A FIRST-TIME mum was so desperate to have a child with her female partner that she used a sperm donor – that she found on FACEBOOK.
Shannon Brooke, 20, turned to the social networking site in the hope of finding an affordable way to fall pregnant with her partner, Katie Stansfield, 25.
The pair, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, began to research their options, but didn’t like the idea of picking an anonymous donor from a list and couldn’t afford the £3k fertility clinic price tag.
Instead, they joined a Facebook group with other hopeful parents and willing donors.
They went on to select a donor from Facebook in April 2019, after being together for seven months, and within two months Shannon fell pregnant via artificial insemination (AI) – using a syringe bought from Amazon to conceive.
Artificial insemination is the process in which a donor’s sperm is inserted into the female’s body not via sex – but commonly with pipettes and even turkey basters.
She gave birth to Ocean Mabel Rose on February 13 this year, weighing a healthy 6lbs 2oz – their first baby together.
Ocean completes their new family of four – as Katie has another child also via a donor, two-year-old Jaycee-Rayne.
Stay-at-home mum Shannon said: “I’m adopted myself, and have never been surrounded by an actual biological family.
“Once Katie and I decided we wanted a baby together, I simply searched online ‘Sperm donors UK’.
“I wasn’t expecting much, perhaps to see a load of IVF clinics with all these huge prices that I knew I would never be able to afford.
I got lots of strange friend requests from men saying they would be my donor, but 8/10 looked like fake accounts.
“Instead, it linked me to a Facebook group where donors and recipients could find each other and get to know one another – establishing a proper relationship, not all anonymous like the clinics do things.
“I was shocked at first as I thought it was odd. But the more I looked into it, the more I warmed up to the idea.
“Everyone was friendly and we had so many donors messaging us and offering their services. If I was to have another child, this is the only way I’d do it.”
New mum Shannon had always dreamed of having her own baby, but knew the costs at sperm donor clinics were out of her budget.
She said: “Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a mum.
“Having a female partner automatically made that process more difficult, but it was just another hurdle to overcome.
“I’d considered a sperm donor in December 2018 when I was single, but then Katie came into my life and things changed.”
Meeting on dating app Plenty of Fish, Shannon and full-time-mum Katie instantly clicked and discussed having their own children. Katie was already a mother to then 10-month-old Jaycee-Rayne.
Shannon said: “I expressed to Katie that I wanted to have a child but she wasn’t ready at that time, considering how young her daughter was.
“By January 2019 I brought the subject back up and it nearly broke our relationship as she still wasn’t ready.
“Having a baby was my number one dream, but she had already had her daughter and just wasn’t ready to take on another.”
Two months later, the couple had another chat, and after some tears and a deep discussion, they decided that they were ready to have a baby of their own.
Unsure where to commence their search for a sperm donor, the pair searched online on a whim for options, and Facebook was the first result that popped up.
The link was to a private Facebook group of hopeful parents and sperm donors offering their services.
Shannon said: “There were hundreds of groups, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t rushing into joining any old one.
The donor really understood the process, and was patient with us without being overbearing or creepy.
“I worried about the motives of some of these donors, but once we saw their STD checks and genetic test results, my mind was put at ease.
“Looks weren’t too important to us either, as the DNA pool would be 50/50 anyway. We were more concerned about having a healthy, happy baby over anything cosmetic.
“At first I got lots of strange friend requests from men saying they would be my donor, but 8/10 looked like fake accounts.
“But then I saw more and more posts from women who had been successful with their donors, and it gave me the hope that the right donor would eventually come to me.”
In April 2019 Shannon and Katie received the message they had been waiting for – a donor who had previously fathered children through the page.
He provided them with up-to-date health check certificates, photos of himself, his job description and photos of his previous donor children – of which there were 11.
Excited Katie said: “I practically jumped with excitement and thought to myself that he was perfect, and the one for us.
“Once we started talking, Shannon let him know the dates on which she would be ovulating, so he could come to our flat in that time-frame and provide his sperm.
“We bought a kit on Amazon which came with an ovulation test, a sterile cup for the donor to leave his sample in, and a syringe so I could insert Shannon with the sperm once the donor had completed his sample.”
The donor then came to the pair’s flat two times in May and June, taking his sample cup into the bathroom to fill with sperm and return it to the couple.
Then, Katie would suck up the sperm with a syringe and insert it into Shannon, who lay down for at least half an hour to ensure the sperm was in her body.
Shannon said: “It was all a bit of a rush, as to maximise the chance of falling pregnant the sperm shouldn’t be outside of the body for too long. After about 20 minutes the sperm can die, so we couldn’t afford to wait if we wanted it to be successful.
“The donor really understood the process, and was patient with us without being overbearing or creepy.
“He said he did it to help women or couples have children — he just seemed like a nice man, and always did the job!”
The couple paid the donor’s transport costs, and although DIY insemination is not officially unlawful, it is illegal to distribute sperm intended for human application without a licence issued by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
Donors on Facebook don’t have the same rights as the official route – they’re liable to pay child support if a contract isn’t signed and could still see the child if that’s what both parties want.
After two attempts, Shannon successfully became pregnant in June 2019.”I had such severe morning sickness until week 25 of the pregnancy, but I was elated more than anything to have a safe and healthy baby,” she said.
“Our little girl was born naturally at 38 weeks and it was the best day of my life.”
Shannon was in labour for 16 hours, and with Katie by her side she gave birth on 13th February 2020 to Ocean Mabel Rose.
Shannon said: “As soon as I held my baby I knew I’d made the right decision. Katie and I were both in tears, and I felt nothing but pure joy. She looked perfect.”
There is no father’s name on Ocean’s birth certificate — and a man who provides sperm as a donor gives up his legal rights over the biological child.
The donor will only meet the baby at the request of Shannon and Katie, but he has no legal grounds upon which to request visitation or custody.
Shannon said: “I feel like a new woman.
“We’re all doing really well, and Ocean is the most content baby ever.
“The process was so easy and we were so lucky to fall pregnant so quickly.
“We now have the perfect family of four. Facebook gave me a baby, something I never thought I’d say.”
How does sperm donation in the UK work?
Sperm donation can help couples struggling to have kids of their own or single women who want to start a family.
If you donate your sperm through a fertility clinic or a sperm bank, you won’t have any responsibilities or rights towards a child conceived using your semen.
However, as of April 2005, children conceived through sperm donation do have the right to ask for certain information about their donor once they reach the age of 16.
When they turn 18 they can also request to know the name and last known address of their donor.
The main reason men choose to donate their sperm is to help couples who can’t conceive naturally, or if they have a strong desire to pass on their genes to another generation.
In the UK, donation in exchange for payment is prohibited by law.
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