Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) was founded by Jane Mattes, L.C.S.W., a psychotherapist and single mother by choice. She provides a network of support and information for women who are thinking about becoming single mothers, as well as for those who are in the process of trying to conceive or adopt, and those who are already mothers.
As usual, time has gotten away from me and a holiday is fast approaching. I was going to dress up as Supergirl for Halloween; mostly because I have the costume and there’s a television show about her. Then it hit me…why not dress up as myself?
I manage two little lives, taking care of all their needs and many of their wants. I give boo boo healing kisses. I run our home, which needs a ton of work, but is still standing. I work full-time, plus some each week. I drive long distances so my kids will be with people I trust while I am supporting us. I keep my title of “Mom” by earning it with sweat and diaper-changing equity. I don’t go out “adulting” often because I prefer to spend my time with my babies. I even keep our many pets fed and watered, if not played with often enough. Surely I qualify?
But before I put on my cape and start strutting around proudly, my doubts creep in. I think of the times I am short tempered; and I feel bad. The times I expect my four-year-old to do things above his age and yell when he doesn’t do them. Sure, most of the time, I don’t yell and am calm, but sometimes I do and I cringe inside afterwards. The preschooler who some days challenges me on everything, and argues his way of thinking, even when clearly wrong. “Mommy, red light means go.”
My amazingly active toddler who some are already trying to label as ADHD. She is on top of every available climbing surface, and her definition of what is an acceptable climbing surface is so much broader and braver than mine. With her brother as her spokesperson (“Sister wants ice cream!”), and her own language that she would prefer we learn, over her learning common English or sign language.
These are the best of times, and the tiredest of times. There was a novel about that by Charles Dickens wife, I believe. I wouldn’t trade a minute of raising my kids, getting to see them learn and grow and develop, because even at my most exasperated, they are my heart and soul.
Super tired Mom. I think that is more appropriate. Is there a costume for that? And does the cape come with a pillow and someone to watch my kids so I can take a nap?
This is the secret no one tells you when you’re a kid: there’s no magic age when you suddenly become an “adult”, at least not in the ways you think it will happen when you’re a teenager. The reality of being 30 or 40 is just not anything like what the 13 or 16 year old me thought it would be. I still feel like a stupid teenager sometimes but not nearly as often as I did even 10 years ago. And I have teenage nieces, which a) has not deterred me from wanting to be a mom and b) makes me realize I have grown up and learned a lot since then.
Sometimes I think I should be more mature by now. But I think we’re all always still learning and we all have habits or knee-jerk reactions we’d like to change, buttons we’d like to stop letting people push, whatever. To my mind, if you’re mature enough to reliably take care of yourself (emotionally, financially, etc.), know how to solve a problem/handle a crisis/find the help you need, and won’t be resentful of the time and energy and attention a child will need, then you’re certainly “mature” enough to be a mom. Doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right thing for you right now, but in my mind it means you could do it.
Maybe the “quiz” is to ask yourself to imagine your life — right now — with a child in it. Not just the cuddling and rocking and eventual homework, but the logistics of a crying infant at 3am or a sick baby on a work day. Can you envision dealing with that? How much support from family and/or friends do you look for in your life as it is? How might that change with a child and is your network up to the task? What activities or hobbies do you most look forward to now? Would you still be able to do them with a baby? How would you feel if you couldn’t do those things anymore? What would you like to do in the next few years if you don’t have a child? Would you be bummed not to do those things? Why do you want a child now?
For me, I’ve been able to picture those changes for decades, but always with a husband. I wasn’t ready to picture doing it on my own until my late 30s and I’m now newly 42 and still trying to get pregnant. I can wish I’d been ready sooner, but I can’t go back and tell my 35 year old self not to wait — I just have to go with where I am. Interestingly, I’m much better able to do that in my 40s than I was in my 30s, so in some ways I’m much more able to deal with the difficulties and set-backs now than I would have been 5 or 6 years ago. Life is funny that way.
Unless there’s some medical issue that means you need to move fast (assuming you’ll want to get pregnant), you do have some time to keep thinking. I think when the answers to your questions are all (or mostly) coming out with more pros than cons on the side of becoming a mom, then you’ll know you’re as ready as you can be. I hear it’s a wild ride!
I was lying in bed this morning in the pre-dawn light, gazing at my son and thinking like a million women have thought before me, “Wow. I made that!” And then I remember that technically I didn’t. I didn’t contribute eggs or womb to the final product. But the final product is so much more than a complex collection of cells. He did not inherit those curls from me, but it is because of my care they hang soft and shiny in ringlets. He did not get that golden skin from me, but it is so golden and plump because of the care I give to his diet. And that’s the physical.
If I were not his mother would he still be obsessed with elephants? Would he laugh so much that in time that will effect the musculature of his face and therefore even how he looks. I have said before on the SMC Forum that I have searched and searched inside me for the missing piece, the regret that we are not biologically related and I can’t find it. It is just not there.
And on a less lyrical note, what helped me is understanding that unless you are going to clone yourself, it is very random what selection of your DNA you might pass on. Beautiful people have ugly kids, and brilliant people dumb ones. So even if I were not offended by the thought that an adopted child is less likely to be smart, there are no guarantees anywhere. The only reason I tried to conceive is because I thought it would be quicker and cheaper, which it would have been, if it had worked. I thank god everyday that it didn’t.
Forty sucks for me right now. I was looking forward to it; now I feel like a fool for having been excited. I am sad that I have not done all I wanted to at this point. I am trying not to focus on the negative, but right now I am not feeling very positive.
I joined Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) and now I am reading posts on the private online discussion Forum. I purposely signed up for this because I wanted to learn from women who are in similar situations to mine and who have been through the journey I am undertaking.
They have several awesome sub-forums you can participate in, including “Thinking/Planning”, “Community”, “Trying to Conceive”, “Pregnancy”, and groups for women with children in different age groups. I guess I should have waited to read the Trying to Conceive forum, though, because I am hearing about women who have been through more procedures than I will ever be able to afford who haven’t yet had successful pregnancies. I am learning that this may be more complicated than I initially thought.
For years people have told me, “you have time”. What a lie! We don’t have time. Time, at some point, is no longer on our side when it comes to fertility. I am reading stories of single women who start trying to conceive in their early 30s. I should have started back then…I was just waiting for “the right man” and “the right time”. Gods, I want to go back and do this all again!
I had a major freak out/meltdown on Sunday night. I was a complete and utter mess. I SOBBED for a hour or more – venting about how terrible I felt. God/dess bless my friends and one of the women from SMC for helping me through it.
I know I am “pre-worrying” about something that I don’t even know will be a problem for me, but I am SCARED!!! I am scared that I “waited” too long. I am scared that I won’t get pregnant. I am scared I won’t be able to carry to term. I am scared of all possible complications. I am scared I will make the wrong choice of donors (I am SO going to have to order photos!). I am scared I won’t be able to afford additional procedures if I need them. I am scared that I will be single for the rest of my life.
I am trying to pull myself together and be proactive. Today I am calling to make an appointment with my primary care doctor to see about a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist. I am going to call my insurance to find what benefits (if any) I have in terms of fertility treatments/procedures, and do more research on cryobanks. I have GOT to get over being scared!
I recently got together with some folks, including a single mother by choice (SMC) who is a full-time mom and her delightful 14 month old son. She was clearly relishing being his mom, and he was equally clearly adoring her. When we got to chatting a bit, she confided to me that she was feeling a little bit guilty about how much she was enjoying being a mother. After all, she said, didn’t the women of earlier generations go through a lot in order for women to have the right to be liberated from being “just mothers”? Was it okay for her to WANT to spend her time being a mom? And to enjoy it so much?
Having been one of those women whose consciousness was raised in the tumultuous sixties, I pondered her question for a moment, and then remembered — it was all about CHOICE. We believed that women should have the CHOICE to work and not to be a mom, or to work and be a mom — or to do whatever we wanted — and most importantly, we wanted to have the opportunity to achieve as much as any man.
Sure, some of the women in the movement felt we should reject motherhood and be more ambitious, that we should aim for loftier goals. But many of us also knew that there are infinite delights in being a mother, and we didn’t want to miss out on them. I was one of those women. I worried, as the years went by and I didn’t find someone I loved, that perhaps I would never be a mom. And then, when I became a mother, I remember thinking how fortunate I was to have that opportunity. I cherished every single minute of that experience, even the rough ones, especially during the early years of my son’s life when I almost couldn’t believe that I was really a mother.
I will never forget how close I came to being childless. But thanks in great part to women like Gloria Steinem and others in the women’s movement, I had the CHOICE to be a mother as a single woman, a choice that the generation of women before mine did not have. And for that, I will be eternally grateful to those women who made it possible for us to have choices about what we do with our lives, even if what we want to do is “just” be a mother.
Four years ago this month I conceived my first child by a non-medicated, interuterine insemination. I hadn’t been a Thinker for long. Or perhaps, I had been a Thinker my whole life. The certainty that I would never marry and have children was something that haunted my thoughts since I was in my early twenties. Until I separated the two life events, becoming a mother seemed all but hopeless. I thought about it only in terms of what would never be.
For over a decade, I mourned the loss of what came so easily to most women: a family. Once I gave myself permission to research the possibilities of single motherhood, things happened very quickly. Within a month I had read everything I could find on the topic. I began contacting adoption agencies. The official responses were consistently negative. A social worker at a domestic agency said to me, “No birthmother will ever choose you.” She referred me to an international agency. That agency agreed to take me on but later contacted me to say that their published fees would double since I was single.
I began to worry that if I spent all my time and savings on an unsuccessful adoption attempt, I wouldn’t be able to pursue other options.I quickly changed gears and contacted several fertility centers. I wanted to find a clinic that not only accepted single women as patients (some do not), but welcomed them. I found a wonderful doctor with a warm and caring staff. The positive reception and communication was a wonderful change from the pessimistic adoption agencies. These people believed I could and would be a mom.
When I became pregnant that summer, I had a hard time believing it. It was a thrilling secret and a terrifying concept. I had wanted my life to change and now, well, was it ever! More than once, I compared my situation to having to run in order to catch a departing train, hopping aboard seconds before it left the station. Once safely seated, I wondered if I was headed in the right direction. What was this train’s destination? Where would we end up? By the start of my second trimester, I was certain I had taken the correct route to motherhood. I’ve never looked back since. I did do a little more Thinking, though. Two years later, I returned to the station for another passenger.
So, here I am, working my way toward becoming a single mother by choice – reading books and articles, taking advantage of a great local SMC chapter, haunting the online SMC Forum for insights and information, surfing cryobank donor lists. I’m dotting all the “i”s and crossing all the “t”s, taking pre-natal vitamins, trying to eat better and get more sleep. I’m making lists and generally trying to stay in control of everything I can.
And I’m laughing. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned from my friends who are parents, my own parents and the kids in my family, it’s that being a good (and not insane) parent has a lot less to do with how in control you are and a lot more to do with how well you deal with all the things you can’t control. And, wow, is this process a test of those skills. I can control which donor I choose; but not his honesty in his profile, or diseases that haven’t manifested yet in his family (come on, his parents are barely older than I am!), or how he’ll feel in 18 years about being an “open” donor. I can’t control what the mix of genetics will be, or what that means for my child. But I can remember that my own mother often jokingly “apologizes” for the traits I’ve inherited, like “sorry you got the fussy-about-how-the-dishwasher-is-loaded gene” or “you come by that low-threshold-for-idiots thing honestly”. Even with two parents, or a known donor, you can’t control which things, good or bad, shine through.
I can do my best to not worry about all those things I can’t control. I can listen to music that centers me and makes me feel strong. I can seek out the people in my life who support and encourage me and avoid the ones who don’t. And on the days all that doesn’t work, I can have a glass of wine and try again tomorrow. I’m working on keeping my sense of humor; on embracing the crazy, wonderful absurdity of this journey; on not letting my usual mantra of “but what if….” get in the way of the joy. And I’m still laughing.
When I first began my journey towards becoming a mother, a visit with an infertility counselor was mandatory. It was a mostly predictable conversation for me where I was asked what I would do to cope with parenthood, the stress of treatments, and the potential that the treatments might not work, but then the counselor asked me a question I was not expecting, “What do you think you will do if you succeed…A LOT…as in you become pregnant with twins (or more)”. My response was, “Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!”.
Truthfully, before cancer, chemo, surgeries and the impending 4th decade laid waste to my ovaries, I actually had a genetic predisposition towards twins. Growing up, my family would always say “You know, every third generation is twins and guess where you fall?”. I have two sets of second cousin twins and my grandfather was a twin. I don’t know if it is true or not, but I was lead to believe, growing up, that I had a 90% chance of having twins. So, while the question the counselor posed was totally unexpected and I did go “Aaaaahhh” quite loudly, in reality, I did it mostly for comedic affect. But afterwards I thought to myself “Ha! Twins! I’ll be lucky if I can even fall pregnant.”
Guess who is laughing now?
I am a single mother by choice to almost 2 year old wonder twins! Over three years after that visit to the counselor, all my attempts with IUI and IVF had failed and I was given “the talk”, but in the end, I was blessed with a boy and a girl through IVF and embryo donation.
Since before I began trying to conceive, I had been involved with the Single Mother by Choice (SMC) community and in all that time I had only met one other single mother of twins. When I learned I was going to have two, I felt like a bit of an outsider in the SMC community. So, it was quite a surprise when the two women I had met at a recent conference when I was 11 weeks pregnant, both became pregnant with twins within 6 months of my pregnancy! Once their twins were born, it seemed all the twin SMCs started to come out of the woodwork. Our little offshoot of the SMC community has grown in the last year and it is an amazing resource for moral support and advice. As SMCs we all have an unique lifestyle and perspective that many of our non-SMC friends and family just don’t get, but mothers of multiples face even more unique challenges. It is something that cannot be put into words and can only truly be understood by someone who has walked in these footsteps.
Some of us were excited in the face of the initial news of multiples, but some of us were downright terrified. We all face unique challenges and our own moments of terror as our little ones grow, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. The most amazing part of this kinship for me, is the moral support. Whenever things get rough we can look to each other and say “Hey, she survived this. So can I!”. It’s such a gift to have examples to follow and sources for advice for our unique challenges.
Our little group includes everything from school teachers to surgeons. We all juggle our careers and our family in unique ways. Our children’s temperaments range from high needs to so laid back they are in danger of falling over. Many of us faced unique medical challenges associated with twin pregnancy, preterm birth (the average twin delivery is at 37 weeks), many of us had to endure NICU stays for our babies, and some of our babies were born with conditions more common with twins such as Torticollis and flat head syndrome. We are more likely to have to handle speech delays (and twin secret language development), nursing challenges, and so on. We also have to juggle our finances and deal with the frequent money hemorrhages and childcare costs that come with having a twofer. It’s funny and a bit silly to me now, but I hadn’t even thought about the fact that each checkup meant double the copays until we were at their first pediatric visit.
Ours is a story of hope and perseverance but most of all it is a story of immense blessing. Recently, some of the ladies got together for a playdate/photoshoot and seeing each of us caring for our two little monkeys and watching the children interact with each other was such a joy. The photographer, a married mother with TWO sets of twins herself, said she was amazed at how non-chaotic the event actually was and was truly impressed that we all had chosen to be single mothers and were all raising such amazing, healthy and happy little people. We even managed to get one photo where everyone was looking at the camera!
I’m sure there are some women out there reading this now who are considering medicated IUIs or IVF and are concerned about the chances of multiples. Or there may be other mothers of multiples or expecting mothers of twins or more out there who are struggling to relate to other SMCs who have just one child to focus on. To all of you, our little group is here to say, “You can survive this!” In fact, you may find that it is the most amazing and wonderful experience you have ever had. I only hope that all the other twin mommas out there are able to find a group as terrific as our little band of sisters.
I am probably one of the most impatient people I know. I am also extremely indecisive, but once I finally make a decision I am set, but that’s a different post. When I am ready for something I am ready NOW! Not a year from now, not a month, not even an hour! I plan a lot. My plans change, I have no issue with that, but I love to have lists and plans made far in advance.
When I was in grade eight I had planned out all the courses I would take in high school. I really couldn’t wait to start. Then in high school I planned for university, I think you get the idea. Now that I have decided to have a child I am ready now. I think it’s worse to just be sitting, waiting to start trying, as opposed to waiting for the baby. Once pregnant, there are new changes every day that I can learn about and explore. Worse case, I don’t get pregnant and then I’m left to wait a YEAR until my surrogate starts trying. Work can only keep my mind off it so much. Summer will fly by and maybe September, but then I’m stuck thinking, planning, waiting. Hopefully I won’t be stuck waiting; instead I will be pregnant and every day I will enjoy the new life growing instead me. No matter what, patience is for wimps and patience is not for me!