Monday, February 1, 2010

A single woman's journey to have a child on her own

First in a 3-part series

Sheri (right) is 42, single and 14 weeks pregnant. She couldn't be happier; she's been working toward this goal for almost three years.

"I always wanted to be a mom," said Sheri. "I innately knew there would be little one in my future."

For a long time Sheri envisioned having a baby as part of a traditional family like the one she grew up with in Glencoe, Illinois. But after a lot of dating and serious relationships in her 20s and early 30s, Sheri realized she wasn't going out with men for the right reasons.

"I was looking at the guy more as a provider and the father of my children," she said. "Less as a companion for me."

Sheri started dating more selectively. Her friends fixed her up; she met men through the online Jewish dating site, Jdate. But she still didn't find anyone she really connected with. At age 37, her biological clock ticking, Sheri began to feel like she might not meet Mr. Right in time to have a child.

"That was when I started thinking I could have a baby on my own."

With the encouragement of her friends and family, Sheri investigated artificial insemination. She talked with fertility specialists, selected a doctor, and chose a sperm donor through the California Cryobank.

The perfect husband might have been hard to find, but when it came to picking her child's biological father, Sheri could get just the guy she wanted. She evaluated donors based on their ethnicity, religion, education, health, genetics, eye color, physique, even their baby pictures. Sheri chose an educated Jewish man who shared a lot of her family's background and physical characteristics - except for height. Sheri is quite petite; she chose a donor on the tall side, "to even things out."

With all the pieces in place, at age 39, Sheri was excited to begin the artificial insemination process. Based on her heathy lifestyle, fitness level, and work ethic she was sure she'd get pregnant in no time.

And why wouldn't she? Sheri is a lifelong athlete. She played Varsity tennis at New Trier High School for four years and went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison on a tennis scholarship. Now she's Director of Women's Tennis at the North Shore Racquet Club in Northbrook.

I've taken drills with Sheri for years and she is one of the most upbeat, encouraging, motivated people I've ever met. Not to mention she's one fit chick.

But despite her motivation and preparation, Sheri didn't get pregnant the first time she was inseminated. Or the second. The third time she conceived but miscarried after three weeks. So she tried again. And again. And again. Finally, after six attempts over two years, Sheri and her doctor decided it was time to give up on artificial insemination.

"If there's anything I would tell other women trying this process is that it takes time," said Sheri. "It doesn't matter how healthy you are, your eggs age. After 40, your chances of getting pregnant drop dramatically. I wish I had started sooner."

Check back for the second part of this series when I'll give the details of Sheri's experience with artificial insemination and the approach she tried next - in vitro fertilization. In part three, Sheri reveals how this process has transformed her, and how she envisions life going forward.

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