I Was Single, Infertile And 42 — But I Still Gave Birth To A Baby

Photo: Pamela Palma (Courtesy of the author)
single mom by choice
Family, Self

I'm proud of the decision I made.

One weekend, about 5 years ago, I went to visit a dear friend from law school.

"I’m thinking about having a baby on my own," I told her somewhat sheepishly. It was an idea I'd been tossing around as I started approaching 40 and there was no life partner in sight. 

I was still uncertain whether becoming a single mom on purpose was something I felt 100 percent ready to pursue, but I began mentioning the idea to some close friends to get their perspectives and to hear myself talk about it as a way to gain more clarity about how I truly felt.

"NO WAY!" my friend snapped back. She responded so forcefully that her words felt like they'd physically punched me. "It’s impossible with a partner," she said. "Why in the world would you ever consider that alone?"

I tried to muster some reasons, but her lack of support and enthusiasm killed it for me. I felt such disappointment at her response. 

As a child, I was obsessed with babies. 

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If anyone asked me if I wanted kids when I grew up, I would exuberantly respond that I wanted eleven babies (I know, right? Eleven??). I distinctly remember stalking a pregnant mother in my neighborhood, asking if I could care for her child once it was born. She obliged and I spent every day after school at her house. 

By the time I was 11-years-old, she actually trusted me enough to let me babysit when she wasn’t home, as long as my mom was nearby a few doors down (my how times have changed!). I also formed a little day camp for the younger kids in my neighborhood and planned activities for them. You could basically say that loving babies and kids was my hobby. 

But somewhere along the way, I lost my conviction and clarity. I went to college and law school, graduated at the top of my class, and got a job at a prestigious law firm during the dot-com boom in Silicon Valley. Focused on my career, I worked insane hours. And, if I wasn’t working, I was out having fun — traveling, enjoying expensive dinners, taking art or language classes, or staying out all night for meteor showers on the beach. 'Spontaneity' was my middle name. 

Dating, however, was not my best skill, and I wasn’t taking any intentional steps to find "the one." I flitted around indulging crushes that lasted forever, and stayed emotionally stuck on guys long after we broke up.

In contrast, most of my friends who wanted babies were deliberate and intentional about their dating efforts. They spent time on dating sites, went out specifically to meet men, even hired matchmakers. Soon, they moved on to marriage and began having kids.

When people asked me if I wanted kids, I would always say, "I don’t know. It’s a decision I want to make together with my partner once I find him."

But I just never found him.

Within a few years of graduating law school, my body rebelled against the long hours, lack of sleep, and extreme stress. I ended up in chronic pain and barely able to take care of myself. I quit my prestigious law career and spent several years healing and reinventing myself, starting a new career and focusing on interests more in line with what I really wanted to do in the world.

But even then, I was still "busy" — only now it revolved around my health. I regularly traveled and went on multiple Qigong retreats each year. I’d fallen in love with Cuban salsa dancing and not only visited Cuba many times to dance, but I also went out dancing 3 to 4 nights each week. I became Ms. Mind/Body/Soul herself — studying to become a life coach and getting certified in all things somatic, such as Feldenkrais and Qigong, meditation, Integral Coaching. Life was good!

However, I was fast approaching 40 and there was still no partner in sight. 

As I faced the closing of my fertility window, I realized I needed to think about whether or not I truly wanted children ... with or without someone to co-parent with. I wasn't panicked though. Friends all around me were having babies in their late 30s and 40s. My own mother had me when she was 39. I thought that, if anything, my generation had proven that having a baby later in life is possible and, in some ways, more desirable.

It took me over a year of contemplation to decide to take the leap into solo motherhood. As much as I loved children, I wasn’t certain that I was ready to give up my freedom and life of spontaneity

Who would I be if I couldn’t travel the world, go see various spiritual teachers on a whim, stay out late dancing, and sample all the best restaurants and music festivals? 

The flip side started to seep in too though: Would life get boring for me if I only had to focus on myself? At some point would I get bored of travel, retreats and dancing? 

Already, the last few times I had traveled somewhere exotic, it didn't have the same allure. The intense drive of my spontaneous life was fading. Something else was calling me. I was looking for something ... more.   

And then one day, my teacher said to me, "Have you noticed that you cry every time you talk about not having a baby?"

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It was true! And that was a startling realization. But, as I considered the idea of solo mothering, I just kept thinking: This isn't the way I thought my life would unfold!

I had to mourn the life I thought I was meant to have and re-imagine the remainder of my life unfolding an entirely new way.

My greatest fear was — Would I be alone forever if I have a baby by myself? Who would want to date a single mom?

I was also deeply concerned about financial stability.

How would I manage alone — financially, emotionally, logistically? What if I lost my job? Or couldn’t work again due to physical pain?

My teacher reminded me that nothing in life is ever certain. 

People who find the love of their life end up divorced, cheated on, and even widowed. Happy couples remain childless due to infertility. No one's "dream life" is promised to them. And, everyone's job safety is impossible to predict. 

I could freak out about having a baby alone and miss my chance at becoming a mother, or I could lean into the uncertainty and let the rest of my life unfold as it was meant to. Having a child alone did not necessarily mean I’d never meet a life partner. It might mean delaying the partner for several years, or it might mean that being pregnant would make me feel amazing and sexy and call in the partner I’d always dreamed about. It was truly impossible to predict.

From that moment on, I started to examine my life differently. I began to trust the love rising inside me AND trust my innate tenacity.  

I looked at my life in the future and realized that if I continued to only focus on myself, I would end up feeling bored and unfulfilled. I wanted to be of service in some way, and I realized I wanted to be of service to a child. (Of course, at the time, I had NO idea just how much surrender and sacrifice motherhood would entail!) 

Then, one day in meditation, I had a vision of a little girl in a frilly, pink dress riding on a swing on a glorious spring day. In that moment, I knew — I wanted to become a mother more than anything. All of my indecision vanished in an instant! I was ready.

I researched the logistics and started trying to conceive a child alone with the use of an Identity-Release donor (which is an amazing process, by the way, but that's a story for another article).  

But then, my OB/GYN informed me there was an issue with my fertility. If I wanted to have a baby, I’d likely have to use an egg donor.

After spending a year trying to get pregnant with my own eggs (I won’t even start trying to explain the lengths I went to on that front) I finally accepted that I'd need to use both a sperm and an egg donor.

And this is when everyone's UNSOLICITED opinions started pouring in. 

"I don’t understand why you’re not just adopting?" one friend queried. "I’m sorry, but I believe really strongly in adoption, so I just don’t get it."

I almost fell out of my chair when she said this to me. Did she have any idea the despair I’d been through? First giving up on the idea of having a partner to conceive with, and then giving up any hope of having a genetic link to my own child at all! 

I had my reasons for wanting to become a mother this way. The most important of which was the desire to experience pregnancy, to grow my baby inside my own body. How does someone trivialize the power a mother's love and physical body has on a baby's development when the child is inside her for 10 months? It was shocking to me that my friend, and so many others, questioned me this way.

But, rather than get mad, I realized that anytime someone picks an unconventional path in life, it tends to trigger other people. 

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People challenged me and questioned me right to my face — and had plenty of opinions behind my back. If I wanted to go this route, I needed solid conviction at the core of my being that what I was doing made sense to me. My choices derived from a place of intense love and yearning to become a mother. 

Living life as a single mother by choice — or being a mother at all in this world — means deflecting all sorts of snarky opinions and judgments (and, yep ... that has definitely been the case).

But the only person who can ever truly judge my merit as a parent is my child. A child I DID finally have, by the way! Happily. Gloriously. A beautiful, healthy, amazing son.

So I don't care what anyone's opinion is on the matter. 

Motherhood is about love, plain and simple ... no matter how complicated the journey is getting there. 

Sarah Kowalski is a single mom by choice, Fertility Doula, Life Coach, author and founder of Motherhood Reimagined. She helps women who are contemplating single motherhood, facing fertility issues, and/or raising children alone re-imagine what it means to be a mother so they can remain open to what's possible.  Join her private Facebook group for juicy discussions and support, or follow her on  Facebook, or Twitter.



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