We’ve all been fed the fairytale idea of motherhood: First comes love, then comes marriage, and THEN comes baby in a baby carriage. However, when you mess up with the normal order of things, you mess up people’s grip on normal.
I loved reading Rachel Sklar’s piece announcing her pregnancy. Rachel is a writer I have followed online for quite a while now and it was exciting to hear, in her own words, what this new era in her life feels like. I found it particularly interesting because, like me, Rachel is single. And like me, Rachel is rearranging the chapters of her life and writing her own story where family comes before meeting the Prince Charming you settle down with.
While the circumstances of our pregnancies were not the same, I did recognize the purposeful joy in the way she presented her news. Six years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, I found myself sharing my news in a similar way. When most people hear “single and pregnant,” they assume a sad story. There must have been a divorce, or the boyfriend must have left, or there must have been an oops from a one night stand … because why would a woman be alone and pregnant? Doesn’t every single mom have a sad single mom story?
I always planned on getting married and starting a family the old-fashioned way, the traditional way, but when my life path went in an unexpected direction, I adjusted. I spent almost all of my thirties as the primary caregiver for my grandmother. It remains one of the greatest choices I ever made in my life. However, it essentially made me a shut-in during the time in my life when I assumed I would be meeting guys, finding Mr. Right, and settling down.
For me, it made sense to switch the order of things around: I couldn’t meet a guy during this point in my life, but maybe I could have a baby. I was home all day with my grandmother, and I saw that as such a gift and luxury. What I didn’t expect was for a later diagnosed thyroid disease to make getting pregnant such a challenge. It is actually a good thing I jumped the gun on baby making, as I honestly don’t know if it would have been possible once I met someone.
I remember trying to figure out how to tell people I was pregnant so they would recognize it for the fantastic achievement that it was. After years of fertility treatments, achieving pregnancy was one of the most exciting and triumphant things to happen. Once I had a handful of rising Beta numbers from the fertility clinic, I sat down next to my grandmother and took a deep breath. I’ve read how news is presented will shape how people receive it.
“I have some pretty great news to share with you.” My grandmother was having a sweet, lucid day and patted my knee, indicating permission to go on.
“I am going to have a baby!” She was elated.
This is how I shared my pregnancy with everyone: “I have exciting news!” and I would go on to explain that, thanks to modern medicine and a team of doctors, I was going to have a baby on my own.
Like Rachel, I did have some people in my life who, when they found out I was pregnant, wondered out loud about my marital status. These questions, or even assumptions, continue even today. I have no doubt there are parents at my son’s school who assume I am divorced or that there is a father involved.
In her piece, Rachel briefly addressed the silence regarding fertility and sharing our stories:
“What I do want is to be transparent about where I am and how I got here. I don’t like the cone of silence — it didn’t do me any favors in my 20s or 30s, and I don’t see it doing much for other women, either. In 2014, I see that changing, and I want to be part of it. We’re having a coming out moment about fertility, and, like the miracle sperm that somehow managed to fertilize my forty-something eggs, it’s just in time. In 2014, having children is complicated and daunting and fraught — as much as it’s always been, but now we’re talking about it. And the more we talk about it, the more of us will realize that we’re not going through it alone. Far from it.”
While there has been an uptick in coverage about fertility (thanks, Apple and Facebook!), people have been writing about this issue for quite a while. Heck, personally I’ve been writing online about creating motherhood for almost 10 years. Before I started chronicling my own path, there were many, MANY women and men who were writing and sharing their stories. Infertility and non-traditional families have thankfully been a part of online journaling and traditional news media for decades, but when you aren’t keyed into it, you won’t always see it.
It’s a bit like when you buy a new car and suddenly, everywhere you go, you see your car on the road. Once you learn to speak and hear the language of infertility, you will always hear it, you will always be sympathetic to it.
I was truly thrilled to read Rachel’s positive and happy piece about her pregnancy. When someone writes about being single and pregnant in such a way, every single mom benefits. It’s a helpful reminder that not every single mother is singing the blues.More On