Mother by choice

Loulou d’Aki

2016 - 2017


In 1972, the Swedish government launched a new manifesto called: '' The family in the future ''.

It underlined the importance of individualism and independence, it’s motto that no adult should depend on another but should be completely independent. In April 2016, a new law passed in Sweden, permitting assisted fertilization to single women. Before that day, women without a man would have had to turn to IVF clinics abroad or to private sperm donors in order to become pregnant. Mother of choice is a project about single women who have chosen to become mothers on their own because they can due to generous government support and welfare and due to the fact that being a single mother is no social stigma. Over 40 years after the social democrats launched '' The family in the future '' manifesto, Sweden is witnessing a big change in the traditional family unit. Through the individuals involved, my project tells us about this social phenomenon.

For many women, the new law (permitting assisted fertilization to single women) affirmed a changed and more equal view on new types of family constellations. Until this day single women in Sweden still have to look for treatment in private IVF clinics abroad due to long queues at public clinics but, in the future, women will finally be able to receive subsidized treatment from the government in public county clinics across the country. This means that becoming a single mother will no longer be an option for those who can afford expensive treatment only.

My project focuses on women who already have become mothers through IVF or insemination abroad, before the law came through, and on those who now plan to undergo or have begun the treatment in Sweden. It also looks to alternative methods such as men who, through anonymous websites, are willing to donate sperm for free to women without a partner.

‟A family made up by individuals who are working for themselves. Independent, for themselves. If a woman is depending financially on the man it is impossible to know if she stays around because she needs to rather than because she wants to.” These standards, set by the social democratic government in the 1970’s may be more relevant than ever in a country where almost half of the population live alone. The welfare state has provided independence to it’s citizens for years and the change in the traditional family unit, away from the nuclear family is coming along very naturally.

I have photographed IVF clinics, sperm donors and single mothers with their children.

What struck me when I met with several of the women was that once the decision to become a single mother was taken, the process of reaching this goal turned into a very structured calculation of succeeding and that all emotion was put on hold.

During the portrait sessions I ask the mothers to draw me a picture of how they once had imagined their future family when they were younger. No woman I have met has grown up thinking that one day she will have a child on her own, assisted fertilization is used as a last resort when no other options are available and it doesn't exclude the idea of a family later in life, it’s only that the man comes after (the baby).

In addition to portraits and drawings, the project consists out of details from IVF clinics such as instruments used in the procedure, rooms, tools etc. I’ve given a polaroid camera each to a selection of mothers for each of them to document their daily life with their child.

The physical exhibition space includes a timeline showing Sweden’s history as a progressive country whose citizens have long been supported by the state in order to explain the social developments which have led up to the current change of the nuclear family.

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  • Sandra and Lilje. Lilje was born after insemination treatment with eggs donated from Sandra’s sister in Finland. About her decision to become a single mother, she says:
    ‘ When the doctor came in and told me I probably shouldn’t wait too long to have a child, I thought: I’ll just do it - straight away! One year later, I was pregnant.’

  • Mikaela and Majlis.
    Majlis was born after insemination.
    About her decision to have a child on her own, Mikaela says: '‘My biggest concern was the thought if something might happen to me one day, who would take care of my child then?…I want to be a mother, a woman, sister, everything…not only a mother.’
    Malmö, Sweden

  • Carolina and her sons N. and S.
    Both were born after insemination.
    Malmö. Sweden

  • Anna and Tristan.
    Tristan was born after 1 IVF treatment.
    About her decision to have a child on her own, Anna says: ’’ I wished for a child in order to have the possibility to explore other dimensions of this life on earth.’’
    Uppsala, Sweden

  • Josefin and Abbe.
    Abbe was born through insemination at Storkkliniken in Copenhagen, Denmark. Josefin who is a journalist, wrote the book: ''Den befriade familjen'' (The liberated family) about her experience as a single mother.
    Stockholm, Sweden

  • Sara and Elliott.
    About her decision to become a single mother, Sara says:
    '‘ The absolute best decision I have taken in my life is to have a child on my own. The result is this marvelous kid.’'
    Gothenburg, Sweden

  • Paola and Zion.
    Zion was born after one insemination.
    About her decision to become a single mother, Paolo says: '' This was the best decision of my life ''

  • Sofia and Greta.
    Greta was born after one insemination at Stork kliniken in Copenhagen, Denmark. Sofia is a spokesperson for the organization FEMMIS (The organisation for self chosen single parenthood).
    About the decision to have a child on her own, Sofa says: “ I realised that one can disconnect the idea of a relation with the idea of having a child. A relation has no age limit, one could meet a life partner regardless of age. Once I understood that, I no longer felt stressed about finding a partner first or to settle for second best in order to have my child.”
    Stockholm, Sweden

  • Susanna and Axel.
    Axel was born after IVF at Storkkliniken in Copenhagen, Denmark.
    About her decision to have a child on her own, Susanna says: ’’ Since a long time I had decided that if I hadn’t met a partner and father to my children at 35, I would do something about it myself. Said and done, two years later, after a rollercoaster of emotions and a lot of tears, worries, hormons and hope, Axel arrived, the great joy in my life.’’
    Malmö. Sweden

  • At a quarter to midnight, Sofia is still tapping away on the computer, thinks once again that she should be in bed by now and get a good nights sleep before Greta wakes up again.
    Polaroid taken by Sofia on request to document her family life.
    Stockholm, Sweden

  • Greta enjoys her oatmeal with cinnamon for breakfast before mother Sofia takes her to daycare on the way to work.
    Polaroid taken by Sofia on request to document her family life.
    Stockholm, Sweden.

  • Josefin enjoys a glass of red after tucking Abbe in for the night.
    Polaroid taken by Josefin on request to document her family.
    Stockholm, Sweden.

  • Freja in the bath, she always loved water.
    Polaroid taken by her mother Marika on request to document her family.
    Stockholm, Sweden

  • Marika bakes a cake with Freja, who is allergic to eggs.
    Polaroid taken by a friend of Marika on request to document her family.
    Stockholm, Sweden

  • Heidi and Tim in the water at the summer camp for single mothers and children.
    Polaroid taken by another mother at the camp, upon request to document the family.

  • Malin takes a picture of the syringes on her living room floor. They are a part of the medical kit she needs to prepare her hormons for an upcoming IVF. The clinic later cancelled her IVF appointment since she did not produce enough eggs for an outtake.

  • Joesfin’s sketch of her family, the way she imagined it when growing up.
    She lives with her 5-year old son Abbe in a southern suburb to Stockholm and is the author of the book '' Den befriade familjen'' (The liberated family).

  • Heidi’s sketch of the future family, the way she imagined it when growing up.
    She lives with son Tim in a southern suburb to Stockholm.

  • Helena’s sketch of the family, the way she imagined it when growing up.
    She lives with her 2-year old daughter Vera in central Stockholm.

  • Lisa's sketch of the family, the way she imagined it when growing up.
    She is pregnant with her first child and lives in Gothenburg.

  • Jenny's sketch of her family, the way she imagined it when growing up.
    She lives with her son in central Stockholm.

  • “Lyckan” started as an official county sperm donor to make a bit of extra money while unemployed and helped five women to become pregnant that way. He now has a job as a security guard and is no longer an official donor but gives two main reasons to why he continues to donate privately: 75% is the happiness he can give others by donating, 25% is the satisfactiion of being chosen for the most important thing a woman can do in her life: “It is a product that is delivered, of course a woman should choose the best one.”

  • The man who refers to himself as ’’Daniel’’ joined the webstie after his last relationship ended. He wanted children but felt that he couldn’t wait any longer to meet anyone but had the feeling that, after 15 years in Sweden, he had nothing and ’’ 'When you have nothing, even the smallest thing seems like a lot.’’ Now he has helped 4 women to have children, he pays alimony and takes active part as a father for all of them. He is still active on the site, to help others to make their dreams come true but also because of his male instinct to reproduce. ’’Daniel’’ is Argentinian and what bothers him on the site is that most women openly look for ’’ scaninavian men with blue eyes ’’ and many women stop chatting to him the moment they realise he is not Swedish.
    Stockholm, Sweden

  • Björn got the idea to become a sperm donor while watching a film called ’’Roadtrip’’. He did a bit of research and found the page and also became an official sperm donor through the hospital Sahlgrenska. From the beginning he was interested in donation as a way of earning money but quickly realised there is no money to be earned. Nowadays he donates to help. So far he has helped 3 lesbian couples and 3 single mothers and from this 1 child has been born.
    Gothenburg, Sweden

  • The sperm bank at Sahlgrenska University hospital in Gothenburg. Since the law permitting single women to receive assisted fertility treatment in Swedish clinics, only a few counties have received the budget required to offer the expensive treatment. Gothenburg is still waiting.

  • A new kind of gender-neutral Gynecoligist chair called ’’Henstolen Kim’’ in an IVF clinic in Stockholm. The chair would fit man as woman and it’s name refers to a gender-neutral personal pronoun in Swedish intended as an alternative to the gender-specific hon ("she") and han ("he").

  • A doctor at the Fertility clinic holds up a tool used to help cristall formation in the process for freezing samples of sperms and embryos. If the crystalls are formed by itself, the cristals become large and may damage the sample.

  • An ultra sound device at an IVF clinic in Stockholm. When a woman commits to IVF treatment, ultra sound is frequently used before the actual procedure as well as after in order to see the hormon stimulated egg production before the outtake of eggs.