Signe Fjord met with midwife Hanne Mikkelsen at the fertility clinic ”Vitanova” in
Copenhagen in June, 2011.
”Talking to Hanne Mikkelsen really lifted my spirits and supported me greatly in my own personal process. That is also why I am very grateful that Hanne wanted to pass on some important input from her experiences when helping single women become inseminated.
My talks with Hanne have also made me realize how fortunate we are as single women living in Denmark with a legislation that supports those of us, who want children. I will never complain about having to travel for a few hours in order to become inseminated, and I am very grateful about how my insemination can take place in a legal, comfortable
and beautiful environment.”
Hanne Mikkelsen says:
”When working as a midwife specializing in fertility treatment you are often faced with a solid wall of preconceived opinions about the women who choose sperm donors to help them become pregnant. The myth proclaims that our clients are strong resourceful women, who want to have perfect children in their perfect lives, and have chosen to do so without the men. I must say this is nowhere near the reality, nor the kind of women I know from my work at the fertility clinic “Vitanova”.
I meet ordinary women who for one or the other reason are singles, but who still want to have a child – just like the women who get involved in a relationship and get pregnant. There is hardly any difference.
And still….maybe a tiny difference. Because when you become pregnant using a
sperm donor it is not a coincidence, it was never an “accident.” It is the fruit of an
often long and difficult soulful process, based on a decision that has rarely been easy.
If you believe that the women just log on to the internet on a Friday night in order
to find the right fertility clinic as well as the right donor, and thereby the right
child, then you are totally mistaken.
Our client is often a resourceful woman in the sense that she has managed to make this kind of huge decision. That type of strength has nothing to do with her degree of education. It takes strength to make this big decision. She is able to envision this possibility and does not leave it at that. She wants a child and does not necessarily choose not to have a man. She has just listened to the media and its focus on the biological clock.
This is something she has considered for quite some time.
She is not doing this for fun – this is not some kind of event to her – this is a very
serious choice that generates lots of thoughts, that she either deals with on her own
or shares with those close to her who support her.
In my opinion these women show a great sense of responsibility to both their children and the men, that could potentially have ended up as the more or less coincidental fathers of their children. They often express a need for honesty and are at peace with the fact that they did not want their child to have a father, who they just happened to be in a relationship with at the time.
It is a big advantage that the sperm donor has been tested for various diseases and
infections. Our clients are, however, often surprised when we tell them that it is
not possible to test for everything. There will be diseases that the donors are not
tested for – and even though the sperm has been purified the best way possible,
and the donor has been tested in accordance with the existing rules and regulations
in the EU, then you will never be able to test for everything.
Personally I find that very natural and in alignment with how nature works.
Every woman is different. Whether she comes to us for help or gets pregnant at
Some women, who ask us for help in getting pregnant with a sperm donor, explicitly
let us know from the very beginning that they are willing to take every
necessary and possible step towards becoming pregnant. Insemination, hormone
treatments or test-tube treatment.
Other women have a different approach and choose from the very beginning to
set a limit as to how far they are willing to go to become pregnant. A few women
choose to trust their own intuition when it comes to finding the optimum time for
insemination, and so they decline the offer to test for ovulation.
Our role is to help the women stay true to themselves and their original wish –
without at the same time insisting that they stick to a certain decision, should
their perspective change during the process. Of course it is our professional duty
to continuously inform them of how we believe they can enhance their chances of
getting pregnant, but at the same time our experience as midwives and our respect
for these women also leaves room for them to follow their instincts and intuition.
We work with three important levels of counseling: The gynecological, the psychological
and the more legal aspect. Every client of ours has the right to be guided on
all three levels.
Throughout the process our support and counseling is weighted differently. Going
through the different phases of a fertility treatment is very hard.
And yes, it is a process rather than one isolated treatment.
Even very young women will statistically not become pregnant at the first attempt. The human body is not created this way – it spares itself from constantly having children. During the process it is very common to question your choices as well as the procedure.
When you first start out, your starting point and the decisions deriving from that are at a
certain place. Should the process be prolonged, you often experience an increased
vulnerability and find that your need for support and help from the fertility clinic
We are talking about healthy women. Not patients. Not women who are in need of
treatment for a disease. The single women we treat come to us because they want
sperm. They are childless, because they are “sperm-less” – not because something is wrong with them. That is where we help them out. Throughout the entire
process it is crucial that we support them in their basic biological and psychological
needs to have a child, without getting caught up in the obstacles. And it is also
very important that the fertility clients often, if not daily, remind themselves: ‘I am
not a patient. I am healthy.’
This is a way of remembering who you are, throughout the process, and to avoid
becoming too accepting of authority. Even if it turns out you need help with more
than just the insemination, this still applies.
To choose not only to use a sperm donor, but also which type of sperm donor, is
a very significant choice. Once again we are faced with the myth that these
women are creating the so-called “designer children.” Personally I find this very
misleading. The term ”designer children” is a serious, offensive and condescending
labeling of these women and their decision.
Yes, it is indeed important to some women to know and choose certain donor
criteria. Other women find it very important not to know anything about their
donor. To a lot of women the choice of donor plays a big role, of course.
Should you choose a sperm donor, that you think you would have found attractive
had you met him in real life?
Should you choose a sperm donor whose characteristics resemble those you find in
your own family?
Or how about the option of letting us at ”Vitanova” choose the characteristics of
As a fertility clinic it is not up to us to assess the woman’s choice, but we witness
and are moved by how she makes this choice on behalf of her child, not on behalf
It is not possible for the single women to make this choice out of love for a man, so
they choose to make the choice out of love for their future child. Just because other
parents in our society make choices and display opinions about education, schools and nutrition, it does not mean we devalue them.
To us these decisions are the essence of motherhood – along with the psychologically complicated situation you face when coincidences no longer rule, and you have to make some decisions.
We meet a lot of women who are saddened by the fact that they have to make these
decisions in the first place, and yet are courageous enough to make a decision and
to make the required choices. The fact that they find it hard is simply a sign of
sincerity and responsibility to me.
At “Vitanova” we meet women from all over Europe and also from countries much
further away. Danish single women or lesbians do not have to go through what
many other foreign women have to.
In Italy, for instance, it is illegal to use a sperm donor. In Germany and France
it is not possible to be inseminated when you are single. In the U.K. you can only
use non-anonymous sperm donors, which is why it is very hard to even get men
to donate sperm. In Sweden it is also only possible to use non-anonymous sperm
donors, and single women are not allowed to receive fertility treatment.
It is very difficult having to face BOTH cultural and legal barriers in your own
country and within yourself, AND all the other considerations that foreign women
go through on equal terms with Danish women. As a fertility clinic it is our challenge
to set aside the “illegal” perception of the treatment, and to communicate the Danish acceptance in order for our foreign clients to feel that what they are doing is in fact okay, and even beautiful.
Being a Danish woman you are able to concentrate on the essence of this decision:
‘Do I want to do this, and am I able to own this decision?’
I am grateful on behalf of the Danish women. Through their fight for the right to have children under civilized circumstances the lesbian women have no doubt contributed immensely to the now generally accepting attitude, when it comes to single women having a choice.
It is now possible to be completely open about having received help, no matter who