“I have wanted to be a mum for as long as I can remember,” says Shelley, aged 31. “In fact I think it is what prompted me to become a midwife and share the joy of so many families as they welcome their babies into the world.” Shelley’s mum and grandmother both had a premature menopause, so she decided not to wait for Mr Right and go it alone.
I know what I want
“I qualified as a midwife in 2011 and once I had a good income I was thinking ‘well, a man isn’t coming along and I know what I want; even if I start a relationship now it would be at least a couple of years before we started thinking about children’ – so I decided that I would go for it on my own.
“I have not had any major long-term relationships and so it was something that I always half-expected to do on my own anyway. It was always at the back of my mind.
“My nan had a very early menopause, in her late 30s, and my mum was in her 40s, so I didn’t want to wait too long to have children as I knew that I wanted more than one.”
Making the decision to go it alone
“I had originally had it in my head that I would be around 25 when I started having children so that I would be ‘done’ by the time I was 30 but actually when I hit 25 I wasn’t quite ready. It did prompt me to move out of my mum’s and buy my own place because she had said to me ‘well if you are serious about having children on your own you need to know that you can afford to do that and manage your own bills.’
“Then friends and family started to have babies and it got more upsetting each time because I was thinking that I wanted it to be me.
“I picked Bourn Hall to have my treatment because we would have women coming through the maternity ward at the hospital where I worked who had had treatment there and also sometimes midwifery students would go there and observe for a day as part of their training and had talked about it. I thought ‘well that is the place to try then!
“When I told people that I was going to have fertility treatment on my own using donor sperm it sparked a lot of interest. I wanted to be open and honest with people about it because they knew I was single and if I suddenly got pregnant I didn’t want people to think I had had a one-night stand or something.
Took mum for moral support
“I took my mum along with me to an open day at Bourn Hall for moral support because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I worried there would be couples there who might look at me and think ‘what the hell are you doing here on your own, why do you need to have a child and go through the whole process?’
“I think I was also expecting to have to defend my choices with staff but they couldn’t have been lovelier, I was put at my ease straight away, and everyone has always been really nice and positive about it.
“Once I had decided to go ahead with treatment at Bourn Hall I had to have tests and a scan but it couldn’t have been more straightforward. Everything came back fine and then I went through the process of choosing the sperm donor.
Goodwill message helped choice of donor for IUI
“I was given a tick-list of physical preferences and characteristics. With me not having a partner I could be quite flexible so I just followed the kind of colouring and looks that would fit in to my family and I was able to be quite broad. Bourn Hall then sent me an email about two weeks later with two potential matches and I knew which one I was going to pick straightaway because he had written a really nice goodwill message and I got a feel for what kind of person he was.
“Once I had chosen the sperm donor I was given the drugs to take at home to promote my egg production and follicle development and when the time was right I went back to the clinic for IUI – intrauterine insemination.
“The IUI involved inserting a thin straw-like tube containing the sperm directly in to my uterus and I could see it all happening on the screen. It all felt really surreal.
“I went home and laid on the sofa and then after that I just carried on as normal. I didn’t expect it to work first time but it did! I took the pregnancy test two weeks later and when it was positive I was stunned.
“My mum was able to come along to some of my scans and appointments with me during my pregnancy which was nice and she was there with me when I gave birth too.
“When Vinny was born in January 2018 my dream had become a reality. It was like ‘wow he is here, he is a real person!’ I had done it myself and I had a baby of my own. I remember saying to my mum in hospital a couple of days later when it had hit me that I was actually a mum ‘I am so used to helping mums manage their babies and doing nappy changes but I get to keep this one, he is mine and I get to hold him and kiss him!”
Another attempt at IUI
In the Summer of 2020 Shelley returned to Bourn Hall for sibling treatment using the same sperm donor.
“It was quite a quick process for me because I had had all the checks done previously and I still had donor sperm left so it was just a case of one appointment and then getting me started on my medication.”
In August 2021 Shelley gave birth to her second son, Rowan – and again her mum was by her side for the delivery.
“It is lovely being a mum to two little boys,” she says. “Vinny loves being a big brother and likes to cuddle Rowan and placate him when he is crying.”
“I am an only child, my parents divorced years ago but get on very well. Both of them have been so supportive of my choice to be a solo parent and both love being grandparents. My dad has just retired and is planning on moving to be closer to us, I think he has been taken by surprise at just how much he loves being a grandad.”