Aussie woman’s regret over 'unsafe' journey to becoming a mum

After being denied access to her super for IVF funding, Rachel had to find another way to have a child.

An innocent playground conversation led to one Aussie mum making a concerning discovery about her journey to becoming a mother.

Single mum Rachel, 40, learned that the sperm donor she used to try and have a child, who she met via Facebook, had done the same thing with the woman standing in front of her — and at the same time.

The two mothers, who connected over their experiences of being a solo parent, made the shocking realisation that they had more in common than they thought while chatting in the park. Now they both fear how many more women the donor is working with.

"He said the exact same spiel to [her] at the exact same time," Rachel told Yahoo News Australia. "That's just one person, how many other people were doing this? It felt like a betrayal".

Rachel is now sharing her story to warn other women about taking such extensive measures to have a child.

Photo of Rachel with her son, Arlo
Rachel met her sperm donor on the Sperm Donation facebook page. Source: Insta / solo_mum_survival

Why Rachel chose to be a solo mum

Rachel didn't want her lack of a partner to stop her from fulfilling her dream of becoming a mum.

So in 2015, the then 32-year-old moved to Adelaide, where she knew it would be more affordable to raise a child alone. From there the journey was long.

"You could use your super if you had proven infertility issues [but] I couldn't prove that because I wasn't having sex with anyone," she recalled. "And it was humiliating to be told that so I then asked a friend, I said, 'I have to prove that I can't fall pregnant'."

Without the funds to pay for IVF, Rachel turned to more extreme methods to find a sperm donor.

First, Rachel's good friend agreed to be her donor and began giving her his sperm for her to artificially inseminate. But after repeated unsuccessful attempts, she began having unprotected sex with the friend. This too failed — something Rachel is glad of in hindsight.

Then came a sperm donor from Facebook

Six months later, Rachel switched to a donor she found on a well-known Facebook community built for people to find donors without the cost and red tape of IVF.

She found what she thought was a reliable, trustworthy person. He claimed he'd done a sperm check, had an up to date STD check, and was not at the time donating to anyone else.

"He [seemed] really lovely and supportive and would say 'you can use my bathroom and you can stay here to do it because the sooner you do it the better' and because of that it created a false sense of trust with him," she said.

But soon, the man started trying to offer sexual intercourse, instead of artificial insemination. After trying for 12 months, Rachel was finally made eligible to take money out of her super for IVF payment, due to her declining mental health.

After that, the donor refused to continue donating. That's when she realised he may not have the altruistic intentions she once thought.

Images of Arlo and Rachel together. One of him now and one of him being born.
Once approved to access her super IVF, Rachel went to a registered fertility clinic and wants others to have better access to theirs so they don't have to go through the same pain. Source: Supplied

When Rachel could finally fund IVF

By saying that she'd attempted to fall pregnant for 12 months prior, both the doctor and the gynaecologist at the fertility clinic signed off on a report so that Rachel could get early access to her super on compassionate grounds. She then took $60,000 out to fund IVF. After that, it took a year to fall pregnant.

Now, her son Arlo has just turned three. It was taking him to the playground that day, and learning that the other mum had used sperm from the same donor, that made her realise the reality of the "dangerous" lengths she went to to fall pregnant.

There is no knowing how many other women the man was contact with, how many children he has bared or if he can even have children at all.

Rachel is now calling for superannuation funds to be made available to women in her position sooner. In doing so, many would avoid resorting to dangerous methods to fall pregnant, she said.

"I regret my initial attempts to have a baby solo," she said. "They were unsafe, unethical and unintentionally terrible decisions. I would never have gone to the unsafe lengths I did to have my baby if I could have accessed IVF through my super from the start."

How to apply to withdraw super for IVF

IVF is considered a medical treatment that may be eligible for early access to super on compassionate grounds, where specific evidence is provided, including:

  • a quote (no more than 6 months old) or unpaid invoice (no more than 30 days old) showing the unpaid amount of out-of-pocket expenses that you're seeking to release from your super account

  • a medical report from a registered medical practitioner

  • a medical report from a psychiatrist.

For more information and guidelines, check out the ATO's guide here.

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