One and Done

One and Done.

Some people want and plan to have just one child. Others are physically unable to have a second and make the decision not to adopt another. Other families who had planned to have more decide after having one child that their family feels complete.

I don’t fit into any of those categories. I’d always planned on having two or three kids. Then again, I’d always planned on having a partner to help. While it wasn’t easy to conceive, I was able to and probably would be able to again. And while I love my little man more than I ever thought possible, I feel I have more love to share—maybe not right in the middle of his toddler and teething stages, but certainly down the road.

But the fact is, I am probably a ‘one and done’ mom. Financially at this point, it wouldn’t be feasible or responsible for me to bring another child into our lives.

And frankly, that sucks. And it makes me sad.

I thought I’d gotten over the fact I hadn’t met someone to raise a family with well before little man arrived. What I haven’t gotten over is the limitations of being a single mother. Because I didn’t know until I had my son how amazing the experience of being pregnant would be, or what it felt like to fall in love with someone over and over again as they grew and changed almost daily, or how much I wanted to share all the things I love about life with someone else who is still wide-eyed at the world around him, or how cool it would be to see my nephew with his younger sister and cousin and wish my son could have the experience of being a big brother too. In short, I never knew just how much I was meant to be a mom.

Maybe I’m just feeling sad over my inability to afford a second child because my hormones are changing again as I (slowly) begin the weaning process. Or possibly I’m worried about raising an only child, because I didn’t know any growing up, don’t know many now, and worry about that being yet another thing that will be different about our family. Or maybe my ovaries are aching because some of my friends and acquaintances, including a few other single mothers, are in the process of trying for more, and I’m a little nostalgic and a little, or a lot, jealous.

I know for sure it’s in part due to the fact that I’ve already begun to realize my little man and I are leaving behind certain stages, and while I love watching him grow and make new leaps, I’m sad to say goodbye to some of those infant things forever.

I know my son still has a lifetime of firsts ahead of him. First sentence. First bike ride. First time on the potty. First day of school. And I know if I had a second child, he or she would also grow through the stages more quickly than I would like, and I’d soon be saying goodbye to babyhood all over again. But I can’t help but think everyone who wants to should get to do this parenting thing at least twice, because maybe the second time I’d be more aware, more in the moment, more appreciative of all the little firsts—and lasts.

My chances of having a second are about the same as winning the lottery, because that’s likely what would have to occur. And that does suck, and it does make me sad. But realizing it now while little man is still so small also provides an opportunity, a chance to cherish every amazing moment with my guy—and to comfort myself during those less-than-amazing moments. He may be my “one and done,” so I have no one to hold back for, no one for whom to say, “next time…” There is just this time. There is just us. And we will make the most of it.

But I will occasionally still play the Powerball. Just in case.

 

Photo credit: Christine Passler

It’s the Little Things

In my previous post I shared that I haven’t found the single part of single parenting as trying as I (and others) might have expected. I was used to doing all the chores, paying all the bills, and asking for help when I hit upon something I couldn’t figure out myself. Okay, that part about asking for help was a lie, but I got much better about it during my pregnancy and the first few weeks after my c-section. The rest, though, was true. Most days I’m perfectly content washing all the bottles and dishes, so long as I also get the majority of the snuggles.

That doesn’t mean that it isn’t nice to have help, though. Some help—the trip to get medicine for the baby in the middle of a snow storm when you’re sick yourself type of help—is certainly nice. It’s amazing actually, and it’s also necessary at times. But what about the kind of help you’d never ask for, the unnecessary help, help with the things you can do yourself, but every now and then just want to pawn off on someone else?

My parents moved closer when I made my decision to become a single mom. In fact, they now live a half mile up the street from me—most of the year. Like a lot of women, I relied heavily on them for the necessary help new moms, single or not, need those first few weeks and months. But even after that I took advantage of their eagerness to spend time with my guy so I could not only run errands solo or complete a project around the house (like showering), but also so I could occasionally get a pedicure with a friend or attend book club without the baby in tow.

I appreciated their help tremendously, and I knew I’d miss it when they returned to being snowbirds in sunny Florida. I even worried about whether I could really handle things without help, both the necessary and the nice, literally just around the corner. Both little man and I getting the flu a week after they left was definitely my first real test, but we survived with help from friends and family members and just by doing our best. Once we were both healthy, our days fell into a routine, and I discovered the things that needed to get done got done just fine.

Over February break I was lucky enough to travel with little man to visit my parents in Florida. I expected it to be fun—experiencing so many firsts with my son would be amazing (it was!). But I also knew relaxing vacations of baking in the sun and staying up to read until 2am (by choice) were likely over for a couple decades. I was okay with that (and my dermatologist was thrilled). Instead of loading my kindle and packing my aloe, I packed baby sunscreen and bubbles.

I wasn’t in the sunshine state 24 hours, though, when I realized I was more relaxed, and it wasn’t just the weather and lack of work. It was the little things. While my parents spoiled little man, I luxuriated in a long, hot shower (and even shaved my legs!) and didn’t worry about whether the baby would wake up or if he was safe while he played unsupervised as I tried to speed soap the necessary places. And after meals I didn’t have to make the decision between putting away food and doing the dishes or spending a few last minutes playing with him before bed. With three of us, there were plenty of volunteers to play, and enough of us left to make quick work of the cleaning. We even tag-teamed sleeping so that my mom and I got some after bedtime shopping in, and I got an hour of nap time tanning one day.

Except maybe the mother-daughter shopping spree (we had expiring coupons!), none of these little luxuries lasted long, but they still felt rejuvenating. It reminded me once again how fantastically supportive my parents are, but it also reminded me that treating myself to a little nice, but not necessary help, time, or support every now and then is good for the soul. And a happy momma = a happy home!

 

The Hardest Part of Being a Single Mom

When I first reached out to friends and family to tell them of my decision to become a single mother by choice, I expected people to tell me it would be hard, harder than I could imagine, maybe too hard to really want to do it on my own. And while I was lucky to receive tremendous support of my decision, a few friends and family members were honest enough to tell me this, not to scare me off, but to make sure I knew what I was getting into.

I appreciated the honesty, but I knew what I was getting into. (Go ahead, you can laugh at me now.)

I’d heard the stories of rough labors, seen my friends and family members’ struggles with nursing, tried to offer help and comfort when exhaustion, or illness, or the newest tough stage of development had worn them thin. I knew it was different standing on the outside, but I also felt their experiences had to have taught me something. Knowing there would be tough days, expecting them, had to be better than going into this single motherhood thing blind, right?

I won’t lie; I worried about those days before I got pregnant. I worried about them more once I was expecting and there was no turning back. I had moments of panic when I thought to myself, ‘What have I done?’ But then I’d feel a flutter or a kick, or hear the sweet sound of my baby’s heartbeat on a monitor, and I would remind myself there would be amazing moments, too. I reminded myself I wasn’t the first single parent. I had spoken with single moms I knew and others I met through my journey, and they all said the same thing: it’s worth it. And I felt that in my heart. I was meant to do this; that had to count for something. So I took a few deep breaths and went back to happily (and naively) waddling through my nine months.

When little man finally arrived on the scene, I realized…I had had no idea what I was getting into.

I didn’t know how hard it was to hear your baby cry and not know how to help. I didn’t know I could be so tired it hurt. I didn’t know how scared I could feel hearing doctors say something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t know how impossible it would be some days to juggle work and home.

Basically, I never loved someone so much that I wanted the world for him and would do anything, give anything to assure his safety and happiness. I had never been a mother.

There have been days in the last ten months that have been hard, harder than I imagined even after seeing others’ struggles, hard enough to bring me to tears. But I honestly don’t think those days would have been easier if I had a partner. I wouldn’t have worried less, slept sounder, or likely received any more support than I’ve gotten from my amazing network of family and friends. And I wouldn’t give them up for the world, because those hard moments make the amazing ones all that much more special.

So is being a single mother hard? Hell, yes! Because being a mother is hard. The single part isn’t too tricky. (I could give you pointers, but that’s another post.) I’ve been single all of my adult life. That’s about the only thing that didn’t change when I had a baby.

That’s not to say that being single won’t pose additional challenges as I parent in the future, but each type of family structure comes with its own challenges—and its own perks. For instance, I’d certainly love to have someone else to do bedtime or wash bottles occasionally, but, on the plus side, I’ll never feel resentful or argue with myself for leaving dishes in the sink or laundry on the floor. And luckily, I’ve got at least a couple years before I’ll be arguing with little man about those things!

 

Photo credit: Christine Passler

Twisting the Tale

An alternative to the old (and outdated) ‘Once upon a time…’

I never had much interest in princesses, preferring jeans and sneakers to ball gowns and glass slippers even as a young girl. But that’s not to say that I didn’t grow up thinking someday I’d experience my own fairytale romance. When I reached 35 and was still single, though, I started to think that fantasy would never morph into my reality.

In the two years since, my ‘Once upon a time’ has taken some drastic turns. Tired of waiting for my prince to arrive and fed up with unsuccessfully scouring the suburban realms for him, I decided to skip the being-swept-off-my-feet stage, at least for now. Instead I chose to jump right to the chapter of the story entitled Motherhood. As any writer does, I made a few edits and a few errors. And life threw in some plot twists of its own to spice things up. The result, after a couple months of researching, half a year of fertility treatments, and a wonderful (but at times trying) pregnancy, is a beautiful baby boy.

I know I’m just beginning my adventures in motherhood, but I can’t help look in my son’s face every morning and feel like I’ve been given my happily ever after—minus Prince Charming.

While I don’t miss my prince (you can’t miss what you never had), it’s not always easy being a single mom by choice. Yes, I’m queen of my own castle, ruler of my own kingdom, and my own knight in shining armor all in one. But I’m also responsible for paying all the bills, changing all the diapers, and assuring my own little prince grows up to be the kind of man who both holds the door and appreciates a princess who can hold her own.

But hey, no one ever said happily ever after wasn’t a lot of work. It is worth it, though. So worth it.

Forgiving Myself for My Emotions While Trying to Conceive

Originally posted July 26, 2015 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

Why is it when you’re trying not to think too much about something, it’s all you see? When you’re dieting, every commercial is for pizza and ice cream. When you’re dreading back to school, every display in the grocery store is tormenting you with shiny new pencils. And when you’re trying to conceive (TTC), pregnant ladies pop up like dandelions all over the place.

For some women TTC, pregnancy announcements, baby showers, and even events with kids of friends and family can be emotionally gut wrenching. They are reminders of what they so desperately want but haven’t yet been able to achieve. Jealousy isn’t exactly a trait someone strives for, which leads one to feeling guilty and wondering if she’s being selfish. It can turn into a torturous cycle of pain and self-loathing.

Do I know all this from my own TTC experience? Not exactly, but I sure know the feelings described above all too well. I experienced them in my twenties when it seemed every trip to the mailbox brought another invitation to a wedding I’d be attending as a singleton. All I wanted was to be starting a family with the right guy. Instead I was getting a collection of cocktail and bridesmaid dresses I’d never wear again. And I hated it. I didn’t hate that my friends were finding amazing men to marry and be happy with. I loved that part. I genuinely squealed in delight at each engagement announcement. And I was honored to attend, and especially to be a part of my closest friends’ ceremonies (and luckily, they all picked great bridesmaids dresses, too!). But I hated that somewhere in the back of my head, or my heart, I felt jealous and sad. It made me feel like an awful friend, an awful person.

Since then I’ve begun to learn, with the help of a few friends who give great advice on the subject, that no one should feel guilty for their emotions.

If you feel something, there’s a reason you feel that way. It’s not healthy to plaster on a smile and bury it, and it’s even worse to chastise yourself for it. I still might hold something in until I reach the car, turn on the shower, have dinner with a friend, or am on the phone with my mom, but I’m getting to a point where I can be a little more open about how I feel, at least to those closest to me.

So, yes, there are moments when I occasionally feel a pang of jealously or longing when I spend time with my nieces and nephew, or when a coworker announces she’s pregnant, or even walking through the maternity department at Target to get to the dressing rooms—I can’t help it, some of those tops are adorable. But rather than hate myself for feeling something completely normal, I’m learning to acknowledge it, deal with it (shopping therapy, anyone?), and then enjoy the high of sharing in another’s happiness.

And, surprisingly, it’s a lot easier than you think, especially when one of those quickly growing bundles of joy looks at you and says “Aunnie” for the first time. (He’s still working on that ‘t’.)

***

On a side note, I wanted to thank you all for your concern and support after my last post. Your positive thoughts and prayers did the trick; the cyst was indeed the kind that goes away on its own. I’ll be able to start treatment again next month!

In the meantime, Sarah and Evie have offered me an opportunity to expand my topics here. So while I’m still working on making my little miracle happen, I’ll also be doing a series of posts related to back to school issues. Yes, it will soon be that time!

 

Photo credit: Milazed

When You’re Trying to Conceive, It’s Not as Easy as “Just Relax”

Originally posted June 28, 2015 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

If you’re looking to get slapped upside the head, there’s no faster way than telling a woman who’s been unsuccessfully trying to conceive, “Maybe you just need to relax.” First off, the stress of TTC isn’t usually directly related to the act of conception. Though sitting in the stirrups or bedding down at the precise moment your ovulation predictor kit flashes that annoying little smiley face may not be the most exciting or enjoyable way to make babies, it’s not the main cause of stress.

The stress of trying to conceive comes from other sources. It’s from watching your savings dwindle down to nothing. It’s having to take days off work and not being able to tell your students or coworkers or bosses why you’re falling behind. It’s from worrying whether getting too hot running around with the kids on field day or drinking one cold beer mid-cycle was the reason you’re staring down another stark negative. It’s from being relaxed, and positive, and hopeful  for weeks at a time only to face disappointment month after month.

Speaking for myself, I wasn’t a stressed out person before I began this journey, or at least any more than anyone else. This journey has caused additional stress. And like most people TTC, I’m doing my best to deal with it, but there’s no magic stress zapper. Relaxing requires time, patience, and support. Specifically what’s worked to keep me on the side of sanity during my TTC journey has been music, meditation, and amazing friends.

Sing me a song

Music has always had the ability to affect my mood like nothing else can. I’m a sucker for sappy lyrics; I have a long list of songs I can’t hear without bawling, which can be embarrassing when one starts playing in the produce aisle. On the flipside, an upbeat tune can instantly improve my mood. So when I went in for my first IUI, I made myself a playlist of songs that give me hope, make me smile, or turn me into a happy, dancing fool. I listen to it on the drive into the clinic each month and anytime in between when I feel my anxiety spiking. Having my own private dance party in the kitchen or the car helps ease the nerves, and considering I dance even worse than your average short, chubby white girl, it also gives me a much needed opportunity to laugh at myself! You can check out my playlist here.

Deep breaths and downward dogs

I’ve never been able to cross my legs, close my eyes, and meditate on my own. When I’ve tried in the past, my mind has wandered or I’ve fallen asleep. But I have always loved the short, guided meditations that instructors sometimes use at the end of yoga classes. So when I started my TTC journey I looked for an at-home program specifically for woman trying to conceive and discovered the Yoga and Meditation for Fertility DVD by Kate Atkinson. This is not a yoga workout meant to build great strength or endurance. It is a three-part program focusing on helping fertility through reducing stress and increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs with a series of stretches and gentle movements. And, for me, it is the perfect way to relax after a workout or before bed.

Another meditation tool that’s helped me is the Circle and Bloom IVF and IUI Mind Body Program, which is a set of CDs with guided meditation for each day of your cycle. It focuses on breathing, relaxation, and visualization. These were recommended and loaned to me by a friend who had gone through IVF. They may seem a bit expensive to buy on your own, but now that I’ve used them, I would definitely say they’re worth it.

With a little help from my friends

Remaining calm and collected isn’t always easy, and sometimes it’s not even recommended. Sometimes in order to ‘relax’ we first need to deal with what’s stressing us out to begin with. The best way to do that is talking with friends. Whether it’s that friend who’s gone through her own TTC struggles or the one who’s been your soul sister since practically the moment you met, talking with friends about this journey is crucial and comforting. I know that a few days after a negative test I’ll be able to return to the yoga mat or my happy music mix, but in the moments just after, I want to cry, and drink wine, and have a BFF drive across town to comfort me with s’mores and a hug. That’s the first step to “Just relaxing.”

So while I don’t recommend telling a couple or single woman trying to conceive that “Maybe it’ll happen if you just relax,” I do recommend to others in the TTC phase to find what makes you happy, comforted, and calm, and do it. Dance like a fool, drink like a fish (at least for that one night), and downward dog your way to chillax. And if you have a day when none of it works, don’t beat yourself up. Stress is part of life—and parenthood. Think of those bad days as bootcamp for when the baby does come—and it will come, in its own way and its own time.

 

Photo credit: Anya Berkut

Beyond Biology: Why I’m Not (Too) Afraid of Father’s Day

Originally published June 14, 2015 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

As we approach Father’s Day this year, it occurred to me that no one, aside from the social worker whose job it is to broach such tough questions, has asked me about the “daddy issue.” As a single woman hoping to conceive a child with a donor, there will be no father in our family (unless I’m lucky enough to find a husband later in life). I know, despite everyone’s support, at least a few people must have wondered how I feel about raising a child without a dad. The truth? Scared. But also steadfast.

I was raised in a family with two loving parents, a mom and a dad. So were nearly all of my friends. I didn’t even have a friend with divorced parents until high school. So the idea of raising a child in any form of non-traditional family is frightening, but that’s because it’s unknown, not solely because there won’t be a male parental figure. Lots of families don’t have dads, or have two dads and no mom. There’s no perfect equation for a family save that it be filled with love. And my child will have that, plenty of it.

Among the things people don’t want to say to a single woman trying to have a baby is that every child needs positive male relationships. While I appreciate the sensitivity to my emotions, especially now that I’m on added hormones, the fact is, it’s true. Children do need to interact with both male and female caregivers. Whether I have a boy or a girl, he or she will need to understand how to interact with guys. He or she will need to see men in relationships of all kinds to know what’s expected and accepted in our society (and sometimes, I hope, to know when to toss those expectations out the window!). He’ll need to see me interact with men in positive and varied ways to understand how different kinds of male/female relationships work, so that he can have healthy relationships himself. He’ll need to be loved by men, and he’ll need to have men in his life whom he loves in return. And I will do my damnedest to assure my child has all of these things, even if he won’t technically have a daddy—that’s what grandpa, uncle, great uncles, and family friends are for!

Yes, my brother and father’s roles of grandpa and uncle became even more important when I decided to do this without a husband. Luckily for me, there aren’t two men in the world more capable of those jobs! I’ve already been blessed to see my father take on the role of grandpa and my brother become a father. Watching the men I’m closest to transform when that little life, my gorgeous nephew, entered into our world, has truly been a gift. Sure, it’s a little sad that my child won’t have a dad as great as my father or brother. But there is nothing more comforting to me than knowing that they are who my child will think of when he or she thinks of fathers.

Father’s Day might never be an easy holiday to maneuver as a single mother by choice, but I think if the issue of a donor is dealt with honestly and the child’s life is full of wonderful men to emulate, it need not be a landmine of taboo questions or uncomfortable topics. Beyond a biological father, there will still be plenty of fathers for my child and I to honor and celebrate each June.

And, hey, an added hug for mom that day won’t go unappreciated either!