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So, You’re A Single Mother By Choice?
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“The other couples regard me with interest. I bet they are wondering what happened to the father”. Read more about one woman’s story about embracing single motherhood by choice.

The National Childbirth Trust that provides antenatal classes here in the U.K. is full of pregnant women; middle-class women, professional women, women in their thirties. 

Women just like me.

Except for one thing, they are with their partners, and I am alone.

Families come in all shapes and sizes, and all that matters is love.

The teacher takes pity on me, I think.  When she demonstrates the couples’ back rub we are supposed to perform during labour (man strokes woman’s back as she rocks back and forth, gently mooing, while tea lights burn and whalesong plays softly in the background. That’s what labour’s going to be like, right?) she plays the part of my absent birth partner (my mum, who can’t make the 300 mile round trip to be here tonight, and whom I cannot for the life of me imagine giving me a back rub, or even remaining remotely calm and serene in the face of my impending labour, for that matter).

The other couples regard me with interest. I bet they are wondering hat happened to the father. Click To Tweet

The other couples regard me with interest.  What happened to the father, I bet they are wondering.  Poor thing, abandoned and alone in her nine months of need. 

We sit in a circle, and each of the parents-to-be take it in turns to voice their feelings about their impending parenthood.  Despite my smugness at having read up on the stages of labour, I am yet to realise that we are all equally clueless first-time parents, equally oblivious to the manic newborn stages that await us, and that in time, we will all need each other to compare feeding patterns and shades of baby poo.  All the couples are interested in what their babies will look like. Will they take after mum, or dad? 

My turn rolls around, and everyone looks at me expectantly.  “I’m hoping the baby takes after me!”  I say, then qualifying it quickly before I sound like an egomaniac with “because my baby was conceived using a sperm donor, and I don’t know anything about him!”

All the couples are interested in what their babies will look like. Will they take after mum, or dad? My turn rolls around, and everyone looks at me expectantly.

This isn’t quite true.  I know his age, ethnicity, hair colour, eye colour, and grade point average.  Words and numbers on a screen.  I’ve even seen a few pictures, but I know nothing about him, this distant donor.  We’ve never met.  He could be anyone.  The couples and the teacher look suddenly interested, but pretend they all think it’s completely normal.

 

Photo Credit: Elaine Cogan

 

Eventually, weeks later, someone asks.  What do I know about the donor?  How did I choose him?  What do my family think?

It feels a relief to talk about it.  I have always been open about my decision, with friends, family and anyone else who asks, but understandably, people don’t always know what to say, whether they can ask, whether it’s too much information or whether they just don’t know me well enough to broach the subject.

I have been fortunate.  Prior to making the decision to have a baby on my own my knowledge of people’s opinions on the subject were largely limited to fears of Daily Mail comment threads, of hysterical people flailing their moral compasses around yelling about selfish women denying their children a father. 

Why did they leave it so late?  Why are they so worried about their careers?  Why didn’t they get married straight after finishing school to an aristocrat they met during the London Season in 1952 and settle down immediately to birth ten children in a country pile for the Norland nanny to raise?  Were these people, these individuals so aghast over someone else’s life choices, a barometer for public feeling on the subject of having a child on your own?

All parents want their children to settle down as if choosing not to marry is a symptom of emotional immaturity. Click To Tweet

In my experience, they are not.  My family, who I worried would simply wallow in endless disappointment at my lack of ability to snare a husband and “settle down,” as all parents want their children to ultimately do, as though choosing not to marry was a symptom of endless emotional immaturity, have been nothing but supportive.  My mother has been my rock, putting aside the needs of her own career to support me in mine and help me raise my son.  I know not everybody is lucky enough to have that support.  My friends, my acquaintances and even-gasp!-random people from the internet have vocalised, messaged and tweeted their support.  In their eyes I am brave, I am strong, I am doing what they might have done if they hadn’t met their husbands.  The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

I am doing what they might have done if they hadn’t met their husbands. Which is... Click To Tweet

At the end of the day, I know that family and close friends excepted, other people’s opinions on my life make not one jot of difference to how I live mine, but I also know that despite this, others’ opinions are things we constantly fear.  We naturally seek the approval of others for our choices, but to any women out there considering making the choice to have a baby on their own, I urge you not to worry.  People’s reactions are not something that you can control, but they may not be quite what you expect, and small children do have a wonderful habit of winning over those who might not be so sure.  And finally, the only opinion that really, really matters is that of those children.  And who can tell what they will think?  All I can hope is that they will see that families come in all shapes and sizes, and all that matters is love.

People’s reactions are not something that you can control, but they may not be quite what you expect, Click To Tweet

 


Elaine Cogan is a reformed shoe addict, writer, blogger, teacher and single mother by choice who writes about the ups and downs of parenting a donor-conceived toddler on her blog Single Mum Speaks.  She is usually found in the park running around after a small boy. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Facebook

Featured Photo Credit: Image used under license from Freestock.com




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