statistics of the IVF to be successful are higher than IUI so I had saved some money and I thought I’m going to go straight to IVF to give myself the best chance. I know plenty of women who’ve tried IUI first, and it’s been successful and then women who’ve tried IUI and then moved on to IVF. There’s no easy way to make the decision. I did a webinar with Reproductive Health Group and Luciano Nardo who talks a bit about some of the considerations of how to choose IUI and IVF, which might be interesting for you to look at. Personally, I went straight to IVF, and I had three embryos. My daughter was born on the second embryo transfer. The other thing about IVF is that if you want a sibling later on you’ve potentially got more embryos to try for a sibling. The other reason I personally chose it is because I was having treatments abroad. Because I was flying back to the UK and IVF was easier to manage the timings and easier to plan when I was travelling abroad. I also wanted to minimize the number of times I had to travel abroad, and I thought I would have more chance to do that with IVF, I would potentially have to have more tries at IUI, so that was my personal experience. I have a Facebook group called “The Stork and I Mum Tribe” and there are loads of discussion on there about the different clinics that people have used, so the one that comes up the most is Serum in Athens. I have no personal experience of it, but if you go onto the Facebook group and search, there are lots of personal stories about clinics that have been used by different solo mums so that might be helpful for you.

How many times did you try and how many times is enough to give up?

I was very lucky because I did one round of IVF, got three embryos and then on the second embryo transfer I had my daughter. I know it is very lucky, I had a relatively straightforward journey, and again there’s no answer on how many times is enough to give up. It’s completely a personal preference. You may speak to some of the people who’ve done multiple rounds and get some advice in terms of how long they’ve continued to try for. I think it depends on your finances, it depends on how much it’s impacting your mental health, on how much it’s impacting you physically and it depends on having a look at what your other options might be and whether you can embrace a different route to parenthood. I think speaking to people who’ve gone through multiple rounds can also be really helpful.

Can you repeat the name of the Facebook group that you were mentioning

It is called“The Stork and I Mum Tribe”, you can search for that in Facebook and then you have to answer a few questions just to say who you are, considering solo motherhood and then you can be approved to be part of it.

Did you find it difficult financially to raise the child yourself? Is there more extra cost? 

The cost I would say that was difficult was the treatment, but I had been considering solo motherhood for a long time. So my advice to anyone who’s considering is to start saving now, save as much money as you possibly can for the treatment. I had saved the money which I used to pay for the treatment. In terms of raising a child – and we talk about this a lot of in the coaching courses that I do –it very much depends on you. You can spend a little money, or you can spend a lot of money. If you’re preparing to have there’s a baby Facebook marketplace, getting hand-me-downs and swapping. We do clothes swap, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money on that sort of stuff. The big cost is childcare so it’s very much having a look at what childcare options you might have, what that might cost and would you be able to and pay for that out of your current monthly income. Again, you can get creative, so I’ve had solo moms who have decided to move in together to share childcare costs and like I said moving in with parents, so there are lots of things you can do. One of the things I did is I reduced my working week so that I only have to have three days of childcare to reduce the cost and I actually condensed it, so I continue to work for the same amounts of hours but on the fewer days. There are things you can do to try to minimize it but childcare I think is the key consideration to research how much that would be where you live.

What was your process if you had one to financially prepare for the solo mum journey?

Saving beforehand, doing a budget, seeing how long I could have a maternity leave, budgeting to see how much money I would get in, planning how much money I would spend and planning how long I could have on maternity leave. Researching childcare costs and options and seeing what I could do there. Probably the three things I did beforehand. As soon as I thought “I think I’m going to do this” saving as much as I can to help as well.

What are the benefits of going abroad? Is it just a financial consideration?

I think I’m probably not the best person to advise on going abroad, it’s not really my area of expertise. I think there are probably other areas where you can find more information. On “The Stork and I Mum Tribe” there’s plenty of people who’ve been abroad so they can give you a lot of information. The main reason that the solo mum community go abroad that, I’m aware of has been financial, it’s been cheaper. Of course, now you need to be very careful whether it would be financial because we don’t really know how easy it will be to fly and that cost might go up, so it’s a bit trickier at the moment. But the main reason people who have shared with me that they’re considering going abroad has been financial.

Do you have moments when you are sad that you’re not sharing the joy of your child with a partner, and how do you overcome that?

Very rarely, honestly, because I really have reframed this for my situation, so I’m not sharing the joy of my child with one person, I’m sharing it with a multitude of people. I talk very much about my family. My family is the people I’ve created, some of them are my relations, and many of them are very close friends of mine. I have many different people that share this journey with me that support me, that spend time with me and that are role models for my daughter. It’s really about trying to reframe and not focusing on what you’re missing from having one person but what you’re gaining from having a multitude of people. That’s how I think about it. It’s very easy, occasionally when you’re having a bad day or something is difficult, to fantasize about how it might be with a partner and preferably Ryan Reynolds I’m sure my life would be amazing if he was in my life. But I do think some of it is also a fantasy, and with a partner, there come different challenges. I also think that there are pros and cons of both scenarios. So I don’t often feel sad, I really try and let my extended family into my life, to share it with the people I love, and I’m not focusing on something that’s missing, I’m focusing on everything that’s there.

What was the hardest thing on your solo journey?

Personally, for me, the hardest thing was making the decision to do it. That’s why I now coach the women in this because the hardest thing for me was letting go of the fairy tale of meeting my Prince Charming, doing this in a more conventional way, worrying what people would think about me. It was really making that final decision, that this was the right decision for me. That was probably the hardest thing and reframing everything so that this decision is the best decision I’ve ever made and it’s as positive as it would have been doing it with a partner it’s just different. There’s a lovely quote that I always share that says: “Just because things could have been different doesn’t mean they’d be better”. For anyone who follows me on my Instagram, I posted a beautiful post of that, and I really do try to remember that –things could have been different, but it doesn’t mean they could have been better. In hindsight, I look back and think: “This is definitely the right decision for me, the right route for me”. But getting to that point did take me some time, and I had to let go of the idea of how I thought I would do it all.

Do you plan to tell your child the truth about her conception?

I absolutely do, I already have. This is where the Donor Conception Network has got lots of useful information, they’ve got some books that they’ve written. I also shared some books that have just been written on my Instagram, so there’s plenty of books that describe how to tell a child about their conception. It’s something that we talk about all the time, and I talk to her just about families in general. I’ve got a book about diverse families where we talk about the different types of family, and then I talked to her about the donor. I’ve actually made a book which goes through our family and then at the back it has the information we know about the donor. She’s too young to understand, but the thought is that you start telling them from a very young age and then you know they understand when they understand but that it’s not a secret, it’s something to be completely honest about. I’m very proud of it I hope that she will be very proud of it too.

Did you find it hard to tell people that you are conceiving via donor? Was there any negativity?

This is a question that we talk through on the coaching course that I run. There was anxiety about thinking of doing it – I was nervous – but actually, when I did it didn’t feel like there was something to be anxious about. This is what I also share with the people who come on my coaching course. I just got one sentence that said: “I’ve decided to have a baby on my own because I thought I might miss out on the motherhood if not”. It was literally as simple as that. People you’re close to you might want to tell them everything, people that you don’t want to know any more information you just leave it like that. I had an overwhelming positivity from people to say: “Good on you”, “Good empowered decision”. I have one person in my life who disagreed with the decision and actually, it impacted our friendship but one out of a multitude of people. The vast majority of people were very supportive.

Did your parents/siblings find it hard?

My parents were very much involved in the decision-making process, so I didn’t spring it on them and said: “I’m having a baby on my own”. I said, over a period of probably two years, that if I don’t meet someone I’m thinking of this as an option, what do you think? So they came on the journey with me, and I think some people do all that thinking on their own and then tell their parents or sibling and they then are shocked because it’s just completely out of the blue. So my advice to people is: don’t expect a positive reaction if you tell them if they haven’t had time to process, you should take them on the journey with you a little bit. However, I do think the anxiety of telling parents and close family and friends is usually worse than the reality. Any negativity is usually out of concern for you and sometimes they just need a little bit of time to consider it and come to terms with it.

Has your dating life dried up now that you have a child?

I think I am a little bit unusual in this so I’ll give you my experience. I decided to go on my first date when my daughter was 12 weeks old and just partly out of curiosity to see what it would be like if I could still do it. What I tell people is if you want to and if you choose to you absolutely can date in exactly the same way you used to before. Some people may not want to date someone with a child, plenty of people do. You probably wouldn’t want to be dating someone who didn’t want to date someone with the child. It’s almost exactly the same as it was before I had my daughter: there are times where I think that I’m going to do this and I put the effort in, and I go on dates, and then those times where I think I’ve got a lot of other things going on and I’m not into this, so very similar to before. It’s harder with the practical element of when you can go on dates – getting childcare and prioritizing: do you really want to use any precious time off to go on a date? It depends if you enjoy dating or not really, but in terms of being able to, I think it’s absolutely possible. When I share that story with other people, they say there’s no way they would have gone on a date when their child was 12 weeks old, but that’s their personal preference. Others maybe start looking when their child’s one, two and a half, two, but again up to each individual, so it’s certainly possible.

I’m very sensitive to the lack of sleep, so I’m worried about how to manage that. I have heard about sleep training, and also I am thinking that I might need to spend a large chunk of my salary to have a babysitter spending the night every third day or something like that. Any tips on what to do about this issue?

I think this is absolutely the hardest thing, particularly at the beginning. Firstly you need to prepare yourself and be prepared that you probably will have a lack of sleep and that can be tough so as not to have unrealistic expectations. The second thing is around with your support network, guiding people that one of the things you would want help with is for someone to come and do an early morning or is there anyone who could do an overnight for you or even come in a day and let you have a sleep then. So guiding people on what would be helpful for you because many people don’t know. You can do sleep training. I’m not an expert on sleep training although I did have a sleep consultant to help me try to get my daughter into the routine and I’ve shared her details on my Instagram, there are plenty of people who do that. You can read a book about how to do it, or you can get someone to help you. From the guidance that I was told, from six months you can start doing that, but again I’m not an expert there are lots of different views on it. I know some women who do spend quite a bit of money, particularly at the beginning having somebody stay overnight so they can get a full night’s sleep. You can get someone to come at 10:00 p.m.just as you’re going to bed and then leave at 6 a.m.-7 a.m. so that definitely possible and it’s not cheap but particularly at the beginning it can be worth prioritizing, particularly if you know that you need a lot of sleep.

Did you feel very nervous about going into childbirth without a partner?

I personally didn’t because I went in with my mum, who was my birth partner and we’d planned what role she was going to have. I’m very close to my mum anyway so I knew that she would be able to support me. What I always try to say is that you haven’t got a romantic partner, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have anyone in there supporting you, so it’s trying to find the best person to be able to support you and if you don’t have anyone in your network then a doula I think is a good suggestion. You can build up your relationship with them beforehand so that you know them and that you do feel you’re well supported. It’s about getting that right person in there, so you have got someone to support you.

Are you planning another baby?

I have a frozen embryo, but my personal decision is that probably I think I would find it difficult, to have two children without a partner and so for the moment I’m thinking probably not. I do know plenty of solo mum who has got two and again on “The Stork and I Mum Tribe” group there are quite a few women who’ve got two, so you can definitely get advice from them. On my website, there’s a list of podcasts from solo mums, and there are two podcasts in particular where the women have got two children, and they talk about the decision to have a second child. For me, I don’t think it’s the right decision, but I do know many women who have gone on to have another one.

If you could repeat the online calculator, you have mentioned to work out the cost of being a single mum?

I think I can just see it in the notes, actually link to it: https://www.accessfertility.com/ivf-cost-calculator

A friend of mine is having a baby in six weeks and can’t even tie her shoes herself. Are there lots of things like that that would make it difficult towards the end of pregnancy if you don’t have a partner?

I guess it depends on personal experience. I was very tired I was maybe a little bit grumpy, I didn’t do too much, but there wasn’t anything physical there that was an issue. I think if it does get to that stage, it would be looking who’s in your support network and seeing if anyone can come and help you. One of the things that I take people through is about this comparison of someone who’s got a partner because many times even if you have a partner they may be working all day anyway, or you know they’re not available to help with some of those sorts of things. It can be quite good to try to not do the comparison of what would it be like if I had a partner. If there are specific things that you need as you get towards the end of your pregnancy I guess it’s identifying them and seeing if anyone can help you, but I didn’t need any specific help. Even more than that – I had moved from London to Manchester, I was redecorating and renovating a house, I started a new job – I was not easy on myself, so the last couple of weeks I was trying to take it super easy, but I was still trying to finish off renovating my house. But it depends on your health – some people suffer more with pregnancy.

You have mentioned your support group but if you could add anything else. When I’m pregnant, how can I start to build up a relationship with other local single mums and other mums especially locally (London)?

There are quite a few different ways. One way if you go onto “The Stork and I Mum Tribe” the pin top post at the top is WhatsApp groups there is a London WhatsApp group. That’s other women who are in the same position and so London is actually a brilliant place to be because there’s such a higher amount of people. I’ve mentioned before the Donor Conception Network, they also run groups for solo mums so if you go and check them out and you can join a London Solo Mum group through them. There are other apps as Frollo– it a single parents app so that also London is the best place again it’s where most people join the app. It connects you with other single parents and not donor mums necessarily although there are some just people with children the same age who don’t have a partner. Antenatal classes – I recommend that everybody go to antenatal class because that is how you meet people with children who are going to be exactly the same age. Going to all of the mum and baby classes, there’s a really good app called Mush which is meeting other mums in your local area. When you’re on maternity leave, it doesn’t really matter if you’re single or not because usually, it’s the women who are in the day off work and socializing, so everyone’s in the same situation anyway. That’s some of my top tips about how to do it.

The WhatsApp group that you’ve mentioned – is it just for people who have conceived or can you be at any point in the journey?

No, there are one for every point in their journey, so there are ones that are called “thinkers and trials”, and then there are ones for people who have had a baby, and usually I think when people get pregnant, they move over into the other one or stay in both. So there are different ones for different stages, there’s something for everyone in there, basically.

When you go for treatment are you offered to counsel?

It would depend on the country that you’re going in but in the UK it’s mandatory to go for a counselling session if you are using donor conception. In some clinics they offer one session, in some clinics, they extend it to more sessions. I was speaking to the counselling arbiter of the British Infertility Counselling Association about this very topic because some women were saying that when they go for the counselling, they’re not sure if they’re being tested or if they’re being counselled and reported. What she said is that you should use that as a proper counselling session and go through your genuine anxieties and concerns. It’s absolutely normal to have things that you would want to discuss. It would only be in an absolutely extreme case where someone had a fear for the safety of a potential future child or for yourself that would intervene. So we shouldn’t think of that as a test, it’s absolutely there to be used to talk through anything that’s on your mind.

Will my local fertility clinic facilitate or put me in touch with all the solo mums?

Probably not, partly because of data protection, partly because it depends if you might have used the same donor depending on which clinic you were using, so usually they don’t. Many of the clinics will recommend that you meet other solo mums through the Donor Conception Network or The Stork and I Mum Tribe and there area few other groups but probably your clinic won’t facilitate that.

Can you recommend any websites for choosing a clinic or sperm bank?

The HFEA in the UK have got impartial advice about how to choose a clinic certainly, I’m not sure they’ve got one about choosing a sperm bank. But the HFEA is an independent body in the UK who go through the sorts of things you might want to think about and how all the clinics compare against each other. I run a coaching course called “Choosing Solo”– it’s a three-week course where we cover some of the emotional aspects and some of the practical aspects. I’ve seen quite a few different articles giving advice and again “The Stork and I Mum Tribe” – there are loads of discussions on which clinics people have used and which sperm banks people have used and what the experience is so if you’re looking for solo mums’ advice that’s a good source of input as well.

How old were you when you had your daughter?

I was 36 when I decided to do it, and I was 37 by the time that I had my treatment, and then I was 39 when I actually gave birth because I had a break between the first embryo transfer and the second embryo transfer. I was 39 when I actually gave birth but 37 when I had the egg collection which is I suppose the important date.
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Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson created The Stork and I following her own journey into solo motherhood. As a qualified coach, with over 15 years of experience, Mel supports single women looking to embark on the same journey. She offers a comprehensive group coaching course covering all aspects of entering into solo motherhood using donor conception as well as one to one coaching.
Event Moderator
Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka is managing MyIVFAnswers.com and has been hosting IVFWEBINARS dedicated to patients struggling with infertility since 2020. She's highly motivated and believes that educating patients so that they can make informed decisions is essential in their IVF journey. In the past, she has been working as an International Patient Coordinator, where she was helping and directing patients on their right path. She also worked in the tourism industry, and dealt with international customers on a daily basis, including working abroad. In her free time, you’ll find her travelling, biking, learning new things, or spending time outdoors.
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