You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you. – Joseph Campbell
I never intended to be a single mother by choice (SMBC). Though I’ve always, always wanted to be a mother, whenever I imagined it, it was with a husband by my side, in our big house, with both of our careers flourishing. But, as the Campbell quote states above, that’s not exactly how things unfolded.
When I turned 30, I made a list of things I wanted to do in the next decade. One of the things I wrote was that if I didn’t have a husband or serious boyfriend by the age of 35, I would start thinking about pursuing single motherhood. I didn’t actually expect myself to be in that situation. (Do we ever?). Fast forward to me at 34, and a growing feeling of unease that maybe my fertility wasn’t so great. I can’t explain it; it was a gnawing sense of…intuition, maybe. I went to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) to have my AMH tested. This is Anti-Mullerian hormone, and this test (a simple blood test), along with other markers like FSH and an antral follicle count (AFC), can give you an idea of your ovarian reserve. Though my AFC wasn’t initially done, my FSH was fine, but my AMH was 0.5. For women between the ages of 35-40, the average is about 1.5. Needless to say, I was stunned. Devastated might be a better word. I started seriously looking into single motherhood much sooner than I had anticipated, scared that I had somehow waited “too long.”
Whenever I’d thought about it in the past, I assumed I would have my life “together” when it happened. A house of my own, a fat bank account, no anxiety about going it alone, and a feeling of “I got this.” I didn’t expect to be in an apartment, dealing with graduate school student loans, and feeling quite ambivalent about the whole thing. Underneath all the anxiety, though, there was one thought that kept repeating in my head: time is running out. I need to do this now, or it will only get harder as time goes on. This is my chance. So I took a leap of faith, and hoped that it would sort itself out. I joined a Facebook groups for single mothers (including “thinkers,” which is what the organization Single Mothers by Choice calls women just starting out on the journey), read everything I could about being a SMBC, and started reading about infertility and its treatments.
Six months later, I saw a different RE, and had my AMH, FSH, and AFC done. My AMH was now 0.4, my FSH doubled to 13, and my AFC was only 2. Thankfully, my RE was restrained and on the conservative side, saying that these were only numbers, and I am otherwise healthy, and not to panic. I appreciated that, because I didn’t have the tens of thousands of dollars to do IVF (my insurance didn’t cover it). She put me on Clomid, and we hoped for the best.
The day it all got a little more real
Three months before my 35th birthday, those two pink lines showed up. I was simultaneously thrilled and terrified. That feeling has persisted, even now, as I near my 38th week. My family was unaware that I was pursuing single motherhood, and when I told them the news, it was a bit of an adjustment. I am lucky and grateful that they understood where I was coming from, and have been supportive in every way. My friends have also been incredibly supportive and encouraging, and I have seen the importance of finding a village of your own.
In many ways, my story might be typical of a SMBC. Last year, the New York Times published an article about single motherhood, in which they discussed the finding that while the birthrate for unwed women has been decreasing, the one group in which the birthrate is rising is for unwed women over the age of 35.
It’s been harder than I anticipated, I’m not going to lie. I will admit – when I was so sick that all I did was lay on the couch all day, it would have been nice to have a partner go get me ginger ale and crackers (at that point, my family didn’t know yet). When I see expecting couples in the store, depending on how my day has been, I do sometimes feel wistful, and wish I had a boyfriend or husband to share in the anxiety, joy, and anticipation. I have had to field questions from well-meaning ultrasound techs, specialists, sales clerks, and others about where the father is, why am I doing this alone, and what ever will I do without a father figure for my son. I have heard all the jokes about donors, and believe me, none of them are funny. But I have also experienced an outpouring of love, support, encouragement, and compassion from friends, some of whom I haven’t heard from in years – only to have them share their own stories of infertility, or send me a Facebook message letting me know they are so happy for me and that I’ll be a great mom. Messages like that are what get me through the rough times. They remind me that while at times, I might feel alone, I’m really not.
Coming up on 38 weeks, this is all becoming a reality very quickly. I know it will be challenging, but parenthood is challenging for everyone. This pregnancy has been one big exercise in surrender, and I imagine labor, birth, and parenthood will involve much of the same.