I’m single and 3 months pregnant using a sperm donor. When I start showing, how do I answer people’s questions about who the father is or how I got pregnant? Do I tell them I used a donor? Or can I tell them to mind their own business?

Written by a member of our site development team, Emily Koert – Registered Clinical Counsellor and PhD Candidate. Read more about Emily here.  

Many single women who decide to pursue a pregnancy using a donor share the same concerns. They worry about prying questions from bosses, coworkers, family members, friends, and acquaintances about who the father of their child is, and wonder how they should respond. Those asking the questions might not realize that their questions can be annoying and inappropriate, and that they often feel judgmental. Single woman may already feel sensitive that they are not having a child in the “traditional” way, so people’s questions can be experienced as upsetting, not to mention an invasion of their privacy. Women know that if they were in a relationship with a male partner, people wouldn’t dream of asking these kinds of invasive questions. That said, it can be helpful to remember that often people casually and sometimes thoughtlessly ask these questions out of interest, rather than out of a desire to pry or be hurtful.

The way that you respond is very individual and should be based on your relationship with the person asking the question and your sense of whether they will be supportive or judgmental of your decision. It can be helpful to think of two or three “levels of disclosure” – minimal, moderate, and perhaps full disclosure, depending on your relationship with the person asking the question. The point is that you don’t have to share the same degree of detail with everyone in your life. For example, for those closest to you (e.g., really close friends and some supportive family members) you may decide to share that you used a sperm donor to become pregnant. Depending on your relationship with your boss, acquaintances, or work colleagues, you may elect to be polite and respectful but choose to share fewer details – perhaps simply saying that the father of your child isn’t going to be involved, and you will be raising your child on your own. But with strangers or distant acquaintances – or with other people you feel will make judgments about your decision – you should feel free to let them know that your pregnancy is a private matter – full stop (the inference being that your fertility decisions are none of their business)!

So that you’re not caught off guard when someone asks you a personal question about your pregnancy, it is good to have a few responses ready beforehand, particularly for levels one and two. Think about your relationship with the person and ask yourself whether or not you would normally share personal details with this person. Also, base your level of disclosure on whether the person asking the question will likely be supportive of your decision.

More single women are having children using donors, so people are becoming more aware of this family building option. In larger urban centers, that might mean that people are exposed to more single mothers like you and that people are more accepting of this alternative. However, in other areas, this option may not be as common and people may not understand that this is an acceptable way to build your family. The reactions of people may also be based on their religious beliefs and cultural values. Sometimes, your response to the “father” question may involve educating people that this is a valid choice for many women. Other times, it may surprise you that those you thought would be judgmental are actually quite open and accepting.

It may be helpful to talk to other single moms who have used donors to ask them how they managed these questions. Check out www.singlemothersbychoice.com for a chapter in your area, or www.choicemoms.org for additional resources. Or see our section on sole support parenthood. When using a donor to become pregnant, many clinics require that you speak to a counsellor about the psychosocial implications of building a family in this manner. You may want to use this opportunity to talk with the counsellor about how to best manage “the father question,” before, and after your baby is born.

Read about Monica Cruz’s decision to create a family using a sperm donor while single here.

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