1,000 Families Project: Julie, Naomi, Nathan, Thandeka, Finn and Neave

1,000 Families Project: Single mom Julie and Kids Naomi, Nathan, Thandeka, Finn and Neave

For this small-town doctor and single mom of five, a traumatic and terribly public divorce wasn’t going to stand in the way of expanding her family.


I am a physician and a mother to five outstanding children. A single mother to five, that is. A single mother first by circumstance and then by choice. Since my husband’s unexpected departure from our marriage in 2009, followed by four unsightly years of very dysfunctional co-parenting of our three shared children, he ultimately left town entirely in 2013. That same year I gave birth to enormously anticipated twins by artificial insemination of donor sperm. Needless to say, my family has suffered, endured, evolved and ultimately grown since the demise of my marriage seven years ago.

Co-parenting, in my case, was such a frightening and damaging experience for my children and I that it bordered dangerously close to abuse with us as victims. Unfortunately, it is a type of family abuse that is under-recognized and poorly understood. Given the complete Jeckyl-to-Hyde transformation of my once perfect husband, I knew from the time of my marital demise that I never ever wanted to be married again. I couldn’t trust my own ability to spot the sinister, to scratch of the surface veneer of people, especially of a future mate. I would not risk it, not for me, not for my children. Moreover, as a professional and single mother, I felt very low on the dating-scene totem pole. But I was not done making my family. Enter stranger sperm. And a southern Ontario fertility clinic.

The twins were born brilliantly timed only weeks before their older siblings’ father packed a U-Haul truck and left town for good. He unceremoniously piled every one of their belongings on our front porch, for all of our small city’s traffic to see. Our city has a small-town feel to it and I, as a fairly well-known physician of the area, have a centrally located home at a busy intersection, that is known to many people. Large cardboard boxes of the kids’ stuff from his house were piled three thick and three high outside our door. It took us weeks to dismantle the mess. It was so copious and overwhelming we had to exit through the back door in those initial days. Their dignity was shot along with their sense that their father loved them.

But the noise and swirling activity around two brand-new siblings brought enormous steadying power to our household and aided me in my efforts to establish a sense of home and groundedness for the kids. I, their mother, was not going anywhere. We were a family, and then some. Bring on the love, bring on the diapers, the kisses, the tiny grasping hands. We will be a family without a father.

Not all fathers are daddies; this lesson remained unspoken and silent but the situation screamed its truth at us nonetheless.

Writing in these tumultuous times kept me grounded, so I could ground my kids. I wrote a book during those post-separation years both to document and to heal. It remains at the manuscript stage at this time. Motherhood Taken: The To-Hell-And-Back-Saga of Co-Parenting in the Age of Divorce comprises nineteen chapters and is paradoxically not about divorce. Rather, it is a memoir that stencils my journey through the double anguish that ensued. Wifehood and a nuclear family gone, I travel through my grief in this memoir and recount the crafting of our most wondrous solution to bring beauty back to our broken home.

Pain and loss are powerful, especially when suffered alone. They make us more real, quiet-wise, caring. Less velveteen. I am enormously grateful to the Universe, to God, to circumstance for this journey through an anguish I had never anticipated. Though it hurt like hell, it has proven one of the greatest gifts life has given me.

This is #1000families post number 188. 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 series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.
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Julie Connolly

About Julie Connolly

Dr. Julie Connolly is a Northern Ontario family physician and single mother of five wonderful children. At work, her practice focus encompasses maternity care, obstetrics, and women’s health. She is also an avid vasectomist. At home, she specializes in diaper washing, meal preparation, homework and tantrum diffusion. View all posts by


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