The simple answer is, not much different to being any other mother.
We all spam our Facebook feed with pictures of adorable newborns, food-covered weaning babies and exuberant toddlers. We all tell tales of sleepless nights and bodies that are never the same again. We all scan the parks and baby groups for the sight of someone else who is barely existing on three hours sleep and whose baby won’t eat anything but bread and ice cream on a continuous loop.
There is more that unites us than divides us.
There are, of course, other single mothers, and single fathers too. Women and men who lost their partners, who were widowed, abandoned or more commonly, whose relationships simply didn’t go the distance. We are not a small group, us single mothers.
Then there’s me, the single mother by choice.
I have met other women in my situation, but only by looking for them; by joining online and offline groups of people who decided that donor conception was right for them. We seem to be growing in number, but that may just be my perception, skewed by media interest and by my own efforts to find like-minded women.
I don’t tend to bump into other single mothers by choice in the park. We are still few in number, and a matter of curiosity to others. Why did you do it? How did you do it? How did you choose the “father”? Am I allowed to call him the “father”? Good for you! I’d have done the same if I hadn’t met my husband. That’s all very modern, isn’t it?
I can still remember when I first learned of donor conception. I was fifteen years old. It was the mid-nineties, and I was a Year 10 student doing GCSE coursework on Medical Ethics. I found myself drawn to the topic of assisted reproduction as my chosen field of study. It felt at once both completely alien to me and my teenage inexperience, but at the same time highly relevant, a symbol of the increasing choices that women had, the feeling that the world was my oyster, and my destiny was there for the taking. It’s easy to say now that I must have had some premonition of what lay ahead, but the reality was probably more that learning about the many and complex issues surrounding the still-new topic of assisted reproduction sounded difficult in comparison to the age-old topics of contraception and abortion that most of the class had chosen, and that were amply covered in the textbook, and I relished the challenge of learning about something new.
Upon learning that there were women who chose to conceive on their own with donor sperm, I considered it briefly, and quickly pushed the thought aside as a kind of hideous last resort for the old, the unlovable and undesirable. Surely that wasn’t me.
But as I grew older the thought of taking control, of not leaving my desire for motherhood to the cruel hand of fate and chance, became more seductive.
It wasn’t until I was 32 that I even considered it. Still young, for a single mother by choice. For many the decision itself takes years of deliberation, and a level of acceptance needs to be reached that the time is up for finding the right man; the perfect father to our children that we all dreamed of. Following an unplanned but hardly unusual first trimester miscarriage that felt to me like a warning signal from above, a reminder that I needed to get on with it if I didn’t want to be child-free in perpetuity and not by choice, I started to look into my options, and had some fertility tests. The results were not catastrophic, but neither were they reassuring. I needed to get my metaphorical skates on.
I am an impulsive person. Perhaps this has served me well. Perhaps it has not, depending on one’s personal viewpoint. I can make a life-changing decision in the time it takes most people to make a cup of tea. In my case, there was very little deliberation. Once I knew that sperm banks existed, they were almost affordable, give or take a bit of liberty with the credit card; and before my previous miscarriage, I had already confronted the reality of being a single parent and found it not hideous, nothing could change my mind. I was doing this.
I was lucky. I was certainly not young in childbearing terms, but I was far from ancient, and with a decent clinic I conceived on my first cycle of IVF.
And so I became a Single Mother by Choice. And to my eternal surprise, I am not only accepted by those who went down a more conventional path, but I have more in common with them than I do many of my child-free friends. We are on this journey together, this journey of parenthood with all its many highs and lows. Unlike the other single parents I know, I don’t have a co-parenting relationship to navigate with someone with whom my romantic relationship has irretrievably broken down. That is a bonus. My decisions are mine to make, and mine only. I also have the fear; a fear that is usually well hidden but occasionally surfaces. The fear that as a donor-conceived person, my child will feel different; that he will resent me for the decision I have made. And given the newness of our situation, the untried nature of donor conception and the constantly evolving laws that govern its use, it is impossible to say what he, and others like him, will think of their origins. They may not care, and see it as their normal, something that has never affected their lives. Or on the other hand they may be tracking down the donor and demanding a lifetime’s worth of birthday presents.
I do not know what the future holds. But I do know that I love my son and I hope my love will be enough for him. And the rest is in the hands of that cruel mistress Fate again. Families are all different, and so are individuals. I just have to be the best mother I can be, and hope that my best is good enough.
This post also appeared on the Huffington Post as part of their Thriving Families series.
35 Comments Add yours
What an honest post. You are one brave woman to choose to do it alone. I salute you.
I think your son will admire you. xxx
Thanks-I hope so!
Fair play for doing it your way and it is important to be happy X
Thanks, and thank you for commenting!
I think you come across as so together and really in control of your own destiny. Having recently become a single mother due to my relationship breakdown I can totally see the benefit of doing away with the co-parenting bit! There are definitely some positives to having a dad with some involvement too obvs (and also his side of the family) but I applaud you for going out and fulfilling your destiny – I was never so sure about my maternal instinct at the age of 32! Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout again – lovely to have you back! 🙂
Lovely to be back! Yes I think there are positives and negatives with both. Thanks for commenting.
With the fact that we are currently going through egg donation, I found your post really interesting. If I knew then what I knew now, then I certainly would have looked at the route you have taken. A great post. #TheTruthAbout
Thanks. I’ve read a little bit about your journey on your blog. Best of luck and I’ve got everything crossed for you.
lovely post. I think its a great thing that you knew exactly what you wanted and You took control of your life and made the decision to be a single parent. Your son is very lucky to have you as a loving mom. #stayclassymama ?
Thank you. That’s a lovely thing to say!
Loved reading this post, so honest, thanks for that. It’s strange to me that in this ‘modern society’ there are still things that some people find to be out of the ordinary. I think you made a great decision and you will always have your son. It’s an amazing thing that people are now able to make that choice and it’s great that people can do that, rather than worry about body clocks and finding the right person on time. I’m sure your son will just be glad that he has you and that you loved and wanted him so much to go through this process in the first place, I’m sure IVF isn’t a massively pleasant experience. Thanks for sharing. #fabfridaypost
Thank you for your lovely comment!
A very open and honest post. Your son is a part of you and I’m sure when he is old enough to understand he will admire and love you even more. Thank you so much for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost
I hope so! Thanks for commenting.
Absolutely, I don’t think it matters which way it goes, at the end of the day we all have parenting in common and that should be enough. Good on you. Thank you for linking up to the #DreamTeam
Thanks for hosting and commenting!
Great post, its your life – you made a great choice! Its wonderful that this option is open to us, I think you’re quite inspirational – especially as you blog about it so honestly and openly! There will be women out there contemplating this option and I hope they come across your blog and posts #stayclassymama
Thanks, I hope so too. I’d like people to know that’s it’s probably easier than they think.
I admire your ability to make decisions and stick to them! I deliberate over every little thing and then doubt myself once I’ve made my decision – it drives me up the wall! Haha.
I have a friend who adopted as a young single mummy and they’re very happy together 🙂
Thanks! It’s a blessing in some ways, but a curse in others. I can only go shopping on my own as it’s literally in 2 shops, buy everything and out again for coffee and cake. No messing about, and I can’t stand it when I’m shopping with someone and they can’t make a decision about what to buy. It means I end up spending a lot of money on stuff I don’t really need though!
You knew what you wanted and you did it! You are very brave but I’m glad there are others you can gain support from. I’m sure your son will be fine with a mum like you who loves him. Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst
Thanks-I hope so!
Lovely, thought provoking post. #fortheloveofBLOG
Such an honest and beautifully written post. I imagine the bond that you share with your son will definitely outweigh any resent that he may have, I think he will admire you for being such a strong mama. #Bestandworst
I hope so! Thanks for commenting.
I have NO DOUBT that your love will be enough for your son and that your best is good enough. He is a very lucky boy to have such an articulate and thoughtful Mum and such a postive rolemodel showing him how important it is to go after what you want it life even if this isn’t always what some may see as following the ‘normal route’. Loved reading this. #fortheloveofBLOG x
Thank you for your lovely comment!
Hi Min, what a powerful post this is. Just because Piglet was conceived via a sperm donor does not mean that you don’t love him any differently, or make your parenting choices any differently. From meeting you and reading your post, you love Piglet so much, and that’s what matters. It may be difficult when you have to tell him how he was conceived, however with more and more sperm donations happening and advances in medical science I would hope to see if becoming more and more normal. Please don’t worry about that now, you are doing an amazing job. Thanks for sharing this post at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x
Thanks for your lovely comment Claire. I do worry about how he will react to it all when he’s older, but hopefully as he has never known any different it will just be normal to him.
Such a beautiful and honest written post. I image you and your son together. You are strong woman because single mom is not easy, you overcome the prejudices and difficultes in taking care of your child. My mom is single mom, not only my mom is dificult but also I was teasing and until now I feel hurt. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for commenting!
As a new single mother by choice (smbc) I found your article by chance and was able to relate to the things you said so well. Im pretty open about my choice to be a smbc and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I only ask myself why i didnt have my daughter earlier.
Thanks for your comment. Glad you could relate.