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Making Babies Without Men; Women who share childless Anthea's fears turn to sperm donors.

TV Star Anthea Turner admits that, at 37, she feels her child- bearing years are numbered.

She has just split from husband and manager Peter Powell after a childless eight-year marriage.

But many women, desperate for a child and not a man, are discovering that they do not need a partner to help them become a mum.

Last year, around 1,800 children were conceived with the help of 3,000 anonymous sperm donors, registered at clinics around Britain.

The Mirror spoke to three women who wanted a baby so much, they were prepared to go it alone from the very start, with the help of Artificial Insemination by Donor (AID).

KELLY STEVENS, 41

Kelly Stevens is a high-flying personal assistant in the glamorous world of TV production.

Her last serious relationship was 10 years ago. She is expecting a baby by donor insemination in May.

"I'm not doing this from choice - but out of desperation," admits Kelly, 41. "I've never imagined life without a child.

"But I can't find a man to love me and give me a baby.

"I'm not a feminist. I'm not saying: 'Yippee, let's have babies without men.' I'd love to have a husband but, like many women my age, I haven't found the right man. Now time is against me."

Working as an air hostess in the Middle East in her 20s, Kelly enjoyed a good social life and when she returned to Britain ten years ago, she was ready to settle down.

But, with each passing year, her dream of falling in love faded.

"I've had several short-term relationships but I haven't met anyone I wanted to marry," says Kelly, from West London.

"When you hit your 30s, eligible men are few and far between. And, I guess I've become more choosy.

"I have a great many friends - but most are a lot younger than me.

"Dating agencies didn't appeal. And you don't want to be hanging around clubs and wine bars when you're in your 30s."

Although Kelly occasionally had unprotected sex with boyfriends in the hope she'd get pregnant, it didn't work.

"Looking back, I'm pleased," she says. "It wouldn't have been fair to use the men as unwitting sperm donors.

"I knew in my heart that if I'd fallen pregnant, I'd have shown them the door because I didn't love them."

Donor insemination was a last resort.

"First I gave myself until I was 35 to find someone," she says.

"Then I told myself that when I reached 40, I'd have to act.

"But then I thought: 'Suppose I get pregnant and then meet a man and have a proper relationship'."

She toyed with the idea of picking up a man simply for casual sex ... and pregnancy.

"I'd work out my cycle and I'd think: 'Tonight is the night. Why don't I find a man?'

But common sense told me that anyone prepared to go to bed with me without using a condom would be a bit suspect.

"It would be dicing with death.

"I thought of asking a gay friend for help. But, if we'd had a child together, then we'd have had an attachment. And I didn't want a tie with someone just because he happened to be the father of my child."

Finally, last February, Kelly contacted the London Women's Clinic, which offered donor insemination to single women.

"Once I'd got in touch, I felt really good," she says. "I was taking control."

However, doctors warned her that her age was against her and that it could take several years to get pregnant.

"I begged them to let me start straight away," recalls Kelly.

"After a counselling session, I had my first insemination in April.

"I chose the sperm of a blond, blue-eyed man of medium build and height.

"You can't specify a profession, but I said I'd like someone sporty."

Four monthly inseminations at pounds 200 a time all failed. Finally, in August, Kelly paid pounds 650 for an inter-uterine insemination which carried a higher success rate.

"And, bingo, it worked. I'm so lucky," says Kelly.

Her baby - she knows it is a boy - is due on May 6. She knows seeing her son for the first time may be traumatic.

"I'm frightened it will be like seeing a total stranger," she admits. "He might look nothing like me at all. My son might be an identikit of a total stranger." Kelly's parents have been very supportive. "In fact they'd been thinking about suggesting it themselves," says Kelly. "They knew how much I wanted a child."

Friends and colleagues are equally excited.

"First I tell them I'm pregnant, and their jaws drop," says Kelly, who intends to return to work after the birth.

"By the time I tell them that there's no father and that it's by artificial insemination, their jaws are on the floor. But I've nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. And, if I can be open about how my son was conceived, I hope he'll feel happy about it too.

"I'm sure he'll go through an identity crisis when he hits his teens. What child doesn't? But at least he knows he has one parent who loves him very much.

"I still hope to settle down and marry. I'd like my child to grow up in a family - but until that happens I'll do the very best for him that I can."

AMANDA HUNT, 36

Amanda Hunt knows the exact moment she fell pregnant.

It was 4.20pm on June 8, 1995 and her first try at Donor Insemination.

"It took only a few minutes and was no more uncomfortable than having a smear," says Amanda, 36. "At pounds 117, it was the best money I've ever spent."

Amanda resorted to DI two years after her marriage collapsed.

"After ten years, my husband David suddenly told me he didn't want children," she says. "My whole life disappeared down a black hole.

"I know I could have fallen pregnant accidentally and hoped David would change his mind - but that would have been dishonest."

Unwilling to bounce into another relationship just to have a baby, Amanda, of Brighton, visited her doctor in January, 1995 to ask if there was any way she could produce a child without a partner.

After confessing no one had ever asked him that question before, he referred her to Eastbourne's private Esperance Hospital which offers DI.

Amanda says: "I was given low-dose fertility drugs and used an ovulation kit which told me when I was at my most fertile.

"As soon as I ovulated, I had to ring the hospital and they booked me in for insemination the next day."

Although Amanda had been told the treatment carried only a 10 per cent chance of success, five months later she became pregnant. When Thomas arrived on February 25, 1996, Amanda was thrilled to discover he looked just like her - even down to the dimple on his chin.

She says: "I take Thomas to a mums and toddlers group and one mum commented on his height and asked if he took after his dad. I said: 'I don't know who his father is' and explained that he'd been conceived thanks to DI and no, I'm not gay.

"Maybe in 15 years, Thomas will hate me for what I did. But at least he'll always know that I desperately wanted him and love him."

Although Amanda is considering having another child through DI, she has no intention of marrying.

"I wouldn't want to risk another failed relationship - for my sake and that of Thomas.

"In an ideal world, it would be lovely to bring him up in a family atmosphere - but that's quite rare these days."

I'm so lucky - I call him my miracle

VIKI MATTEN, 41

When doctors told Viki Matten she faced a hysterectomy, she knew she had to act quickly if she wanted a child.

With no man in her life Viki, then 33, decided her only option was Donor Insemination.

Now mother to seven-year-old Alex, Viki says it's the best decision she's ever made.

"He is a wonderful, well-balanced, happy little boy," says Viki. "When he was born I called him a miracle. The nickname has stuck."

A nursery nurse from East London, Viki had always adored children and hoped for a big family.

But at 32 and after the break-up of an 11-year-relationship she felt time was running out.

"I'd been suffering from Pelvic Inflammatory disease for years and had already lost one ovary," says Viki, now 41.

"When I went into hospital, they warned me I might need a hysterectomy.

"I knew I had to act fast. I'd read about AID and dismissed it. Now it was my only hope.

"Of course, I would like to have met someone, had a relationship and got pregnant. But, realistically, that wasn't going to happen in time."

Viki suggested the possibility of Donor Insemination to her mum.

"She leapt at the idea," Viki says. "She said: 'Great. At least the child would be ours.' And she offered to pay for the treatment."

Viki registered with the Pregnancy Advisory Service and in March 1990, after a course of fertility drugs, she fell pregnant.

"I was amazed. Within 12 months of making the decision I was pregnant," says Viki.

Alex was born on November 15, 1990. "He looks like me - although that isn't important," says Viki. "He's blond and blue-eyed and everything I've ever wanted."

"People may say I'm selfish. But in an ideal world I'd be married to a banker in a ghastly suburb in Surrey. But that's not the way my life mapped out.

Viki, who has given up work to care for Alex, has always been totally honest with him and he knows exactly how he was conceived.

"Alex occasionally says he'd like a dad but he knows that's one thing I can't give him - and he understands," says Viki. "Instead I make sure he has plenty of male company."
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Carey, Tanith; Cunningham, Tessa
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 6, 1998
Words:1663
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