SACRAMENTO, CA - More single women are taking matters into their own hands to start a family without a partner. They are part of a growing group called "Single Mothers by Choice."
Instead of waiting for their biological clock to run out, single women head to sperm banks to find the perfect DNA to be their baby's daddy.
Diana Still, 43, juggles a successful career as an I.T. manager and life as a single mother of 5-month-old bundle of joy, Darian.
PHOTOS: Still uses sperm donor to become a mother
"It gets kind of crazy. But, I wouldn't trade it for the world," Still said. "It's hectic. It's hard doing it on your own because you don't have that 5 minutes where you can hand the baby off to somebody else."
Still always knew she wanted to be a mother, "I wanted to have kids back then at 27. I was ready. Different things happened and it just didn't work out that way."
She went through a divorce after being married for seven years. She went through several relationships that didn't work out.
"A lot of guys my age don't want to have kids on top of what they've already had. I found myself in a situation where I was waiting all these years for the right thing to come along, and the right situation to bring a child into my life," said Still.
IN-DEPTH: Baby making with science and donors
Then, a year ago, she decided she couldn't wait any longer.
"I decided that I needed to make a decision now before I let the opportunity pass me up."
She started searching sperm banks.
The decision or choice
"It was a really hard decision for me because I really wanted my child to have a father," said Still. "And so that was probably the thing that kept me from doing that earlier because that is an important piece of the puzzle and I didn't want her to feel different about herself later on, or ask questions, or have issues."
"Women who are looking to have children or who haven't found Mr. Right, are coming in frequently to do donor sperm artificial insemination," said Dr. Michael Murray of the Northern California Fertility Medical Center in Roseville. "For the single woman who wants to have children, we're treating two to three per month."
READ MORE: 11 things you might not know about sperm
"We get approximately 2,500-3,000 'choice moms' attempting to get pregnant using our donors each year," said Scott Brown of the California Cryobank, the largest sperm bank in the country. "This number has grown significantly over the last 10-15 years (from less than 5 percent). Currently, 'choice moms' make up roughly 30 percent of our clients. Our projections are for the single women client base to continue to increase up to approximately 40 percent within the next 15 years."
A 44-year-old local college professor now has a 3-year-old son thanks to a sperm donor.
"I wish I didn't have to make this choice. I wish my fertility lasted a lot longer. But I did make this choice because I knew this is something that's really important to me to make me feel complete and whole. And I also know that though if it didn't work, I'd be ok with it. But it was something I really wanted to do," said the mother, who wants to remain anonymous.
She said she started thinking about sperm donors at the age of 37.
"I wish we didn't have to make this choice, but the reality is that sometimes we don't get the relationship, the spouse, the partner we so desire and we want," the professor said.
Some women said trying to find the perfect donor is like a research project in it of itself. The process often starts with reviewing a huge pool of screened sperm donors.
"These sperm donors are tested extensively. Their genetics are looked at, their family's genetics, their medical history," Dr. Murray said.
Prospective mothers must pick every feature in their sperm donor, from eyes to eyelashes, cheeks, noses, etc.
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"The first time I opened up my laptop. I logged on and did my search, and it came out to 60-something people," Still said. "It was pretty overwhelming."
"You are finding the perfect 'Baby Daddy' for you," Still added. "You're trying to find the perfect genetic health history and, you know, worry about if the kid is gonna have big ears."
Still explained how she made her choices.
"Definitely go for the characteristics that I would date, but also go for the characteristics in my family."
According to Brown, "'choice moms' tend to be more highly educated and earn more money than the average client."
After narrowing down the search, Still bought two vials of sperm at $650 each. It didn't take her long to get pregnant through In Vitro Fertilization. The entire process cost about $18,000.
"It is a large amount of money and a lot of stress to put forth that effort for a chance," Still said. "It's the biggest, scariest part. But, I went into it with a positive attitude."
"Before I even had my son, I had already paid for the first year of college," the professor said.
The 44-year-old believes that the entire procedure--her fertility tests, fertility drugs, and sperm purchase-- cost her about $25,000. She planned for the expensive procedure and even bought a home knowing she'd raise a child.
"I did know that I could support myself and my child on my own single income," said the professor.
Many "choice moms" said they had a network of support from family, friends and even a nanny to help.
Many women who have gotten pregnant through a sperm donor said becoming a mother is priceless.
Doing it again
"I've had a lot of friends supporting me and family," Still said. "It's really been awesome."
She has one vial left and now must decide if she wants to do it again.
"Oh yes. I'm planning to start the process for the second one by the end of the year, to have the second one before I'm 45," Still said.
"My advice to other women who are looking to do that (use a sperm donor to have a child), I would say that if that's your dream, to have a baby, then by all means, go for it. I got nothing but support. It was absolutely amazing how many people came aboard," said Still as she teared up.
By Suzanne Phan, firstname.lastname@example.org