Saturday, December 18, 2010

Happy Holidays!

The SMC blog is taking a vacation for the holidays and will return in the new year. Best wishes to all, and a happy new year!



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Love (While Being an SMC of Two)

I've been a SMC for almost 10 years now. Here is my story.

When my daughter (via DI) was a baby I had little time or interest in dating. I was loving motherhood, but motherhood and working full time took all my energy. There were many times that I was grateful that I didn't have to put any energy into a relationship because I didn't think I could have managed.

When she got to be a toddler and I began to get out of the house occasionally without her I began to think about dating and had a profile up on The first thing I noticed is that I got hardly any interest compared to the profile I had up before becoming an SMC. I was now 37-38 yrs old.

About that same time I had a few dates with a HS classmate and we really liked each other but he lived long distance and was not interested in a long distance relationship. The dry spell continued...

When my daughter was 5.5 yrs I moved from NYC to suburban NJ. Later that year a friend set me up on a date with a widower who had a 9 year old daughter. We e-mailed and talked awhile and eventually met for dinner. I was the first person he had really liked since his wife died and he wasn't ready to do anything.

Now I was in my 40's... More dry spell... not really even trying to date. I had pretty much given up. I was in the process of adopting my 2nd daughter. I figured that my prospects were dim anyway so why not go ahead and grow my family.

Last summer when my youngest had been with me almost a year we made a trip out to the mid-west to see her birth parents and the cousin that introduced us. While there I met my college sweetheart for dinner with the kids. It was the first time we'd seen each other in 22 years. We were trying to catch up on the last 20+ years but as you might imagine it was nearly impossible with the kids interrupting every few minutes. As I was leaving he told me that he was going through a divorce. I asked him to call me after the kids were in bed so that I could talk uninterrupted. When we talked we discovered that we both still cared about each other and began dating long distance and it is going well.

I remember telling him that I was no prize because I had 2 kids, 2 parents (living next door), 2 dogs, 2 cats and an old house to care for. I said, "what man wants all that!" His reply was that "a good man would want all that."

So I went from having no hope that I would ever marry (or even date regularly) to a relationship with the one man I regretted not marrying 20+ years ago. I feel really lucky and somewhat foolish that I had ever lost my hope in the first place. But I'm glad that I found it again.

Julia Crislip

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Losing the First Tooth

Samuel got his first loose tooth last night. It is wiggly and it hurts a bit and Samuel is thrilled and I am sad. OK, I know it is ridiculous. The timing is actually on the late end to lose his first tooth --he will be seven next month. He has a couple of friends who lost their first tooth at age four and many at age five and six so it is about time (in his mind anyway)!

Nevertheless, I feel like the last vestige of Samuel's babyhood is going. It really seems like he has changed more in the last year (age 6 to 7) than any other single year since infancy. In fact, in many ways, he was remarkably stable in his personality, traits, play and interests between about age three and six. Now he has left those things behind. No more pretend games, no more playmobil, no more fantasy, little tolerance for his younger sister, a rigidity about gender when before there was a fluidity....

Of course he has gained some things as well. He has new interests: legos, sports, hexbugs, his friends, the violin/piano, technology. He can read (and at least he reads to his sister!)! He is more mature both emotionally and cognitively. Where there was once a sweet soft babyness in his face and body, he is now all muscles, angles and lean. Generally, he has been a pretty easy reasonable child, but he has grown mostly easier and more reasonable or at least better at avoiding getting caught in mischief.

A few things remain the same. I still see Samuel (empathic, verbal, thoughtful, curious, funny) when I look at him. But he is growing away from me in leaps and bounds. I am a welcome respite at the end of the day, but during daylight hours, his friends are mostly more important to him than his mother and sister. What happened to the four year old Samuel who said very seriously to me, "Mommy, YOU are my best friend"??? The kid who constantly made cards with hearts above my name, and whose first written chicken scratch at age 3 was "I love you Mama"? The small child with the pink socks and the huge smile?

Not so long ago, I had a baby and a toddler. Then for a long time, it seemed like I had two preschoolers --one younger and one older. Now suddenly, I have a four year old and a boy who is nearly seven. They rush in and out of the house in a brilliant whirlwind of school, lessons and friends. "Hi Mama, bye Mama. Hi Mommy, Bye Mommy. Hi Mom, Bye." And I am so busy and scattered and frantic that I barely noticed the time slipping away.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Get Out of Cooking -- Free!

Other moms assume my daughter eats cottage cheese and blueberries for dinner because I’m a working mom and I don’t have time to cook. If I were a stay at home mom. She'd be eating the same exact thing. Cooking is not my thing.

What’s wrong with cottage cheese and blueberries for dinner? I didn’t put her on a diet, I’m not a great role model for diet, it’s what she likes to eat. It’s not the only edible item in the house. I have frozen, canned and boxed things like macaroni. I read the nutritional panels and most of what I feed my daughter is a whole lot healthier than home cooking. Definitely healthier than the Joy of Cooking recipes I grew up with. The meals I ate at my friends houses, that is. Like lasagna and clams casino. 

My love for cooking comes from my mom. She had two cookbooks – The Campbell’s Soup Cookbook and Five Ingredients or Less. In our house, garlic salt was an exotic spice. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I learned iceberg wasn’t the world's only lettuce. 

When I was in high school, my service club had a bake sale. We’d get more points for homemade items than store brought ones. My mom thought the policy was unfair to culinary challenged individuals. So she bought a box of Entemann’s chocolate chip cookies, put them on tin foil, stuck them into the toaster oven, and burned them.

“Now they taste homemade,” she said. 

When I get fancy I make the blueberries on the cottage cheese into eyes and a smile. A raisin or a raspberry makes a nose even Martha Stewart would begrudgingly approve. I don’t use oil, saturated fats, butter, or even pots.

Why not eat leftover birthday cake for breakfast? As Bill Cosby famously pointed out, cake is eggs, milk, and wheat.

It’s not only that I don’t like to cook. I don’t like to think of what to make either. And I certainly don’t like to do the shopping for the ingredients for the dinners that I didn’t like thinking of in the first place. I make it fun for myself and for my daughter by thinking thematically. Some of my dinners:


Grilled cheese sandwich. Broccoli with cheese (frozen)


Cheddar cheese. Goldfish crackers. Orange slices. Carrots. 

 Turkey or veggie burger. Wagon wheel shaped pasta. Apple slices. Vanilla wafer. 

Yogurt, cereal and milk and fruit. 

If it’s not a theme, I try to arrange the chicken nuggets or fish fingers to look decorative.

I do pride myself in buying the healthiest pre-made ingredients I can. Amy’s Organic makes lovely frozen dinners. And they last a lot longer in the fridge than the fresh stuff.

Sure I have dreams of serving my daughter organic, low calorie Coconut Chicken Curry in the evenings with a crostini topped by black olive tapinade nosher. But I also have the fantasy of a handsome, virile young chef serving it up. One who does his own clean up and dish-washing.

Hating to cook and not doing it may sound selfish. But, while cooking is not my thing, I've replaced it with other things. Life is about balance and part of that is saying no to things we hate and yes to the equal replacements we like. That 30 minutes it takes to prepare a Rachel Ray standard (shopping time and do-overs not included), I use to play with my daughter and help her pick her clothes for the next day. I don't believe the lack of home made meals and memories of mom busy in the kitchen are going to be something my daughter will need a therapist for. I do believe all the puzzles we do, books we read and doll swimming pools we make out of blocks will be her “comfort food.” I see more than enough health benefits in that.

Aimee Heller

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Adoption "Gestational Period"?

I’ve spent over a year participating in and listening to the SMC-Trying to Conceive (TTC) forum. I even had my own failed attempt at TTC in March 2009. Then work, school, and dating postponed my plans until a year later. In March 2010, I began to consider adoption, an option I had explored before but ignored once I found Mr. Perfect Anonymous Donor and built up the courage (and money) to TTC. But once I really delved into the adoption choice again, it seemed very feasible and appropriate for where I am in my life. Plus, I thought it might be "easier"than TTC.

On the SMC-TTC board, I had read other women’s journeys through infertility and fertility treatments and miscarriages to finally bringing home a newborn sometimes years later. Well, now that I’m pursuing adoption, I realize the adoption journey isn’t exactly "easier", just different than TTC. There are many preparations and hurdles along the way. These unique challenges don’t involve reproductive endocrinologists (REs), but they do involve social workers, wire nuts, and a lawn crew. I’ll explain....

What I’ve found unique to the adoption process are the REQUIREMENTS that your home, emotional well-being, and finances be in order. Women who are trying to conceive are not scrutinized in this way. For example, women who conceive through reproductive technologies are not required to submit their driving record and proof of homeowners insurance. It’s not that their challenges are any easier, just different from the SMC-Adopters. However, the parities still exist. I liken the adoption waiting period to a gestational period. A pregnant woman might wonder if her baby will have her blue eyes, while I’m wondering which race my future adoptive children will be. A pregnant woman may be attending birthing classes while I’m going to CPR training.

So, I have decided to pursue foster-to-adopt through the U.S. Child Welfare System. In April 2010, I took two weeks of pre-service parenting classes. I loved it! I think all moms-to-be, including those TTC and Adopters, should consider parenting classes. But here’s the kicker; adopters who receive children through the foster care system must promise to discipline by the system’s standards. This includes no spanking. This is not a problem for me since I’m a staunch opponent to spanking; but for a few others in my class, it made them feel like they are being told how to parent. And well, they are.

Another challenge unique to adoption is the home environment requirements. Each state in the U.S. is different, but here are some of the things I’ve had to fix/change/BUY for my house to be compliant in Texas: fire extinguisher, new smoke detectors, lock boxes for medication, moved all cleaning supplies to upper cabinets, outlet covers, waterproof mattress covers, anti-siphoning devices for the outside spigots, "re-homed" one of my dogs because I had one too many for the city limit, pet vaccines, CPR training, first aid training, home health inspection, home fire inspection, post daily schedules, post house rules, post evacuation plan, trash cans with tight fitting lids, replaced a piece of rotten siding, hired lawn guys to mow on a regular basis, covered up tree roots in the backyard, replaced a ceiling fan that would have interfered with the bunk bed I erected (this is where I learned about wiring and wire nuts), researched daycares that accept state reimbursements, and I just bought an SUV to replace my two-door coupe. (OK, that last one wasn’t a necessity for adoption, but fun anyway!)

To add to the list of requirements, I had to provide three personal references, a break-down of my monthly expenses, TB test, auto insurance, homeowners insurance, transcripts, proof of income, pictures of my house and neighborhood, driving records, fingerprints for FBI criminal background check, and a child abuse background check. And then there’s the dreaded HOME STUDY. I had heard horror stories about probing questions you’d never be prepared to answer. For me it actually wasn’t bad, but some people really stress over it. Sometimes it seems like having a doctor inseminate me might be a lot less work! It’s not like your ER is going to make sure your smoke detectors have batteries before your IUI! I jest, of course!

The point of all this is that I have developed an appreciation for the adoption process and the people who have succeeded in adopting. Despite the mountain of paperwork, I feel that all the requirements are necessary. And in a way, the time spent fulfilling those requirements parallels the gestational period of women who conceive. The adoption process forces people to consider and prepare for all the things one needs to consider and prepare for when a new child is brought into a family. I think that sometimes the adoption process is minimalized in comparison to pregnancy. However, it doesn’t have to be that way; and for those of us going through it and those who made it through know it is an important time. I hope that years down the road, I’ll look back on this time and reflect on it like a woman who conceives might remember her pregnancy...except I don’t have to buy expandable pants and shea butter!

Allison, 30, Texas, waiting.....

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Public Service Announcement

by Anne Richter

November is Prematurity Awareness Month.

I think the main thing we need to be aware of about prematurity is that it sucks. 

It really sucks. 

Prematurity takes what should be a normal infancy and turns it into a journey into medical hell. It robs both parent and child of a normal infancy. Instead of filling baby books with milestones like "smiled for the first time" you make note of milestones like "weaned off ventilator." You and your baby are robbed of quiet, private moments. Instead, the two of you spend those moments in a room filled with strangers, doctors, nurses, monitors, alarms and machinery you didn't even know existed when you filling out your baby registry. People tell you well intentioned, yet terribly stupid things, like "things happen for a reason," "God doesn't give you more than you can bear," "at least you never got stretch marks since the baby was born so early" or "you're lucky you get to sleep at night since the baby is in the hospital."

You wake up day after day wondering if this is the last day you will see your child.

Prematurity financially devastates families. Contrary to popular belief, there is no insurance fairy that pays the tens of thousands of dollars of co-pays or the endless "uncovered" things like speech therapy or adaptive equipment. Even "good" insurance isn't "good enough" to cover prematurity. Instead of paying for a babysitter, you have to pay for a nurse to watch your child, instead of daycare, you have to hire a nanny, instead of working full time you have to take a leave or work part time because of the sheer number of medical appointments your child will have after leaving the NICU.

Prematurity is isolating, physically and emotionally. Because of the baby's fragile immune system, you have to limit to whom and what the baby is exposed. Of course friends and family assume you are simply nuts, because, as they will all tell you over and over, everyone needs to be exposed to germs. Actually not. It is emotionally isolating because no one, other than the other shipmates on the SS Prematurity have even a clue as to what it is like to take your infant to a minimum of one doctor visit every week, not have a single day for just you and your baby because three therapists show up everyday, on schedules that are convenient to them not you and your baby.

Prematurity devastates families emotionally (see all of the above).

Prematurity sucks even more for single mothers and their babies. There is no partner to act as a sounding board when you are making life altering decisions like whether to resuscitate your child, sign a DNR or decide whether to give your child a virtually experimental, yet potentially life saving drug. Bringing home a premature baby, particularly one with ongoing medical needs, can be a daunting task for single mother. Daycare settings are often inappropriate for health reasons, yet a nanny may not be financially feasible and few of us have the luxury of taking a year off from work.

So what can we all do to help make this suck less? 

Well, you can donate money to various charities in the hope that some of the research they fund might end prematurity. Or you can do something a bit closer to home and more personal. Call your local NICU or its support group and ask what you can do to make this whole thing suck less. Small things can make prematurity suck less. For example, my mother, my aunt and I make blankets and hats for the babies. There are dozens and dozens of babies that have worn my aunt's tiny "wee caps" and many who have been warmed by one of my mom's blankets and even though my blankets are far from "perfect" they are made with love. Some people make isolette covers, some people donate disposable cameras for moms to leave at the baby's bedside (yes we do take photos of our babies in the NICU), other folks donate gifts cards for coffee or gasoline to be given to those in need in the NICU. Others donate story books to the NICU (yes we read to our babies the same as you would at home). If you are feeling really generous, ask if you can send over bagels and coffee for a Sunday brunch for the moms and nurses (they get hungry too). Not all moms in the NICU can afford NICU clothes for their baby, so think about donating some NICU shirts or preemie clothes to your local NICU. Have your local SMC group contact your local NICU support group or hospital’s Family Advisory Council and offer to spend time with a single mom in the NICU, or help out a single mom whose baby has recently been discharge. You often hear the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” Well what better way for that village to help, than to help the mother of a premature baby or child with medical needs.

Even if you can't prevent premature births, you can make prematurity suck less for the mothers and the babies who are in the NICU right in your hometown.

So this November, let's see if we can all make prematurity suck less.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Do I or Don't I???

I have just recently made my decision not to become an SMC. I should also preface this by saying that I came to this quandary late. I am 46.

Letting go of the dream of having a traditional family, i.e. a husband and kids, is a very big deal for most women. That's probably one of the first steps in deciding to become an SMC. And that's a rough one. I always had this assumption that it would happen, so it was hard to face the fact that it might not just "happen." What if it doesn't? How could it not? How long do I wait?

All kinds of people meet their mates and start families. My confidence about myself as an attractive, smart and lovable woman is a bit tangled up in that dream. I never wanted to visit the possibility that it might not happen. It's negative. It goes against the idea of having faith. But as time went on, I had to start to untangle my sense of self and my specific hopes from that dream. And I thought long and hard about starting my non-traditional family on my own. But for me it was also the ease of a traditional family that I needed-- having someone else to share in everything--emotionally, practically, financially. And lucky me, I'd finally found that -- a partner to share in everything -- it's just that he already has teenage kids, and is not up for any more.

At age 36 (had I seriously considered this then) my decision could have gone the other way. I always trusted that I would meet that fella I wanted to share my life with; I just assumed it would happen sooner than it did. I was never willing to go it alone...until the point when it became very real that I may never have children if I didn't do it as an SMC.

So I weighed everything-- financial feasibility, flexibility, willingness to make whatever change necessary, priority of motherhood, etc. For me, the partnership with a soul mate always came first. That may not be the case for everyone. You could go ahead and become an SMC and then meet someone afterward (there does come a time when the age appropriate men who are looking for age appropriate women aren't necessarily looking to become a first time dad, and would welcome someone who's already got a child).

It's so hard to know. And yes it's scary, it's a huge leap of faith, but as they say, with great risk comes great reward. I would encourage everyone to read as much as possible, and to talk to as many women as you can who have gone through this before making a decision. The women in this group are a fabulous resource.


Friday, October 29, 2010

The Magic of Mom’s Bed

By Nancy Nisselbaum

I don’t know what it is about mommy’s bed. But apparently, when a child can’t fall asleep, the only place to go is mom’s bed—and like magic, the sandman comes and knocks said child out. What I found out recently is that it doesn’t even have to be your mom. Marshall was having a friend sleep over the other night. Both boys were snoring happily by about 10 p.m. and I blithely went to bed. About 1 a.m., I sensed a presence by bed. It’s Max saying he can’t fall asleep so I groggily tell him to climb in. He’s asleep in seconds. When I awake in the morning, there’s a boy in bed next to me. No big surprise. But it takes me a minute to realize it’s not mine.

I never intended to co-sleep. But Marshall had other plans. From the minute he was born, he liked to be next to me—in my arms, lying by my side, lying on top of me. For the first week, the only place he slept was on top of my chest. At least he slept, right? I had heat rash from having his sweaty little (warm, lovely) body on top of me practically 24/7.

For the next two years, I pretended that we didn’t co-sleep. I’d put him in his crib and he’d pretend he would sleep through the night. It never happened. At some point, the crying would outlast any visions of sleeping alone dancing in my head. My goal was sleep, and it was best achieved with him beside me.

When he was 2.5, I changed his crib into a toddler bed and built a small wall around the dining room so that he would have more of an official bedroom. Well, that was the end of that. For the next year, I succumbed to the inevitable, stopped pretending, and put him to sleep in my bed. It just worked. My personal cutoff point was sitting in the room until he fell asleep. I refused. To me, that time was more important than sharing my sleeping space with a snoring, kicking, flip-flopping boy who for some reason slept well when in mom’s bed.

Yes, I woke up with toes in my nose. Yes, I woke to the sound of a child falling on the floor. Yes, I woke when he flip-flopped till he was lying on top of me. Yes, I got kicked in the kidneys, the ribs, anyplace he could land a good one. But overall, we slept. Overall, the amount and quality of sleep was better than when he was in a separate room.
At 3.5 years, we went bed shopping. He got a low loft bed and slept in it. Went to bed in it and woke up in it. Sure, there were times when I woke in the morning and there was a boy in my bed. Not sure how or when he got there, but he would wake up, come to my room, and crawl in beside me. And honestly, there were times I missed him, missed climbing in next to warm, snoring, flip-flopping little body. But it was time and he was willing. And again, for the most part, it worked. He went to bed and stayed there, and I got my own space back.

It’s not for everyone. But it worked for us. And now? Marshall is nine and there are still times when I have a boy in my bed. The night before the first day of school, I don’t even ask. I let him choose and consistently, he’s chosen my bed. It’s a comfort thing, a safe feeling, a primal urge. I don’t know and honestly, I don’t mind. Will he be there the night before the first day of middle school? High school? Probably not. But for now, he knows that if he needs the safety and magic of mom’s bed, he has it. And I guess his friend Max does too.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Life Lessons from Klickitat Street, Part One

I took Pink and Purple to see Ramona and Beezus at our local discount theater over the weekend. I didn’t expect to spend most of the movie in tears.
In the interest of full disclosure, I tend to cry at most kids’ movies. I don’t know why. I’m a notorious non-weeper in my personal life. Oh, I feel pain and sorrow, no doubt about it. It’s just that I internalize the negative emotions until they settle in the pit of my stomach like a pile of rusty razor blades, or clench them in my jaws like tetanus. But there’s something about movies that makes it ok for me to release all of that. I don’t know whether that’s particularly true of kids’ movies, or if it’s just that kids’ movies are all I seem to see anymore.

Ramona and Beezus was a little bit different, though. Setting aside the fact that [SPOILER] Ramona finds the cat dead of old age in his basket [SPOILER], which was rough for all of us, I found that the movie brought up a host of complicated feelings for me.

John Corbett plays the dad. I’ve always had a yen for John Corbett, ever since his Northern Exposure “Chris in the Morning” days. I find him physically attractive, and I associate Chris the character’s philosophical nature with John the actor (regardless of the actor’s personal shortcomings), and that makes the whole package pretty appealing.

So right away I have a higher-than-normal level of investment in this character. Then he loses his job, and the family feels the stress of his loss of income, so I also relate to his need to keep that stress from the kids as much as possible. I worry that my daughters will, like 9-year-old Ramona, feel compelled to do something to “save the house,” that they will shoulder a burden that is not theirs.

And Ramona’s dad, as played by Corbett, is warm and funny, creative and demonstrative. If I could go to the dad store and pick one out, that would be my preferred model. It wasn’t lost on my kids, either; early in the movie, Purple leaned over and whispered, “I wish I had a dad.”

I’m a grown-up. I know better than to believe the rom-com tropes. I used to dream of finding a "Chris in the Morning" of my own; I used to be a hopeless romantic who suffered because I hadn’t found that perfect cinematic love, and it took me longer than it probably should have to figure out that movies are escapism, that reality is much more complex and less pretty, that while reality does have its moments of breathtaking beauty and bliss, those moments are to be found sandwiched between a whole lot of mundane minutiae, daily grind, worry, and heartache. (It's taken me even longer to realize that heartache is the real meat of a life fully lived.) Real families don’t have screenwriters and editors and lush scores. But my daughters are 7. They haven’t figured all that out yet, and they probably won’t for quite a while. And that’s why I cried. I cried because they believed that what they were watching was more than just a Hollywood confection; they believed it was something very real, something they were missing.

Though it hasn’t come up very often, I’ve always been very open to discussion of the Daddy Issue. My daughters know, in an age-appropriate way, the mechanics of their conception by anonymous sperm donor. I’ve gone out of my way to acknowledge their feelings, to not be defensive or over-sensitive, to make sure they feel safe to bring up the subject without fear of upsetting me. I agree that, yes, sometimes it would be nice for me, too, if we had a dad in our family. I probe—gently—to find out what “having a dad” means to them. When they were younger, “having a dad” meant he would pick them up from preschool sometimes, like Z.’s dad did, and hug them. This weekend, discussing it on the drive home, I learned that “having a dad” also means having a fun guy to hang around with. I agreed that Ramona’s dad was pretty cool, and that, yeah, he’d be nice to have around. (Boy, howdy.) I asked if this was something they thought about a lot, the not having a dad, and they both replied that, no, most of the time they didn’t think about it at all. I explained that, if they had a dad, he would probably be at work a lot of the time, and he would get impatient sometimes, or be busy doing grown-up stuff when they wanted his attention, just like I often was. And I think they’re starting to understand that, on some level. But it doesn’t stop them from believing the fantasy exists out there somewhere.

Holly Vanderhaar


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Grieving a Bio Child

As I sit here writing, my house is filled with baby items from friends and freecycle. All I need is a baby. At least now I have hope—I’m on an adoption waiting list. But what a long journey it has been…

I became a thinker and joined SMC at age 39. People encouraged me to move forward, but I was stuck. I wanted a husband, then kids—the traditional family. At 40, I met someone I hoped could be Mr. Right, who turned out to be Mr. Autonomy Issues. At 41, I broke it off. I was devastated. I went into a depression, sought counseling and was stuck—I wanted biological kids, but I also wanted a traditional family. I kept thinking.

Looking back, I see how uneducated I was about fertility for women in their 40s. Despite the many women in the news having children well into their 40s, I didn’t know these women used donor eggs—not their own. So, with my eggs growing older by the day, I continued thinking.

Finally at 42 (and 10 months), I made what I thought was the most difficult decision of my life—to try to conceive on my own. I passed fertility tests with flying colors, but after seven tries—IUIs and IVFs—I had low egg quantity/quality. I had another difficult decision to make: Should I keep trying with my eggs? I had to think about finances, my age (43 and a half) and my desire to be a mom—how would I feel if I found myself six months later, age 44, still not pregnant?

I went to the counselor and grieved and grieved. All my dreams down the drain—my desire for a husband with three biological kids. All those years of envisioning my children, who they would take after—my mom, my sister, my brother? My connection to my heritage. It was one of my darkest hours.

But my desire to be a mom pushed me forward. I weighed donor egg vs. adoption. Donor egg seemed like an easier route. I picked a donor and did my first cycle at 44. Cut to me a year and a half later—three miscarriages and an inability to carry to term due to an immune issue. The first two miscarriages were devastating. By the third, I’d selected an adoption agency and knew if the pregnancy didn’t take, I’d immediately move on.

Last July, after learning my final pregnancy wasn’t viable, but before the actual miscarriage, I contact the adoption agency. They were enthusiastic at a time I needed enthusiasm. I was exhausted—2.5 years of fertility treatments, disappointments, miscarriages, poking/prodding and money out the door—all for nothing.

I did my home study and got on the waiting list in September 2009. I’m excited about adopting. With adoption I will be a mom. With fertility treatments, it was a crapshoot. Moving to adoption was a relief—no more needles, doctor appointments, miscarriages, disappointments, hormones. I could live my life more normally while I waited, although I have moments of grief that sneak up on me.

I try not to be bitter. Everyone has her own journey. I just never thought I’d have such a long road to motherhood. I believe God has a plan for me, even if I can’t see it. I date, trying to find someone to share my life with and be a father to my children. I keep busy while I wait for my match. I’m now 46 and, although I sometimes can’t believe it, this circuitous route to motherhood is my story.

Leslie C

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Our Last Weeks Alone

During the last few weeks the world around us has changed suddenly. Hot sticky days with harsh bright sunlight have been replaced by cool, crisp dry days that smell of fresh mown grass and distant fires. Many of the 6-foot-high corn fields have been mowed down, and the guy selling 12 ears for $4 out of the back of his truck has sold out for the season. The soybean fields are starting to turn golden, and maples and ash here and there are flaming red and yellow. It isn’t fall yet, but fall is definitely in the air. We leave the windows open at night, and some nights the brisk prairie winds from the west cool the house so much that I have to get up and close the windows. We leave for town every morning just as the sun is coming up, and as we turn east to head for Jamie’s Play Palace, the blinding sunlight makes Sammy demand that the sun go away. “Go away, icky sun. Go away,” he says.

But the weather is not all that is changing. I am slowing down, trying to memorize and appreciate every single moment I have with Sam. Our last few weeks alone. Our last few weeks before we have to share each other. Every night before bed we rock in the double-sized rocker in his room and talk about what we did during the day. He no longer lays on my lap… partially because my lap shrank as my belly grew bigger but mostly because he always wants to remind me that he’s a big boy, that he wants to sit next to me rather than on me. We squeeze into the chair side by side and I wrap my left arm around him and he leans into me resting his head on my belly. Sometimes he jumps up and makes a joke that Baby Sister just kicked him, but mostly he leans and tries to find a comfortable position for his head. He sometimes takes a while to settle with all the excitement he has when we talk about our day. The walks we took, the vegetables we picked, the friends we visited, the pies we baked, the bubbles we blew. Sunday he was so excited about the 3-man tent set up in the living room and the flashlight we used to read our bedtime stories (until he accidentally slammed it into my nose) that he could hardly sleep. Tonight he told me how excited he is to stay at Jamie’s house tomorrow night.

I’ve decided to give myself one night off every week. A night to recharge and stay horizontal and not have to cook or clean or sit on the bathroom floor next to Sam’s potty chair while he pushes and reads his Elmo potty book for fifteen minutes. I have been looking forward to giving myself these nights off for weeks, looking forward to a relief from the battle of do-this-why-because-i-said-so. But on the eve of my first weekly night off I find myself a little sad, a little unsure of whether I want to give up a night with him when we have so few left of just us, so few quiet nights when I’ll be able to sit and talk and cuddle and share and remember how truly lucky we are to have each other.

Tonight on the way home we saw a digger for sale just down the road from where the guy used to sell corn out of his pickup. Sam was telling me for the 25th time that he didn’t want pizza for dinner and he didn’t want noodles for dinner and we needed to stop and buy mangoes. Yummy mangoes. I had tired of the broken record conversation we were having and I pointed out the digger, told him it was for sale.


Can we buy it?” he asked.

I told him it was big and expensive and we didn’t have enough money.

“TT can buy it. TT has money.” TT is his grandma.

“No,” I said. “TT doesn’t have enough money either.”

Last week as we were pulling away from the daycare, the father of some of the other children was just pulling up. Outside the window Sammy heard Jamie say “Look whose daddy is here.” After we had turned the corner and gone a few blocks down the road, Sam said “I don’t have a daddy.”

“No,” I said. “Our family doesn’t have a daddy. Just a mommy.”

“I have a mommy,” he said, and I shifted the rearview mirror to see him smile. “Just a mommy and just a TT!”

“Yep,” I said. “You have a TT!” I didn’t remind him that in a few short weeks he will also have a Baby Sister.

Tonight as we rocked in the chair in the 7pm bedtime routine darkness, the flashlight put away on the “big boy dresser” across from his bed, he told me he loved me very much and stretched up to kiss me on the nose. “Sorry I hit your nose, Mommy. I hope your nose is all better,” he said. He patted me on the head with the same soft touch he uses whenever he apologizes to get off the naughty mat and I reassured him that I knew it was an accident, that I was okay. He kissed me on the nose again and repeated, “I love you very, very much.”


How do I take a night off from that?


Monday, October 4, 2010

My Journey to Motherhood via Adoption

I am single by choice. Did you know weird girls in high school who never wanted to get married (and/or have children)? That was me. I had my own philosophy about what marriage does to a woman's career choice and trajectory, self esteem, independence, you name it. My mother worried I'd never "get a man" with that attitude.

Though I knew I didn't want to marry, I was on the fence about becoming a parent. I put it that way because I never wanted to birth a baby. I always knew that I wanted to become a parent through adoption. At the age of 40 - two failed marriages later - I recognized I did indeed want to be a mom. So I dated while preparing to begin the adoption process.

Like many of us, I went the online dating route. My criteria were pretty strict: no kids, wanted or would consider having kids, age difference no more than +/- 5 years. It seems that most men in their late 30s/early 40s seek younger women if they want kids. One even said, "I like you, but I really want kids, and I don't know whether you'll be able to produce them." I chuckled and advised him to get a health check from a "young breeder" because age doesn't guarantee a woman can conceive or deliver a baby.

Anyway, I met a wonderful man (4 yrs my junior). His profile listed "undecided" in the kid category, but he said during our second date that he was leaning more toward no kids. We talked about my adoption plan during that date. I was very clear that I wasn't looking for a co-parent. Fast-forward two years when I informed him that I was beginning the adoption process. I gave him the opportunity to bail before the madness started. He just laughed.

Now, 4 months and 1 day into being a single parent at the age of 44, I know I did everything just right! I have an amazingly beautiful baby *and* an incredible boyfriend. I am a single mom by choice! I should have stuck with Plan A all along!


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Seeking Happily Ever After

Are Women Redefining the Fairytale?
By Michelle Cove

Three years ago, I was sitting with my friend Becky at a coffee shop talking about how lame the media was when it came to reporting the rise of single women. Sure they were reporting accurate U.S. Census numbers (such as New York Times’ 2007 posting that 51 percent of adults are now single). But in terms of reflecting who these women are and what they think about, they were totally off the mark. For the most part, single women in their 30s and older are portrayed as desperate to marry.

Ever year, a gaggle of women battle one another for a wedding proposal from one man (a stranger) on “The Bachelor.” In today’s hottest sitcoms, single 30-something women act like mindless fools to get a date. “Emma” in “Glee” spent a whole season mooning over the married Mr. Scheuster; “Liz” on 30-Rock planned a root canal for herself on Valentine’s Day so she wouldn’t have to deal with being alone.

Is this really how single women act and feel?

Hell, no. That’s why award-winning producer Kerry David and I have made the feature-length documentary Seeking Happily Ever After: One generation’s struggle to redefine the fairytale. ( We wanted to find out from women across the country how they really feel about being a single woman today. Do they see being single as a choice? Do they feel desperate? Do they want to marry? What do they think about becoming a single mom?

While it’s certainly true that plenty of women are redefining happily ever after (by opting not to marry for various reasons), most of the single women we interviewed do want to get married and have babies. But what’s different about “happily ever after” today is that these women are not willing to settle for the wrong guy. They are the exact opposite of “desperate”; they feel good enough about themselves to wait until the right guy comes along, no matter how long it takes. In fact, headlines from The Washington Post last week reported that there are now more women giving birth after age 35 than there are teen moms giving birth (hear, hear!).

And if the right guy doesn’t come along at all, most of the single women I interviewed said they will find a new path towards happiness. As the main character we follow in our film puts it, “You can have several happy endings for yourself, and happily ever after is putting the steps in place to get to any of those endings.” Now there’s a single 30-something woman in the media women can cheer for…

Michelle Cove is the Director and a Producer of the feature-length documentary Seeking Happily Ever After, and the author of Seeking Happily Ever After: How to navigate the ups and downs of being single without losing your mind, which will be published this September by Tarcher/Penguin.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Glimpse Into the Past: Meeting Ana’s birthmother.

When I started the process to adopt from Guatemala, I knew that there was a strong possibility that I would meet the birthmother. The majority of Guatemalan adoptions are relinquishment cases where the birthmother gets to know the in-country facilitator or attorney. I was excited about the prospect as I thought it would be good for my child to know something about her birthmother.

Unlike some other countries, Guatemala has no minimum-stay requirement. All of the processing has been completed prior to the arrival of the adoptive parent and the adoption is legally complete. All you need is a day in Guatemala City to go to the U.S. Embassy and apply for a visa for your adopted child. The visa is issued that same afternoon and you are free to return home as soon as you can catch a flight. With such tight timing, there’s not much room for a visit with the birthmother. In my case, I was traveling alone and my three-year-old daughter, Pearl, was at home waiting for me. I was to arrive on a Monday night and leave on a Wednesday morning. That meant Tuesday was Embassy day and the only day I would have to meet Ana's birthmother.

I had told my U.S. facilitator that I wanted to meet the birth mother. We weren’t sure it would be possible because the in-country facilitator who coordinates with the birthmoms was out of the country. Her 20-year-old son, Gerson, was handling cases in her absence.

I arrived in Guatemala on the evening of Monday, February 24, 2003. A cab was waiting for me to take me to the host family’s house. I met with Gerson to go over the required paperwork. I let him know that I wanted to meet the birth mother and he said he would try.

I met my daughter that night while I was filling out more paperwork. It was exciting, scary, and tense. I went over my questions with the foster mother and then had to get back to Gerson and his paperwork. All that was going on scared poor little Ana but she held up well and managed to get to sleep.

We took care of the visa application the next morning and when I saw Gerson I again asked him about meeting the birthmother. He gave me the same vague answer. But, while having lunch at my host family’s house, the doorbell rang. It was Ana’s birthmother, Ana Rosario. I was tingling all over and couldn’t believe I was meeting her. She was somewhat shy and reserved but had a lot to say. She was sweet and also sad at having to give up Ana. In fact, she cried most of the time we were together. She was dressed in western clothes, a black skirt and a V-neck knit top that didn’t quite cover her bra. Poor little Ana was confused by everything. She had been relinquished when she was six months old and, after four months in foster care, it appeared that she no longer recognized her birthmother. Ana sat on her birthmother’s lap and mostly cried along with her birthmother.

I took some pictures and then I asked her if I could videotape her. I told her she could watch the videotape and we did that together. Her message on the video is short, but it will be a gift to Ana as she grows up. First, she wanted Ana to know that she would always love her and would always have her in her heart. She said that she hoped that someday Ana will understand how difficult things were for her and how she was just too poor to raise her. She said that maybe Ana will be able to forgive her for relinquishing her. She also asked for Ana to come back to Guatemala someday to visit: “There are many people in Guatemala who love her and who will always love her.”

She told me a little about her family and it turns out that Ana is named for her mother (Ana) and her mother’s sister (Isabel). I’m even more pleased that I kept Ana’s birth name and the birthmother was, too. I was in tears most of the time while I was taping her message. She was such a sweet, likable, and poor woman who, as a single mom, just couldn’t get the resources together to make it all happen. (Ana’s birthmother probably earned about $100 a month as a domestic. When she went back to work, she had to stop breastfeeding. A month of formula would cost $75.)

I had a list of prepared questions that I wanted to ask her and we got to go through most of them. I found out some important information—such as Ana’s maternal grandmother dying of ovarian cancer 13 years ago. I don’t know if there is a hereditary component to that but it is good to know. I was thrilled to learn that Ana was breastfed for five months and got to experience the loving bond that comes with breastfeeding.

Ana’s birthmother told me one chilling story that illustrated how desperate her family was. After about five months, she went back to work. She said the family was forcing her to pay a lot of money to take care of Ana and she had to go to work at a bad place. (I didn’t query her on what it was or why it was bad.) One day, she didn’t have any money for milk. When she came home from work, the family had sold Ana’s earrings to pay for milk. Wow. I could tell it hurt the birthmother that Ana’s earrings had been sold. She said that that was when she realized she would have to go through with an adoption plan.

I don’t know if I can accurately convey here what it was like to meet Ana’s birthmother. It was almost more spectacular than meeting Ana, I think because I knew it would be fleeting. I cherish the memory of that sweet woman and I hope I can relay that to Ana as she grows up. I plan to send pictures periodically and to someday come back for a visit and go to Mazatenango where Ana was born.

Debbie Lynch

Monday, September 13, 2010

SMC Ambassador

An experience I had this evening left me thinking about how far I've come from the scared (okay, terrified) almost-40-year-old woman who started tentatively on the road to single motherhood 4 years ago and I wanted to share it, since many of you may have had similar experiences.

When I decided to move forward with this crazy plan, the thing that scared me most was what on earth I would tell people about my "status" as a single, pregnant woman. I see similar posts on the SMC organization's "Thinking" email list and my heart always goes out to those women. I want to reach out to them and reassure them that in the larger scheme of things it really won't matter after a few days or weeks or months. At least, it didn't for me. I embraced my pregnancy with such joy that by the time I needed to come out of the closet I did it with pride and confidence. I've maintained that level of comfort with my decision, and it has been interesting to me to see how people have just accepted my "status" as normal or at least not particularly shocking. It's especially surprising since I live in the Western US - one of the most conservative areas in the country. I know some people I work with don't approve of my decision, but I truly believe my comfort and confidence have left them in silence. Which is fine with me.

The bigger surprise has been the women who have asked me about how I approached my decision, what steps I took, how difficult and expensive the process was, all (they eventually disclose), because they too have had thoughts about becoming single moms but didn't know it actually was an option. I answer their questions thoughtfully and honestly, without going into intimate details about my son's conception or his donor.

Tonight we were visiting with a new friend, a 30 year old, attractive and educated young woman who I never imagined would show an interest in SMC-hood. I told her about this wonderful organization, how its members have encouraged and supported me though my journey, and I encouraged her to follow her heart, wherever it leads her. She told me after all the years of dating and not meeting "the one", she was coming to the conclusion that maybe she would need to take a different approach to having the baby she dreamed of.

Being a single mom isn't for everyone, but my choice to follow this path has changed my life in a thousand wonderful little ways. I really love the fact that other women, some I know well and some I have only met a few times, are encouraged by my experience and have gone from thinking that becoming a single mom is a "crazy dream" to thinking it just might be manageable.

I send out a heartfelt "THANK YOU!" to all of you who have supported and encouraged me and held me up when I think I can't make it one more day.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dads be Damned!, or... I am destroying American civilization as we know it.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am not a girl known for being in vogue. I’m not the kind of woman who, when you pass me on the street, elicits words like ‘hip’ or ‘stylin.’ I’m not big on trends. I generally have no desire to be the first person to have the latest gizmo or gadget, preferring to wait til they work out all the kinks…and the price goes down. I often will not do something I was considering if it becomes trendy in the interim, like getting a tattoo. I rather consider myself the anti-trend.

I also consider myself an ‘armchair feminist.’ I believe in women’s rights. In equal pay for equal work. That women are still treated unfairly and in some cases detrimentally in many sectors of our society, and certainly around the world. I have a solid, but what most would say less radical approach to the expression of my beliefs. No bra burner am I. Sorry, ladies, but that polyester, spandex, lycra, elastic contraption is a friend of mine, particularly when I’m forced to sprint after my 4 year old (and I assure you that this 39 year old body does not readily sprint in general, let alone without sufficient upper body support). I make no demand that we spell women with a “y.” I do wish I could list one of my titles at work as “web mistress” instead of “master,” but one must pick her battles.

Given the above, imagine my surprise when I was notified by two articles I read this past week that by being both a feminist (armchair or otherwise) and a single mom (raising a son, no less), not only am I part of a growing trend (and therefore trend-y), but that I:

“view men and women as being the same instead of different but equal” (emphasis mine)

“[believe] men are not important in the raising and nurturing of children”

‘diminish the value of two-parent households and role of good fathers’

“equated maleness with everything that’s repugnant”


“just love a movie that glamorizes teenage pregnancy and deprecates the male role in conception…” (Well, I’m not sure if I can argue with this last one—who DOESN’T love a movie that glamorizes teen pregnancy AND depreciates the male role in conception? It’s a two-fer, people—who’s not on board for BOGO?)

I had no idea I was such a busy woman! So much to do! Pack lunch, lay out clothes, go to work, pay the bills, castrate the entire male gender, destroy the very fabric with which our great society was created... Whew. No wonder I’m always so tired!

If only I were a LESBIAN, feminist, single mom, I’d have a trifecta: like a frickin’ atom bomb, I could obliterate culture, civilization, and all sense of order and moral decency in one foul swoop…sigh…maybe in my next life…

The two articles that schooled me in my destructive ways were “Why Jennifer Aniston Taking a Stand Against Bill O’Reilly Criticism Matters” on The Women’s Media Center site ( regarding comments Jennifer Aniston made while promoting her new film “The Switch,” and one called “Skinny Jeans, John Wayne, And The Feminization Of America” in The Bulletin: Philadelphia’s Family Newspaper ( on gender roles and how men are no longer allowed to be ‘men.’

The Jennifer Aniston article talks about recent comments that she made while promoting her new film “The Switch” about a woman who decides to become a single mother by using a sperm donor. Mayhem ensues. A good time (she hopes) will be had by all. Her initial comment as quoted from the article was:

“Women are realizing it more and more, knowing that they don’t have to settle with a man just to have that child,” she told press last week. “Love is love and family is what is around you and who is in your immediate sphere.”

This comment apparently set off Bill O’Reilly (and really, what doesn’t set off Bill O’Reilly?) who, on his segment called “Cultural Warriors,” accused Jennifer of “throwing a message out to 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds that hey, you don’t need a guy, you don’t need a dad” and calling her public support of single parenthood “destructive to society.”

Considering it’s Bill O’Reilly, it is clear that anything that doesn’t fall into his definition of “the norm” would be destructive to society. But how is it that a film about “an unmarried 40-year-old woman [who] turns to a turkey baster in order to become pregnant”, that is rated PG-13 for “mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language,” is “throwing out a message” to TEENAGE girls? Has Jennifer been hitting the middle schools to give speeches about her cool new movie and how they all should follow in her character’s footsteps, immediately, if not sooner? Obviously both the film and the comments she made about single motherhood were directed at women of a certain age, namely those clearly well out of puberty.

Bill certainly has the right to take issue with single motherhood if he so chooses, but let’s stop trying to twist things around to make ignorant charges completely unrelated to the point.

(Speaking of completely unrelated, this is somewhat off topic, but—a turkey baster? Really?? Having gone through this process, I assure you that for most women, it’s much more clinical, and complicated, than that. I believe it’s safe to say that, in general, there is not a passel of single gals running amuck in the kitchen gadgets aisle with conception on the brain.)

Since The Switch is “from the people who brought you Juno” it’s serendipitous that the second article I read on the feminization of America should reference Juno, (quoted in the list above) as a film that “feminists just love” for both glamorizing teen pregnancy and dismissing the father figure. Since THIS film actually IS about teen pregnancy, I can honestly say I can see how some might view it as a ‘glamorization’ of the situation. However, I’m not sure how or why feminists in particular would have such adoration for it.

Aren’t feminists supposed to be for reproductive rights, and family planning centers, and female contraception? I guess I lost the memo from Gloria Steinem indicating that I should begin promoting teenage pregnancy. As I said, I’m an armchair feminist, so it must have slipped by me. I will get right on it.

What disturbed me most about this article on ‘gender roles’ was its inference that by choosing to be a single mom (and feminist—don’t forget that part), I had somehow declared men and all things manly as irrelavant, useless, and unsavory (“repugnant,” in fact). Like being trendy and promoting teen pregnancy, I had no idea that I was suddenly required to hate men and all they represented. The ignorance of this train of thought is truly mind-blowing.

While I’m sure there ARE single moms and/or feminists who DO hate men, for whatever reason, I have a news flash for author Jane Gilvary. I do not hate men. I love men. I have many wonderful, amazing men in my life. I adored my father who, along with my mother, raised me to be independent and stand on my own two feet. I am the product of the ‘family unit’ and I bear said unit no ill will. I place great importance on the role of men in raising and nurturing children, and consciously make an effort to include positive males in my son’s life. Luckily, I am surrounded by many such men, so the task is not as daunting as it could be for some. I DO view men and women as ‘separate but equal’ and have no desire to have us considered ‘the same.’

Oh, and I’ve never seen Juno.

My choice to become a single mother had nothing to do with devaluing or dismissing the role of men in the raising of children. It DID have to do with my strong desire to have children, my age (tickticktick), and the fact that I have not yet met the right man for me. He may be out there (I still hold out hope) and if he is, he will most certainly play an important role in the upbringing of my child.

In the meantime, I want my son to be happy, healthy, and comfortable being who he is. I am making my best effort to raise a good citizen and responsible human being. And the many males in my life assist me in doing so.

I have to say while I knew single motherhood was a hot button topic, I didn’t realize that that and feminism still drew such ire from certain spheres of our society.

I had no idea I was involved in a cultural war. I believe I will need a better bra for this.

Stephanie R.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Back-Up Plan - not that one

Lately, the subject of single mothers by choice has been all over the media because of a movie that recently came out, starring Jennifer Lopez, in which her character becomes pregnant with the help of an anonymous sperm donor, only to fall in love with Mr. Right immediately afterward. I haven’t seen the movie, and, as a “real” single mother by choice, I’ll never have the time to see it, but I have viewed some of the recent TV news stories and discussions about it. And while it’s nice to have a celebrity like J-Lo showing single women that they do have options, I can’t say this movie is anything like my life—nor is “back-up plan” an appropriate term for the process by which I came to have Jayda.

I never pictured myself as a single mom; but then again, I didn’t always picture myself as a mom, period. Unlike some of my friends who were always talking about having babies during their 20s and 30s, I said things like, “I’ll have kids if I marry a guy who I know will be a great dad, and who really wants to have kids,” but I wasn’t obsessed with being a mother at all. I wasn’t even comfortable around children, and didn’t think they liked me very much. In fact, before I had Jayda, I’d never changed a diaper, and could count on the fingers of one hand how many babies I’d actually held. And yet, as soon as the nurses put my newborn child on my chest, I knew I was put in this world to be Jayda’s mom and care for her.

There was a point in my mid-30s when I had an epiphany and realized that I’d be incomplete if I never had a child, and that I’d just been suppressing my desires for fear of never meeting Mr. Right. I was flooded with maternal feelings and became baby-obsessed almost overnight. It took a lot of thought and planning to have Jayda (as well as plenty of drugs and monitoring and money, since I didn’t get pregnant on the first try like J-Lo’s character did in her movie), and I can hardly allude to the process as a back-up plan. “Back-up” to me implies second-best, and having Jayda was an ideal plan for me, because I can’t imagine my life without my amazing daughter in it.

Unlike J-Lo’s character, I didn’t find Mr. Right while I was pregnant (though I did date during the first two trimesters), and I still haven’t found him now that Jayda is about to turn three. But that doesn’t trouble me at all, and I hate the implication that a woman “needs” a man to be a good mother. Or that having a husband is always the ideal “plan.”

Most of my friends did find their Mr. Rights before they had children—or at least they found someone whom they thought was the man they’d be with forever—and I can’t say their lives are all better than mine. A few of my friends are going through nasty divorces now—and are battling over custody issues. Several others actually married someone as their “back-up plan”—fully knowing the man wasn’t exactly what they wanted or needed in their lives—but rushed to settle down because they felt their clocks were ticking. Those friends (and their spouses) are all pretty miserable. And then there are my friends who are happily married (or at least appear to be), but just about all of them admit that having a husband is a lot of work, and they’re forced to divide their attention between their children and their man. There’s nothing wrong with that—and I know having a good husband is a worthwhile investment—but I can’t say that these women’s children are thriving more than mine is…or that the moms are so much happier than I am. We’re all just experiencing life the way it happened to us…and most of us are realizing that you can’t plan everything, especially when it comes to being a mom.

Plan A…Plan B. What’s the difference? Life is what we make of it—and just because our lives aren’t as we always pictured them, doesn’t mean they’re second-best. Mine certainly isn’t. It isn’t movie-perfect, either, but I don’t really know anyone whose life is.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Goodnight Moon

It's been a tough week. Two huge projects at work have left me stressed out and exhausted. And it's my son’s first week back to school as a newly minted first grader. He seems to be doing ok, but it's a major adjustment nonetheless, for both of us.

Our rituals soothe us, particularly at night after a long day. And for even more comfort, we've retreated into the past. This week's bedtime selections have been our old standbys, the board books I started reading to my son when he was an infant, the ones I still know by heart. A Color of His Own, The Runaway Bunny, Are You My Mother?, and tonight, Goodnight Moon. Although my son can read these books to me now, we both still enjoy it when I read aloud to him, it's part of the ritual.

We snuggle in together in his bed, me carefully lowering my head so I don't hit it against the top bunk. We enter into that great, green room with its telephone and balloon. "And a picture of…" I pause dramatically and then slowly turn the page. "…the cow jumping over the moon." "Yes! I KNEW it!" says my son in the tone of voice normally accompanying victorious athletes fist pumping in exhilaration. His relief is palpable. I wonder, does his busy brain truly think that the pages of a time-honored book change when we aren't looking, the familiar replaced by the new and the unknown? No matter. Tonight, the cow is jumping over the moon, the three little bears sit in their chairs and the old lady still whispers "hush." The stresses of the week fade away and all is right in our world.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Child of my dreams

To the Child of My Dreams:

Since I was a very young child I’ve dreamed of holding you in my arms….looking into your face and seeing some of myself in you…watching you grow and develop some of my characteristics (good ones, hopefully). It seems now that that will not be the case, and I am extremely sad about that.

I’ve tried so hard to create you, but my body will not cooperate. Each of the nine times that I’ve tried, I could sense your presence with me…your little soul ready to come into being. I’ll never understand why it could not happen for me. Each time I was devastated and cried because I felt I had really lost you…even if you were only in my dreams.

Now it seems that I will say goodbye, but only to part of my dream. I need to mourn the loss of a biological connection to you. But, in the scheme of things, is that really such a big deal? So you may not have the same color eyes as I do, your hair may not be the same color as mine, but you will have the same amount of love from me…that’s a guarantee!

I hope to carry you inside of me…you have been given to me out of great kindness from a couple who has experienced the same devastation and loss that I have. I have to believe that somehow, someway, your soul will find its way to me…otherwise I don’t know how else I will find happiness again. Like the words from the song, “Somewhere, out there, if love can see us through. Then we’ll find one another, in that great somewhere out there.” I love you and always will, even if you are not to be!


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Too Old Too Fast?

By Nancy Nisselbaum

This summer, my 9-year-old son lets himself into our apartment after getting off the camp bus. He goes upstairs and plops his stuff down and calls me at work. I get home within an hour, so he’s not home alone for very long. He says he’s fine. He says he can handle it. His friends ask their parents why they aren’t being left home alone. He’s only cried twice.

Don’t ask how many times I’ve cried. How many times I’ve questioned the wisdom of this decision (which, honestly, has been based on monetary concerns but also factored in that he’s a very responsible boy who has handled being home longer than this—it’s the letting himself in part that makes me somewhat concerned). My son is self-reliant for his age. And he handles this responsibility with bravado. He has his own cell phone now—so he can call me when he gets home or I can call him while he’s on the bus. He empties his backpack daily and puts his wet towel and swimsuits in the dryer. He lies on the couch and watches television. It all sounds so innocuous.

Yet I feel torn. Am I growing him up too fast? Am I giving him responsibility that’s too old for his years? I know other 9-year-olds who are as independent, yet I know many more who are never left home alone—EVER!!!! And I don’t feel that’s right either. Kids need to start learning some form of independence, of being separated from mom and able to do stuff on their own. I’ve started this process slowly—leaving the house for 5-minute intervals, then lengthening those, then going to an evening meeting at my local synagogue.

But it was the two times that he cried, that he got scared because he couldn’t get in touch with me (once I didn’t hear the phone and once I was on the subway) that did me in. That raked me over the mommy coals and made me question my—our?—decision. This isn’t something I imposed on him. This is something we talked about and talked about and talked about—and still talk about. We considered various scenarios and he—we?—decided that he was able to handle this. So long as he could get in touch with me. He has the phone numbers of numerous friends and neighbors programmed into his phone, but there’s the embarrassment factor. He couldn’t call Dylan’s mom—he’d be too embarrassed, even though Dylan is never left home alone and when his mom drops Marshall off after picking him up from the bus of camp #2 (which doesn’t do door-to-door drop-off and pick-up as camp #1 does), she makes him talk to her on the cell phone while he goes up to the apartment in the elevator and locks the door.

Add into the mix that we’ve talked about afterschool in the Fall. He goes to the local Y, but we’ve—I’ve?—agreed that he can come home on Fridays by himself and left himself into the apartment. He still says he wants to do it, that he’s not afraid. But maybe I’m a little afraid. Afraid that he’s growing up too fast, that he’s 9 years old but taking on the responsibility of someone much older. Then, just to cap things off, I talk about getting a babysitter for the six nights a year I go to theater. And he looks at me and says, “Why do I need a babysitter? I can put myself to bed.” I calmly explain why that isn’t an option.

Am I growing him up too fast? I think back to my own childhood and realize I was walking to and from school by myself from first grade on. Were times all that different? I’m not sure. But my mom didn’t work when I was in grade school. When I got home, she was there. I’m newly re-employed after 13 months of unemployment. So much happened—so many transitions occurred for a boy who doesn’t like transitions—at the same time: I got a job, he started camp and started letting himself in, then my brother and his family came to visit from Israel and my nieces were staying in our apartment—in Marshall’s room, which meant he was displaced and had no place to call his own for two weeks—and then he started a new camp for two weeks. All events that make a person’s head spin.

I think he’ll be okay. I know he’ll be okay. But I want him to be able to say, “This isn’t working.” And at one point he did. When he cried the second time, I asked him if he wanted to go to Laura’s house after coming home from camp for the rest of the week. And he did. But now he’s back at camp #1 and letting himself him. And I have to be ready at 4:35 to answer his call. I wear my cell phone and make sure the volume is turned up.

Would I be going through this, I wonder, if I weren’t single? Maybe. If I made more money? Maybe. Am I growing him up too fast? Maybe. Is this working? Maybe. But for now, this is the way it is in our family. And for the most part, it’s working. Maybe we’re both growing up a little too fast. Maybe he’s evolving at exactly the right pace for him and I’m reacting like a typical mother—worrying that he’s growing up too fast. We’ll have to see how it all pans out and realize that no decision is ever irrevocable.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Only Regret is that I Waited so Long

I've always wanted to have children, always wanted to mother. I've been an au pair to other families, spent time with all of the kids of friends and family. I hoped and assumed, of course, that I would have a family of my own when the time came.

I suppose that's the tricky part - that time thing. Like many, I've been in a series of long relationships that have not withstood the tests of time. A long medical training that I started when I was twenty-eight ended ten years later. And there I was, at thirty-eight, for the first time seriously thinking of having a child on my own.

So many questions came to mind - how could I do it? How could I make it work in time and money and love? And most importantly, would it be, could it be fair to bring in child into the world who would not know his or her biological father?
These are tough questions, and every SMC I know has struggled with them. But at the time, now almost nine years ago, I was just plain sad that I did not have a partner to undertake this endeavor. What I had always imagined - love, marriage, baby - hadn't happened for me yet, and there was a melancholy quality to my view of single motherhood. I knew that a heavy heart could not care for a infant or child, could not offer the kind of life I would want to give to my child. So I waited. Threw more baby showers. Held more babies. More time went by, another relationship developed and sadly faltered around the issue of having children.

Single again and now pretty secure in my career as a psychiatrist, I asked those tough questions again, and decided to move.
It took about a year from the time of my decision to try to have a child to pregnancy. A long, scary year filled with the statistics I knew about, somewhere in the back of my brain (after all, I was in medicine) but had really avoided. After some tough sessions with a wonderful reproductive endocrine group, I decided to jump right in and try IVF. The chances of having a healthy baby using my own, 43 year-old eggs, they told me, were about 7% (who knows where that number came from, but I swear that's what I remember).

There is much I could say about the decision to proceed given the tremendous cost IVF and low odds of success, about the process of two rounds of IVF; these can be tough, tough times for women and couples. But there was a meaningfulness in it for me, because I was finally doing something that I had wanted for so long.

Pregnancy was easy, and that was just plain good fortune - those hormones were just right for me! I received warm and enthusiastic support from friends, family and professional colleagues. My daughter was almost born on the Bay Bridge, because, the obstetrician announced admiringly, I had the uterus of a twenty-year old.

I have the warmest memories of pregnancy and delivery, which is probably both a statement about dumb luck and the distortion inherent to memory.
My daughter is now two and a half years old, and my only regret is that I waited so long. Life is very, very full.

There is much I could say about the experience of parenting, and parenting without a partner. I am incredibly fortunate to be so supported in my professional life as well as my personal world. My professional life is very, very busy: days and nights seem to fly by. But every parent of babies and toddlers struggles to fit everything in. I had years in which time was spent on myself - this very different time is filled with a joy and a wonder that all the night life, swell San Francisco cuisine and great culture couldn't really bring me.

To do it all again - I'd still prefer to have had a partner, I struggle with how my daughter and I will discuss and understand her biological father (an anonymous sperm donor). But this is absolutely the sweetest time of my life. And this little girl - her own kind of miracle.

Pamela S

Friday, August 13, 2010

Waiting for Christina: The Family Tree gets a Romanian Branch

On the first weekend of December 2002, I was finally able to announce on the SMC email lists, “Cristina is home!” My son, then almost 9 years old (conceived with ADI), and I had just returned from the airport in Washington, D.C. With us was my almost two-year-old daughter adopted from Romania.

I was exhausted from the four-hour car ride and from the emotion of the day.
But then I saw her—my beautiful little daughter was being wheeled toward me in a stroller by my agency director. He placed her in my arms and left. I expected bliss—I was wrong. She started screaming at the top of her lungs, “Nu! Nu!” (“No! No!”) and slapping me on the face. We walked through the airport with her screaming and hitting me and me telling her everything would be alright. Later my agency representative would tell me that the screaming and hitting was a good sign. It meant that Cristina had been attached to her foster family, and therefore she would become attached to us.

Back home she cried for an hour and a half and then fell asleep. Then my son starting whimpering and saying that he wanted her to go back. He didn’t like her, and she was too big. I tried to console him by explaining that it would take some time for all of us to adjust, but inside I was thinking, “What have I done? I’ve ruined my perfect little family.”

Most of all, everything seemed unreal, because the adoption itself had been delayed for more than a year.

March 2001
: This is where my story starts, but I had begun the adoption process long before. Then I switched to an agency that placed children into foster families as opposed to orphanages. It dealt with infants who were usually home before they turned one, and that was my desire. So in March, the agency called with a referral for a three-month-old baby girl named Cristina. They sent a video, and I had a week to give them my answer. As soon as I saw her, I knew this child was meant to be a part of our family. My son was thrilled, and I told a few family members and friends. The adoption should have taken four to six months to complete. However, in July, Romania imposed a moratorium on international adoptions. Then, in October, the country imposed another—a year-long moratorium.

I explained to my son that there was a delay, and that no one knew when, or even if, the baby would be able to come home. We were both upset, and I tried to detach myself from the situation. When my documents expired, I didn’t rush to update them. I stopped reading adoption books. I stopped talking about adoption. When another video arrived from Romania, I put it away without looking at it. I was trying to stop thinking about the baby named Cristina, who was growing and developing—and who might never become mine.

Early in 2002, my agency informed me that several “pipeline” cases were moving forward and that I needed to update my documents. They also suggested I contact my senators to enlist their help. This adoption became a project that took on a life of its own.

September 2002
: My agency informed me that my adoption had been approved by the Romanian Adoption Committee. I had a court date. I was afraid to feel excited, so I told no one. There was still a three-day appeal period, and we needed the final decree, which the judge took three long weeks to issue. At that point I started telling family and friends. I began making arrangements to have her escorted home. My son was beside himself. We had received another video, which showed that our baby had become a toddler who was walking and had lots of hair.

There were still a few more obstacles. At the last minute, I found out about a preadoption requirement in my state, which, thankfully, my home study agency managed to expedite in 24 hours. Then with my escort already in Romania with a scheduled embassy appointment, we found out that INS had not yet faxed my approval to the embassy. With one hour left before the embassy closed on the day of the appointment, I gave INS the fax number one more time, and this time the fax went through. They had been dialing the wrong number. I was totally wrapped up the process and felt detached from the little girl who was about to be taken away from the only family she had known for almost two years.

December 6, 2002: Screaming and hitting at the airport.

Mid-January 2003:
Cristina has been home with us for about five weeks. I am absolutely amazed at how well my wonderful little girl has adjusted. She literally jumps for joy when we pick up my son from school or when he walks in the door. She goes to sleep easily and sleeps through the night. She loves to eat, take baths and play with other children. Cristina turned two on December 26. She runs, jumps, and does a perfect somersault. She has learned a lot of English and loves to talk, especially on the telephone. She is loving and affectionate. Cristina has just started daycare, and she runs into my arms smiling when I pick her up. She also loves books. Although her behavior is generally good, if she doesn’t want to do what you ask her to do, she throws a tantrum (did I mention that she’s two?).

Adjustment has been quick for her, slower for my son, who is gradually getting used to having a toddler in the house. I feel so much love for her that I can’t imagine how I had ever felt detached.
I sit looking at my two children sleeping peacefully, and I know that my perfect little family is complete. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we are no longer waiting for Cristina. Cristina is home.