Friday, January 14, 2011

Why become an intentional single mum?

I get asked this question a lot. Especially on web forums where other people are considering the idea for themselves. I decided to write the story down properly, with all the appropriate references, so as to create a useful resource for those pondering, and to provide answers for any friends that find my choice absurd.

It's not a choice I made over night. It took some time - a lifetime I suppose.

I have always wanted to have children. I never imagined that I wouldn't. Admittedly there was quite a long period in my life when I was going to have kids in 10 years time (from about 16 to 30 I'd say). Well, I was busy, there was a world to explore and fun to be had!

When I was 31, I was diagnosed with PCOS. I actually got to see the cysts on an ultrasound scan and also got a 'talking to' from the gynaecologist who told me that I might not be able to have children. He said that if I was going to try it I should do it soon, and that I needed to do all I could to prolong the little fertility that I had. I was devastated, but determined, and finally felt a sense of urgency with regard to child bearing dreams.

I did have a partner at this time, but he was less than sympathetic. I'd like to be able to say that this was the first sign that the relationship wasn't good for me, and that I ended it then, but I'm afraid I can't. The first sign that the relationship wasn't good for me was probably before it even started, when his best friend advised me to steer clear as he was the most selfish person he'd ever known. And no, for some insane reason it didn't end there either. I continued in that hideous relationship, gradually having more and more of my energy sucked away for a couple more years. Ironically, I think it was partly my desire for children that kept me there. It was getting 'late', and I didn't rate my chances of finding someone else 'in time'. Finally it dawned on me that as well as being a useless boyfriend, he would also be a useless dad, and one time when he started ignoring me and saying he 'needed a break', I gathered all my courage and left.

I took a couple of years out of the dating game to recover and then started online dating. Cautiously at first, but before long I actually met people. Some great people (and some total disasters!). I made some lovely friends, I had coffee with people that I would never come across in my usual social circles, I even fell in love once. I never made it past date 3 though, and the guy I fell in love with had had a vasectomy, having already fathered two beautiful girls - so all in all it wasn't a very successful enterprise.

I guess I really started thinking about doing it by myself when I was about 35. My housemate had cooked dinner for us and some friends, a newly pregnant lesbian couple. We were talking about the idea of me having children and the continuous list of disasters that I'd had in terms of finding a man appropriate for the task. "You don't need a man Emma" they cheerily stated, "We can get you some sperm!".

Now, at first, I have to say, the very thought of it made me cringe, but it wasn't the first time this idea had been raised. I remember a group of male friends, when I was about 25 and pursuing travel and career instead of getting 'up the duff' like everyone else around me, telling me not to worry - if I left it too late to find a decent bloke they would have a 'whip round' for me! This was of course spoken and received in jest, I so never imagined at that point in time that I would be where I am now!

I told a few close friends about the dinner conversation, and one of them, an unintentional single mum, told me that she had recently met another single mum that had made the choice. She told me about this website, a forum for women who are thinking about, or who have made the decision to become single mums. I joined and started chatting to other women at various stages of their journey.

A couple of books were recommended. The first one I read was the gloriously titled "No man? No problem! Knock Yourself Up" by Louise Sloan. This is a brilliantly written, humourous, frank and informative book with Chapter titles such as "Oops, I forgot to have kids" and "Trysts with the turkey baster". It is engaging from start to finish. Early in the first chapter is this quote from a woman that had made the choice.
“It just seemed like the single guys my age were single for a reason...  ...and I realized I wanted to be a mother more than I wanted to be a wife."
Reading that was an ah ha moment for me. It touched me deeply. It was so true of what I was feeling, yet until I read it I didn't recognise this issue in myself.

If you are curious in any way I totally recommend this book. You can find out more on the Knock Yourself Up website.

The second book I read was the rather more refined "Choosing Single Motherhood: The thinking woman's guide" by Mikki Morrissette. This was slightly harder going but also a brilliant book. There is heaps of information and research on how kids from choice families fare in the world. It was reassuring to read research showing that it is the quality of parenting, not the quantity of parents, that makes for well balanced child. There are also interviews with choice kids that reinforce the idea that mums really can do it alone.

One of my favourite things about this book is that Mikki is supportive of the idea of using a known donor. If you do decide to embark on this journey you will find a lot of scaremongering and people begging you to go annonymous. True, there are cases where things have gone horribly wrong, but they are few and far between. If you are condsidering a known donor and want something to balance out the negativity, help you to make your own informed choice, and take action to minimise your risk in the donor situation then this book will really help. There is a great Choosing Single Motherhood website to accompany this book too, and ChoiceMums.org, also created by the same author contains a wealth of information, links, and a discussion board.

Once I had read these books I had decided. In fact, I couldn't think of anything that suited me more, and was kicking myself that I hadn't thought of this earlier.

By the way, for the interested, I continued with my online dating with a sense of liberty that hadn't had before. There was no pressure  now to find the father of my children and I was free to see people as they really were, and make choices without the ticking time bomb. I was honest with men from the start. That put some of them off straight away, saving a whole lot of bother, but many were fine with it. When I was less desperate to find a dad, it was easier to see more clearly if this was a relationship that would work or not. Sadly, not! Yet! Though I do believe it could still happen - one day.

There will be further posts on enhancing fertility when you're an old duck, preparing for single motherhood, and choosing a donor - when I get around to writing them!
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9 comments:

  1. Wow, thanks for the review! --Louise (Sloan)

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  2. Thanks for a brilliant book Louise

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  3. Brave post - kudos. Parenting by choice without a partner is probably few people's first preference. It does take a great leap to realise that not having a partner does not have to equal remaining childless... it's so socially ingrained. Also, being single when you first start parenting doesn't mean remaining single forever... much as being partnered when you first start parenting doesn't mean you'll remain partnered forever.

    Something I've experienced personally through parenthood is that the quality of love for my child has been far richer, deeper and rewarding than any other love I've known. This love is profoundly transforming; it's selfless and expansive. Wishing you much happiness on this path.

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  4. Welcome to the journey! Do you mind if I post a link to this on ChoiceMoms.org? I'm always looking for good profiles, and great story-tellers, of women on the journey.

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  5. Thanks Mikki, and thanks for writing such a great book too. You gave me the courage to choose a known donor when so many people were trying to scare me away from that. I am very happy to be able to give my child the opportunity to know his/her father.

    You are more than welcome to post the link. I will add the link to ChoiceMoms.org into the post too.

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  6. Thanks to MamaBear too! Yes I am hopeful that one day my prince will come, though I have to say it is not the focus of my life right now, but I do still believe!

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  7. Princes come along when you're least looking for them because that is when you imbue the world with your confidence and beauty and they can't resist ;-)

    xx

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  8. Wow Emma, just read your news and want to say something really profound and supportive about your decisions. Words like "courageous", "inspiring" and "empowering" keep cropping up but it seems to me that these are only appropriate if I'm starting from a negative position which is a long way from my intention!
    While I may not know a huge amount about your life since about the time we were in the church choir together (cringe!), I have no doubt you'll be a great parent and I wish you every happiness.
    As the Aussie's would probably say...Good on yer!

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  9. Thanks everyone - I am amazed (and slightly embarrassed) by the number of people actually reading this - I really appreciate your support.

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