I considered other methods of becoming a Single Mother by Choice (SMC) before I decided to use donor sperm. My first instinct was international adoption. Unfortunately, the costs for that begin at $50k and it often costs much more. It involves extensive time off work for travel and puts the parent (and child) at the mercy of foreign courts. Additionally, several countries (Russia & China among them) are only willing to allow singles to adopt if the child is over 8 years old or “special needs”, i.e. has AIDS or autism or something else that makes them “less attractive” to “intact” families.
I have volunteered with both CASA and another program that works with children in foster care. I have heard about the need for good homes for these children and seen it first hand. I also know how absolutely smart. beautiful and loving these children can be. So, I attended a foster-to-adopt meeting at the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS). They were extremely discouraging. They said that they don’t have many younger children to place. Worse, apparently ALL the children they do have “need more attention” than a single working mother can give (i.e. court mandated therapy several times a week during business hours, mandated visits with their birth parents, etc.). Foster parents need a designated chauffeur in the family. Additionally, there are many, many potential emotional and mental health pitfalls in adopting an older child. They essentially said that they aren’t interested in a single parent — especially one who works long hours. These are special children and I am not suitable to care for them given my marital status and profession.
Years ago, I looked into domestic adoption. At that time, it cost over $18,000 just to get on the list at the local agency that seemed most open to single parents. Even then there was no guarantee that a pregnant woman would ever pick me to be the mother of her baby. Fifty years ago, something like 8% of babies were put up for adoption in the US. Now, that number is less than 1%. While I do know of several women who have adopted successfully, I have also heard many stories of failed adoptions and years on waiting lists. I know of at least one woman who has been waiting for FOUR years. There are not, as people imagine, lots of babies lying around waiting for a loving home.
I have since learned of adoption consultants and met local SMCs who have adopted domestically. I believe now that if I choose to go the domestic adoption route, I could adopt a child for around $35-40K for the whole process and only pay the bulk of it if/when I actually come home with a child. But, I would need to be open to a child of any race, any gender, from any state (and willing to travel to adopt), and be flexible about things like in-utero exposure to smoke, alcohol, illegal drugs, psychiatric drugs and more. I can’t imagine any child I would turn away, but at the same time that’s a lot to be open to.
The reality is that if I had no difficulty conceiving, donor sperm would have been far and away the cheapest way for me to go. My first three insemination cycles, plus all the testing my doctor required before hand only cost me about $10K. Much of that would have been covered by insurance had I been “using my husband’s sperm”, but $10K is a bargain compared to adoption – and insurance would kick in for the pregnancy.
But, you never know until you try. And despite my good fertility numbers, my textbook perfect cycles, my regular ovulation without medication, I eventually completed ten cycles to the tune of $20K total – without getting pregnant. It has cost me more than I expected, but it was still much cheaper than adoption and gave me the additional bonuses of being able to give my child a genetic connection and allowing me to control in-utero exposure to bad things.
I could have, in theory, tried to “trick” some guy into getting me pregnant, but the legal and “baby-daddy drama” potential, not to mention disease potential and general sleaze factor, aren’t things I want to associate with bringing my child into the world. There are known donor options with live sperm that are also cheaper, but I don’t know anyone I am comfortable asking and I am not comfortable trolling internet sites with men offering these, um, services.
I’ve come to the point now, having done donor sperm IVF once – which would have been cheaper than adoption – if it had worked the first time – where I might be better off switching to adoption (or even donor eggs). But that is a really tough decision to make when doctor after doctor keeps telling you that there is no reason to believe that it won’t work.
IVF with my own eggs gives me lots of advantages – and has a “good chance” of giving me a child for whom I can control the in-utero exposures, provide at least a partial family tree and a genetic link, and gives me a decent chance to have “left over” frozen embryos to enable me to have a full blooded sibling if I someday decide to have another baby. So, I’m going to try it.
It still seems like the right decision for me, for now. But, each time I get more aggressive or spend more money, I re-evaluate this decision. I would like to have a genetic child. I have as much right to have a genetic child as any married person. My child has as much right to a genetic connection to its mother as any other child has. However, I am coming close to the time where it will make more sense to switch from donor sperm to donor embryo or the like – which is still cheaper than adoption and gives me the opportunity to control in-utero exposure to toxins.