Why I decided to be a 'single mother by choice'

PHOTO: Deidre Deiner Kelce AlyssaPlayCourtesy Deidre Deiner
WATCH Why I decided to be a 'single mother by choice'

Deirdre Diener is a 44-year-old marketing professional from Pennsylvania. To become a single mother by choice, she underwent the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process using donated eggs and sperm. She’s shared her story as a single mother by choice with “GMA” for National Infertility Awareness Week in hopes of helping other women who are going through this process. Read on for her journey to motherhood in her own words.

PHOTO: Deirdre Diener Penn Medicine
Deirdre Diener

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I wanted to be a mother more than anything I did in life. My siblings and I were spoiled with a mother who loved in such a big, bold, beautiful way.

My dream was to replicate this love with children of my own. What I did not know is that the dream had a very real expiration date attached to it.

I believed that motherhood would be there when I was “ready to get to it” or when I found my “white picket fence” set up with my soul mate. I progressed in my career in my 20s and 30s, climbing the corporate ladder. I dated. I married. I divorced.

I was 42 years old in May 2017. Single. No children. I was haunted by the idea that my dream of motherhood completely slipped through my fingers.

Exactly one month after I decided to get a divorce, I had lunch with a co-worker who asked me if I ever wanted to have children. We were close and so I told her that I was kicking around the idea of pursuing motherhood on my own but I was not sure if it was going to be possible given my age and with my job. It was then she told me about her story -- like mine, she was career driven, had a lack of success in relationships and the only thing she wanted was to be a mother. She was a single mother through sperm donation at the age of 42.

Cue inspiration -- it was all I needed. That afternoon I made an appointment with a fertility specialist at Penn Medicine.

Evaluating the options

PHOTO: Deirdre Deiner ABC News
Deirdre Deiner

Spoiler alert -- my story is a bit on the “rosy” side because things happened with relative ease. I have a very happy ending with a beautiful little baby girl who is now sleeping next to me while I recount this journey.

Here is the thing: I know that I was extremely blessed to have things go so well but that's why I am sharing my journey and the approach that I took in case it can help someone who is contemplating motherhood on her own now.

I wish this was a path that was discussed with me as it would have given me even more options later -- even if I were pursuing this path with a partner.

After a battery of tests over a few weeks in the summer of 2017, it was very clear that getting pregnant with my own eggs was going to be extremely tough. Some would say impossible. If I did get pregnant, my concern was that my decision may lead to health challenges given the age of my eggs.

I wanted to carry my child if at all possible. I made the decision to pursue pregnancy through egg and sperm donation using IVF. Many women have told me that they did not realize that this was an option.

The other option that I am seeing more widely discussed and used is women freezing their eggs when in their 20s or early 30s. I wish this was a path that was discussed with me as it would have given me even more options later -- even if I were pursuing this path with a partner.

The economic reality

Here is the part of the story that makes it tough. This path is extremely expensive. I guess that is where you could say the career choices actually paid off in the end. I was looking at a price tag of over $20,000. The sperm donation was approximately $2,500. I found a donor and wanted to ensure that I had the ability to use the donation more than once in case something did not go to plan.

I chose fresh egg donation shared cycle, which meant a woman would go through ovarian stimulation (just like one would for IVF) in order to retrieve her eggs, which would then be fertilized with the sperm I purchased.

Important to note the term “shared cycle” – I was sharing the number of eggs retrieved with someone else. I would receive half of the number of eggs, regardless of how many were successfully retrieved. This is where “rosy” really came into play – she had 21 eggs retrieved, so I received 11 of them. The cost for this approach was $15,000. In order to purchase the full cycle, you are looking at $25,000.

You could opt to purchase previously frozen eggs for a few thousand less, but I was committed to finding the two donors I was most passionate about and running with the process.

The expenses did not end there. My uterus needed to be prepped in order to have the ability to successfully carry a child. Therefore, while the egg donor was preparing for the egg retrieval, I was busy taking many, many shots and medications to ensure that my uterus was ready to receive the embryos created. Most often the medication is not covered by insurance plans so I believe I ended up spending about $1,500 for the shots and pills leading up to transfer day. I was ruthless about making this happen and looked at these expenses as the greatest investment of my life and if other things needed to be sacrificed – it was worth it, and then some.

Please do not be deflated by the economics. My example is extreme. Other options to consider such as donor embryos, which many women I know through my Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) group have chosen as their path, can be more affordable. Some insurance carriers will pay for IVF if you use you own eggs. These are approaches worth exploring. My point is, please don’t let your dream die because of the economics.

What I wish I knew

PHOTO: Deirdre Diener Kelce Alyssa Courtesy Deirdre Diener
Deirdre Diener Kelce Alyssa

While we are getting real about this journey, be prepared to gain some pre-pregnancy weight with the IVF meds. I gained 15 pounds within a few weeks of starting the shots. I was not even pregnant yet and I felt pregnant. I wish someone would have told me this but once pregnancy sets in …”things” start to distribute a little more evenly.

Another unexpected experience was the organization needed to keep track of the timing of medications and the amount of time required at the doctor’s office prior to the embryo transfer. While fertility offices try to accommodate schedules as much as possible, you will need some flexibility with your work schedule.

Find a support system

I was very active in my Single Mothers by Choice local chapter as well as the national forum, which helped me know that others were successful in this path. I saw that there are so many impressive women who have taken this path as single mothers.

These women ooze happiness and inspiration throughout the process. One woman said something to me that stuck with me very early in my process: “I realized I was looking for the guy to have the baby. I had it wrong. Have the baby and then find the guy.” I wish I would have had that thinking early in my 30s -- it makes complete sense.

The pay off

PHOTO: Deirdre Dieners daughter Kelce Alyssa, who was born in 2018. Courtesy Deirdre Diener
Deirdre Diener's daughter Kelce Alyssa, who was born in 2018.

On October 22, 2018, my dream became a reality. I was blessed with a beautiful girl who I named Kelce Alyssa. I had love brewing for this child well before I met her … before I was even pregnant. When I first met her after those 36 hours of intense labor, all I felt was a tsunami of love -- it was the biggest tidal wave of beautiful, positive emotion that completely rushed into every corner of my heart and soul.

The love and emotion having her in my arms, in my life, was so much greater and more intense than I could have ever imagined.

The name “Kelce” means brave -- I hope that my daughter is always brave enough to pursue her dreams and passions. I hope that she knows that she was born from bravery and immense love, as well as a ruthless pursuit of my most important dream in my life. She will continue to inspire me to be brave with everything to do with the heart.