I’m a divorced mum to an only child, it’s a far cry from the life I had imagined for myself: four children and a partner to boot was how it was supposed to end. It only takes an innocent photo of friends’ children playing and bickering (oh yes, I’m realistic) to set my womb on fire. I want another kid so bad it physically hurts. My mum asks me which I want more – another child or a partner? It’s a cruel choice. Like that game we played as teenagers – would you rather lose your legs or your arms? Is it too much to ask for both? After over two years of searching it would seem it is. So I’ve been thinking about changing my story and becoming a single mum by choice.
During my last pregnancy I was breaking under the strain of my marriage crumbling, yet the thought of entering that labour ward alone prevented me from walking away. If solo parenting has taught me one thing it’s that we are all a lot stronger than we realise. The pregnancy, the birth, the eighteen years of parenting (plus the rest), that’s not what I’m afraid of. I have so many questions but none about the practicalities of being a solo mum. My questions are about the emotional side. How would my existing son and any future child(ren) feel about it? Would they resent me bringing them into the world without a father around? Will my family look even more chaotic than it already does – two children, different dads, (probably) both absent? It doesn’t bode well for parents evening.
Then there is the crucial question – am I done with my dream? There’s still a little bit of me that dares to imagine that another pregnancy could be different with Mr Supportive there to hold my hand. If I have a second child alone any chance of that gets pushed further away. Perhaps if I was nearer to thirty than forty I’d feel differently, but I’m not and time is ticking. If I take this path I’m creating a family that looks less and less like that dream. But what’s the point of dreams you can’t touch? If I choose the child will I always be left wondering whether mister right was just around the corner? If I choose to wait and mister right doesn’t make an appearance soon, what then? I don’t want to find myself three years down the line, struggling for another and wishing my children were closer together in age. I’ve lived with so many regrets for the past few years, I don’t want to live with another.
I have the usual questions I assume people have when searching for a sperm donor. Who do I choose? How do I choose them? What if the child ends up completely different to his/ her brother? What if there is something wrong with her/ him? All these questions are no doubt on parents’ minds when they contemplate having a second child, but not knowing where 50% of the child-to-be’s genes comes from seems unnerving. Maybe I over think things but it seems hard not to. If I was contemplating fertility treatment with someone else it would be different. If we needed an egg and/or sperm donor the facts would remain the same – we wouldn’t know where 50% of their genes came from – but I’d have someone beside me, someone to reassure me, someone who would be the other parent. Although I’m a solo mum now that wasn’t my choice. Sure, sometimes I feel guilty about my son’s situation but I never planned for it to turn out how it has. If I choose to have a child alone the decision will be mine, and mine alone. I have no idea what that really means, apart from lots of nappies, tears and joy.
I admire more than anything the women who have gone down this route. Women who have the strength and conviction to know that having a child is the most important thing to them. That takes an incredible person. But can I be one of them? I’m still clutching at the ideal ending – boy meets girl, has baby and creates the perfect blended family. Each child I have before that happens pushes that possibility further away. I have so little control over creating that ideal and I’m not good at sitting still when I want to do something in this life. Sure, I can join online dating sites and apps, I can go speed dating and join groups and everything else I can think of but if I don’t meet someone I click with then there’s no hope. I do, however, have control over whether I choose to go down this path. But then I’m back to square one – the choice between the hope of a relationship and the reality of a second child as a single mum. It feels like an impossible decision to make.
Perhaps if I had another child then I could relax with the whole relationship thing. At the moment it feels like a race I need to win to survive but I don’t even know where the starting point is. I’m running round in the dark with a slight sense of desperation hanging over me. I’m wishing I could meet someone, yet mentally counting how long I’d need to be with them before we could start trying for a child. Three dates has been my limit since divorcing – I’m pretty sure that’s too soon to bring up the “do you want kids” question. I’d be quite up for kissing lots of frogs before I found my prince, but at the moment I’m not kissing anyone. I haven’t come close to dealing with the myriad of emotional and practical barriers that make having a relationship with someone when you’re a solo mum to a toddler challenging. I have no idea how difficult that would be, but I imagine it’s pretty hard to make it work even with a great guy. Of course it can be done, people do it every day of the week, but the ever increasing tick-tock sound in the background adds a level of pressure that I for one could do without.
When I became a solo parent for the first time it was an isolating and devastating experience. Slowly I’ve come to know and love the benefits of solo motherhood. Now, even just thinking of this possibility – of having a child independently – is incredibly freeing. I’ve come a long way from those dark days. Deciding that I could do this parenting gig alone from the word go is such an empowering thought. It has removed my fear of never having more children; suddenly I’m taking back control of my life and for now that’s enough.