What it's really like to be artificially inseminated

single parent artificial insemination

Mom and baby Image by: Getty Images Author: As told to Andrea Karr


What it's really like to be artificially inseminated

Toronto mom Sara Lanthier tells the personal story of conceiving her son via sperm donor.

*As told to Andrea Karr

My mom passed away when I was 30 and I got engaged shortly after. I actually think I got engaged because she passed away. After a year I thought, no, it’s so wrong. So I called off my engagement and partied for five or six years. I was dating people and had a few relationships, but nothing serious. I had written off having kids. I was already in my mid- to late thirties and I hadn’t met anybody, so I thought it wasn’t going to happen.

Then my dad and stepmother sat me down one night and said, totally out of the blue, “Why aren’t you having a baby? You’re so strong. You’re so independent. You could totally do this yourself and we would help you.” It hit me out of left field; I’d never considered it. I think they were thinking about the direction of my life and where it was going—it wasn’t really going anywhere—and I think your parents know what you actually want, even if you don’t want to admit it to yourself.

I just sat there. I’m very money focused and the thought of not being able to afford a baby was the biggest stop. So I said to them, “I can’t afford it. I’m in media; I don’t make any money.” And they said, “If that is the only thing, we’ll help you.” So I thought about it and, within a year, I had Will. 

The fertility clinic

Once I’d decided, I got a referral from my GP to a fertility doctor at LifeQuest Centre for Reproductive Medicine. You usually have to wait awhile, but I lucked out with a cancellation and went in with my stepmother. The doctor was very honest with me. For example, chances were about 33 percent that I would conceive because I was 39 by that point. But I knew in my head that my sisters got pregnant really easily and my mom got pregnant really easily, so it was going to work.

I had to see a psychologist that they recommended because I wanted to be a single parent. I was kind of pissed off about it at first. I mean, a 16 year old can go into a bar and get knocked up and I have to get my psyche evaluated? But she was amazing. By the end, she was crying and I was crying. She said, “You’re so ready for this. Oh my god, you’re perfect for this.”

Picking a donor

Next you pick the donor. Canada has sperm donors, but they're basically on an excel spreadsheet with a hand-drawn picture of the guy. In the states, there are five or six huge sperm banks. I liked the levels of information from Georgia-based sperm bank Xytex Corp. They give you a grown-up picture and a baby picture, an audio recording of an interview with the nurses, a personal essay and all of his health information from his aunts and uncles.

I probably went through 60 profiles. It’s like online dating. You look at the pictures and you think, “Oh, that’s cute. Let me read the specifics.” I narrowed it down to five guys and had all my girlfriends over for a cocktail party and we went through them. They wrote their opinions and everybody ended up picking the same two men. I joke that I went with their number one pick, not mine, because my taste in men is what landed me in this situation. I went over the choices with my family as well and they had the same results. But when I went to order the guy that they’d picked, he was sold out. So the woman at the sperm bank told me to take my time and pick another one, but I thought, “Nope, it’s fate. It’s supposed to be the guy I wanted.”

The insemination process

After your period ends, you start going in to the clinic every morning to have an ultrasound and blood work. They monitor the size of your eggs to figure out the ideal day for insemination. When your body is ready, the clinic calls the sperm bank, which ships the sperm packed in dry ice.

Once my doctor gave the go ahead, I had to take a hormone shot in my belly to make sure that the eggs would release. I went over to my dad’s for dinner and I said to him, “Do you want to come in while Diana [my stepmom] is giving me the shot?” And he’s like, “Oh my god, no! No!” He was revolted. He thought it was in my vagina! And I’m like, “Do you think I would invite you in for that? For god’s sake.” So my stepmother did it, and she had just seen No Country For Old Men, so she starts ticking the needle like she’s a heroin addict…

I went to the clinic the next day at lunch and I remember laughing when I was up in the stirrups because they had kitten oven mitts over them. My doctor walked in and said, “Let’s make a baby today,” and they inserted a catheter really high up into my fallopian tube. I don’t remember feeling it. It’s tiny. Same with the container of sperm. It took maybe five minutes, but the doctor suggested that I lie there for an hour.

I did the exact same thing the next day. It costs a bit more money [about $500 per insemination in Canada], but my doctor thinks there’s more success if you do it two days in a row.

I found out that I was pregnant five or six days later via ultrasound. I was lucky. Some women have to go through six or seven cycles.

The end result

Now I have Will and he’s almost eight. He’s hilarious and he’s really smart. He’s not athletic at all, which is completely opposite of me. He’s super artsy. He can build Lego for three hours at a time and not bat an eye. We’re a team. It’s the two of us and we’re able to pick up and go and do whatever we want. It’s me and him and we have so much freedom.

Read more:

One dad on the joys and struggles of life with a son who has special needs


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What it's really like to be artificially inseminated