At 37-years-old, Leslie, a Queens resident, had a successful career and was ready to be a mother. But she didn’t have a partner to join her in conceiving a child, and Leslie was very aware that her biological clock was ticking.
“I was the great aunt — successful in my career, could take my nieces and nephews here and there, buy them whatever, and then they’d go home,” Leslie said. “I kind of always saw myself with a child, but I didn’t have any serious boyfriends. I decided I wanted to have a child on my own.”
The first option Leslie considered was artificial insemination, or intrauterine insemination, a procedure by which sperm is placed into her reproductive tract to impregnate her. To inquire about the process, Leslie went to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, Long Island.
The doctors there asked her about her reasons for having a child as well as her support network in caring for her baby. As Leslie explained to them her situation, the doctors also checked her medical history to make sure she did not have gynecological problems. After considering her case, they decided to go through with the procedure.
The doctors informed her that she could choose from two different “cryobanks” — laboratories where sperm and other tissues are stored at sub-zero temperatures — one in Virginia and the other in California.
Leslie looked at the two websites and learned she was able to choose the type of man the sperm came from — including his level of education.
“There was one site called ‘doctorate’ for men who had doctorates, and since I had always liked being around smart people, I chose the doctorate site,” she said. “I chose ‘tall’ because everybody in my family was short, and I also chose ‘waif-like skinny’ because everybody in my family was fat.”
Leslie understood that, despite choosing her desired traits, there was always the chance her child would not inherit the father’s genes. After choosing three possible sperm donors, Leslie had her doctor go over them with her.
Her first choice, she was told, was a no-go, because her doctor found that conceiving from that particular donor could put her child at risk of contracting a certain illness. Her other choices didn’t have that risk, and Leslie pressed on.
During her next ovulation, she was inseminated with her second choice’s sperm two days in a row, but it was unsuccessful. The following month, she opted to be inseminated three times, at which point she became pregnant.
Leslie’s pregnancy went smoothly. When she went into labor, her sister brought her to the hospital where Leslie gave birth to a baby girl, whom she named Kelly. She has been raising her in Queens for the past five years.
Kelly has no medical problems and is thriving in school, but Leslie confessed that raising a child as a single parent has been challenging.
“Friends would complain, ‘Oh, my husband doesn’t do anything, he doesn’t help.’ But I tell them, ‘You can run to the store. I can’t. If I’ve got to run to the store, I’ve got to pack up Kelly.’ ”
But Leslie says she has only experienced one awkward moment while being a single parent.
“When Kelly was about 2-and-a-half, one of her teachers asked what Kelly should make for a Father’s Day gift in class,” Leslie said. “I told her Kelly has uncles and a grandfather, and if she ever had any other questions, she could ask me.”
And when Kelly recently asked about her father, Leslie was prepared.
“I’ve already talked to her about how I didn’t have a husband and the nice man gave his seed,” Leslie said. “When she asks ‘Why don’t I have a dad?’ I always answer, ‘Well, I haven’t found — yet — the right person to love, who will love us and we’ll love.’ ”
Instead of focusing on the absence of a father, Leslie has preferred to talk with Kelly about different kinds of families. She said, “I’m more into reading books about different types of families — some people just have a mom, some people just have a dad, how everybody’s family looks different.”
Because a donor’s sperm is more expensive when he indicates he would be willing to meet his children in the future, Leslie — for economic reasons — chose a donor who did not wish to be contacted by any of his children.
“I wanted Kelly to meet her father, but I just couldn’t afford it,” Leslie said. “I have a lot of information about him. I have his baby picture, essay questions he answered, things that he wrote, and an audio CD of his voice.”
Kelly is registered on a website that lists the children of specific sperm donors, and Leslie knows that her daughter has six siblings, including one whose birthday is close to her own.
The entire insemination process cost Leslie $8,000. “The sperm that I chose cost $350, so it cost $500 each time I got inseminated, because I also had to pay the doctor for the procedure. I also had to pay for the storage of the sperm, which was a one-time, $800 fee,” Leslie explained. “My insurance wouldn’t cover the expenses, because you need to show you had been trying for at least six months to get pregnant [in order to quality].”
Although Leslie is raising Kelly alone, she admits she feels lucky to have had support from friends and family who live nearby and have helped during sleepless nights and parenting crises. Leslie has also been lucky to have a job that has provided her with a steady income, especially during the recent recession.
Despite some of the difficulties she’s encountered in raising her daughter, Leslie is happy with the way things have turned out. “It was the best decision I ever made. I have never regretted it. I have the best daughter, we are a happy family and I am the luckiest mom in the world!”
To find out more about artificial insemination, you can visit the website www.northshorelijivf.com.
Allison Plitt, a mother of a preschool-age daughter living in Queens, is a staff writer for Family Publications. If you have any ideas you’d like to share with her about resources for families in Queens, please contact her at [email protected].