- The Widowed Dad
“Life doesnt always go to plan” host Carla Lett chats with father of one, Mark Wilcock about his journey playing both mother and father after suddenly losing his wife Katherine aged 35 when his daughter was only 8 months old.
Mark talks about what happened and how he has coped playing both mother and father roles in his daughters life.
Mark’s Blog – www.norainnorainbows.net
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Hello and welcome to 50 shades of motherhood uncensored, unhinged and unapologetic motherhood chats around the highs, the lows, the struggles, everything really.
This week,I am joined by the lovely Genevieve Roberts, who will be sharing her story about making the decision and her journey to having a sperm donor. Now this is a very interesting, amazing episode and I can’t wait for you to hear it.
Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of 50 shades of motherhood. Today I am joined by the incredible Genevieve Roberts and she will be discussing why she became a single mom using a sperm donor. And so welcome to the show Genevieve.
Hi, thanks for having me.
We’re very excited. I’m sure our audience will be very excited to hear your story, which is absolutely incredible. And I’m really looking forward to to listening myself. So, so Genevieve, could you start by telling us a bit about you and your background and and when you decided that you wanted to become a mum?
Um, yeah, I think I’d always wanted to become a mum it’s quiet. I just hadn’t ever imagined that I wasn’t going to be which might sound odd. It was something I took completely for granted. I remember chatting with friends about it sort of at school and deciding what ages I’d have children which seems seems really crazy now. I don’t think I knew that anyone could have infertility problems or anything of this sort. So I it was it wasn’t something to In my 20s, I was very happy and working hard. Had, I was a serial monogamist, I’d say. So all my relationships from teenagers upwards were were quite serious ones. And then I split up, I got married very briefly and split up with my then husband. When I turned 30, it had been a very short marriage, and I couldn’t see us spending the rest of our lives together. So I made that decision. And it was a hard one and I think it made me feel it was the first time I really questioned my judgement on things. I felt like I’d made a really bad mistake. It wasn’t a mistake that I’d hoped to make. And I suddenly went from having boyfriends constantly to actually spending some time just really thinking and spending some time on my own and learning what that was like. And then I’d dated a few people and had a few relationships. And then in my mid 30s, I was in a relationship and I got pregnant and had a miscarriage. And that person left very swiftly afterwards. We hadn’t really been together nearly long enough to be thinking about having children together, but we decided that we wanted to do this and he moved in with me and it also it felt like my life was unravelling very, very quickly. And I found having a miscarriage incredibly heartbreaking.
And it took a while to get over everything, but I was able to come to terms with with with losing, losing a baby, but it didn’t make me not want to have one. I mean, it was I still felt like I was in this sort of limbo of being a half mother, I’d already in my head made all those sacrifices and was so excited and I, I felt really ready for that time of my life. But, you know, I carried on and was having, you know, got myself together
again and I had my fertility tested I decided that was a wise thing to do. I presumed my fertility was very high. But thought I’ll have my fertility tested just so that I know and then I can hopefully not think about that for a while and meet someone else and have children. And I found out my fertility was really low, and it changed everything overnight. Really. I couldn’t bear the idea of not trying to have children at all.And
it felt like I had a choice at that time I that I was going to do my best it best to try and find a relationship and have children but I had to accept that that might not happen because I’d been told that it wouldn’t or to kind of go about things in a slightly different order. And if I wanted to try and have children to do that, and then hopefully meet someone down the line, and it felt it really felt too difficult not to the idea of just never trying to have children, for me felt really tricky, and something that was under such a time limit all of a sudden. And, yeah, once it actually wasn’t that hard a decision because the alternative would have been really disappointing for me so
That that’s, that’s amazing. I mean, from what you said from the beginning, sorry, I was so engrossed in what you were saying. I kind of went a bit quiet but and yeah Probably from what you said at the beginning, you know, the early relationship and in your head. I mean, I don’t know why we do it as women, but we always in our head think 30,30 I mean, I was in a relationship, and I got engaged, and I won’t go into it too much because he’s a lovely guy. And but we just weren’t right for each other. And, but, you know, at that time, I was 27 I was thinking, right? Yes, get engaged, get married, have children by 30 like, it’s like, as soon as you get to 30 you almost question like, Where’s my life going? Is it on the track I wanted it to go on? And I don’t know why we think like that, but, but we do. And I split up with him and then I started thinking like the same as you really like, I think I was. when I split up with him. I think I was around 28. But then I start thinking, Oh, my goodness, this is it. Now, you know, I might not have children and then you know, and with what you went through with your miscarriages as well, I think you have all those ideas for that time that you are Pregnant you really do think to yourself, don’t be like, oh, what when will they be born? Oh, it’ll be nearly Christmas they can wear that it’s all those little things that you you create this baby in your mind and you love that baby for however long or short it is they they have existed and they’ve existed in your thoughts and you’ve thought about taking them to school and you know, it’s just everything is almost whipped away from you. And it’s awful to go through. So. So that’s incredible how you got got to that stage and I’m sure a lot of women that may be listening to this who are also in a similar position and that are single, I would love to hear more about about how how getting a sperm donor actually works as well. So can you tell us a bit more about that?
Of course. Yeah, it totally surprised me actually. It’s um, it’s quite like, it’s quite like online dating sites in a way, just the way that there’s loads of profiles to look through. Obviously, you’re not flirting with those people. You’re just, you’re looking at them and there’s loads of health information, which I found really useful.
Oh, wow, that’s good.
They give your the parents, the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, all the things that they’ve had in their life diseases, and they give character profiles. So there’s quite a lot of detail. On the site that I used there were baby photos as well. So I got an impression of what they look like as a baby.
Oh that is so cool.
Yeah, it was there was a lot more detail than I expected and different faces will give you more or less detail. But if you’re in the UK, obviously it’s that same limit of 10 Uk families, which is which is really important in my opinion. And yeah, I found I found that health was what I went on. I know some people who have gone for people who looks a bit like them to kind of increase the chance that their baby will look really similar, which I can understand.
Yeah, I wouldn’t have thought of that. But that’s such a good idea. Yeah, that’s another idea. So then the babies more like them. That makes sense.
Yeah. I mean, it doesn’t always work like that. I mean, just, you know, you never know, do you? Yeah,I just kind of for me, I was just like someone who, whose family seems to be pretty healthy seems like a very good way. I think it partly depends what you think of nature and nurture as well. I did go for someone who quite liked being outdoors because I love being outdoors. So I thought having someone who had that similar personality would be good. But in all honesty, I think that that mainly is something that you develop, you know, I think that that’s probably partly nuture?
Yes. yes. I agree with that. Yeah, I do think it , I mean, if your child’s in all the time I do, I do think you know, when TV becomes a bit of their life, like George at the moment, I must admit, we’ve been watching a lot of tea at the moment and I keep saying to George, should we go for a walk? He’s like, No, I want to watch TV. I’m just like, wow, okay, so but to be honest, then you can get on with other stuff. So know that, that that sounds really interesting. Do you know I never knew all about that. And and how many profiles are there that thousands or is it?
Well, I’m I mean, there were there were loads there were loads. I’m not sure whether it was thousands. I’d say I looked through hundreds rather than thousands. Yeah. For me, I I bought the sperm from overseas, but I so the only I had to filter because it was only people who were okay for the UK. So you have to they can’t be, because of the limits to the sperm and because you have to have identity release. So for example, all children who are conceived by a sperm donor in the UK have the right to contact their donor when they hit 18. So that’s that’s something that if a donor doesn’t agree to, then obviously they’re not suitable for the UK. The HFEA the human fertilisation and embryology authority is, is quite good at regulating that. And I think it’s very important and I hope in time that will become those regulations will increase worldwide.
How were your family and friends how did they react when you told them where they really supportive and did they understand or was it a difficult one to approach?
My friends were amazing. They I think one of them might have said at last because people knew how much I wanted, you know, children. And it, you know, time in your mid 30s does feel like it’s, it’s kind of passing and I think they kind of almost wondered why I hadn’t. Why I wasn’t getting on with it in some way. Lots of people saying they thought I’d be a good mum and that they’d support me as much as they could, which I appreciated so much. My mum said, I’m worried that you’re picking a hard life for yourself, which I thought was a really nice concern to have. And I explained to her that actually, it was really hard wanting a child and not having one. And, and not even trying to have one and I think that’s when she got it. Because I think my life seemed really, from the outside seems really lovely. I mean, I was really lucky with my life and it was just that thing that felt like it was really missing. For me, and I don’t think she had any idea that, that that’s how I felt because, you know,I’d be going off on a holiday and doing, you know, working really hard and doing really interesting things and was really I have been really, really fortunate. So I think once she understood that she too was very supportive.
Yeah, I think the mums, with mums, they just want to make sure you know that, you know, they can be honest can’t they, and just make sure you’re making it the right decision. But yeah, definitely. So once you’ve selected the sperm donor, how does it work from there what what actually happens then?
So the sperm gets sent to the clinic, with you, you know, to the fertility clinic or the hospital, if you’re, if you’re having your treatment there. And your cycle starts to be regulated. It depends whether you’re having IVF or IUI. So for my Daughter, I had artificial insemination which is IUI. And for my son I had IVF which is a bit more intrusive. So with my daughter, they just started scanning me to see the eggs and the follicle gets bigger and bigger. They wanted it to be 20 centimetres, 20 centimetres, gosh, that would be a lot 20 millimetres.
Um and when it reaches that you do a trigger injection which is putting hormones, you just inject them into your tummy, and that causes you to ovulate and they put the sperm in and then you hope that they’ll just you know do what do what they do and sperm the egg will meet.
Yeah. How much how much sperm do you get from one donor then is it like equivalent to one kind of I don’t want to put this weirdly but one blast as in like, you know one sex, you know, normally like say, would it would it be enough like quite a few times?
I don’t know because they do it. I mean you’d have thought that one one blast is enough?
Haha on blast. Yeah, yeah.
They tell you how many like sperm are within it and its usually millions and millions. So but I guess I don’t know how much how much sperm is in I haven’t, I have never thought to ask that.
I know well I was just thinking because like I don’t know yeah I suppose it is it just then do you have. Do you have some leftover in case that didn’t work the first time then how does that work them?
You tend to buy a few vials. So I bought, I think I bought three but my daughter was then conceived on the second round of artificial insemination.
So is that the second month then you’d came back and did it again?
I did it again the next month and I was really fortunate to become pregnant.
Wow, that’s incredible. So So is this all done in a hospital type place or?
So yeah, I went to a fertility clinic which is really it’s really similar it’s really similar to a hospital setting in all honesty what I liked about it was that they had hot chocolate in the waiting room seemed quite nice.
I might go there myself, my husband will be like what, it sounds nice just having a peaceful hot chocolate on your own at the moment
but yeah, yeah, it depends if you’re if you’re getting it through the NHS and then you tend to be in a more hospital setting, but some of the some of the clinics do NHS in the mix, you know, it’s a mix but as a solo Mum, I had to sell fund. You know, there was, it was me paying for it.
Yeah of course, of course. Right. So you got pregnant on the second month, then how was your pregnancy? Was it all all good, normal textbook I suppose?
It was with my daughter I got a little bit sick and then when my son I got quite sick but but yeah it went it went to plan, you know it was it I was just very very aware of being pregnant I think because I’ve had a miscarriage I don’t think you ever take pregnancy for granted again. So I was I remember being you know, people saying oh you don’t need to worry and me thinking it was I think the worst was when someone said to me worrying isn’t good for your baby and me being like, Oh no, no I’m worrying about being worried.
Yes, yeah, I know what you mean.
I found the whole thing quite. I didn’t find it very relaxing. I think I I sort of thought I loved being pregnant and I had really bad anaemia and was feeling really poorly and was having to eat just to get the energy to get out of bed, which I’m still you know, trying to lose now from that all the amount that I ate during Pregnancy, that pregnancy, and yeah, it was it wasn’t it wasn’t especially fun time. I mean, I do it a million times over to have my children but it wasn’t a time that I look back on being like, Oh, it was so nice being pregnant. I didn’t especially enjoy it. Means to an end.
I think especially after miscarriage I can imagine. I mean, I’ve obviously I’ve told you about me with my twins and losing them. I think I got ever got pregnant again. I would be absolutely terrified. I don’t I remember him I did have another miscarriage just shortly after them. And I literally I just stayed in bed and I didn’t move but it’s something bad still happened at the end of end of that one as well. That was a last that six weeks but that was, it’s funny because you can’t control what’s going to happen unfortunately. And it’s so hard to get that into your head at the time, but I would be terrified. So I’ve totally feel you you did it the other way around and you’ve ended up your first experience wasn’t good and then you’ve you know you panic then because you want something so badly as well. It’s, it’s hard. Yeah. So you decided to have another child, which is amazing, I love this, and you use the same sperm donor. So was that journey. You mentioned the IVF. So I’m guessing that journey was a bit different to this one, the first one then.
Yeah, so that’s just a lot more medicalised. You’re having injections every day to try and get lots and lots of lots of eggs. Stimulate lots of follicles so that they can harvest lots of eggs they even with that, I think I maybe got four eggs, something like that. Not very many. And I think maybe two. Yeah, I think two grew to be like, really good. And they were the two they put back in me and I got pregnant with my son. So I was incredibly lucky, incredibly lucky. There’s nothing left in the freezer. Equally, you know, I did get quite poorly when I was pregnant with him. So, you know, I’m, I’m done now. I feel so lucky to have them both I really do. And there’s so many tales of IVF that, you know, where it’s actually really, really tough and people go back round after round. So I was incredibly lucky with with both of mine to conceive them the way I did.
Yeah. Oh, bless you. So So did you go for that? Did you go down the sperm donor route first, and then it didn’t work? Or is that why you went for IVF? afterwards, was it?
Yes. So I went, I had I had artificial artificial insemination first. I had it about five times with my son because I, it been so easy with my daughter. I was like, Oh, hold on. Why isn’t this working? But it wasn’t working. I don’t know. I don’t know why maybe my fertility had decreased or maybe it was, you know, my body was still a little bit tired after having my daughter and I think it was better timing by time I got to do the IVF it was a little bit further down the line, my daughter was over one, and I think my body had recovered a lot more. And yeah, I was very fortunate.
Yeah. Oh, that’s lovely. That’s lovely. Such a lovely story. But, so obviously, now you’re done with your children. So that was the next question. I was actually going to ask you actually. So that’s done with now. So you’re happy with your two. And you’ve got one of each, which is amazing as well.
I justfeel like if I have more, I wouldn’t be able to give them as much attention and, you know, I’m outnumbered as it is. So I think it’s, I think it’s a good balance with two and I’ve loved watching their friendship grow. It’s just it’s the most beautiful thing I can imagine. It’s really nice. I mean, you know, there’s a bit of pushing and shoving there as well, but they are great pals and that’s really good. But yeah, I feel like. It would be it would be a push in, in all sorts of ways. You know, physically, emotionally, financially, every spiritually every way going, I think. I think we’re really good as a unit.
Yeah, no, that’s lovely. That is so nice. And what’s the age gap between them both? Because it’s quite small later,
Two years. So
Oh, that’s lovely.
Yeah, yeah. So my son, he chases after his sister crawls after her. And yeah, and she’s become over the past few months seeing how kind she’s become to him. And yeah, they do seem to be really, really, really good to go. So
it’s so lovely. So So my next question then. So would you be happy with your children to make contact with their, I suppose I’m not sure on the right word for this. So forgive me if I’m wrong but, the dad, when they’re old enough? What is the right terminology?
We describe it as donor rather than a dad. I think because the dad is really a role, it’s involves, you know, it’s the person who read stories at night to their child and teaches them to ride a bike and is their day to day and if I told my children they did have a dad, I think it would be setting them up for a real sense of disappointment potentially later on. I mean, I’m really up for them going if it were me, I definitely want to meet that person. And but it’s much more just a kind of thing to understand your history and understand where your genetics came from. And to satisfy curiosity, it’s not like they’re going to be parachuted in, in that dad’s role. So although they obviously have a biological father, he doesn’t play the role of a dad. So, so donor seems to be the most kind of neutral term to use so that they just know. They know that then I would, I wouldn’t want to set them up for a disappointment.
Yeah, absolutely no, I completely understand that. So with the sperm donors, do they have a choice then whether they want the children to contact them, or did you say in this country that is just how it works?
Yeah, in the UK, if you’re not happy with someone contacting you when they’re a grown up, then you don’t you don’t donate sperm. The law changed maybe 15 years ago, before that donors were anonymous, and they didn’t. They didn’t have any contact at all. And I think that has led to quite a bit of sadness for some people who desperately would like to understand you know, it’s even that thing of like, why you sporty and your mum’s not? Obviously, with genetic testing sites. That’s some of some of those people are not getting in anonymity they thought that they were going to get because people can find out that they were conceived, know that they weren’t conceived. Often it’s when you have a couple and they kept, in the olden days, you’d have a couple and they would sometimes keep it quiet that they’d used a donor and then the adult now come find out with with some of those 23 and me and things like that
Yes of course of course. What happens with the birth certificate out of interest does that
The birth certificate says mother on it and then there’s just a thing filled in on the father but it’s just left blank.
Oh right. I just wondered for that. No that’s really interesting. So so you Genevieve now, at the moment, are you in a relationship Are you still single mumming it on your on your own I guess at the moment.
At the moment, I’m single mumming it you know, whether in the future, I’ll meet someone And that’ll be amazing at the moment and I don’t have many evenings, my son still ones. So it’s not there’s not not much I don’t have that much of a social life just at the moment. No, it would have been lovely to meet someone down the line. But what’s I think what’s really nice is I’m not meeting them with a sense of desperately wanting a child. You know, there’s no it’s, it’s just about them. It’s not about anything else. And I think I sort of, you know, in my 30s I think, as much as it was sort of subconscious, I did really want a child so it was about that whole package. It wasn’t it. It was. Yeah, I think it’s it’s lovely that it’s, there’s no rush and it’s just about meeting the right person.
Yeah, absolutely.Yeah. Because a lot of the time, I mean, with my husband now, I was quite lucky to meet him when I was 29. It wasn’t Think I’m making this age up actually. I think I was 27 Oh, I’ve lost track. Do you know, I just feel old. But when I met him, it all happened quite quickly. Thankfully, he was on the same page because I imagine when someone isn’t and you kind of feel like, you know, your body clock is kind of ticking as a girl naturally, that’s what we do. And I think that would be really tough because you won’t want to feel like you like putting pressure on the person but then also, you know what you want. So it’s quite difficult, isn’t it?
Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely
But no, I completely Yeah. Wow. So yes. Oh, that’s fantastic. Yeah, I love all that. I love your story. I honestly, it’s brilliant. I can’t wait to re listen to it over again. But so with, with everything that’s happened, you released a book on your amazing journey, didn’t you? So can you tell us a bit more about that and where people can find it and find you as well?
Yes, it’s published by Piatkus. As part of Little Brown, and they, it’s called ‘Going Solo: my choice to come a single mother using a donor’. It was published this time last year, April last year. And I was delighted it was it was amazing too, I worked as a journalist for a long time, so it was amazing to get a chance to write that story. And it’s not just my story. It’s also interviews with other mums with people who’ve grown up who are donor conceived with fertility experts, with donors. So it’s sort of explores the whole thing through the lens of my story and getting pregnant and it goes up to when my daughter’s a year old and I’m trying to conceive my son using IVF. So that’s a bit of a spoiler, because he’s, he’s a happy one year old now.
Oh, that’s amazing. That’s amazing. And is there any advice that you would give to anyone who is single. Who’s in a similar position to what you were? Or is there anything that you say to think about before they go along this route? Or is there anything that you could you could give them a bit of advice on where to go and what to do?
Well, I I’d say it’s just always worth knowing that you’ve got choices that you’re not being kind of backed into a corner. I think there’s lots of people who, who maybe do really want to have children, some people don’t. And that’s that’s kind of far more straightforward. But if you do, and you’re single, I think it’s good not to feel pressure to meet someone. And I think almost by not feeling pressure and knowing that there’s other ways around, you’re almost more likely to meet someone that you really like, and then doing it because you’re a bit like, Oh, my gosh, I am on the timeline here. Which I don’t think it’s a very helpful thing. So I think just knowing that you’ve got choices, is just really empowering for every woman. I also think it’s worth spending lots of, I was looking my nephews are a bit older, and I’d spent so much time with them. I think it’s really good to actually understand that being a parent is not. No, it’s not a job that you can clock off. But I’m in quite a big community of solo mums, and I don’t think anyone has any regrets. I don’t I don’t think you know, it’s the same with all parents. I don’t think people tend to regret doing it. And they tend to be very loved children because it’s all been thought out so carefully. And, and I think that’s it. I think if you’re going to embark on it, you do tend to think it out really, really carefully. And make sure that it’s the right thing for you. And I think that’s the right way to do it. Because no, it’s it’s the biggest decision you’re going to make of your entire life.
Definitely and how long from start to from you deciding that that’s what you’re going to do to having your child. Well, not the nine months. I mean, like how long did it take for you to to get pregnant? And end up, you know, from from the start to getting pregnant then?
Um with Astrid it was fairly Swift. Actually, I think I know that I’ve just been starting to think in the January of that year, I thought, I’m going to go for a fertility test. I’d spoken to a friend who adopted.
To kind of get his point of view. And he told me how hard the adoption process is currently in the UK, and how draining it can be. And he actually said to us, have you thought of making your own and I decided I should get get go for fertility tests.
Is that at the same place? The fertility clinic is that at the same place, you do that or is it at a hospital?
Yes, no, that’s, you can, my GP gave me a couple of tests. And then I had further ones at the clinic and they scan your ovaries and look and check that you’ve got eggs there. And they do a test to look at your ovarian reserve though whether that one’s very mine came out as as low as you’d like. And and I still didn’t have a problem conceiving my daughter. So I think that’s more a test is your am h level your anti mullerian hormone. I think that that’s more useful if you’ve already if you’re in a couple and you’re not conceiving that’s quite a good good thing to test whether if you’re single, it’s as useful. It is up for debate at the moment. But yeah, it wasn’t that long. I mean, I was pregnant by I mean, I had my daughter the march afterwards, so it must have been a year and two months from from start to her actually being in my arms.
That’s incredible. So probably Yeah. Wow. That’s really quick, isn’t it? That’s That’s lovely. Yeah. Oh, fantastic. Well, thank you, Genevieve, for coming on. I’m sure everyone will absolutely love listening to your motherhood journey.
Thanks so much for having me
Yeah it’s lovely to have you on. So I look forward to speaking to you soon. Anyway, thank you.
Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of 50 shades of motherhood. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope you guys did too. If you are enjoying the podcast so far, which I really hope you are, and if you’ve got this far, why are you still listening if you don’t, but I would absolutely love you to subscribe and leave me a little rating. It means the world to me and also helps me out massively. Especially when I go to Danny and tell him that I’m going to be doing series two fingers crossed. So I look forward to speaking to you next week and keep an eye on the Facebook page and Instagram. So you know who the next guest is. You will absolutely love it. I know it