Single Mom By Chance to Single Mom By Choice
Here I am, a single mom of two beautiful children – one who arrived in my life by chance and one who arrived in my life by choice. So how the hell did I get here? (Or like a college friend I caught up with this week asked, “Where the hell did this second kid come from?”)
A few months ago, shortly after my son was born, a close friend of mine sent me a text asking when I was going to write a blog post about single motherhood take two and the newest addition to our family. I told her that I was enjoying not writing given that I do so for a living (little word of caution here friends, if you do what you love, and you do it for like 10 hours a day, you maaaaaaaaayyy not always love it as much as you once did.)
And just like any good girlfriend from NYC, she said she respected that. But then she proceeded to nudge me into writing by warning me that not doing so could give my son a complex because I wrote so much about his big sister.
I guess attributing my fairly significant blogging hiatus to being less than enthusiastic about MORE writing after my workday has ended is only part of the story. The other reason I haven’t written in a long time is because…I am happy. And apparently, I am much more inclined to write when I am…working through stuff.
But then someone reached out to interview me about a recent Pew Research study that found the majority of women ages 40 to 44 who have never married have had a baby, which prompted me to reflect on how I went from single mom by chance to single mom by choice.
And how I got here.
Becoming a single mom by chance
Well friends, let’s go back to the beginning.
Close to eight years ago, the universe intervened in my life at the time and shoved me onto the path that I am now confident I was made to be on. Before my daughter began hanging out in my uterus without an explicit invitation to do so, I was…how do I sum it up? Not the best version of myself.
I mean, from a distance I had the world by the balls. I was a producer in network news, I owned a tiny apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, I had great friends, an amazing family, and a bartender who not only knew my name but could tell by the look on my face which kind of cocktail I was in the mood for.
True, these are all really great things.
But I wasn’t happy. Sure, I had moments of being happy, but it was more the frenetic high I’d get from successfully navigating a day of breaking news. Not the type of soul-soothing happiness I have now. I was dating the wrong guys, working in an industry that I didn’t see a future for myself in, going into work at 3:30 AM… and probably spending a bit too much time hanging with my friendly neighborhood bartender.
Getting pregnant by accident stripped me down. It didn’t just chip away at the façade, it decimated it. And well…that sucked and was incredibly painful. I shared the ugly details of that process in my Tedx talk about Rebranding the Single Mom®.
There were days when I would sob because nothing, I mean nothing, looked, or felt, or sounded like it did before I got pregnant. But somewhere in between all the tears, I realized I had to mourn the loss of the life I thought I was supposed to have in order to fall in love with the one I do have.
Deciding to become a single mom by choice
Looking back I realize that this desire to have more children was always in the back of my head. I bought a 4-bedroom house “just in case” and I held on to most of the high-quality baby gear from my daughter’s infancy. I think I always knew I wanted to have another baby, I just didn’t know exactly how I was going to do that.
One Friday evening I was at my sister’s house and our collective children were running amok. I was drinking wine and she may or may not have been pregnant…I can’t really recall. When your sister gives birth to 4 children in 7 years, it’s easy to lose track. Anyway, I told her I wanted to have another baby and that I was pretty sure I wanted to do it alone. I gave her a run through of my reasons and I remember the look on her face went from light and airy to serious and attentive.
She stopped sweeping the floor (I feel like she is ALWAYS sweeping her floor when we are in her kitchen) and she said, “Okay, I obviously understand you wanting to have more children. But…your life has been in a constant state of change since the moment you found out you are pregnant with Ellie. I’m afraid that you have forgotten how to just live life without managing a major situation. Give yourself a year. Just one year. Enjoy the summer, enjoy the holidays, enjoy your job, and date. If you still feel the same way, then go for it.”
And that is exactly what I did.
Getting Pregnant On Purpose
As I came upon that year mark, I floated the idea out to my parents, my close friends, and family and after the initial shock wore off, everyone seemed genuinely excited. I started taking the necessary steps needed to have a baby on my own using a donor and IUI. I had no idea how many doctor’s appointments and how much monitoring would go into trying to get pregnant this time.
For a few months, I was at the doctor’s at least 6 times a month. I’d drag Ellie with me before the sun rose for ultrasounds and blood tests to monitor fertility. My arms were bruised and I spent WAY more time than I should Googling “chances of getting pregnant at 37”. I obsessed about hormone levels and a host of other things. I drove those closest to me crazy.
But the upside is that I was able to experience what it feels like to really, really, really, want to get pregnant.
About 10 days after my first IUI try, I had to head to New York City for work. I knew it was really early to take a pregnancy test. But I also felt sort of gross and figured maybe pregnancy hormones were to blame, so I took a test while getting ready to head to the train station. At first, I only saw one line. One boring, uneventful, line.
And then, as I was brushing my teeth, I thought I started to see the faintest of second lines…and my heart skipped a beat. I stared at it for a moment and then snapped a picture and sent it to my mom and my sister, neither of which could make out the second line I was seeing. They both suggested I wait another few minutes. And in those few moments, the line went from “am I seeing something?” to “I guess I’m not drinking on this business trip.”
The pregnancy was wonderful and so f*cking uncomfortable all at the same time. I threw up often for the first 4 months, had contractions consistently for the last 2 months, and terrible heartburn throughout. I accepted the fact that I am not one of those women who loves being pregnant, and I very likely never will be. But the beautiful part of the pregnancy for me was the fact that my daughter and I shared so many of the amazing moments together, feeling the baby kick, seeing him on the ultrasound, and hearing the soothing woosh of his heartbeat.
The night before I delivered Ellie I sobbed. I worried about the unknown and had no idea if I could be the mom I needed to be. I have never, ever, been so scared in my life.
A few nights before I went into labor with my son, I cried as I watched my daughter sleep because I loved our life so much and I knew it was going to change forever. Even though it was a good change, a great change actually, there was a part of me that was sad about how it would no longer be the two of us versus the world.
Becoming a single mom of two
When I went into labor with my son, I was in denial that I was actually having real contractions. My Mom and my daughter, on the other hand, knew my son was about to join us. When I was on the phone with my Mom and I began having a hard time completing sentences, she pleaded with me to let my Dad come and pick Ellie and me up. I finally agreed and when I turned around to tell Ellie what the plan was, she was standing right next to me with her “Big Sister” t-shirt on and her overnight bag in tow.
Shortly after arriving at my parent’s house, we decided it was time to go to the hospital. My sister Adriane stepped away from a Halloween scavenger hunt (where she was wearing 80s running shorts and a fishnet top) and me, her, and Ellie got into the backseat of my parent’s car, while my Dad drove and my Mom rode in the front passenger seat.
I went from telling Ellie that I wasn’t sure if I was actually having the baby to getting really, really pissed off at my sister when she would say things like, “Try to breathe under the contractions.”
Not long after we got to the hospital, Katie, one of my closest friends from high school / OBGyn PA / incredible support arrived too. We all concluded that we would proceed with having the planned c-section as soon as my doctor could get to a hospital. In between contractions, I chatted with the nurse about having children on my own and got to hear a little bit about her life and lack of success in love. I FaceTimed with my Ellie (who was in the waiting room and so unbelievably nervous) to tell her to go to sleep for a while. I kissed my Mom, and then my sister Adriane, Katie and me headed into the OR.
About 45-minutes later, with my sister holding my hand, I became the luckiest woman in the world for the second time and I met my amazing son, LJ.
After I was wheeled out of the OR, the labor and delivery nurse told me I was the only patient they had that night and, even though they weren’t really supposed to allow it, my family could come back and see me in the recovery area. The moment my daughter met my son, my heart grew exponentially. We all spent some time together, and then my Mom and I sent everyone home to get some sleep.
By the time I was wheeled into my room, it was nearly 6 AM and I had made friends with a number of the nurses, sharing many details of my motherhood journey and also offering up referrals to fertility clinics and sperm banks. We were all enjoying chatting with each other so much that my Mom had to step in and gently suggest I that I be left alone to get some rest.
When my sister Adriane stayed with me the following night, I told her that I was unbelievably happy…and that I wanted 10 more babies.
Once again the voice of reason, she asked me not to make any decisions in that moment.
My sister Mallory spent a night with me as well in the hospital, but my last night there I told my family I was fine to be left alone. I was feeling pretty okay after the c-section, the nursing staff was wonderful and…I wanted just one night alone with my son, after spending so many alone with my daughter.
4 months later, the list of things I need to get done is truly endless and I can not tell you the last time I got a full night’s sleep. But I still feel the same way I did in that hospital room and I’m enjoying a level of happiness and contentment I never knew existed.
That being said, the postpartum haze has worn off enough for me to become more realistic and to conclude that, no matter how much I love being a single mom, babies are like bourbon…more is not necessarily better. So I am just going to savor this one and live in the moment, accepting that, as far as I can tell, this is my amazing family.