I did try to have a family the conventional way, but it turned out I’d married a cheating, lying, scumbag. I didn’t know how much I wanted kids until the whole dream of what I had planned for my future just crumbled away. I was 37 and just panicked. And I thought ‘God, can I trust another man? How can I go down that route again?’
So I decided: that’s it, I’m going to do it on my own. Because let’s face it, women are always better on their own. And so I went to a fertility clinic and paid for some sperm. It was just like shopping – it was great. I was just shopping for a guy who sounded like I might date him if I met him, bought it, and bingo-bango it worked!
I went to get myself checked out because I genuinely thought maybe my husband left me because I wasn’t falling pregnant quickly enough. I had a private checkup. I paid about £395 and it’s not like the NHS! Aw, bless the NHS, but the private checkup was faster and more efficient. Within two days you know what your fertility is like.
I remember they scanned my eggs, took my bloods to see my hormone levels, amongst other tests. And mine were above average fertility! Which was great news, but I was still becoming more crazy and obsessed. I was reading everything saying things like “fertility drops after 35!” I was making myself ill. I was sick with worry that I left having a baby until it was too late. I’d spent eight years with this man that I thought would be the father of my children. I thought it would all work out like this bloody fairy tale that we get force fed from a young age. Anyway, long story short, they said I could freeze my eggs. But I was getting more and more neurotic about my age. And everyone seemed to have children, or grown up children, or some people my age even becoming grandparents! So I realized I could just do this on my own. Cut out the middleman. I have a big family. I have my own business. I can have a baby by myself. And I remember I’d sat there in COVID thinking ‘I’ve got everything…every dress, every pair of shoes…but actually, I really wanna be a mom’.
And so then the next step at the fertility clinic is counseling from them, which I think is brilliant, because I think everyone should try and get their head around how this is going to be. And it did make me really anxious, and it still does now, thinking how people are going to judge me or will my daughter judge me because I did it like this.
Then I started looking at these, almost like dating, websites for co-parenting because I was scared about doing it on my own. Anyway, that turned out to be quite creepy. There were loads of guys, as you can imagine, just wanting a bit of fun. And so I decided to do it completely alone.
As far as the process itself goes, I remember I had to inject myself loads. There are two types of impregnation. There is one like a turkey baster and then there is IVF. The price difference isn’t that much when you compare the success level for IVF compared to the turkey baster.
So when you’re seeking the sperm donors you don’t see any pictures, but they do talk you through their personality. They’ve had counseling too and they’ve also had all their medical history researched, which is reassuring. They run through, their education, their height, their eye color, medical history, where they come from, what they do for a living, and what education they have. And basically the better the breeding, the higher you pay. If you want to have siblings, you kind of have to buy up all their sperm so that it’s yours. So yeah, I just bought it up like a little jizz junkie.
And went for it.
Oh my god, I’ve 100% changed and hopefully for the better. I think for years I was so unhappy. And I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until she came along, which sounds a bit cliche. This is gonna sound really weird, but she saved my life. I would have just been lost without her. After my husband left me, I lost 3 and a half stone. I couldn’t get myself better. Then as soon as they said, “okay, you’re pregnant!”, it all changed. I remember they told me that while they put the embryo in and I was laying there worrying and thinking, ‘oh god, I wonder if they’ve put the right one in.’ Weird stuff goes through your head.
I think it has made me appreciate my family more and appreciate my mum more. I was bloody awful as a teenager. Sorry, Mum.
Motherhood is hard! And everyone says it, but you think, ‘yea sure it ain’t that bad’. But it is! You’re constantly guilty. I feel guilty about going to work, I feel guilty about not being fun enough. I feel guilty about being tired. I feel guilty about everything and I worry that I’ve been selfish in what I’ve done having her alone because this is what I wanted and she had no say. And she’s going to grow up and say, “thanks a lot!” and I’m gonna say to her, “come on, you were really wanted! You know, you weren’t a mistake! I paid a lot of money for you. You owe me 10 grand, kiddo. Ha!”
IT MAY HAVE BEEN OTHER SINGLE MOTHERS BY CHOICE, A FRIEND, A FAMILY MEMBER, ETC. – WHO AND WHAT DID THEY SAY THAT HELPED YOU OR MADE YOU FEEL CONFIDENT ABOUT DOING THIS?
I think it was more my family, because they could see how absolutely devastated I was. They all said that they’d be there and support me through this decision.
Until my world came crashing down, I never realized that this is what I had wanted all along. I love it and I wouldn’t change it for a second. It’s like a different kind of love, it’s hard to explain.
I was always really worried before, because I suffered from anxiety and depression. I thought, ‘oh god, if I become a mum I might lose my marbles a little bit,’ and I really wanted a supportive partner to be there if I did. And then it turned out, actually, I didn’t need anyone else but myself to sort it all out. And becoming a mum made everything click and all the anxiety stopped. I’m so much happier with her in my life.
WHAT ARE THE FINANCIAL REALITIES THAT A WOMAN SHOULD THINK THROUGH BEFORE HAVING A CHILD ON HER OWN? DO YOU THINK THERE SHOULD BE MORE FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR SINGLE MOTHERS CHOOSING TO DO THIS?
Altogether, it was about £10k. And I do think there should be something in place to help single mothers with that cost. I know in Sweden that they fund single women to have children. I think it should be like any couple who are treated for IVF. I don’t even know if it’s just straight couples that get to have a go on IVF but I just think everybody should get an opportunity, even if it’s just one time.
If I want to have another embryo put back in to try for a sibling, it’s only £1000. So yeah, a bit of a bargain really. On my first IVF attempt, I did want to have them just chuck a couple up there and just see what happened, but they wouldn’t do it.
BEFORE UNDERGOING THIS PROCESS I UNDERSTAND YOU HAVE THERAPY. DO YOU THINK ALL PEOPLE SHOULD DO THERAPY BEFORE BECOMING A PARENT?
I totally think people should have therapy before having a child, just so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Some people are just made to be a parent and that’s all they ever want. But, you know, it’s not for everyone. I think you’ve really got to look into yourself and think, ‘is this right for me? Is this right for everyone?’ So yeah, I totally agree with that.
I was probably a bit stupid, but I didn’t want to tell anyone first of all, I felt a bit embarrassed. Probably because it’s not society’s way and I was waiting for people to judge me. But everybody I told was actually really supportive. Everyone was really encouraging. And even going on dates with guys, when I told them, not one person was bothered. I had made it so much bigger in my head.
I think I was ready to tell everyone at the beginning and my mum said, “what if she doesn’t want people to know when she’s older?” And then I said, “what am I supposed to tell her then? That I went out, had a one night stand, and don’t know who your dad is?!” or do I say, “I really wanted this and I went for a whole month process of preparing for it.”
I also felt embarrassed at the time because my ex literally just tore me to shreds. He told me everything that was wrong with me. I think I got myself into such a state of ‘who is going to want me now?!’ I was really down about everything and it was only until I was pregnant with her that I realized it doesn’t matter, nobody cares. I made such a big thing of what a terrible person I was in my head that I was embarrassed about telling people in case they looked at me like a bit of a sad sack.
There’s about 10 seconds of when there’s just a look. Every now and again, even if she’s being really grumpy, she’ll just look at me. And that’s it. I love everything about her. She makes me laugh. I’ve got so much more patience. I’d never let anybody wake me up 6, 7, 8 times a night, but I just don’t care if she does, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing bad about being a mom, apart from the stress and guilt. It’s like she’s always supposed to have been here. I remember when I delivered her. She came out in a double sack. The doctors were very impressed with that for some reason. But I just remember her in the little cot next to me. And I thought, ‘Oh god, there you are,’ she’d just been missing for a while.
Oh, I also forgot to tell you about the embryo’s 4 stars. There’s a story that when they were putting her back in, in the clinic, they got really excited. The woman was like, “oh my God, she’s a four-star baby.” And I didn’t know what that meant. But they all rushed down to look at her under the microscope, because she was a four-star baby apparently. A five-star embryo is almost impossible to get, and she was four-star. And obviously, I’d paid for the good stuff. The woman who was working there said, “I’ve never seen one in all the 12 years I’ve worked here!”. So she was just meant to be. She’s just great.
What products could… GEMMA BARTON not parent without?
Am I allowed to say Pampers nappies? And anything by Johnson & Johnson.
I am not one of those moms that have got their shit together. I see people with matching nappy bags with their buggies with cupholders. I’m polar opposite to that person. I normally go out and just shove everything in my own bag, not even a nappy bag. And I’ll guarantee you that I’ve forgotten something. But the good thing is, I’ve got a purse and there’s always a shop open. So normally, I can get whatever. And I’m winging every single day of this, but she’s still alive. And she’s great. So I think we’re all good.