Decision made, I am going to do this…
Fertility MOT booked for 6th May – This test will help me to understand my ability to conceive. As I have already had my eggs frozen it will be useful to understand whether my fertility status has ‘fallen off a cliff’…
‘Project Leapfrog’ is all systems go;
Step 1 ‘Fertility MOT’: This starts with a pelvic ultrasound scan, an internal scan of the womb and ovaries, which helps to evaluate whether there are any issues likely to affect my fertility. During the scan the specialist is also able to calculate the Antral Follicle Count (AFC), which is an assessment of your ovarian reserve. They also carry out blood tests to measure Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) giving additional indications of Ovarian reserve. The final part of the MOT is a consultation with a fertility specialist who reviews all the results discusses my medical history and then advises me on my status.
As a result of my fertility MOT, I discover that my fertility has not decreased dramatically over the past three years (since I froze my eggs). In fact, the test results for both AFC and AMH indicate that my fertility is ‘good for my age’! The advice from the consultant is that I don’t need to be in any major rush, however the sooner I start the process of trying to conceive the less invasive the process will be. Plus with these results I may be able to get pregnant via Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) aka ‘posh’ Turkey baster!
Following my MOT I have an appointment with a nurse who talks me through the timings. On paper the process is simple: decide when to start ‘trying’, buy sperm, monitor cycle, call up on day 1 of cycle, come in the day after ovulation (usually day 8) and the IUI procedure will be performed. However, in reality – OMG! Is this really happening?!
It has suddenly hit me that I have now entered a whole new world and I have so many questions: When should I start trying? How do I decide which sperm to buy? How do I know that I am ovulating? Is IUI even likely to work?
Step 2 – ‘Single Women’s social’: These are monthly social meet ups which give women embarking on the journey to single motherhood, through sperm donation, the opportunity to meet up with others in a similar situation. These women-only events allow open discussions in a non-judgemental, supportive and relaxed atmosphere.
This month the focus is on nutrition and included a talk from a nutritionist. I’ll be honest, it was more interesting and informative than I ever imagined it might be. The presentation obviously included all the usual healthy eating advice; swap white bread and pasta for wholemeal varieties, eat two portions of oily fish a week, eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and drink 1.5 to 2 litres of fluids a day. However, I also learnt that it is recommended to take a folic acid supplement daily for at least three months before conception and that eating eggs is good for your eggs – an excellent excuse for many eggs benedict brunch dates to go in the diary!
The biggest positive of these sessions, however, is being in a room full of other women all on the same journey. It gave me the opportunity to talk to other people and I exchanged numbers with two ladies; Sima and Laura, who I agreed to meet up with in June to chat more. It is so nice to have a little group of us that ‘gets it’. Let’s hope we are all successful…
Step 3 – Support group set up: Although I know I have the support of my family and friends, I have decided it would be good to have a dedicated WhatsApp group with a few key people. That way I will have one place to update everyone on the status of ‘Project Leapfrog’ and I’ll know I haven’t forgotten to tell anyone something!
Step 4 – Hysterosalpingo Contrast Sonography (HyCoSy) test: The Tube Test’, as I call it, is carried out by a sonographer, this is an investigation of the fallopian tubes. A dye/contrast agent allows the sonographer to see the tubes much better during an ultrasound scan. The test is performed to check whether there is any damage or blockages to the fallopian tubes. Whilst not an essential test, it is recommended as the best way to be sure that my tubes are looking good before embarking on IUI.
Test completed, and purse £400 lighter, I am happy to learn my tubes look good!
Step 5 – Sperm selection: Suddenly I feel completely and utterly overwhelmed. How on earth do you choose sperm…
July & August
I have decided to take a couple of months off from ‘Project leapfrog’. There has been a lot going on and I need a moment to pause and make sure that when I am ready to get going again, I will be ready both physically and emotionally.
As part of my break I decide to embark on a couple of sessions with one of the counsellors at the clinic. Resulting in my feeling so much better and more in control. I now realise I should definitely have done the counselling sooner. It was so helpful to know that how I have been feeling is completely normal. The fact is that having a child is a big decision. Deciding to do so on your own is therefore a HUGE decision. Despite knowing that this is the right route for me, the thing that put an element of doubt into my mind was the task of how to choose the right sperm donor.
The sessions with the counsellor help to break the process down and make it so simple. She quickly identified that the issue, for me, was that I was searching for the ‘perfect’ donor – one that ticked every single box, no compromises. She reminded me that perfection does not exist and tells me that achieving ‘51% is enough’. Whilst I have decided that 51% is not enough for me, I am now clear in my mind that 100% is unrealistic and therefore as long as I can be ‘comfy’ with the sperm donor I go for then that is enough. As with all ideas, you have to work out what you are comfortable with, where you’re willing to compromise, and then base the search on that. She also reminded me that all the donor sperm is “excellent” and that I am selecting from some ‘super stuff’, so whichever one I go for will be great.
With a clearer head than I have had in months I sat down and went through the sperm bank again and this time I found 4 donors I liked. With my new theory of ‘comfy-ness’ I would say that I feel somewhere between 60-75% with them all.
Mum, Dad and Sara all came over for a ‘sperm donor selection dinner party’, an evening that went so much better than I could have ever hoped for. I had printed out the information I had about each one of the donors on my shortlist: height, weight, eye colour, hair colour, nationality, education, profession, religion, allergies, skills, hobbies and interests. Additionally there was a short paragraph of text written by the clinic about the donor. I had also requested the ‘pen sketch’ written by the donor themselves, an option where he writes whatever he feels is appropriate.
After we had finished dinner, I decided the moment had come… I asked all three of them to read all the information about the four donors and then silently decide which donor they would each select from the options available. I then asked them to reveal their choice, all at the same time, they then took turns to talk through their decision making process. Incredibly they all chose the same donor! Even more amazingly, we all decided that we would like to go on a date with him (even Dad would want to come along?!).
Sperm bought, tests all done, last thing for me to do is to focus on my emotional and physical health. So, what better way to do this than on a yoga retreat in Spain with Soraya and Mike?! Healthy food, great weather, yoga and meditation, walks on the beach and in the hills plus a spot of paddle boarding. The trip away was ideal and I return home refreshed and ready to embrace the next part of my journey.
I am 37¾ years old. I have no idea if this is going work, however I feel good about it, so why not give it a try, and see what happens…