I’m a single mum. What’s that? No, the kids don’t see much of their dad. But don’t let that influence your opinion of him. As a matter of fact, we don’t even know who he is. But that doesn’t matter.
What matters is that he is a kind, unselfish, thoughtful man.
How do I know that? Because he made it possible for me to have a family.
A life’s ambition
I always wanted to be a mother. I took it for granted that I would be married with kids one day; or at least, with kids. I had to have children. It was what I was here to do.
So when my thirtieth birthday arrived, still childless, I was a little disconcerted. True, I had not really wanted kids before then. I was having too much fun. Yes, if one had come along I would have been overjoyed, but I was glad to be free to live my life selfishly.
Reasoning and reckoning
I’d intended to have my children by the age of 35 and I always wanted children. Not a child. I wanted the noisy, loving chaos of a big family, just as I had growing up as one of five. As a single parent, I knew that my children would need family connections to fulfil their sense of belonging, and what better connection to start with than a brother or sister?
It was time to act.
Becoming a single mother in Australia is not impossible if you are fertile and have a couple of thousand dollars lying around. The regulations are different from state to state and even clinic to clinic. Some clinics still discriminate against single parents. Mine did not.
If you need help with fertility or finance, the story is not so sunny. IVF treatments will leave you around $8,000 out of pocket, depending on your insurance, and that’s for just one attempt (most people need several).
Adoption is even more problematic. If you’re single, it’s nearly impossible in Australia. There are just too many couples seeking and not enough babies to go around.
International adoption will set you back easily $20,000, and take months if not years. Also, you wouldn’t go home with a newborn.
I had blood tests and scans. I only had one ovary (the other was removed during surgery to remove a massive cyst in my early twenties). My fertility specialist wasn’t concerned. I had as good a chance as anyone, she told me, about 15%. What? I thought in horror. OK, stay positive. “If you don’t conceive after four tries, we’ll look at IVF,” she continued. Well, that’s not going to happen, I thought, picturing my bank account.
I attended a counselling session. “Have you thought this through, do you have good support networks, will you cope when your teenage child says, ‘you’re so hopeless you couldn’t even get a man! I want to find my father and live with him! Blah, blah, teen angst!’” Yes, I replied. I am sure I will cop it. But then, I was an impossible teen myself, isn’t karma sweet?
When all the formalities were complete, my name went onto a waiting list and I went on with my life.
Seven months later I got an email. Three donors were ready to go, I could choose. With great excitement my family and I poured over three A4, bullet-pointed sheets; age, height, weight, ethnicity, colouring, health, profession, education and a reason for donating: “To carry on my DNA,” read one entry. “To help someone to have a family,” read the winner. This one had excellent health and my mind was made up. On with the show!
Daily blood tests followed. When follicles were about to burst forth with eggs, I went into the clinic, lay down on the bed and, as a friend of mine elegantly put it, the nurse came in with the turkey baster. Then I lay there staring at the ceiling for fifteen minutes before hopping down and heading back to work.
Two interminable weeks of waiting followed. I glumly confessed to my sister that I didn’t think it had worked. I experienced spotting and was certain my period was on its way.
Except it wasn’t. By some miracle, against all the odds, I was pregnant with my first child, my now-three year old daughter.
Everyone was amazed when they heard I had conceived on my very first try. The stunned silence on the end of the phone when I first told my mother the news was hilarious. It didn’t take her long to jump on the expectant-granny bandwagon, though.
Once my daughter was born, I advised the clinic for their records. They also agreed to hold some sperm for me if I wanted subsequent children, which I did. I got hold of the official Donor Registry documents so that I could add my daughter’s name in, for other related parties to see. That way, if the father or any other of his biological offspring wanted to find out about her existence, they could.
I have not yet put her name (or her brother’s name) into this register. I’ve decided to wait until they are older. At the age of 16, they can decide for themselves. If they are like me, they will want to know everything they can about their origins, so I hope for their sake that the father, that kind, altruistic gentleman, has added some details for them. That is the only legal way my children will ever know their father.
It’s a big step to take on your own. But I know my children will be confident enough to live in this new world of unique family types. We will build our normal together.
Has anyone else been through this and like to share your experience? Please share in the comments below.