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.
It’s these moments that catch me. This morning before work, way too early for my liking, I walked my three year old son and his bestie Elmo to his car seat and strapped him in. As he often does, he smiled and asked, “Hug, Mommy?” after I fastened his seat belt. I leaned in and hugged him, feeling the strength of his tiny little arms pulling me in.
I then brought my daughter’s infant car seat around and fastened it in place, bending over to kiss her downy head as she slept through the whole process, more beautiful than I have words to describe, cooing softly and smiling.
It’s these moments that catch me. When I am doing everyday Mommy things and I get blown away with how much I love these itty bitty humans that am privileged to call my children.
I loved my life pre-kids, I orchestrated great changes to help my little corner of the planet, I took crazy-fun vacations all over the world, I ate cashews with a Diet Coke and called it “dinner”, and I took classes after work in anything and everything that caught my fancy. And, it was a great life and I have few regrets, but there was always a subtle nagging, the call of my life-long desire to parent. I felt that call in college, but knew I had time to find a husband and get married and have kids or time to be Bohemian and accidentally get pregnant and walk with barefoot abandon in a field with my huge belly as the wind blew the grasses softly and I whispered to my child.
But, time passed and none of that happened. I just got older.
And I saw my dream slipping away. My dream of marriage could happen at any time and I was less worried about missing that, but my dream of being a Mom, not a step-mom, but Mom to my own children felt like it was slipping away with each tick of my biological clock. I would face acquaintances’ and coworkers’ pregnancies with a brave and happy face, but inside I was eaten up with sadness and jealousy—why not me?
Until one day, a girlfriend said, “Why not you? Why don’t you do something about it? You don’t need a husband to have kids.”
And, I’d heard it before, but I hadn’t been able to listen; I hadn’t been ready. Because, to deliberately take on single mothering seemed too big for me. I wasn’t rich enough or smart enough to do any such thing. But, this time, I didn’t let it go.
And I woke up many mornings of my “thinking” period terrified—what was I about to do? How could I possibly—? And the ultimate, How will I feel in twenty years if I don’t even try?
I took baby steps…literally and figuratively. I took quite a few of them. And, it didn’t feel wrong. I ended up here, strapping my kids—my kids—in their car seats and look at my beautiful family. My family that I had given up on ever having.
But now I know, having kids was one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s these moments that catch me.
You’ve had that incredible moment — the zing of excitement that comes when you realize the child (or children!) you’ve wanted can still be yours, even if you are single. But how do you know that single motherhood is right for you? And what path to motherhood should you take? There are a lot of things to consider before you decide to begin your journey. Here are some to get you started:
What are my options for becoming a mom? How much does each option cost? What options are financially feasible for me?
If you have good health insurance, doing donor insemination via IUI or IVF could be very inexpensive; if not, it can get pretty expensive. Adoption can be very pricey depending on the route you take. If you are open to DCFS adoption, it’s much less expensive, but private adoption generally runs $30K – $40K; international adoption can be more than that. Egg donation costs vary depending on whether you do a private donation or via a doctor or agency; but embryo donation can be much easier on the wallet. Surrogacy by a hired surrogate has hefty costs; surrogacy via a friend will be less, although you may have to pay for expensive medical insurance for the friend, even if she has her own insurance.
How are my finances overall? Can I afford daycare and the addition of a child to my life? What other expenses might I run into? What are my financial limitations? Do I have support—other single moms, family, friends? How important is that to me if I decide to become a single mom? Can I afford to pay for additional support — babysitters and other services that will make life easier for me once I become a single mom?
How is my fertility? What tests do I need to do in order to have a clear picture of my ovarian reserve, the health of my uterus, my ability to get and stay pg? If your tests come back with not-so-great results, just knowing that may help you make your decision about what option for becoming a mom is best for you.
How important is it for me to have biological kids? If it’s very important, then the fertility questions are that much more important.
How does my family feel about this issue and how important are their feelings in making my decision? Are there certain people I want to talk to first — close friends or family — before making my decision? Or should I just make my decision and let people know once I’ve made it and feel clear about it?
How long am I willing to wait for Mr. Right? How will waiting impact my ability to either get pregnant or adopt? If I wait for Mr. Right, and he doesn’t come along, and then it’s too late to have biological kids, how will I feel? Adoption can take a few months — or a few years — how will my age impact my likelihood of being selected by a birth mom if I choose private adoption? Will I be too old to do international adoption (some countries have age limits)? Will egg donation or surrogacy be options for me? Will I feel like I’m too old to be a parent? What are the overall pros and cons of pursuing single motherhood vs waiting for Mr. Right?
How long is each option for becoming a mom likely to take? How many kids do I envision having? Is that realistic as a single mom — financially, emotionally, physically, and given my age and timeline for becoming a mom? How comfortable am I becoming a mom at an older age? Is it important for me to be a young mom? What are the pros and cons of younger mom vs. older mom?
How will becoming a single mom affect my career? What will the challenges be as a working single mom?
How will single motherhood affect my lifestyle? Am I ready to potentially give up (at least temporarily) frequent nights out with my friends, doing things spontaneously, regular travel, and hobbies that I will no longer have time for?
All of these questions take time to answer thoroughly. You might need to make doctor appointments, research adoption, egg donation or surrogacy, check your fertility coverage with your insurance company, look into daycare costs in your area, talk to family and friends about the support they are willing to offer and do some soul searching. There are several books that offer insight into becoming a single mother by choice. But the online members’ Forum on the SMC website is an excellent place to start to get the answers to many of your questions.
When I worked at a preschool summer camp, I saw two types of parents:
The 20s – they’d swoop in, looking harried and often exhausted, gather child in one arm and gear in another, and disappear as quickly as they arrived.
The 40s – they’d saunter in, spot their child, and begin a delighted tour of the events of the day, observing artwork and snack remnants with equal and genuine interest.I was nineteen at the time, and learning a lot about parenting observationally. I understood why the 20s were so strung out: their time and resources were over-stretched. They became parents as soon as they were able, and that meant sacrificing self-building and life-building in order to parent at the healthiest point in their lives.
The 40s…well, who knows why they waited. But though their energy levels were lower, their attitudes and resources blew the 20s out of the water. The 40s were emotionally mature and financially comfortable, and they were never parents by accident. Their children were sought, treasured and celebrated. No disrespect to the efforts of the 20s, but the 40s I saw parented from a place of joy.
I’d always planned to be a 20s. I searched for the “Right Partner after college, but he never surfaced. I met someone in my mid-thirties, but together we suffered two miscarriages. By the time I got and stayed pregnant, I was a single 39 year-old carrying the offspring of an anonymous sperm donor. When my daughter finally arrived, I was forty years, one month and one day old.
I regret not a whit the age at which I became a mother.
I know what I was in my twenties: undercooked, untested and narcissistic. I could have been a parent, but I would have been growing up alongside my kid, and sucking a lot of the oxygen out of the room. Instead, I got two extra decades to learn how to put a child first without depleting myself. The forty-something me is weathered and practical, and knows how to roll with a punch.
I began this journey with deliberation, and only when I knew my parents were willing to help. I armored myself emotionally and practically for the sacrifices of single parenting. I endured fibroid surgery, two miscarriages and seven rounds of insemination. Conceiving in my twenties might have helped me avoid all that, but I suspect these trials made me a better parent. Every step, however painful, tempered me for motherhood.
Having my child is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I love her as I have never loved anyone or any thing – with delight and abandon and very little fear. And while I’m certain the younger me would have loved just as fiercely, she could not have appreciated or enjoyed being a parent the way I do now.
I have always wanted to be a mother. By the time I was five, I was hanging out in the church infant nursery with my mother, rocking babies rather than attending my own Sunday school class. In Girl Scouts my favorite activities were teaching games and songs and such to younger troops. In elementary school, when my friends were drawing pictures of wedding dresses in school, I was making lists of the names I would give the 16 or so children I wanted. I babysat in high school because I enjoyed it – I couldn’t have cared less what I was paid for doing it. I worked at summer camps while in college and LOVED working with children. When her parents came to pick her up, one of my campers told her mom I wanted to be a Mommy. I was mortified. I was afraid I’d said or done something wrong. But when I asked why she said that, the camper said “Because you’d be a good Mommy” and my heart just melted. That’s what I’ve always wanted more than anything else.
But, my life has been a series of compromises. There has always been what I wanted (except when I forgot how to “want” for myself) and what I “should” do. And more often than perhaps I should have, I chose to do what I “should.” (The irony in that statement is not lost on me).
I was a “bad” child. I had ear infections as an infant that left me crying no matter what my parents did. I led revolts (aka follow the leader games during nap time) at the day care centers (more than one asked my parents NOT to bring me back – before I was four years old). And I was already an academic disappointment to my highly educated family by the time I was seven, having been placed in the LD class in second grade. (The phrase “not better, not worse, just different” when applied to your brain is not as comforting as you would think to a 7yo “special education” child).
By time that I can remember, my older brother was the responsible child, my little sister was the perfect child and I was the problem child.
The problem was that I didn’t like being the problem child, sosomewhere around the age of 10, my primary goal in life became being “good”. And I have spent the rest of my life striving to be good and overcome the “problem child” label. By high school I had left the LD classes behind, and I managed a 3.8 GPA in advanced classes without assistance. I didn’t date, I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t go out, forget staying out past curfew. I was involved in more extra-curricular activities than I can count from Orchestra to Flag Corp to National Honors Society to Girl Scouts to being an actual honest to goodness ordained Deacon in the PCUSA Church.
I wanted to be a mother and housewife, I had little to no internal direction about career goals, but my parents wanted me to be able to support myself before getting married. I thought if I had to support myself, I wanted make something: be a florist or a chef or an auto mechanic, but my parents wanted me to go to college first. So I did.
I made it through college and law school and even an advanced law degree (LL.M) at some very prestigious schools with decent grades and became a tax attorney, thinking it would make my parents (including my then dead father) happy and be easy to date and marry after I had my career on track – I mean what guy wouldn’t want to date/marry a “good” woman with a six-figure earning potential (Ha!). At 26, I found myself having to try very hard to fit into the conservative law firm world which (massive understatement:) still isn’t nearly as friendly to working women as one would like… and trying to date for the first time in my life.
I wanted to get married, but I quickly discovered that men who were my career peers seemed to prefer younger, thinner, blonder women with “pink collar” jobs.
So, I looked for fulfillment elsewhere. I tried three different firms in three different towns in two different states. I wanted so desperately for my career to be enough to feel fulfilled (my aunt who is an attorney finds it immensely fulfilling, but then again, she’s already a mother). I liked each of my jobs just fine, but they weren’t enough.
I took on pro bono work. I volunteered extensively. I found new churches and hobbies to try. I traveled, I camped and I worked by butt off. I bonded with girlfriends. I went to book clubs. But, “fulfillment” whatever that was, eluded me.
And, I continued to try to do things the “right” way in terms of relationships/motherhood. I tried Lavalife, Match, eHarmony, 8at8, Speed Dating, HurryDate, It’s Just Lunch (three times) and Events and Adventures (HUGE waste of time and money), and more. I went to several singles events at various churches and joined half a dozen young professionals groups all in an effort to meet Mr. Right. I even dated a coworker for a while (he married a woman in a “pink collar” job 3 months after dumping me).
Eventually, I began seriously thinking about becoming an SMC. I read Jane Mattes’ book, “Single Mothers by Choice“, cover to cover on a plane to Africa in 2008. I started talking about it with friends and family all of whom seemed supportive (plus, it’s just fun to talk about buying sperm). I started trying to figure out what I needed to do to be ready to be a single mother. In my therapist’s office, I was asking for help finding my career motivation so that I could get as financially secure as possible and buy a house so that I would be “ready” to start trying to have a baby before it was too late.
Instead of helping me with what I wanted, my therapist told me I needed to try harder to find a man.
As a result, I ended up depressed and in knots emotionally and I ended up losing that job. It took a while to recover from the setback of losing that job and I kept seeing that therapist for too long after that. But, eventually I got wise and dumped the therapist.
What I needed was for once in my life to do what I wanted to do for me and not because it’s what I thought my parents, my conservative bosses and clients or even society wants. That meant becoming a mother. Because, if I got to the end of my life and I’d never gotten married or never made it to the top of my field in my career that it would be sad, but it would be okay. However, if I ever got to the point where I thought I would never be a mother, that would make my own life story a tragedy in my eyes. It was the one thing I couldn’t compromise. I had to be a mother, no matter I “should” do.
In 2011, I found a better job (non-law firm, non-tax) and started trying once I’d been here 8 months. I quickly discovered that some of the friends that were fine talking about the SMC stuff in theory were less supportive when I wanted to actually try. But, I also found new better friends in my local SMC group and a church that was more open to alternative families. I become more comfortable in my own skin. I am no longer trying to be what society thinks is “good”, but I’m trying to be what I think is good. And it’s empowering to NOT be living a life of compromise.
I still have the “should” voice in my head: I should have more in savings. I should have a “father figure” lined up (my brother & I have grown apart; my best gay friend just moved away to pursue his dream). I should be a home owner. I should, I should, I should….
But after a year and half of trying, I’m sooo glad I didn’t wait until I had all my “should”s checked off. I have fertility challenges that are NOT related to my age, if I had added age as a concern on top of these other challenges it would be even harder. And, in the face of growing fertility bills, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with a mortgage as well.
I imagine it will always be hard to live with the little “should” voice in my head, but I far prefer to have that making its little noise in my head than the gaping hole of regret which would develop in my heart if I never become a mother.
I’ve spent over a year participating in and listening to the posts on the Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) Trying to Conceive forum. I even had my own failed attempt at trying to conceive, and then work, school, and dating postponed my plans until a year later. I began to consider adoption, an option I had explored before but ignored once I found Mr. Perfect Anonymous Donor and built up the courage (and money) to TTC. But once I really delved into the adoption choice again, it seemed very feasible and appropriate for where I am in my life. Plus, I thought it might be “easier” than TTC.
On the SMC Forum, I read other women’s journeys through infertility and fertility treatments and miscarriages to finally bringing home a newborn sometimes years later. Well, now that I’m pursuing adoption, I realize the adoption journey isn’t exactly “easier”, just different than TTC. There are many preparations and hurdles along the way. These unique challenges don’t involve reproductive endocrinologists (REs), but they do involve social workers, wire nuts, and a lawn crew. I’ll explain….
What I’ve found unique to the adoption process are the REQUIREMENTS that your home, emotional well-being, and finances be in order. Women who are trying to conceive are not scrutinized in this way. For example, women who conceive through reproductive technologies are not required to submit their driving record and proof of homeowners insurance. It’s not that their challenges are any easier, just different from the adopters. However, the parities still exist. I liken the adoption waiting period to a gestational period. A pregnant woman might wonder if her baby will have her blue eyes, while I’m wondering which race my future adoptive children will be. A pregnant woman may be attending birthing classes while I’m going to CPR training.
So, I have decided to pursue foster-to-adopt through the U.S. Child Welfare System. I took two weeks of pre-service parenting classes. I loved it! I think all moms-to-be, including those TTC’ing and adopting, should consider parenting classes. But here’s the kicker; adopters who receive children through the foster care system must promise to discipline by the system’s standards. This includes no spanking. This is not a problem for me since I’m a staunch opponent to spanking; but for a few others in my class, it made them feel like they are being told how to parent. And well, they are.
Another challenge unique to adoption is the home environment requirements. Each state in the U.S. is different, but here are some of the things I’ve had to fix/change/BUY for my house to be compliant in Texas: fire extinguisher, new smoke detectors, lock boxes for medication, moved all cleaning supplies to upper cabinets, outlet covers, waterproof mattress covers, anti-siphoning devices for the outside spigots, “re-homed” one of my dogs because I had one too many for the city limit, pet vaccines, CPR training, first aid training, home health inspection, home fire inspection, post daily schedules, post house rules, post evacuation plan, trash cans with tight fitting lids, replaced a piece of rotten siding, hired lawn guys to mow on a regular basis, covered up tree roots in the backyard, replaced a ceiling fan that would have interfered with the bunk bed I erected (this is where I learned about wiring and wire nuts), researched daycares that accept state reimbursements, and I just bought an SUV to replace my two-door coupe. (OK, that last one wasn’t a necessity for adoption, but fun anyway!)
To add to the list of requirements, I had to provide three personal references, a break-down of my monthly expenses, TB test, auto insurance, homeowners insurance, transcripts, proof of income, pictures of my house and neighborhood, driving records, fingerprints for FBI criminal background check, and a child abuse background check. And then there’s the dreaded HOME STUDY. I had heard horror stories about probing questions you’d never be prepared to answer. For me it actually wasn’t bad, but some people really stress over it. Sometimes it seems like having a doctor inseminate me might be a lot less work! It’s not like your reproductive endocrinologist is going to make sure your smoke detectors have batteries before your insemination! I jest, of course!
The point of all this is that I have developed an appreciation for the adoption process and the people who have succeeded in adopting. Despite the mountain of paperwork, I feel that all the requirements are necessary. And in a way, the time spent fulfilling those requirements parallels the gestational period of women who conceive. The adoption process forces people to consider and prepare for all the things one needs to consider and prepare for when a new child is brought into a family. I think that sometimes the adoption process is minimized in comparison to pregnancy. However, it doesn’t have to be that way; and those of us going through it and those who made it through know it is an important time. I hope that years down the road, I’ll look back on this time and reflect on it like a woman who conceives might remember her pregnancy…except I don’t have to buy expandable pants and shea butter!
When my daughter (via donor insemination) was a baby I had little time or interest in dating. I was loving motherhood, but motherhood and working full time took all my energy. There were many times that I was grateful that I didn’t have to put any energy into a relationship because I didn’t think I could have managed.
When she got to be a toddler and I began to get out of the house occasionally without her I began to think about dating and had a profile up on Match.com. The first thing I noticed is that I got hardly any interest compared to the profile I had up before becoming an SMC. I was now 37-38 yrs old.
About that same time I had a few dates with a former HS classmate and we really liked each other but he lived long distance and was not interested in a long distance relationship. The dry spell continued…
When my daughter was 5.5 yrs I moved from NYC to suburban NJ. Later that year a friend set me up on a date with a widower who had a 9 year old daughter. We e-mailed and talked awhile and eventually met for dinner. I was the first person he had really liked since his wife died and he wasn’t ready to do anything.
Now I was in my 40’s… More dry spell… not really even trying to date. I had pretty much given up. I was in the process of adopting my 2nd daughter. I figured that my prospects were dim anyway so why not go ahead and grow my family.
Last summer when my youngest had been with me almost a year we made a trip out to the mid-west to see her birth parents and the cousin that introduced us. While there I met my college sweetheart for dinner with the kids. It was the first time we’d seen each other in 22 years. We were trying to catch up on the last 20+ years but as you might imagine it was nearly impossible with the kids interrupting every few minutes. As I was leaving he told me that he was going through a divorce. I asked him to call me after the kids were in bed so that I could talk uninterrupted. When we talked we discovered that we both still cared about each other and began dating long distance and it is going well.
I remember telling him that I was no prize because I had 2 kids, 2 parents (living next door), 2 dogs, 2 cats and an old house to care for. I said, “what man wants all that!” His reply was that “a good man would want all that.”
So I went from having no hope that I would ever marry (or even date regularly) to a relationship with the one man I regretted not marrying 20+ years ago. I feel really lucky and somewhat foolish that I had ever lost my hope in the first place. But I’m glad that I found it again.
Just when I think I am an absolute freak of nature, defying all sorts of social standards and practices (usually by going under, and not over, the bar) something transpires that speaks to me, saying “Tara, you are *not* so bizarre or unique after all.” So, there. I cannot promise I’ll share anything like that with you today, but I’m just saying…
Being a member of Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) has been one of the most valuable and meaningful aspects of my life. Although I am awkward to connect and put out disjointed, sporadic posts on our Forum, the generous, informative women who share on the forum help to alleviate my seemingly irrational feelings or quell the ridiculous tsunamis of fear in which I try to keep above the water. Some of the concerns I see on the posts are internally referred to as “Standard Issue Issues”- pretty much every SMC, thinking, trying or otherwise, seems to have some feelings about them, though responses may vary from the passionate, frothing types, to the wispy, lighthearted jesting of women who seem to take most things in perfect stride.
These standard issue issues come up, one in particular, year after year, in one form or another, and quite frankly, when I see it, I get that “freak factor” feeling all over again. When I say this, I feel I should be locked away in a garden shed, possibly with a beard, drawing up a handwritten 200 page manifesto, but I never, really, could picture myself having a child or a family in any type of relationship. I remember that even as a young child, the idea of being married or partnered with kids, just felt, well, yucky. I tried, oh how I tried, but it just never “clicked” for me. I was never opposed to the idea of marriage, I just never felt I had what it took to pull one off.
I always loved kids, though I didn’t think about them in a maternal way until I was about 24. While sitting in my mom and dad’s kitchen one day, chatting on the phone, I heard a little girl’s agonizing, dramatic scream. I found the girl, maybe about 6 or 7 years old, splayed out on the sidewalk, tightly gripping her Polly Pockets which had left angry, red indentations in the palm of one of her hands. I casually asked if she was okay, and through the tears she nodded. I then casually asked if she needed help getting up and again she nodded as I nonchalantly held out a hand for her to grab and pull herself up. She looked at it as though it was some mutant alien she saw in a horror movie. Uh-uh. She didn’t want a hand or arm, she wanted a ‘bear hug-lift me gently’ type of job. So I obliged. As I lifted her, arms encircling this child, I can only describe what transpired as a heavenly, divine intervention. Maybe it was a rush of blood to the head or out of control hormones, but I felt a hot, searing rush of joy, lightness and purpose. I cannot say what it was, but it was something big. And I was never the same. My mother chuckled and snorted when I told her, but I knew it was BIG.
I never grieved the loss of a dream- the white dress, the vows, the passionate love – I never *had* that dream. My parents, though deeply and passionately in love now, had one hell of a marriage – it was a twisted wreck of tears, control, abuse and constant fights. I can easily say that had nothing to do with my choice, but maybe on some deep, cleverly disguised level, it did. I honor those horrible years of my life by working against the principal of a miserable home filled with fearful, exhausted occupants.
I was 28 when I decided to have a baby a la carte. My mom and dad, in a word, went ballistic. They were scared, frantic, and desperate for me, and I didn’t blame them. I was scared for me, too. I remember the process of deciding was excruciating, though- could I pay for diapers, daycare, formula, clothes and a million other things while working full time with a high powered publisher?
I remember the fear covering me like a heavy, wet blanket at first. As I learned more, that ‘blanket’ got lighter and lighter, finally ‘drying’ out and lifting away. My turning point came when I called a local daycare and discovered that I could, indeed, afford to send my baby there. Thankfully, I was pregnant shortly after beginning the TTC process and celebrated my 30th birthday knocked up.
I am young by SMC standards, I know. My pieces fell into place at a young age- a house at 27, a great career and then, well, a baby by 30. I have all sorts of strange, quirky regrets in life, but having a child is not one of them. She is 8 now, sometimes gets wound up over not having a daddy, but we get by. Sometimes I want to pack up my cats and go live under a quiet bridge with no responsibility, but I like to think that the rush of blood to my head that long ago day did lead to something good.
An experience I had this evening left me thinking about how far I’ve come from the scared (okay, terrified) almost-40-year-old woman who started tentatively on the road to single motherhood 4 years ago and I wanted to share it, since many of you may have had similar experiences.
When I decided to move forward with this crazy plan, the thing that scared me most was what on earth I would tell people about my “status” as a single, pregnant woman. I see similar posts on the SMC organization’s “Thinking” section of the online Forum and my heart always goes out to those women. I want to reach out to them and reassure them that in the larger scheme of things it really won’t matter after a few days or weeks or months. At least, it didn’t for me. I embraced my pregnancy with such joy that by the time I needed to come out of the closet I did it with pride and confidence.
I’ve maintained that level of comfort with my decision, and it has been interesting to me to see how people have just accepted my “status” as normal or at least not particularly shocking. It’s especially surprising since I live in the Western US – one of the most conservative areas in the country. I know some people I work with don’t approve of my decision, but I truly believe my comfort and confidence have left them in silence. Which is fine with me.
The bigger surprise has been the women who have asked me about how I approached my decision, what steps I took, how difficult and expensive the process was, all (they eventually disclose), because they too have had thoughts about becoming single moms but didn’t know it actually was an option. I answer their questions thoughtfully and honestly, without going into intimate details about my son’s conception or his donor.
Tonight we were visiting with a new friend, a 30 year old, attractive and educated young woman who I never imagined would show an interest in SMC-hood. I told her about this wonderful organization, how its members have encouraged and supported me though my journey, and I encouraged her to follow her heart, wherever it leads her. She told me after all the years of dating and not meeting “the one”, she was coming to the conclusion that maybe she would need to take a different approach to having the baby she dreamed of.
I send out a heartfelt “THANK YOU!” to all of you who have supported and encouraged me and held me up when I think I can’t make it one more day.
When I was pregnant and finally told people (or let my mother tell people), I got the most amazing phone calls. My mom told her sister and I swear within minutes, I got calls from both her sons, my first cousins, telling me that this would be the most amazing journey of my life and the best thing I could do.
When I started to tell my friends, they were uniformly supportive. One friend called her brother who called me and said that of all the people he knew, he knew I would thrive at this because I took such good care of them all in college. (I was the one who routinely held someone’s hair out of the toilet after s/he drank too much.)
So why did I want to have a child? What was that yearning that told me to push forward partnerless?
I wanted to re-experience the world–to see it again through a child’s eyes. I wanted to help develop a new human, someone who would be able to improve the world. I wanted to undo the damage my parents had done. To build a better person, not take one down. This was a big issue for me. It took me a while to learn to undo the oppression and anger my parents raised me with. I often think that it took me so long to get pregnant because I needed to learn to undo their parenting style. I needed to learn my own self-worth before I could impart self-worth onto a child.
There are the cliché answers—clichés because they’re so true. I had so much love to give and wanted a child to give it to. I was the teenage babysitter who would start out sitting one kid and soon have a backyard full of them as parents would hear I was there and drop off their kids with me. Even saying I wanted to view the world through a child’s eyes is cliché, but oh-so-true.
The desire to be a mom is hard to articulate. It’s like trying to explain sniffing a newborn’s head and feeling that primal urge in your underbelly (as an aside, I knew I was one and done when I could smell that new baby scent and not feel that urge). The desire to be a mom was always within me. And my son is one of my greatest accomplishments. I’m amazed at how much of him is innate, and pleased with the things I’ve been able to influence.
(This is the second half of Motherhood. The first half appeared in this space last week.)
If I decide to become a single mother, I would probably also be deciding that my child would be an only child. Not only would s/he not have a father, but also it would be just the two of us. Going it alone would be hard enough financially and mentally, so thinking about a second on my own is probably not in the cards. Some of my best memories growing up involve my brothers: chasing after each other, inventing games, and having a buffer or distraction when we were stuck with our parents for too long in a confined car on road trips. As adults we’ve bonded in a completely different way and I can’t imagine not having these relationships in my life. Who am I to knowingly deprive my child of that experience?
I live in a community where this isn’t the norm. Perhaps if I lived in another area it would be a different story, but I live in a very closed minded community. That’s obviously a huge generalization, but the reality is that the majority gets married by their mid-20’s, most of the women don’t work full time, and gossip circulates like crazy. If you are getting divorced, within 24 hours everyone is talking about what happened, who cheated, and how they saw it coming. The truth is that anyone who doesn’t live their life in a traditional way has moved away; it’s just easier that way I guess.
In all honesty I don’t care about what they think of me and my decisions. I know they already think I’m a lesbian because I am not married and went to Smith. What other reason would there be for not having a revolving door of boyfriends or a husband by now?
So I am not too concerned for myself about what they would all say if I show up pregnant and single, but I am more concerned for my family. I know it would hurt my mom to have all these people talking about me and I know that in the end it would be hard for my child growing up as the fatherless child in this community.
But if I throw all of that out the window, why shouldn’t I be a mother? So what if I knowingly choose single motherhood? The one thing I’ve seen from family and friends is that you can attempt to plan out how you expect to raise your children, but then having them is a completely different story. Nothing goes exactly as you planned. I could do it alone and make it work for me…for my family unit. It wouldn’t be easy and I would need the support of my family, but I could do it and do it well.
The last part of me thinks about tradition. I am not a very religious person, but this part of me contemplates the whole idea that if G-d wanted me to have children, then it would be when I am married and the “natural” order of things occurs. Should I be taking this into my own hands and going ahead with insemination or freezing my eggs? Or should I just wait and see if I meet that right guy and hopefully get pregnant? Maybe at the end of the day I am not meant to have my own kids. Maybe I am meant to be the awesome aunt and take care of other people’s kids. Everyone has a purpose and perhaps mine is not motherhood in the sense I’ve always thought.
Whatever my path may be, I still don’t know. I hate that as a woman I have to make a decision fairly soon and can’t let too much time pass to see what happens. I tend to over-analyze many decisions, but the best ones, the ones that have significantly impacted my course in life, have been more gut reactions. I think I’ll patiently wait to see where life takes me between now and 35 and then I might just go with my gut.