"I Hope Alternative Families Become Mainstream"
Three years ago, Whitney Borins was in Miami, passing margaritas and living the single life—with babies far from mind. But on that trip, one of her friends brought up egg freezing in discussion—a topic that was completely new to her. “I had never even considered it,” Borins said. That it wasn’t something that had ever come up in the conversation didn’t deter her, in fact, she was intrigued. So Borins went to speak with her doctor about the next steps. She knew she wanted a family—just not yet.
So after assessing her “ovarian reserve”—essentially, the amount of eggs every woman is born with (and their potential to embark on a healthy pregnancy)—Borins assumed she would receive a clean bill of health and move toward the next step: Freezing her eggs for her future baby and getting back to her regular life as a single 33 year old.
Only the tests revealed that, quite depressingly, she had a low egg count for her age, and also that there was an extremely low chance of the doctors being able to extract and freeze eggs—a procedure that can be very invasive, painful and costly. If she waited a few years, the baby-making window would continue to close, she was told. “They gave me a two-to five-year window before things got really dire.” The medical advice was pretty clear: try to get pregnant soon, or risk the likelihood of never becoming a mother.
After grieving this shocking news about her fertility health for a few days, Borins sought out a few second opinions. Unfortunately, the consensus was the same.
But Borins was single, so getting pregnant with nearby sperm wasn’t exactly a possibility. And after discussing with her parents, they suggested she wait a little longer, date around and see if things would fall into place. “But my mindset had changed—I didn’t want to start dating people only to be asking them on the first date if we could have a baby in a year.”
Though Borins had never pictured herself herself unmarried and with child—she realized that, given a choice, not having a child would be the bigger gut punch. “It became very apparent that I would much more regret not having children than becoming a single mother.” So, with the support of her parents and close friends, Borins decided to go forth with the sperm donor route.
But before she could fall in love with the next step in her plan, she was required to complete a therapist screening. “Anyone can get pregnant in the back of a car but if you want to do it on your own, you need to go through therapy,” she says. However, Borins reflects on the experience positively, as she got to ask a lot of questions, and learned from the therapist about concerns such as potential abandonment issues (current research suggests children born from donated sperm are less likely to feel like they were unwanted). “Psychologically, it’s a different game,” says Borins.
From there came the daunting task of selecting sperm from a donor bank, which provided physical and personal details about the genes that would inform her future child. No pressure at all, right?
“Think online dating—only 100 times harder,” Borins said. To narrow the process, she looked for someone who provided both infant and adult pictures, someone with a post-secondary education (“I wanted some kind of drive to be apparent”), and who was over six feet tall with dark hair. “It sounds vain, but I had to narrow it down,” she says, laughing.
From there, the path lead her to IUI, which stands for intrauterine insemination (meaning the chosen sperm is inserted into the uterus to help achieve fertilization). This in-office procedure was Borins’ best shot at getting pregnant; due to her low ovarian reserve and her body’s incompatibility with some of the fertility medications, having the doctors control the sperm placement would net her the highest chances of getting a baby.
Those procedures happened during Borins’ ovulation window every month for four months. The third month brought hope—for 36 hours—and then a disappointing early miscarriage, a result of a chemical pregnancy. “It was terrible, but thankfully it happened very quickly.” Round four was successful, and 15 months later, Borins is the proud mother to a little boy, Mick, and adjusting to all of the hallmarks of toddlerhood, like baby-proofing, first steps, and transitioning back to work after maternity leave.
As for learnings and lessons that Borins would pass on, she encourages young women to determine their ovarian reserve as soon as possible. These tests are minimally invasive (bloodwork and an ultrasound) and inexpensive (around $150, depending on the location). “If women get tested in their early twenties and then again five years later, you have a much better understanding on your fertility future,” she says.
And as for the route she took to have her son? “I will tell Mick how he was conceived; I never want him to feel like there is a stigma," she says. "I hope that alternative families will become a part of the mainstream conversation.”