Refusing to Wallow in My Single Status

Originally posted on February 8, 2015  on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

With Valentine’s Day looming, one might think this single woman is sitting around reminiscing about dates of Valentines’ past. And I have had some delightful ones: the dark and sweet Mr. Russell Stover, the rich, Vermont hippies Ben & Jerry. Sure, the memories linger on my lips…or is that hips? Regardless, my days of loathing Valentine’s Day ended back in high school, with only the occasional relapse since, and those were really just an excuse to gorge on chocolate. As I start my journey to become a single mother, I don’t want to waste my energy cursing Cupid—or mourning Mr. Right.

As any good English teacher and writer would, when I got to the stage of acting on my decision to have a child, I turned to books, lots of books. One that was touted as a classic for women in my situation, likely because it was one of the first to be written, was Single Mothers by Choice: A Guidebook for Single Women Who Are Considering or Have Chosen Motherhood by Jane Mattes.

I loved the Single Mothers By Choice website and had already joined the forums and found the information and support there to be super. But the book was published in 1994. A lot has changed since then. The definition of family has expanded a great deal, and non-traditional (divorced, blended, single parent, and gay couple) families actually outnumber traditional families. (A super cool statistic for a liberal chick looking to join these ranks!) It was still a good place to start, though. Knowing what women who paved the way for me encountered is sobering and important. And when it came down to it, most of the book still applies today, even the part that irked me most.

The book spends a considerable amount of time reminding single mothers/single mothers to-be that it’s okay—healthy, in fact—to mourn the loss of the husband they never found, to pay emotional respects to the Prince Charming who never showed up. Okay, I might have dramatized the wording here a bit, but the message was in there—frequently.

The first mention or two I rolled my eyes. I thought perhaps the author wanted to recognize the few readers who wallowed in their single status. The next few mentions, I shook my head. Does the author want me to wallow? By mention six or seven, I was just miffed. I want to have a baby, for god’s sake, not hold a freakin’ funeral! If I was so damn desperate to change my Facebook status from single to anything but, I would have settled by now—and that, my friends, would be something worth mourning!

Yup, I was riding my high horse all around Single-ville singing “All the ladies, independent…” at full volume. It was almost loud enough to drown out the quiet little voice in the back of my head, the one telling me, “but she’s kind of right.”

Because the author is right in some respects. I don’t like the word “mourning,” which I feel is better suited for something I lost. I never had Mr. Right. Certainly I had the dream of finding him, but mourning a dream would be the equivalent of acknowledging it is utterly dead. I’m not there yet. I can still dream of finding a great man, one who’ll accept me and the child I hope to have, and we’ll both be better for it, because I’ll be certain I’m loving him for the right reasons, not because he’s the best thing to show up before my clock runs down.

At some point in being single, though, you do need accept that Cupid hasn’t come. Mr. Right hasn’t shown up and may never show up, and you need to learn to be okay with that. I may not have mourned Mr. Right and his absence, but I threw some fantastically tearful pity parties along the way—after awful first dates that made me wonder if dating was even worth it, after good first dates that never made it to second dates, and especially after fifth or six dates with nice guys who just weren’t my Mr. Right. I won’t even talk about the people who sent wedding invites without a hopeful “plus guest.” (I implore you, don’t do it!)

The tears never lasted too long, though, because I learned to be happy in my own skin. I learned to fill my life with people I love and respect and with fulfilling hobbies that allow me to grow and learn. This was after filling my face with pints of Ben & Jerry’s, of course, but I got there, eventually.

I think, or hope, at least, that this is what Ms. Mattes’ was really getting at. You need to go into this process already loving life and being fulfilled.

She might not have wanted to say it outright, but I can, since I’m here at the starting line: having a baby isn’t a Band-Aid to heal the ‘wound’ of being single. I want to have a child so I can share the joy I find in life already.

Which is the same reason I wanted, and still want, to someday find a husband. Not to complete me (sorry, Jerry Maguire, but I’m already complete), but to love, challenge, respect, and push me to be an even better form of the person I already love.

Until then, though, I will not blame the chubby cherub of love. And I will not mourn anybody or anything. I’m not beginning this journey because I’ve lost something. I’m beginning it to share all I have found: joy, love, hope, and wonder. And Ben & Jerry’s.

photo credit: Showers of Love (CC) via photopin (license)

Pre-Conception Plans and Decisions

Originally posted on January 25, 2015 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

As the country preps for Super Bowl Sunday by making tough decisions (full-body or just face paint? boneless or bone-in?), I’ve been making some pretty super-sized pre-game decisions myself.

When I played youth soccer, my pre-game routine involved meditating with my legs crossed, goalie gloves on, ball in hand, visualizing acrobatic saves of the sort I could only dream of making. But we did have a perfect record: we never won a game. Zen I was; Belichick I was not. By college, pre-gaming took on a whole new meaning. For some it still ended with scoring. For me, I never enjoyed the bar scene and never scored more than a killer headache, so I guess I botched that, too.

Now that I’m gearing up to become a single mother, I’m hoping a couple decades of experience and endless hours of research will lead to a more successful pre-game, or pre-conception plan. And though every mom-to-be’s path will vary, I’m also hoping that hearing my thought process might make some of the toughest decisions a little easier for the next woman.

How single women do it

Adoption or conception. Both are great options, and each appealed to me, for different reasons. Since I can’t have a baby without a little help myself, adoption seemed like a wonderful opportunity to in turn help a woman who needed a loving family for her child. Unfortunately, not all adoption agencies consider a family of one adequate, and even those that do were unaffordable to this single chick without taking out a serious loan, something I’d rather not do if I have another option. Luckily, I’ve always wanted to experience pregnancy. I’ve already got big feet and cankles, so I might as well have something miraculous accompany them, right?

Where?

It never even occurred to me that single women had options for this question. I just assumed if Mr. Right wasn’t doing the job that Dr. Somebody ought to be. Actually, though, there are other choices. Frankly, when I first heard the term “turkey-baster method,” I chuckled, and when I saw there were instructional YouTube videos, I ran. But for some women who want to save money and try conceiving at home, it’s a viable option. (And I was relieved to learn it usually involves a sterile syringe rather an actual turkey baster.) Others, who seek the comfort of home but the knowledge of a pro, hire a mid-wife to do the insemination. I suppose this might be the best of both worlds, but for me, if I can’t have an expert in the art of lovemaking, I want an expert in the field of reproduction. Enter the RE, or reproductive endocrinologist.

There are no shortages of fertility clinics these days, and at least in Massachusetts, where I live, all are welcoming to and experienced with the needs of single women. With so many choices, I picked a clinic with satellite offices close to my home and work, and one that a couple close to me recommended. With these choices made, only one big play was left to call.

Who’s Your Daddy?

With Prince Charming absent, an unknown donor was the only option I considered here. Some women have male friends whom they feel comfortable enough asking for a ‘free sample.’ I don’t. And even if I did, I’d think long and hard about this one. Unless you’re trying the at-home methods, you’re not actually saving money, as the sperm will still need to be tested and frozen for a time by the clinic to assure it’s safe and viable.

More importantly, you could be opening yourself up to future challenges that would not only destroy your friendship, but could also affect your future child. According to Single Mothers by Choice, no matter what legal documents are drawn up ahead of time, once the child is a reality, courts will almost always rule on the side of providing the child with access to both biological parents. So if your friend later decides he wants to be a dad, not just a donor, you could lose sole custody. Those are muddy waters I’d rather not ever have to wade through. I’m accepting the fact I don’t have a suitable dad for my future child (yet) and will need the help of an unknown, but much appreciated stranger. Choosing that perfect stranger is another challenge for another day.

There are dozens more decisions to be made, some of which I’ll gladly write about at a later date, but I’ve learned from my past not to cling too tightly to pre-laid plans. Our choices change as life changes. That’s okay. Sometimes the best plays are the audibles called on the line of scrimmage.

Book referenced: Mattes, Jane. Single Mothers by Choice: A Guidebook for Single Women Who Are Considering or Have Chosen Motherhood. New York: Times, 1994.

Photo credit: Richard Berg via photopin cc

Skipping Steps to My Happily-Ever-After

Originally posted January 11, 2015 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

Most women’s journey to motherhood begins with a trip to the bedroom. Mine began with a trip to my parents’ basement. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as kinky as that sounds.

While visiting my parents, I spied a pile of nostalgia on a dusty shelf downstairs: old photos, yearbooks, and my senior year psychology project. I think the project was supposed to be a sketch of our lives from birth to death, but hand a bunch of adolescents an assignment like this, and you’re just asking for a suburban girl’s mash-up of Sex in the City meets Cinderella, complete with magazine cut-outs of wedding dresses and beaus-to-be. I didn’t think of myself as overly boy-crazy back then. I certainly didn’t keep bridal clippings in my nightstand like some of my friends, but I was raised on Disney princesses, too. I knew how life was supposed to work out.

  • Step 1: Go to a top-ranked college. Get a degree in some glamorous major that will inevitably lead you to step two.
  • Step 2: Get settled in a fab career. Look good doing it (learn to wear glass slippers, or at least heels and suits with short skirts). Make a small fortune so you can achieve step three.
  • Step 3: Settle down and flaunt your independence. Get your finances in order. Buy a condo. Buy a house. Buy a closet like Carrie Bradshaw (really, who needs the rest?). Knowing you’re capable of step three will assure that you won’t settle when it comes to the all-important step four.
  • Step 4: Find a husband. Better yet, have him find you. Make him work for it. (After all, this is the teenage dream/Disney romance version, and I don’t recall Snow White whoring herself out on forty-five dating sites.) Once you’re adequately wooed, get married and move on to making whoopee—the only way you ever thought of getting to step five.
  • Step 5: Start a family. 
Have a kid. Have six. Get a nanny. Get a dog. It’s all good, because you and Prince Charming are in it together.

 Throw in a picket fence, and call it a day (or 18-25 years). Then kick up your feet and wait for grandbabies. That’s all that’s left before step six: kicking the bucket. (Retirement and life after kids wasn’t exactly fathomable to my teenage self.)

Perusing the pages I’d so proudly assembled at eighteen, I laughed at how naïve I was. I did get into a good school, but did not become the next Diane Sawyer. I never learned to wear heels, nor would I ever want a job now that would require them. The closet like Carrie’s kind of came, but it’s stuffed with hoodies and jeans in all sizes from fit to fat. Those first three steps aren’t exactly what I had in mind in high school, but I’m okay with the changes I made as I went along.

What never changed was my desire to reach steps four and five. I gave up the dream of bumping into Mr. Right, or even Mr. Big, and falling instantly in love. I came to grips with the fact I’d have to work for it. I’d have to put myself out there…and here…oh, and over there, too. I might not have exhausted all avenues, but I eventually exhausted myself. And time. Lots of time.

You can joke all you want about biological clocks tick-tocking away. But when it’s slowly becoming your reality, it’s a little less funny. So what’s a woman perpetually stuck on step three to do? Throw herself into her career, her home, her passions? Check. One master’s degree, one townhouse, two trips abroad, and four novels later, and guess what? I never forgot about those last few steps. I’m still on the lookout for my prince, but I’m also ready to move on.

Recently I took the first official step to becoming a single mother by choice. But my journey really began years ago, maybe even before I wrote that psychology project, when I decided that being a mother and raising a child was something I was meant to do, wanted to do, no matter what else came and went in my life. Maybe Prince Charming will never come. Or maybe he’ll come when I least expect it. Or maybe he’s already come (pun only partially intended) in the form of a donor willing to help me with this next step. But to mangle the words of Langston Hughes, I ain’t got no crystal ball, “But I won’t set down on the steps/’Cause I finds it’s kinder hard…/For I’se still goin’, honey, I’se still climbing’”

Even if it means skipping steps.

Photo credit: sugarsharrk via photopin cc