At bebo mia, our mission is to support the modern family. In this new blog series, we are featuring some of the modern families we have had the privilege of calling clients and friends. Here is Nadia’s story of her journey to solo parenthood by choice.
I recently found an old cigar box from my childhood. Inside were dozens of little paper dolls that I had drawn and carefully cut out, their bodies smudged and worn from hours of play. Most of them were children, but there were also mothers with big long skirts and curly hair, and fathers sporting moustaches, (inspiration courtesy of my parents). I showed them to a friend of mine. She pulled at the pile of paper arms and legs and unloosed a mama doll, who Pompeii-like, still held in her carefully folded paper arms a baby.
I had always assumed that I would have a traditional family. My husband and I would have children and our home would be full of a good kind of noise. There’d be the sound of activity in the kitchen, feet on the stairs, voices calling, laughter, debate, and affection.
I can’t remember when the notion of ‘Plan B’ first emerged, but it was early. All along I knew that come hell or high water I’d have children. I’d adopt them if I couldn’t have them myself. I’d do everything short of kidnapping a child to have one. And yes, sure, I’d have them on my own if I didn’t meet the right man. But that was just in theory. Surely my story of love followed by family would work out.
But years passed and it didn’t work out. There was one profound relationship and many shorter, more frivolous ones. There were great dates and those filed into ‘entertaining stories for friends’ or, more desperately, ‘isn’t all life fodder for writing?’ Surrounding friends grew into long-term relationships or got married, babies arrived, my age hurried upward, and it still didn’t work out. Or at least not in the way I expected it to.
I was in my mid-thirties and at my mother’s farm when I decided that Plan B – having children on my own — might be a real possibility. I walked out of the house, a bit heavy hearted, and told my mother, who was bent over her flowerbeds, pulling weeds out. She stood up, her face flushed from bending and opened her arms up wide to embrace me. It was as if I had succeeded in something very fine. “Hopefully it won’t happen,” I reminded her anxiously, her arms still around me, “I’m just saying that I’ll do it on my own, if I have to. In a few years.” A few minutes later we moved, still talking, away from the farmhouse where we had a clear view of the pond. “Look!” my mother whispered, as though in congratulation. “It’s a sign.” A deer – a rare enough sight on our property to be a delight — stood there, alert.
I had avoided telling my father as I was sure he would disapprove, and I didn’t want to defend a path that had at times been painful to forge. I decided to say nothing until it was necessary, though unbeknownst to me, the rest of my family had filled him in. Driving me to the airport at the end of a visit, he told me that he knew about my plan and that he wanted me to know that supported me and understood that motherhood was an important part of who I was. As he spoke, he took a ramp to the wrong terminal.
”Don’t worry about meeting someone later on,” he added, as we looped around and looked for signs for my terminal. “This will bring out the best in you, and the right person will see that.” Finally he pulled up in front of my airline and he said warmly, “You’ll end up where you want to be, even if it’s not the way you expected to get there.”
I briefly considered whether my father had become sort of Zen master, illustrating his point through his roundabout drive to the terminal. But no. It was simply the roundabout way of the world, and a reassurance that truly, we sometimes stumble our way to where we want to be. And have unexpected support along the way.
Occasionally when divulging my intentions to have a baby on my own I received odd reactions, such as that from someone my own age, and a mother to boot. When I told this acquaintance of my plan, she asked without any irony, “Why don’t you just get a dog?”
But by and large, the people in my life have been incredibly supportive of my decision. Not just my parents and two brothers, but my friends also have rallied through all phases of this strange and wonderful experience. They have encouraged me in the first place to take this step, have looked at the donor profiles with me, come to appointments with me, joined me for meetings with my bebo mia doulas, attended hypnobirthing classes with me, attempted to set me up while eight months pregnant (no thanks), been there for the baby’s birth, brought me food after the baby was born, and joined me for early dinners out with the baby. I am grateful that where romantic love is lacking, platonic love is in abundance.
As my decision to be a single mum by choice began to solidify, I read books and skulked around on forums. There was no one in my life who had taken this step, and although I received a couple of phone numbers of friends’ friends who had, I never contacted them. I remember a list of questions that a book posed. Do you want to have a baby even on your worst days? The answer was always yes. Have you sufficiently grieved the more traditional family you might have hoped you’d have? That was less clear.
And so I found myself, in the year of my self-imposed deadline (thirty-eight), perusing online sperm bank catalogues one minute and then checking in to my OK Cupid account the next. I narrowed in on preferred donors, and at the same time, met someone online and fell in love again. I enjoyed the clamour and excitement of a new relationship, and when it ended, I got serious about getting pregnant.
I was at a movie with my recent ex when I found out I was pregnant. Suspicion mounting, I had purchased a pregnancy kit on the sly just after dinner and used it in the movie theatre’s washroom. I said nothing to him when I returned to my seat and the theatre darkened, hiding my jubilation. I went back to his place that night, savouring my elation in silence, and awoke with the most delicious, amazing secret I’ve ever held. The grief of a traditional relationship slipped away that evening. When it rears it head it is very brief, and I remember that the story is not yet finished.
The processing of having a child on my own involved many decisions and practical steps. Yet when I look back it seems inevitable; everything about the process seems organic and seamless, as though it was something that happened to me. The path took me, rather than I took it. I have also since met a number of single mums by choice. They are interesting, attractive women who, like me, wanted a baby with all their hearts but had not met the right person with whom to share parenthood. What might be deemed clinical or unnatural to some could not be more normal to me now.
One evening in my third trimester, my cousin and three close friends held a party to celebrate my pregnancy. Friends (including my bebo mia doulas) and family gathered for a few toasts. They packed into a large hallway, spilling up the staircase. I raised a glass to everyone for being the kind of people to make me feel confident and supported in having a baby on my own. I looked around at the people clustered in the hall. It is not the life I expected as a little girl. It’s not the nuclear family that I expected. But it’s irrefutably our home, full of people of different ages and personalities and diverse lives and influences, full of debates and kindnesses and love, and it’s travelling with this tiny family wherever we go.
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