By Louise Sloan
You’re out on a first date with a promising new guy. You try not to bring up anything too controversial. Then he says, “Just to get this out of the way, do you want to have kids?” Um, actually, yes, you do — so much so, in fact, that you’re going in to your gynecologist’s office tomorrow morning to be inseminated with anonymous donor sperm.
Welcome to the newest dating frontier — dating while inseminating. The women out there doing it have made a careful, considered decision to try for motherhood before their biological clock rings. For them, it’s just not an option to grab the nearest man in a desperate bid for kids (“I call them sperm donor weddings,” says one single mom) or to get pregnant “accidentally” by a man they don’t love. These women go the sperm bank route. But they’re still hoping to meet the man of their dreams, so they keep their profile up and their fingers crossed. Could you be among their ranks right now — or perhaps in another few years? Here’s some advice from the women who’ve done it.
When do I tell a date what I’m doing?
Many women keep their “trying to get pregnant” status quiet until the relationship gets serious. Bad plan, says psychotherapist and single mom Jane Mattes, author of the classic guidebook Single Mothers by Choice. “It’s a trust issue,” she says. “You can’t hold back something big and expect them to trust you later on.” Martie, 42, who’s been trying to conceive for the past six months, agrees. “I usually find a way to tell the man what I’m doing within the first date or two,” she says. “I don’t want to leave him in the dark, and I want to see what he’s made of before a real attachment is formed. That way, it’s easier to break off, if necessary.”
How to share the news
A spoonful of sugar (in the form of an upbeat attitude) is the best way to get a positive response. Your self-confidence offers your date a cue as to how to react. Says Annie, the new single mom of a nine-month-old boy: “I was straightforward with no hint of shame or apology or discomfort. I also tended to use humor. One first-date disclosure came up in the context of acupuncture (which I was doing for fertility reasons). I had been telling him a goofy story about acupuncture, and he asked why I was doing it. I said something like, ‘Well, I’m trying to get pregnant (flirty smile)… not with someone I meet over drinks, with a donor… and acupuncture may enhance fertility.” He chuckled and started asking curious questions. The other time I brought it up, I started with something like, ‘I’d like you to know something about me in case it’s a problem for you…’”
Other women in this situation say they set it up with something along the lines of: “There’s one big thing going on in my life I should tell you about. I’ve always wanted kids, and the clock is ticking, so I’ve actually started trying to get pregnant with a sperm donor. I’m so excited about it! But it’s the kind of thing I feel like need to be upfront about with anyone I start to date.” Then, to give your date the opportunity to talk about the topic in a less personal way, you can segue into a current-events conversation by adding, “It’s starting to be a bit of a trend these days. Do you know anyone who is thinking about starting a family in this way?” That also helps steer the conversation away from a too-intimate discussion of your relationship history or the ins and outs of insemination… that is, of course, until you’re ready to share all that.
What kinds of reactions to expect
What will your date’s reaction be? “How many different guys are out there?” asks Annie, rhetorically. “One guy just thought it was cool and cheered me on. The other was curious. Neither turned out to be long-term relationship material, but my trying to conceive wasn’t the deal-breaker.” Other men hit the road immediately, however. That’s what happened to Lisa, now the mom of a toddler. “They will say, ‘Um, that’s very interesting… I don’t know how I feel about that… [silence]… That’s great you’re doing it if you want that,’” she says. “Then you never hear from them again.”
Martie finds that her dates’ reactions depend on their parental status. “The men who already have children are very interested and respectful of what I’m doing, even offering to go on doctor visits,” she says. “The men who don’t have children and want them seem to be very hurt at first. I think many of them have the same dream that we do and have a hard time letting go of it, too.” It can bring difficult feelings to the fore when they see a woman going after what they want in the future, without a guy in her life. The key thing is to remember that a guy’s reaction is about his goals, needs and attitudes — not about you! Don’t let any rejections get under your skin.
The sex question
Having sex with your date while trying to get pregnant at the doctor’s office can feel emotionally alienating, even if it does make logical sense. On the weekend of her third insemination attempt, Michele, 36, used a condom for a Saturday-night date with a boyfriend. First thing Sunday morning, she went to her doctor’s office for an insemination. “It was pretty funny,” she says, regarding this ironic separation of sex and conception. But she’s glad she used that condom instead of risking pregnancy with a guy who might not be husband or father material.
When it comes to intimacy, honesty is key, if you want the relationship to have long-term potential. No man wants to have the double-whammy surprise of being told his new girlfriend is pregnant — and not by him. Your situation has to be broached, and well before you find yourselves in bed.
Is this fair to the guys?
Women aren’t the only ones putting their long-term reproductive goals ahead of whatever possibilities a new relationship might hold, points out Lori, 43, who’s five months pregnant as a single mom. “One of the guys I dated a little while ago had told me how important having kids was to him and I told him I shared the same value. He dumped me without a word when I told him how old I was. I guess he thought I was a lost cause; little did he know I would become pregnant in a few months!”
Ultimately, if a guy’s really the right person for you, he may well stick around, even under these unusual circumstances. Jill was closing in on 40, so she didn’t stop trying to conceive as a single mom when she started dating someone new. The beginning of her anonymous-donor-conceived pregnancy was “a pretty low period for us,” Jill admits — but they worked through it and got married two years later. “He’s an amazing
Louise Sloan is author of Knock Yourself Up: No Man? No Problem. A Tell-All Guide to Becoming a Single Mom (www.knockyourselfup.com). She lives in Brooklyn with her son, Scott.Return to Blog