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Nor did she consider her twin daughters would have 18 sperm-siblings who were involved in a highly publicized case eventually featured on Oprah.
Nonetheless, Deidre Fishel gave birth to her girls at 42 and has never regretted her decision to become a single mother.
Although she always knew she wanted to have children, Fishel was in an unhappy relationship in her 30’s that final broke up when she turned 40.
At the same time, her desire to be a mother loomed large.
“I kind of woke up,” says Fishel, “and realized that it’s now or never”.
“But I didn’t want to use donor sperm. It felt very sci-fi!”
However, two male friends who’d been canvassed to be voluntary donors turned her down—one had already had a vasectomy and the other agreed to it at first, and later thought the better of it.
“At a certain point, I just decided, okay, an anonymous sperm donor is my best option.”
“I was almost 41 and I was terrified,” she says.
At that point, a fellow filmmaker strongly urged Fishel to film her own story. “It’s the biggest decision you’ve ever made and you don’t know how it’s going to play out,” they advised.
President of Mind’s Eye Productions (http://www NULL.mindseyeprods NULL.com/index NULL.html), Fishel has specialized in documentary films on teen dating violence, and bullying and suicide on campus. Her breakthrough film Still Doing It: The Intimate Lives of Women Over 65 has been broadcast in over 15 countries.
Fishel had found a way to “turn what was a very scary moment into something bigger” than her own story, and an “opportunity to reach to a diverse community of other women facing the same moment.”
So, within four weeks of making her decision, she had purchased six sperm vials and began shooting the film, Sperm Donor X (http://www NULL.spermdonorx NULL.com/).
But getting pregnant seemed touch and go—vial after vial was used without success.
“Once I started and wasn’t getting pregnant, I stopped thinking ‘this is weird’ and started thinking, ‘Oh my god, what if I waited too long?’”
According to Fishel: “I just wanted to get pregnant and the ‘how?’ didn’t matter.”
It was the sixth vial that proved to be the magic number.
After the twins were born, Fishel reports that she felt an “obligation” to share her story with the many women who said they really wanted to become single mothers, but were just too scared.
“I wanted people to see it’s a journey—not an easy one to begin, but one that no one I’ve ever met regrets,” she continues.
The choice to use an anonymous sperm donor, however, impacted her life in a manner no one had expected.
In The Children of Sperm Donor X (http://www NULL.oprah NULL.com/relationships/Autism-Aspergers-and-The-Donor-Sibling-Registry), O Magazine wrote an expose on how the anonymous donor of genetic material to 18 children had incurred an unusually high rate of autism in his offspring.
“It adds a huge twist to our story,” says Fishel, “because the case has been so public.”
“They were on Oprah. And I think, ‘would I want my kids on Oprah?’”
Recently, Fishel was contacted by one of the mothers of her daughters’ sperm siblings. The mothers of Donor X’s children have formed an “extended clan,” getting together several times a year for birthdays and other holidays.
Fishel admits that she is not yet ready to take the plunge into joining the Donor X family.
“I’ve been overwhelmed in a way I haven’t been throughout the whole process. It’s such a huge door to open.”
She now faces the task of finding a way to “normalize” this experience for her children.
“Now there are 18 more children whom I know about—who I have pictures for—that are genetically related to my children.”
“It’s their right to know about it. I have to pick a moment of when and how to tell them.”
It the end, however, Fishel is convinced that using an anonymous sperm donor is “a wonderful, viable” option.
“It pains me to think about what I would have missed if I didn’t make this choice,” says Fishel.
Notes for this blog:
Angel La Liberte is the founder of the website Flower Power Mom.com—The Truth About Motherhood After 40 (www.flowerpowermom.com), a regular blog featuring commentary, real mom stories and expert advice about motherhood after 40. She regularly campaigns for more supportive attitudes towards women having children in midlife and more awareness on the realities (social and physical) of being a later life mother.
Angel also hosts “A Child After 40”, an online community to empower all women on the journey of motherhood after 40. She gave birth to her children at 41 and 44 after conceiving naturally.
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