Most little girls still grow up reciting the merry mantra of love, marriage and the eventual baby carriage. But for many women these days, life doesn’t fall into place in this order, and modern wannabe mommies aren’t content to let motherhood pass them by. Some adopt, others keep happy “oopses” and still others visit sperm banks to get their parental party started. Here are three women who made motherhood happen on their own terms – and what they say about their choices.
Mom: Cameron Caswell, 42
Daughter: Alexa, 4
Location: Northern Virginia
I always knew I wanted to have children. At 30, I decided that if I still hadn’t found the man of my dreams by 35, I was going to have kids on my own. 36 came, and I got up one morning and thought, “It’s time. I have a good job, I own my own place, I have a supportive family and friends.” I looked at sperm banks, but it didn’t feel right to me. I settled onto adoption because I wanted to open up a home to a child who needed one. When I adopted my daughter, the overwhelming response from my friends and family was, “It’s about time.” I think the most surprising part of my adoption story is how much my daughter is my daughter and how alike we are. I just really believe that it doesn’t matter how my child came to me, she was meant to be my daughter. End of story.
I work full time, so it’s all about the routine. Every morning Alexa picks out her outfit, gets dressed and goes to Montessori. After school I pick her up, and she plays outside with the neighbors, or we cook dinner together. Some days she has ballet, and every night we’ll play a game or read a book. Then she goes to bed, and I have some time to myself.
For me, the biggest difficulty is making big decisions alone, like picking her name. Or, if there is an emergency, not having someone else there saying, “This is what we need to do.” But I do have a great support system. My sister, brother-in-law and her kids live down the street. And financially, I’m able to give her the things I want to give her. I think in many situations, being a single mom is easier because you don’t have to compromise with a partner. And for the majority of married mothers I know, 95 percent of the child rearing is still on them.
What scares me the most is that she’s going to start asking why she doesn’t have a dad. I don’t want her to feel like she’s missing out on something. I would love for her to have a dad at some point, but for me, I have all the things I ever wanted. The pressure I always felt to find somebody was because my clock was ticking. I was always confident I’d be good at parenting but wasn’t willing to compromise on the relationship part. Now I don’t have to.
“I Kept My Happy ‘Oops’”
Mom: Darpinian Signe, 40
Daughter: Andie, 1
Location: Oakland, CA
Two years ago was a crazy, careless time in my life. I was completely fragmented – leaving restaurants while forgetting to pay, gassing up my car and pulling away with the pump connected and getting pregnant.
It did stress me out a bit that I was nearing 40 and it was starting to look like I wasn’t going to have kids, but I considered my work my ‘life’s purpose.’ I didn’t see myself not having kids, but I also wasn’t like some of my girlfriends who were doing in-vitro and looking into adoption.
Then I met Andie’s dad, and soon after, much like the movie Knocked Up, I was! He is a bassist and I’m a businesswoman. He rolls in from playing a gig about the time I get up. So I will forever be grateful for his initial response to hearing my news. He said, “Wow, I think you’d be a great mom.” I may as well have just told him to “pass the ketchup.” Our relationship is and always will be amicable, though he’s not involved with Andie at this time. He knows he can call or stop by anytime and sometimes does. There have been some interesting moments. At my shower, in front of 50 people, one friend commented, “I didn’t even know you were dating,” and I said, “I’m not.” It was hilarious.
Most people are advanced enough in their career at age 40 to be feeling comfortable financially. I work four days a week from 1-6 and leave Andie with the most amazing woman I’ve ever met, Antonia. One thing I couldn’t have known ahead of time is what it feels like to be seriously sleep deprived. I now know why they used it in warfare! The advice I will give to any mom, single or not, is that a happy mom is the best mom. Anytime I make an investment in me, like getting a massage, going to yoga – Andie benefits greatly.
Being a single mom is greater, as well as harder, than I ever imagined. My dad and stepmom watch Andie, and my mom helps a ton, but I try to remember that it was my choice to become a single mom. I admit, I do fantasize about a dad who would be like, “No, you’re not going in there,” when she’s crying, or about the husband who gets up after the wife has pumped. But at this point, dating doesn’t even cross my mind. I feel really filled up. My focus is Andie. I do wonder if anyone will want to date me because I have a child, but I think that guy would be lucky – he’d get two of us!
“I Used A Sperm Donor To Start My Family”
Mom: Ellen Andrews, 43
Son: Henry, 10 months
Location: Washington Heights, NYC
I always wanted to be a mom. I was a nanny and referred to the kids I took care of as “my kids.” But my first serious relationship didn’t happen until I was 31. I was 33 when it ended. I started thinking, “I’ve always wanted to be a wife and mom. Just because I’m not a wife doesn’t mean I can’t be a mom.” But at the time, I was acting and not making enough money.
At 39, after another long-term relationship ended, I decided to look for a sperm donor. I had been dealing with severe endometriosis, as well as fibroids and cysts on my ovaries. I knew if I had time at all, I didn’t have time to look for a man who was ready, willing and able to step up to the plate. I chose not to adopt for several reasons. First, it was cost prohibitive. Second, I really wanted to have a baby. I can remember being a little girl and pretending to breastfeed. I wanted to feel that kick and hear that heartbeat.
If getting pregnant past 35 is important to you, you have to be proactive about it. I worked three jobs to bank as much money as I could and met with a reproductive endocrinologist and acupuncturist for a year and a half. If you’re considering this route, it’s important to have your gynecologist or a reproductive endocrinologist do a basic fertility work-up. The sperm bank I chose wasn’t fancy – just basic medical history and great customer service – but it was more affordable than the ones with all the bells and whistles. Shortly after I turned 40, I had my first intrauterine insemination procedure. A year and a half and 10 IUIs and 1 IVF procedure later, I conceived my son.
Most of my friends have been very supportive, especially here in New York. Non-traditional families are not uncommon. I also found support at sites like Single Mothers By Choice (singlemothersbychoice.com) and Choice Moms (choicemoms.org). As for relationships, I do still really want to get married. As wonderful as my son is and as happy and content as being a mother has made me, it doesn’t take the place of a partner. This will not solve your loneliness issues. A counselor helped me work through my issues with being single before I got pregnant. It’s what we call, in the single-mom-by-choice world, “grieving the dream.”