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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Creating Lexie’s Village

IVF for single women who never found Mr Right is becoming more popular, even if it is still regarded with some misgivings. A documentary on Australian Story profiles a former Facebook executive, 46-year-old Natalie Lovett, who decided on single motherhood and a designer baby after several failed relationships.

“Have I done it all right? No. I, I’ve made so many mistakes in my life: so many. I’ve walked away from an amazing relationship in my early, late 20s because I chose career over it. Should I be punished for the rest of my life because I didn’t make the right choices at the right time? I love my nieces and nephews so much, but they weren’t my own.”

Her daughter Lexie is now about two years old.

Ms Lovett’s choice involved more work than most IVF mothers. She had to select both a sperm donor and an egg donor. The egg donor was a college student who is using her US$10,000 fee to pay her way through college. Since it is illegal to sell gametes in Australia, she resorted to an Californian clinic. She designed the embryos carefully, specifying that the donors had to have tertiary qualifications and no addictions.

An unusual twist to her story is that she discovered that the clinic had created 25 embryos for her. Reluctant to give them to science or to destroy them, she decided to advertise her “high quality embryos” to prospective mothers. But as a condition of accepting the embryo, the mother has to sign an agreement stipulating that the children and their families have to get together once a year. Her relatives call her scheme Lexie’s Village.

“ … if I can have a say in who I am donating these embryos to and who are going to be adopting these embryos, wouldn’t it be nice, considering they are Lexie’s siblings, for us to stay in touch?”

So far, according to Australian Story, three women have signed the contract.

Kate Bourne, of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority, commented: “I think baby lust is very strong and very powerful. People desperately want to become parents, so will go to great lengths to travel anywhere to meet that need.”

Single motherhood is an increasingly popular option. According to statistics from the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the number of singles using IVF rose 20% between 2012 and 2013 in the UK.

Dr Marilyn Glenville, a popular British commentator on women’s health issues, told the Daily Mail that other issues are at work besides women deferring motherhood to pursue a career. Men are also reluctant to commit and are afraid of expensive divorce settlements:

“There is that feeling from men, worrying that they've built up a good income that they'd end up losing some of it - or a vast majority - should they get married and have children … that forces women to take action alone … In some ways it's sad because I think it falls in line with the feeling that men aren't needed. Obviously you can get a sperm donor - and in a way that is a shame. I can understand that it probably is easier to parent a child on your own, than have disagreements between couples, but I don't know whether it is good for the child.”


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