I did not use my deceased husband’s sperm: when her partner died, AMY MOLLOY was tempted to have his baby
When I married my first husband in 2007, there was a rumor that I was pregnant.
When a friend told me who spread it, I laughed out loud – the only other option was to cry.
I was not pregnant. I was a 23-year-old who married a man who, according to his doctors, had less than a month to live.
The idea was ridiculous and heartbreaking for several reasons. Our days were spent in an oncology ward and instead of foreplay I kissed him goodnight every night, praying that he would breathe the next morning.
Amy Molloy married her first husband in 2007 when he had weeks to live. They lived together in Dublin and when he died she considered taking his sperm to have a baby
Eoghan, then my fiancé, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma at the age of 34 (I was 22 at the time) and we chose to freeze his sperm, knowing that chemotherapy would probably affect his fertility. We naively assumed that we would take the next step together.
We lived in Dublin because he was Irish and wanted to start treatment close to his family. According to the then health care system in Ireland, the fertility clinic that we visited kept his sperm free for up to five years before charging us an annual fee.
Although I was young, I was already a “cancer veteran.” My father was paralyzed from the waist down by Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a tumor around his spinal cord, when I was 17 years old.
I was the perfect partner for a cancer patient in many ways – not disturbed by medical jargon and trained in the side effects of treatment.
Three years ago, at the age of 33, Amy remarried after meeting her now husband during a charity walk. They have two children and one on the road
I was also very hopeful: my father had made a miraculous recovery after a stem cell transplant, so even stage four cancer did not seem like a death sentence.
On the rainy morning in November 2006 when I went with my husband to deposit his sperm, we made the experience clear.
It was just one of the many surreal experiences we forced ourselves to face with black humor, in addition to shaving his head, eating ice cream during chemo sessions, and the time another patient asked him for me: “Have you considered euthanasia? “
Fourteen months later, after seeing my husband fall into a coma and die, nothing seemed funny anymore.
When I tried to cling to a man I could no longer touch – refusing to change the sheets he had slept in, or throwing away the last bag of sweets he had eaten – I remember being online late one evening went to ask, “Can I use my deceased husband’s sperm?”
For Amy, founding a family is healing. She looks into the smiling faces of her children and only sees the future – not a spirit from the past
The answer was no. In the UK, where I lived at the time (and also in Ireland, where his sperm was still stored), the posthumous use of sperm is only permitted if the man has given his written permission before his death.
My husband’s decline was so rapid and we were so focused to keep him alive that we hadn’t even stopped to consider it.
I no longer remember that when we visited the clinic, I was once told about our rights when the worst happened. Maybe it was somewhere in the fine print of the paperwork.
A new study last month that claimed that sperm donations from dead men should be allowed caught my attention.
According to the report, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, opt-in “post-death donations” could be a “morally acceptable” way to increase the supply of low inventory.
It was suggested that men should donate sperm after they die in the same way that they donate organs.
It would be extracted posthumously and everyone, not just their partner, could benefit. Doctors and ethicists suggested that this could address the UK shortage of sperm donors.
When I read the news, my first thought was positive: I have seen the devastating effect of infertility on many people I love.
But then I remembered my younger self and the grief-driven decisions I made after I became a widow.
While Amy stumbled through her 20s after losing her first husband Eoghan, there were times when she said he had done everything to feel whole, and his baby appeared a seductive bandage
Would a relaxation of laws in this area have given me much-needed options or only made me more vulnerable?
In the United Kingdom, Diane Blood made history in 1997 through her legal struggle to have children through her late husband Stephen, who died of bacterial meningitis.
His sperm was retrieved while in a coma, which, according to the court of appeal, was illegal without his written permission, but that discretion could be used to allow her to receive IVF treatment abroad to have two sons.
Everyone’s situation is different. I was so young when I was a widow, I knew I had to look ahead and eventually build a life with someone else. Yet I wondered if having a small copy of my first love could alleviate my painful loneliness.
As I stumbled through my twenties after losing Eoghan, there were times when I had done something to make me feel whole, and his baby appeared a seductive plaster. This is my concern.
How many young widows are fooled into thinking that reproduction with a deceased partner is a quick fix for heartbreak? And who would dare tell them that they might regret it?
When you are a widow, there is a grace period in which you can act as selfish, reckless and illogical as you want. You grieve, so nobody wants to upset you by pointing out bad decisions.
After my husband died, I quickly got married and divorced shortly thereafter.
My second husband was a friendly man who became entangled in grief. I never wanted a child to be part of that train wreck.
And even if my deceased husband had given written permission to use his sperm posthumously, I would still doubt the morality to continue with it.
How could he have foreseen my emotional state and whether I would be a good parent while I mourn?
Even when I moved my husband’s money from his bank account to mine, I felt incredibly guilty and hadn’t touched it for years. I was his immediate family legally, but it still felt immoral to take anything from him financially, let alone genetically.
My mother raised another ethical question: would the dead man’s parents get a voice?
In 2018 reports emerged that a British couple had harvested sperm from their adult son three days after his death in a motorcycle accident. The family then exported it to the US and used it to father a child with a surrogate.
However, since their unmarried son had not formally agreed to this before he died, the extraction was contrary to British law.
I would never judge someone’s sad decisions, but with the birth of a child there is a whole family tree to think about.
I no longer have a close relationship with the family of my deceased husband. How would they feel if their son was conceived posthumously, with or without their knowledge? There is also the psychological impact on the child that his father would never know.
When Amy moved her husband’s money from his bank account to her, she revealed that she felt incredibly guilty
Even before they are old enough to understand loss, babies can absorb the fear and anxiety of nearby adults, experts warn.
Now that I am happily married and a mother of two, I would do anything to protect my children from emotional pain.
Selfishly, I also could not support the idea that other women use my deceased husband’s sperm for fertility treatment, as experts have suggested.
I still think I sometimes see his face in a crowd and I don’t have to start scanning faces in the playground, wondering, “Does that child belong to him?”
I am not saying that extracting your deceased partner’s sperm to fulfill your dreams of starting a family should not be an option for some widows.
I appreciate that at the age of 23 I was not in the same position as someone who was ten years older, who might not have had much time to find a new husband and start over, or a widow who already had the descendants of their lost love and who would like to have a brother or sister. Everyone’s circumstances are different.
But strict measures must be taken: screening, counseling and a waiting period between death and insemination.
I have absolutely no regrets that our relationship did not produce a baby.
She admitted that at the age of 23, she was not in the same position as someone ten years older, who might not have had as much time to find a new husband and start over
Three years ago, at the age of 33, I remarried after I met my now husband during a charity walk.
Although our wedding was full of joy, it still reminded me of the day I walked down the aisle to a terminally ill man. I feared the dark thoughts that might arise from the promise “until death do us part.”
The day before our wedding I discovered that I was pregnant.
It felt like a message from the angel sitting on my shoulder: it was time to move forward.
For me, founding a family is healing. With two children and another on the road, I can look at their smiling faces and only see the future – no spirit from the past.
Amy Molloy is the author of The World Is A Nice Place: how to joyfully overcome adversity and how to recycle your feelings: a book about reducing, reusing and recycling your emotions.