Like anyone in my situation who wakes up to the fact “it’s now or never,” I arrived in Istanbul on the cusp of my ovulation cycle and decided there was no better time than the present to try to get pregnant. And let me tell you, Turkey is not the best place for someone like me to be, as it’s a majority Muslim society that strongly identifies with the traditional, male-led family model as well as antiquated laws that prohibit fertility clinics from assisting unmarried women.
But let’s start from the beginning.
My plane touched down in Istanbul and as a tourist I immediately felt targeted with scams and smooth sales talk. I chalked it up to culture shock and moved on, arranging an appointment with a fertility clinic in hopes of moving closer to my goal of becoming a mother. Even though I didn’t come to Turkey specifically for fertility treatments, I felt a twinge of luck because my online research highlighted Turkey as a top destination for affordable and high-quality fertility treatments.
I made an appointment at a place named Bahçeci and journeyed across Istanbul to the clinic via tram then taxi. I arrived a few minutes before my appointment time, giving the women at the front desk my details again: single female, from the US, interested in receiving fertility treatments this cycle. I took a seat in the lobby and waited. And waited. And continued to wait for what felt like forever. After an hour, I approached the receptionist and inquired about my appointment. I was persistent and they finally led me to the doctor’s office.
The doctor and I exchanged greetings and seated ourselves, and he asked me why I was at the clinic as he skimmed over my chart for the first time. When he asked me if I was married and I responded “no,” his expression changed from pleasant to concerned; he awkwardly replied that he couldn’t help with the treatment (it’s against the law in Turkey), but he could help with a check-up. WTF?? Shocked and angry, I pointedly asked him why they made me wait for an hour just to disappoint me. I even threw in a pissed “this is a waste of my time” to which he replied that he would make up for it with a complimentary fertility check-up, but I was in no mood to spend more time at this clinic. Besides, if they did some tests and an ultrasound, what would the results matter if they wouldn’t help me with what I actually needed? It’s like reading a flavor profile analysis of a fine wine to a desperate alcoholic: you can look, but you can’t touch.
Having lost all patience at the clinic, I abruptly left the doctor’s office and spilled out onto the sidewalk ugly crying. WTF was that about? In this journey, I realize that I have to learn things the hard way, and it’s damn frustrating.
Denied treatment but not wanting this ovulation cycle to go to waste, I decided to take matters into my own hands: Tinder. Apart from downloading the app in the past and deleting it out of boredom a few hours later, I’ve never used Tinder and avoid online dating like the plague. Heck, I don’t even have a Facebook account so I had to create a fake one to join Tinder, then ask my mom to give me the PIN code Tinder texted her to complete my profile (my phone service abroad doesn’t receive texts; why is nothing easy when you travel abroad?). Once on Tinder, I browsed the profiles and felt like this maybe could work.
Before I go any further, let me be clear in that I am not a one-night stand type of person. I joined Tinder on a mission and minced no words in my profile, clearly stating that I was not looking for a relationship but instead someone to help me get pregnant and become a solo mother. I didn’t know what to expect by taking this project to Tinder, but in no way did I predict the experience to be so damn mentally, physically, and emotionally draining, as well as dangerous (STD-wise) and not as effective as artificial insemination. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? And Turkish men are pretty good looking, with their dark features and slick dress style, so I thought it would be somewhat enjoyable. (Wrong.)
Jumping into things, who were my potential Turkish baby daddies? I set my search parameters to include guys aged 25-35, and I seemed to have my pick of eager suitors (most of them either didn’t bother to read my profile or thought I was joking, ugh). Since this was my first time trying to conceive naturally as a single female, I did the best that I could in my situation and lined up a handful of guys to be safe. The first guy was definitely the best in the bunch: boyishly good-looking with a sweet personality. He was tall, dark-haired, and thin, chivalrously bringing me a chalky Turkish chocolate bar when we met. (He also brought some weed, not easy to get in Turkey, which really helped the mood.) Stuck the night in a shitty hotel room reeking of cabbage and bleach, we smoked up, drank beer, and conversed via Google Translate. Tragically, he was like most Turkish men in that he smoked, a habit that doesn’t work in fertility’s favor. We eventually got down to business and he left afterwards, which was perfectly fine with me; I surprised myself at not getting emotionally attached to the guy.
Then there was the second guy, who was definitely shorter and bulkier than his Tinder profile let on. I can only describe this guy as a strangely hot little nerd with Balkan features and a touch of Asperger’s; he’s one of those people that is *really* photogenic but a bit of a disappointment looks-wise in real life. We met up for a tea (as I silently screamed, “can we please not pretend like this is a date??”) then went back to my place. After stuffing my dog in the bathroom per his request, he came inside me once and wanted to go again, so I prepared myself for another sweaty round and let him. His second time coming, he pulled out which pissed me off beyond belief because it was a huge waste. Angry, I asked him why he did that because it was two in the morning and I was fucking exhausted, and I was only having sex with him so he’d come inside me. I asked him to leave and immediately fell asleep, exhausted physically and emotionally.
The next four guys I connected with were cruel jokes sent by the gods to torment my already fragile psyche. The third guy was decent and nice, but wasted my entire day with an awkward stroll around Istanbul with him and his friend (I felt like the third wheel on their date). When we were finally alone later, just as things were going somewhere he got a call and abruptly had to leave; I told him not to come back. The fourth guy was downright horrible: shallow, balding, peacocking loser with out of this world halitosis. After downing some drinks at a posh bar while making strained small talk in the rare moments he wasn’t checking his phone, we went back to his place and I held my breath to get everything over with. In the middle of it, the guy says he won’t come inside me and really liked me and blahbaddy fucking blah blah, which pissed me off and made me jump up to dress and go. He pleaded with me to stay and said he wanted to talk (funny, he didn’t seem interested in talking earlier). And the worst part was he lied about having weed. Loser. The fifth guy was all talk on Tinder and bailed at the last minute (probably because I wouldn’t text him nude photos, no thank you), leading to guy number six. Ugh, another dude with gag-inducing halitosis and a savior complex, number six’s English was decent and when we started to get down to business, he said “I don’t want a child” and I told him not to worry and I wanted to be single parent. It turns out he didn’t want to help me get pregnant, coming instead to meet me out of curiosity. Are you kidding me? I’m a human being, not a fucking chimpanzee in a zoo, get the fuck out of here.
After a few more encounters with guys one and two, I decided that I’d had enough and called quits. I immediately went to a clinic to get STD tests then treated myself to a luxurious Turkish bath. After my Tinder experience, I felt dirty, exhausted, drained, and vulnerable; I vowed never to put myself in that situation again because it was too much, and I believe one of the guys gave me herpes 2 (fortunately a relatively minor STD, but a real eye-opener). In a weird way, though, I felt proud of myself for having the stamina to put up with so much bullshit and I realized that if I could do all of that without getting emotionally attached to a guy, then I definitely had the strength and courage to continue this journey alone. Unfortunately, after all of that work I did not get pregnant but I by the time I realized that, I was in Southeast Asia and had more access to fertility treatments, none of which involved Tinder.