Am I overly ambitious or heart-driven? I can’t settle on whether trying to have a second child, as a single mother by choice, is logical—or naïve.
But I’m pursuing this path anyway, because although I have a wonderful, beautiful little boy, I really want—have always wanted—two children. I have also always wanted a partner, but when my girlfriend and I broke up when I was 36, I knew it was time to pursue parenthood on my own. A heart can wait, but egg quality—not so much.
After numerous IUI and IVF attempts, I gave birth to my son using egg and sperm donation. He is now three years old, and I have just begun estrogen in prep for the transfer of new embryos (created with the same sperm, but new eggs as my son’s egg donor retired).
I have spent the past year thinking through if I should build out my family. Ever since I was a little girl I wanted two children or more— five, even! I remember daydreaming about my mom having a third or that I had a secret twin on the other side of the world. Maybe it’s because all of my relatives lived in another country, or because my parents split when I was five, but I always longed for my own little tribe. However, this was all under the assumption that I would be married.
Of course, it’s hard to ignore the sensible idioms: “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” “Quit while you are ahead,” and “Be grateful for what you have.” Logically I agree it would be simpler not to have a second.
What has my experience of motherhood been like so far, especially after waiting and fighting so hard to become a mom? Like for practically every mother, it’s harder than I imagined, unrelentingly exhausting, irritating, frustrating, and yet, more often than not, packed with sweetness. Motherhood gives my life special meaning and depth.
I know that relationships can sometimes be disappointing and painful, especially when children are involved. Maybe I’m not worse off as a single mom.Over the past year, I tried over and over to imagine having just one child but no matter how I looked at it, it felt like defeat. When it comes to big life decisions, maybe the analytical brain shouldn’t win out. When it comes to love, children and big life goals, you’ve got to follow your heart. “Where there’s a will there’s a way” and “Follow your passion” are the phrases of wisdom that come to mind. (I guess there’s a saying for every side of an argument.)
So here I am, taking birth control again, in prep for a transfer. Yet, I still feel mixed about it. Or really, vulnerable is a better word.
Yesterday I sobbed on my mother’s couch, unloading about ten million concerns— everything from how to juggle everything with my demanding career, to my lack of confidence as a mother, to whether this new transfer will work, to plain terror about taking on a second child at a time when my first just started letting me empty the dishwasher without screaming to be picked up.
My mom listened empathetically and when I mentioned I just got my period and started birth control she said, “A-ha…” We laughed because every month I do seem to come to her crying about ten million things, right on schedule, especially when there’s extra estrogen involved.
And what about love and marriage? I do feel I am missing out. Of course, it would be amazing to feel like someone “gets” me, adores me, and could reassure me that I’m sexy, a great mom, and, yes, even that we can take on anything as a couple because our love is strong and our finances doubled!
But I also know that relationships can sometimes be disappointing and painful, especially when children are involved. Maybe I’m not worse off as a single mom.
I do get lonely sometimes. Lately I’ve been foraging into a world I thought I left long ago, the world of casual sex—with men! Even though I’m a lesbian, there’s something about baby making (and perhaps the extra estrogen) that makes me want to have sex with men. Casual sex with men is easy for me, because I don’t want a relationship afterwards.
Casual sex with women, on the other hand, is dangerous because I fall in love so easily. And, as someone who is creating a baby, it’s ironically a terrible time to start a relationship. I can’t imagine giving that energy out, while parenting a preschooler, trying to create a human, and then (hopefully) breastfeeding ‘round the clock.
As a single woman, people question me a lot more, and, when you are shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for ART, and bringing yourself to the clinic for regular ultrasounds and blood draws, you have more time to freak out.Also, from a legal standpoint, starting a real relationship while pursuing parenthood could get challenging. Procreating for lesbians IS using reproductive technologies, so if I was with a woman for a couple of years and we had a nasty break up, unfortunately, she could argue that because she was there for the baby-making process, she is a parent. I realize that with every new love comes risk, but if I wait for love until after my family is created, it’s clearer that I am the intended parent. Of course, had I found love years ago and created children together with a wife, I would have been willing to take that risk. But developing a relationship right in the middle of family-building is not wise.
However…if an incredibly empathetic and patient woman suddenly emerges who is absolutely perfect, I would be open to it. But since I’m not on the lookout, casual sex is the most practical (and yes on some level, fun,) option at the moment. It satisfies my desire for physical contact, though I know there is still risk, both physically (I practice safe sex but you still wonder) and emotionally (it can take a lot of time and energy to process).
Yes, I’ve got mixed feelings about a lot of things. But after talking to my circle of married moms, it seems I am not alone in experiencing the excitement, the fear, the panic, and the daydreaming (of what my little baby girl or boy might be like), when considering a second.
Single or not, it seems common to be scared of mothering another. As a single woman, though, people question me a lot more, and, when you are shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for ART, and bringing yourself to the clinic for regular ultrasounds and blood draws, you have more time to freak out.
Could the embryo fairy just fly into my womb and then I can tell everyone I had no choice, as it was Immaculate Conception?
Could the most perfect woman on the planet emerge who is full of understanding and patience, so we can get to know each at a safe snail’s pace?
Could this next transfer please work so I can save myself the ups and downs I know all too well?
Yes, I’m a dreamer, but a goal-oriented one. Although the waves of anxiety roll in and out, I am still determined to create my own special family. I’ve always wanted my own little pack and that is my main priority now. If the right woman comes along, she will share my dream of family.
Athena Reich is a Canadian-American actor, writer, singer/songwriter, and Lady Gaga impersonator. Athena's journey to conceive using IVF is documented in the Emmy nominated film "Vegas Baby." Athena writes about being a single parent by choice, and conceiving with donor egg and donor sperm for magazines such as HuffPost, Today’s Parent and Chatelaine. Athena is the creator of Alternative Families International, an online magazine and community for anyone outside the nuclear box. AthenaReich.com
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