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Why I'm happy to tell my child I don't know who her father is

Jessica McCallin has already chosen a name for her unborn daughter. She will be called Freya, after the Norse goddess of fertility.

‘Freya is one of my favourite girls’ names,’ she says. ‘I didn’t know the meaning but, when I found out, I knew straight away that would be her name. It’s perfect.’

It’s somewhat fitting, too. Because Freya’s father is a 6ft Dane in his 20s, with greeny-blue eyes and blond hair. But beyond those few physical characteristics, neither Jessica nor Freya will know any more.

This is because last June, Jessica, 36, flew to Copenhagen and was artificially inseminated with the sperm of an anonymous Danish donor — and more and more British women are doing exactly the same thing.

Last year, about 500 to 1,000 British women were treated in Denmark, resulting in between 100 to 200 pregnancies.

‘It was an incredibly easy process,’ recalls Jessica, who is single. ‘After a few months of monitoring my cycle, I booked a flight to coincide with the time I ovulated.

‘I’d found out about the Danish sperm bank through a friend. It occupied a few rooms in a tasteful period building in the centre of Copenhagen.

‘The nurse put me at ease. I didn’t feel a thing as she carried out the procedure, and it was over within minutes. Then, half an hour later, I was back strolling round the streets of Copenhagen. I felt very comfortable about what I had just done.’

So why did Jessica go to Denmark rather than use a British sperm donor?
‘I don’t have a single regret. I have loved being pregnant and I am looking forward to meeting my daughter.

‘In my early to mid-20s, I knew I wanted children. By my late 20s, I was in a relationship and I thought I would get married and have them the usual way. But the relationship didn’t work out. It would have been nice to have met someone to share my life with, but it hasn’t happened.

‘Some of my friends have rushed into having children with a man they weren’t sure about, and things haven’t worked out. I wouldn’t want to do that.

‘I always saw 40 as my fertility cut-off point. But when I turned 35, I read a raft of articles about a woman’s fertility dropping sharply from 35.

‘There was no major desperation that gripped me. It was a growing feeling that I knew I wanted a child.

‘One of my younger sisters has been trying for a child for two years and I felt I needed to start trying earlier rather than later, in case I had fertility problems.

‘Some time back, a gay friend offered to be a donor, but I decided against it because I thought it may cause complications. So, after years of thinking about it, the idea of going to Denmark just felt right.’
Jessica decided to pick an anonymous donor. ‘The anonymity issue was the one thing that concerned me,’ she says. ‘I read a lot of psychological research papers for donor-conceived people. The constant theme which caused distress was being lied to, or having their feelings denied.

‘Most research says the best approach is to be honest from when your child asks about who their dad is. I don’t know what I’ll say, but I’ll find a form of words.

‘And I’m planning to set up an official group so Freya gets to meet as many children like her as possible. The clinic also holds an annual party for children born through them, which I plan to take her along to as she grows up.

These days, the definition of family is so very different from previous generations. One in two marriages end in divorce, and there are more gay families and families with stepchildren.

‘If I meet someone and I fall in love then so be it, but I am not concerned about being a single parent,’ says Jessica.

Her parents, John and Margaret, a former child psychologist, are supportive. The retired couple, both 64, are even buying a house near Jessica so they can be hands-on grandparents. ‘My parents have two grandchildren so far and they are desperate for more,’ she says.

And would she like to have another child? ‘I have been thinking about it more and more. I’ll see how things go. But if I did, I would use the same sperm donor again as it makes sense for Freya to have a sibling exactly like her.’
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