Single Parents

When it's a period.

Trying to conceive is not an easy process, but that moment you get your period and you know, you know that for sure you are not pregnant is devastating. We are grateful to a client of ours who has shared how challenging trying to conceive has been for her, and just how difficult it is when it ends with a period. 

 

I never imagined that I would struggle with fertility. I suppose no one ever does. But somehow we are surprised whether we get pregnant quickly, or when we don't get pregnant at all. I've known people who planned for at least six months of trying before a positive pregnancy and then when that positive pregnancy happened right away they were actually disappointed and wished they had more time. On the other hand, I also have friends who have waited until all their ducks are perfectly in a row, and then when it doesn't happen right away it's heartbreaking. 

Back about 6 years ago, when the idea of kids was a little seedling, I had travelled to Chicago for the weekend with my married friends to catch a Cubs game. Like one does at a baseball game, in one of the oldest ball parks in the world, is to indulge in the park's delicacies - hot dogs and beer. We were of course disappointed to find the hot dog we had been given had been boiled, soggy, and limp, but nothing a little ketchup can't fix. 

After the game, my friend started to feel ill, so ill she spent the rest of the evening in the washroom, followed by the next two mornings, and our whole drive back to Toronto not feeling herself. Her husband and I could only assume it was the not so delicate hot dog, we clearly just had stomachs of steel. Turns out she was pregnant. That bad ballpark hotdog was her little man - we couldn't believe it - and well neither could she. 

The significance of this story is that I think about it often. Now that I'm trying to conceive, I seem to mistake my indigestion for a positive pregnancy on the regular... it can't be that chicken I ate!? It's been two years of trying, and it's tough. I always seem to waver between hopefulness and hopelessness. Every twinge I feel I wonder... could it be?? 

There are so many aspects that can be unpacked when trying to conceive, the monitoring, the fertility clinic, the fertility drugs, the constant stream of well intentioned but unsolicited advice. But it's that very real and very brief moment when you know you've got to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and find what little hope you have for another month of monitoring, tracking, and trying, is the one moment I struggle most with. That moment your body tells you another month has passed, another failed attempt. That moment you get your period. 

It feels weird to look back at those decades of relief (sometimes glee) when you get your period, and then just like that you dread it, and not just because of the bloating, and cramping, but because it simply magnifies the sadness, the sadness of another month gone and your dream of having a family a little more crushed. But then again, I can't help but feel hopeful as I near my expected period date, wondering if the bloating, or tiredness I feel is a sign of a positive pregnancy. And then it arrives, as if shedding the aftermath of a battle that's just happened in my uterus. And I feel a loss, a great loss. I had dreamed, hoped and imagined that I would soon begin a new life with babe in tow. But instead I have to clean up the blood and move on. A lost opportunity, and my life in suspension waiting for another month, another attempt, and potentially another loss.

Written by Spectrum Doula Collective Client

 

At Spectrum Doula Collective we work with families who are trying to conceive, we will attend important appointments at the fertility clinic for uncomfortable tests, such as the egg retrieval process, hysterosalipingogram (fallopian tube test), and insemination/in vitro fertilization. Our goal is to be emotional and physical support for our clients who are trying to conceive, or hope to be a parent later on.

 

 

 

Book Review: Choosing Single Motherhood

Choosing Single Motherhood
I wasn’t prepared when my two and a half year old son asked, ‘So did my dad die or what?’ I thought the question would come up later than that. [. . .] By the time he was 6, he’d introduce himself by shaking hands and saying ‘Hi, I’m Ryan and I’m a donor baby.’ It wasn’t intended to shock people. For him it was simply part of who he was
— Wendy Kramer, Choosing Single Motherhood (270)

Perhaps you're thinking about being a single mom, parent, or you have a friend who has been considering it, and every time you look for a resource online, in the library, or book store, your search is largely dominated by resources targeted toward two-parent families. Although the #choicemom community has been around for decades (yes! decades), unfortunately, there are still limited resources for those looking to be a parent on their own. However, we are lucky that Mikki Morrissette, founder of ChoiceMoms.org (another fantastic resource), has written a wonderfully comprehensive book about Choosing Single Motherhood.

Choosing to be a choice mom (a woman who chooses to conceive or adopt without a life partner) is not a choice that comes without significant thought and planning around finances, security, sacrifices, and changes that will need to be made to support this new little family member. And this is before any thought is given to how this little one will come to meet us. In Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman's Guide (2008) Mikki Morrissette walks you through each step from those initial considerations whether being a single parent is right for you, choosing how to bring this little one in to your life, and the challenges faced by choice mothers.

Where this book succeeds

Considering this book is nearly 10 years old, it is still very relevant. It does justice to the very serious questions around how to conceive as a single mom, key issues to consider when weighing the pros and cons between choosing a known donor (i.e. someone you know), or unknown donor (i.e. sperm bank), and if an unknown donor is chosen the debate between an open ID donor versus a closed donor, and of course Morrissette dedicates a whole chapter to adoption as an option.

With every topic that Morrissette covers, whether it be about loss of a family dream, the debate around being raised 'without' a father (and how to answer the 'daddy' question), or how to get through the day-to-day parenting grind when doing it solo, she provides an array of anecdotes from choice moms, some of them positive, some of them not so ideal, but providing a full spectrum of considerations to each thoughtfully chosen topic.

Points worth noting

Morrissette shares several anecdotes from her choice mom peers about discrimination from various doctors and fertility clinics who either denied or made it difficult for single women to receive fertility support. I do genuinely hope that there has been a shift in care for single women seeking to conceive or adopt as a solo parent since this book has been published. I can attest that this kind of discrimination is exceptionally uncommon or nonexistent among fertility clinics in Toronto. Because Morrisette is based in the United States it is also important, whether you plan to use a known or unknown donor, co-parent with a known-donor, get help from a surrogate, or adopt, to explore the legalities in your community. Parental and legal rights vary from province to province, and state to state, and of course from country to country and it is important that you be fully aware of any legal roadblocks no matter how you choose to create your family. 

This book is written specifically for cis-gendered women who want to be single parents, and is not trans-inclusive. Despite the lack of inclusivity, this book can still be used as a springboard to harvest more information for single trans-men who may want to use donor sperm or adopt, OR trans-women who may be interested in adoption (unfortunately the book does not talk about surrogacy as an option). Many of those basic questions around finances, security, how to handle the daily grind are relatively universal to all parents doing it solo, although every person has unique circumstances that play a role in their family structure.  

Becoming Single Mother

We would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is considering being a single parent. There are not a lot of resources out there in print for women considering to be choice moms, and although there is room for some updating, Morrissette a choice mom herself, provides a relatively unbiased perspective on all the major topics around choosing single motherhood (plus a ton of solo parenting and self-care survival tips).

At Spectrum Doula Collective we work with new parents daily, and parenting can be and feel very isolating. One thing that Morrissette talks about as essential for the solo mom is widening that social circle even if this is something that doesn't come naturally, she explains: "Most of them won't become close, long-term friends" (236), but a network is necessary for support, to normalize your experiences, and to provide balance for both you and your child's.

Have you heard the parable of the glass of water? Lift a glass of water and it doesn’t take much effort. One minute, okay. One hour, your arm start to ache. One day, you need a doctor. The weight never changes, but the longer you lift it without a break the heavier it becomes. You need to put it down and rest before holding it again. After we’re refreshed, it doesn’t seem like such an effort again.
— Mikki Morrissette, Choosing Single Motherhood (250)

Single Parent by Choice

Spectrum Single Parent by Choice

Choosing to be a parent on your own is not a decision that is made lightly, from the decision itself, to the act of getting pregnant, to labouring without a partner to parenting solo can make you feel like one of those blow-up punching bags, where you keep popping back up for more punches. Parenting, no matter how you become a parent, will have it's challenges, and it will also have its joys.

If you are considering becoming a single parent, choice mom or parent by choice, Spectrum Doula Collective was created with you in mind! We understand all the questions you had to ask yourself, all the finances you had to sort out and plan for a future with babe, we also understand the decision making behind a known donor versus going with an anonymous donor. We understand the challenges, the judgment, and the curiosity from others which impacted each decision you made. We also understand the process in creating a co-parenting relationship, going through a fertility clinic and grieving the process of conceiving with a partner, or navigating through public and or private adoption options. We understand the ups and downs... we understand the desire to just want to parent.

If you are in the process of deciding whether being a single parent is right for you, we would love to share some of our favourite resources!

Rainbow Health Ontario has some great resources for non-traditional family creations. Here are some of their most relevant materials to journeying into single parenthood, highlighting the pros and cons of each option:

Guide to Choosing a Sperm Donor (Known vs Unknown)
Guide to Coparenting
Guide to Insemination Procedures

Another great resource right here in Toronto is The 519 Church Street Community Centre, which offers a Queer and Trans Family Planning course. Whether you identify as Queer, Trans or a straight single parent-to-be, this course is very inclusive and provides extensive information on all the different options available to becoming a parent. This course might be the most inclusive family planning course out there!

ChoiceMoms.org and SingleMothersByChoice.org are also good online resources and support, full of podcasts, ebooks, and forums to link up with others traveling a similar journey.

The Longest Shortest Time (one of our fave podcasts) has two great podcasts worth a listen: Episode #64 Should I Have Kids? and Episode #66 Momming It Solo.

Finally, CReATe Fertility Centre offers an On Our Own group for singles who are interested in becoming a parent or are a choice parent to share, discuss and explore feelings, and information in a safe and supportive setting. On Our Own gathers the 4th Thursday of every month between 6:30 - 8:30 PM.

*You may want to call CReATe and confirm dates and times with the clinic, in case they change.

We hope that no matter where your journey to parenthood leads that some of these resources came in handy. And if you ever need someone to chat to about the process, don't hesitate to get in contact with us!

And if you have any great resources that you think will be helpful to our readers, let us know by writing a comment, we would love to hear from you...!

Love,

The Spectrum Doula Team