Author: Kelly Poole
When I was a little girl, or even a teenager, I didn’t dream that I’d be a single mother. I had a plan for university, getting a job teaching, marriage, travel, house and then kids. By the time I was in my thirties, the job, travel and house had all fallen into place- but I was no closer to marriage and kids than I was when I finished high school. One by one, my friends, family and siblings all found their love, bought their homes, married and settled down to family life.
Deciding to become a Single Mother By Choice (SMBC)
Make no mistake, my life was great. I travelled the world, I took on higher duties at work, I studied things that interested me, I bought my own house. However, it made me sad to think that I was going to miss out on having a family. The deeper I looked at my life and myself, I realised that I wasn’t sad that I didn’t have that special someone, I was sad that I’d miss out on kids. With that revelation, I did what I do, and I started my research. This is what is called the “thinking phase” of becoming a Single Mother By Choice (SMBC).
First, let’s be clear, there are lots of ways to be a single Mum, you probably know at least one Mum doing it all on her own. A SMBC is someone who has intentionally taken action to become a parent on their own, via donor conception (sperm, sperm and egg, embryo) foster care, adoption or foster care or any combination of these. The mother takes this action knowing that they will be the sole parent of their child – at least at the outset.
Researching to become a Single Mother By Choice (SMBC)
During my “thinking” phase I looked into the feasibility of what I was planning, I looked at sperm banks, read blogs and watched interviews from now adults who were conceived via donor. Could I really consider bringing a child into the world knowing that they would be going through life without a Father? How would I tell them how they came to be? Would they understand that they were conceived on my love alone, and not the love of two people? Is this something that I had to travel for, or could I do it in Australia? I looked into the leave entitlements at my job, and deeply considered the supports I would need to have in place.
It was at this point that I raised this as a possibility with my parents and siblings. Saying that I wanted to have a baby, a child, a family out loud was scary and liberating. My family are loud and loving and supported me as I knew they would. They worked to build their knowledge around the process of using a donor, and regular conversations about having a baby became the norm.
I talked with my Doctor who recommended a clinic she had used in the same pursuit 5 years before, she had only just started at the practice. I considered that she had been through the process very fortuitous and I moved from thinking to taking action. Thus begins the “Trying” phase.
Legislation around becoming a Single Mother By Choice (SMBC)
In Australia, and most countries, fertility and artificial reproductive processes are legislated by the state. New South Wales is different to Victoria, and Queensland, and different again to California and New York. If you join one of the multitudes of SMBC Facebook Groups or online forums you will quickly find that where you come from makes a big difference in your experience and what you will pay. I can only speak from my experiences in NSW.
In NSW there is legislated mandatory counselling for anyone, or couple, using donor products. Obviously in Australia, one cannot be paid for their product either. I decided to use an unknown donor, supplied through the clinic for expediency (thinking about it took a couple of years, I didn’t want to waste time once I started). The clinic to which I was referred handled everything in house, counselling, testing, ultrasounds, they did all of the paperwork, submitted all of the medicare and insurance information, all I had to do was turn up with a whole lot of faith.
Starting the journey with ISCI
I had my first appointment with my Fertility doctor in June of 2016. This appointment was slotted in between a trip to Hawaii and a school excursion I was supervising to Japan. I cried in the car. I felt like a societal failure- I never could find that “special someone” and now I was taking this drastic action. Of course I never expected that I would be talking to a fertility doctor on my own. I cried when I talked to the counsellor, life wasn’t supposed to be like this. Really, though I’d had to ask myself some challenging questions during the “thinking” phase, this reality was hard.
I was grieving the loss of my dream for husband and kids, and looking to just kids. No issues were found physically, on my part I consider myself to be “Socially Infertile”. I was given the go ahead to begin Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) upon my return from Japan.
The ICSI process
This begins the cycle of injections, blood tests, ultrasounds. I did 3 rounds of IUI, one after the other. I was successful on round 3, and had my first early loss the same month. By reading this far you have probably correctly figured out that I am a very success driven person. I set goals and I work to achieve them.
Fertility treatments were a whole new obstacle to me. I had a lot of doubts, stress, tears and the failures were not something I knew how to deal with. Probably the same for anyone undergoing fertility treatments, but I really struggled. No matter how supportive and encouraging my family were, they weren’t as invested as I was. I really missed having a partner who would be feeling the same defeat as me. I was suffering pretty badly, and booked to talk to the fertility counsellor at the clinic, as well as my lead OB/GYN. Together we decided that because of my “geriatric” fertility age it would be best to move on to IVF/ISCI.
Continuing the journey with IVF/ICSI
What followed was 8 months of IVF/ICSI. 4 full cycles, 3 embryo transfers, 1 round of embryos who failed to defrost, 2 more early losses. By December, my family had started to lose their hope and lost patience with my tantrums and tears at the constant failure. I agreed that I would take a break. The human body really should not be subjected to that many additional hormones for an extended period of time. And I knew that I really couldn’t take it much longer. I needed to make some serious decisions. Just like I won’t begin a diet when it’s not a Monday, I couldn’t give up on this before the end of the year, and I decided to do one more cycle.
Becoming a Single Mother by Choice to Twins
My brother drove me this round for the retrieval, and when asked, advised me to put two embryos back “What’s the worst that could happen?’. I’d put two back previously and neither had taken, so his point was valid, I could lose both embryos but one might take, if I was lucky. The following month, I made it to the confirmation scan and my wildest dream was coming true, times two!
Now begins the “Mothering” Phase. The months of my pregnancy passed by in a blur of happiness. I was holding the most precious gift and I knew it. I was blessed with a dream run, no morning sickness, good hair, happy ultrasounds. Everyone was happy and surprised for me, I was given lots of love and support. I felt like the world was happy for me. I felt awkward at birthing class, when you introduce the other parent, and I was by myself. Mum and Dad took turns to come with me to the lessons. Dad helped me to build cots, and Mum helped me pick the car seats.
Yes, occasionally I wondered if I had made a mistake
There were times I was terrified that I’d made a mistake- but then everyone told me that they’d felt the same in their own pregnancies, so I guess this is normal. I made it to 38 weeks and was induced and delivered via C-Section when labour didn’t progress after 16 hours. My sister was with me in the delivery room- Mum and Dad waiting in the maternity ward. Ethan and Caroline arrived safe and sound, and the moon shone brightly that night. At the geriatric maternal age of 38, I was finally a Mum. The support I have received from my family and friends has been truly amazing. I know that I am very lucky to have so many people invested in my kids.
Being a Single Mother by Choice to Twins
Being a Single Mother by Choice to twins has been pretty amazing. There are days that are hard. At the time of writing, we are coming off 6 days of upper respiratory infections. They are at the point that all they want is to whine and fight- this would be the same if I wasn’t a SMBC. There are days I want to share something amazing or funny with someone- I call family and send a photo. I can’t say if it’s easier or harder choosing to have a baby (or two!) by yourself. I have no experience with a partner. What I can say is that there are more days that are wonderful because I chose to pursue this dream. And I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat- but I’d make it years earlier and to hell with societal expectations!
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