We are a family of two. We have an enormous extended family of loving grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, nieces and nephews, but I am more than blessed to have the one child I have and he and I make up our wee family. This is my son, L. As a photographer, I am part of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, but I do not print my son’s name online at all. I prefer to protect his privacy.
My last serious relationship lasted nine years, during which my ex and I tried to have a child together to no avail. We only achieved pregnancy twice, six years apart, both ending in miscarriages. At the time he described the journey as though we were watching all our friends leave on a big family-making cruise ship and we were left on the dock waving at them all. Our infertility struggle became too sad an existence and we parted ways as amicably as possible having been through enough heartache already.
The one thing we had not tried together was In Vitro Fertilization. We had tried naturally for a long while, then began fertility treatment and, although we achieved a pregnancy during our fifth Intrauterine insemination (IUI), another miscarriage followed. So a year and a half after leaving my ex, I pursued IVF on my own. On top of the cost of the surgery, I paid a fee to purchase donor sperm. I also paid an extra fee to have what is known as an “ICSI” (Intracytaplasmic Sperm Injection). An ICSI is in every way similar to an IVF, except that, once the eggs are harvested, each of them is injected with donor sperm. I was told that—amazingly enough—this would still not guarantee fertilization. But I figured I could use all the help I could get! I selected an anonymous donor through the fertility clinic I’d been attending for years. This was the biggest part of my IVF decision process and I chose very carefully. It mattered to me that the donor be among the smaller pool of those willing to be contacted by his potential donor offspring. I wanted my child to have a chance to have any questions answered.
My fertility doctor at the time advised me against the ICSI, stating that it would be a waste of my time and money. I am so glad I listened to my gut and my heart. Because lo and behold, after injecting the drugs into my belly and having eggs harvested and fertilized and transferred back into my womb, I became pregnant. I could only afford the one attempt and, having made friends online who were also facing infertility, I knew how lucky I was to be successful my first and only attempt. I transferred two eggs and for the first 10 weeks I was carrying twins, but by the second ultrasound the very faint second heartbeat was gone and I was carrying a singleton. I had only ever known loss, and now had miscarried three pregnancies. But I know by the time I attempted the IVF surgery, I was in a much better space after a year and a half on my own. And I think my body responded to the less stressful, happier path I’d begun to carve out for myself.
I crossed, for the first time, into my second trimester. I still felt it was almost too good to be true. It wasn’t until I felt the baby kick that I exhaled. I wept. For joy, for the babies I’d lost, for the one that was staying with me. I wept and I laughed and I pinched myself. I was the happiest woman alive.
I did not choose to know the sex until I gave birth. My twin sister was my birth partner. I was surrounded by wonderful women—friends, moms, sisters—when he slithered out between my legs and into my arms. The heartburst of that day is indescribable and I cherish each and every day of motherhood since it was so hard won for me. That doesn’t mean I’m a perfect mom, but I am certainly slower to take for granted the gift that is parenthood.
So I have been a single parent of my child since conception. We are very blessed to have a wonderful network of support through family, neighbours and dear friends whose children attended the same daycare and now the same school. I look back and think, yes, I’d have had way more energy as a parent in my 20s, but would I have had the financial security or even simply the emotional maturity to get through the trials and tribulations of toddlerhood? I think had I conceived with my ex in my 30s, I would have been hellbent on having everything “perfect.” So I feel very happy to have finally entered parenthood as a bit of an older mum. I’ve learned more patience over the years and we have a good home together. We have great fun and adventures and I’m a lot more easy going as a person and more open to accessing the joy and wonder he discovers daily.
I have single-parent friends who tell me they don’t know how I do it, always being the parent 24-7, 365 days a year with no spouse to share the parenting (even as an ex). But since I don’t know what that feels like, I’ve nothing to compare it to. I admire people who handle that by putting their children’s needs first. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to exist separately from your child, however brief the time apart. So my single parenthood is unique in that it was by choice. I joke and tell people that I made the bed I now have no time to lie in. I am in my 40s and he is still wee. But for all the trials or exhaustion single parenting can bring, I know simply that I have zero regrets pursuing the joy I am experiencing being a mother and having that dream of parenthood finally come true. Zero. That doesn’t mean I don’t complain or have a wee cry every once in a while. I’m no saint. But I will never regret this decision I made to pursue parenthood on my own. That is certain. I’m not religious at all, but I concede that my son is my miracle and the single, greatest gift of my life. I am one very lucky mama.
Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the project got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.