Why I Became a Single Mother By Choice
With the increased use of the term “single parent”, I find it important to open the discussion about being an actual Solo Parent. Why not start with my own journey to becoming one?
A single mother by choice (SMBC) is a woman who chooses to have a child on her own. This is typically achieved through the use of a sperm donor or adoption. A single mother by choice is also called a choice mom. And a growing number of women are choosing to parent without a partner.
So, why did I become one?I will be very honest. Did I have a lifelong dream of being a single /solo parent, and doing it all by myself, with no partner? What do you think? Of course not! Has my journey as a Single Mom By Choice been a dream come true? Hell yes, it has! Let me explain.
Let's start with a little backstory on me and how I ended up Mom to the most amazing of humans. Approaching age 40, I had already lost my mother to cancer- a woman who herself had ended up a single parent when my father was unable to parent because of his mental illness, during my adolescence. I had no siblings, hardly any extended family, and no relationship that held the promise of marriage or family. So, there I was with almost no support, and a ticking fertility clock.
I had some children in my life whom I adored, and who had sparked the fire of desire to be a mother myself. I knew if I chose to wait for my Mr. Right there was a strong chance I would miss my opportunity to birth a child.
I had never heard the term “Single Mother By Choice”, but I had known some solo mothers growing up, mostly who had adopted on their own. And they were wonderful parents. And my own mother was a parenting bad ass, who raised me with enough love for multiple parents. I was lucky enough at this point in my life to have the finances to even consider becoming a solo parent. It can be an expensive prospect, unfortunately. I can't say exactly when I decided to jump into the unknown, but the next few months were a blur of sperm bank visits, inseminations, miscarriages, doctor appointments, acupuncture and hormone treatments. Eventually I ended up agreeing to one final attempt, and through one round of IVF I became pregnant, and this time it stuck.
I will save my crazy high risk pregnancy and premature birth story for another day, but I will tell you it was far from smooth. Four months of bed rest and multiple emergency hospitalizations left me with extreme anxiety and feelings of loneliness. “What had I gotten myself into?”, I thought. And when he was born two months early I navigated the NICU and handled his health issues and developmental delays. Partnerless. My own experience with postpartum PTSD and anxiety/depression even led me to my current career.
Yet, here I was, wrapped in the middle of my very own family now. A family of two. Motherhood has been more than I could have ever imagined - both in its difficulty and its immense joy. Quickly I began to realize that this human was never going to fill some void for me, nor should he. He was not going to show up as I wanted him to, he had instead shown up exactly as he was supposed to. For HIMSELF.
Being a SMBC does not come with a manual, just as parenthood can be a fly by the seat of your pants operation. But there are specific situations that you navigate as a SMBC that you otherwise may not: How to tell your child about how they came to be (and when)? What do you tell other people about their parentage? How do you fill in the gap that a second parent might have filled?
I noticed that as soon as he was born that I began to tell anyone who would listen that I was a SMBC, and his “father” was a lovely man who donated his sperm so I could become a mother. Partly because I wanted to help normalize what I had done, and partly to combat the internalized embarrassment I recognized. The judgemental and fearful inner voice that told me that somehow I had only done this because I “couldn't get a partner to do it with”. I hated that pesky little voice, the one that told me I was less than. So I talked over it, and told anyone who would listen that the gorgeous child they were ooh-ing and aah-ing over was a sperm donor baby. I chatted up every new mom telling them it was normal if they were struggling, that it was totally okay if motherhood was harder or more lonely than they had imagined. I offered my cell phone number to anyone who asked if they could talk to me about being a SMBC.
One day I realized that while being a sole parent was incredibly hard, tiring and financially burdensome, I also have it easier (in some ways). My values and my parenting style are the holy grail, and I do not have to balance it with anyone else's parenting opinions. All of my attention and love are put into this vibrant, glorious child, with no need to share or dilute. The times I miss having someone around are not the “hard” times anymore. I could have used that person in the beginning, when my son was chronically ill, and I desperately needed sleep. Now, it's different. My son is incredibly independent and self regulated, is thriving and has a baseline of joy that I marvel at. Now the moments where I notice that I am really doing this solo are when something cute happens, or when he has a “first”. I look around my house, and want so badly to revel in his adorableness as a team, or see someone else admire him. I wish to see him through their eyes. Thankfully, I have created a loving tribe for both of us, who are but a facetime away. My son is not short on the experience of true family
In fact, he recently wrote a paper for a second grade assignment on his family tree. (Don't get me started on my frustration at the archaic binary when he came home with a tree saying “Mother “ and “Father”). We chose to use the assignment as a growth opportunity for his classmates, and he focused his paper on the multiple types of families- including LGBTQ +, step families, adopted families and ones made with the help of doctors and donors. One of his self-written lines was, “My family is both large, and simultaneously small. Some of them are related to me by blood, but others by love”. I mean, come on!! What an utterly gorgeous way for him to understand the family we have created for ourselves. I may not have ended up with the family I dreamt of, but it is MY family, I made it, and it is PERFECT.
For more information on SMBC, feel free to check out https://www.singlemothersbychoice.org. Or get in touch with me!