Unknown Donor

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)

Cycle Monitoring: What to Expect

Image courtesy of Functions of Cells and Human Body (www.fblt.cz/en/)

Image courtesy of Functions of Cells and Human Body (www.fblt.cz/en/)

When trying to conceive sometimes we find ourselves needing a little extra assistance. When deciding to get additional help from a fertility doctor, you can feel both relieved for potential answers and solutions, but also overwhelmed by trying to decipher what the hitch might be. Furthermore, with the multiple monthly visits and simply trying to reconcile that conception has moved from the bedroom to a clinic can be a process.

Cycle monitoring may be the only thing you need the clinic for, or it may be a part of further assistance that you require from the clinic, whatever the reason, if you've reached out to a fertility doctor you will likely be cycle monitored.

So what can you expect from cycle monitoring...?

Cycle monitoring allows your fertility doctor to find out exactly when you're ovulating to know when the best time to inseminate or have sex would be, and to increase the chances of a pregnancy. However, because everyone's cycle is different, it is hard to anticipate how often you'll need to visit the clinic, or when ovulation will occur.

When menstruation starts, so does your cycle monitoring schedule. You will need to visit the clinic on day two, three or four of your cycle, so your fertility doctor can review your blood work, how many follicles you have, and if one follicle is beginning to mature. At this visit your doctor will let you know when they would like to have you return which is usually somewhere between day 6 and 12 depending on the length of your cycle. After which, you will be asked to come back every two to three days until you get closer to ovulation, where you will then need to return on a daily basis until ovulation.

Each day that you're asked to visit the clinic, you'll need to get blood work done to monitor your hormone levels, have a trans-vaginal ultrasound to monitor your maturing follicle(s), and to meet with your fertility doctor to let you know when is best for you to return to be cycle monitored again.

Now what should you expect from your follicles?

During that first visit, or around day 2 - 5 of your cycle, your fertility doctor will be counting your ovarian reserve and is looking for between 6 - 10 follicles that will range between 2 - 10 mm in diameter. You should expect your follicle to grow 1 - 2 mm a day in size and when your dominant follicle reaches 20 - 24 mm, in combination with good hormone levels, this will indicate to your doctor that ovulation can happen with ease.

Lastly, what can you expect emotionally?

Cycle monitoring demands a lot more emotionally than physically, in particular when your follicle(s) are getting close to maturing and your fertility doctor would like you to return daily to keep an eye on that dominant follicle. Each clinic demands a different time commitment, some clinics schedule you in 15 min time slots, so you can be in and out (although you might end up with a time slot that doesn't work great in your schedule), while other clinics have you drop in between 7am and 9:30 am, so depending on how busy the clinic is you could be there for a couple of hours! Regardless of this the anticipation (or sometimes boredom) can be taxing. As you likely know, stress is not a friend of fertility. So what can you do:

  • Pack a Cycle Monitoring 'Survival Kit' including: if you're at a clinic that doesn't schedule visits, think about packing snacks, a good book, your computer to do work (this can decrease the stress of being away from work and keep you occupied), and your phone loaded with your favourite podcasts, audio books, or an audio meditation series.
  • If it's safe to do so, let your employer know, there will be times that you'll be late for work, and if your employer knows they'll likely be more flexible and accommodating with your schedule, which can help lower stress around time commitment.
  • It's so easy for us to want to keep conception on the down low to avoid unwanted questions and unsolicited advice. It is, however, worth letting in a close circle of friends that you can reach out to during those times you may be feeling overwhelmed or exhausted by the constant monitoring.
  • If you have a partner, a supportive friend, or a fertility doula, ask them to come with you if you need a little extra support or company on a particular day.
  • Often fertility clinics offer support groups for individuals or couples that are struggling with their fertility or need some assistance to get pregnant. They're not for everyone, but before you discount support groups, it is definitely worth inquiring if your clinic offers a support group.
  • Think about recruiting fertility practitioners outside of the fertility clinic such as a Naturopath, or acupuncturist, they are equipped with trade secrets that can help support and enhance the fertility treatments you're already receiving.

How cycle monitoring ends depends on what additional fertility assistance you require, whether it be simply help with timing, IUI or IVF.

I’m grateful that I’m getting help. But there are so many other things that I would rather do than be cycle monitored. It takes a bit of time to adjust being ‘on-call’ to your follicles.
— Client on Cycle Monitoring

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...!


The Spectrum Doula Team