By Kathryn Murray, as told to Michele Jordan
I never saw myself as truly maternal. I’m a girl from L.A., from a large, blended family. I’ve lived all over the country and I’ve been exposed to many cultures. I was truly happy. I told myself that if I didn’t have children by age 35, then I just wouldn’t. But life has its twists.
During my child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship, when I was learning about childhood development, I had this strong desire to experience all the things I was learning about. I couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like to be connected with this tiny person that I would give birth to. I wanted to experience all the rewarding challenges that come with it, and hopefully help to shape this human being into something positive for this world. I didn’t want to wait for a partner. I’ve always tried to live my life by doing what I believed and felt was right for me. I stopped waiting on anyone to help me pursue things that I could do myself.
I knew if I was going to do this — become a single mom by choice (SMBC) — I would need a village. I went to my grandmother, my dad’s mother, first because she was the matriarch of the family. She asked if she could talk to her pastor about it. I agreed after arming her with my list of reasons, including my age and the time it would take me to find a partner.
She came back a week later and told me though she didn’t agree with it, she would always love me and support me. Most of my family just wanted me to be married first. A few even suggested I check out some dating apps.
But my dad was a fan from day one. He was so happy. He had the godparents picked out a week after I told him. He picked up the sperm for me (it was cheaper than mailing it to the doctor’s office) and he talked to the sperm! He came with me to my doctor appointments and was my birthing coach. I was so blessed to have the support of so many friends and family members.
A Strong Beginning
I did my best to prepare physically and mentally to become a mom. I made sure to get regular exercise and to eat healthy meals. In my line of work, I know the importance of mental health. The main thing for me was to keep my stress level low. I had agreements with family members that they couldn’t argue with me about anything so I wouldn’t get stressed.
I also hired a financial adviser once I made the decision to be a single mom. He advised me to save so I wouldn’t stress financially during my maternity leave. This was such great advice. I was able to take off work 4 months. I was so grateful to be able to do that. The process can also be very expensive, depending on whether you do intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), or adoption.
The Story Unfolds
There are different options for women who want to become single moms. I had IUI. During this process, a doctor injects sperm into your uterus while you’re ovulating. The hope is that they’ll fertilize an egg and you’ll get pregnant.
Choosing the donor was a process. Initially, as an African American woman, I wanted an African American donor. But the facility I used didn’t have a large selection. My doctor warned me it might take a few tries. After the fourth attempt, I decided to change my sperm donor.
I went back to through more profiles at the sperm bank. I followed a tip I got from an SMBC and looked for a donor with a proven track record of pregnancies and births.
I found a donor who happened to be multiracial. I really liked his answers on the questionnaire. I also liked that he was listed as an open donor. This means when my child turns 18, he’ll be open to meeting her. When it was time for ovulation, I got a trigger shot to help release my eggs, and I became pregnant with a baby girl after the first try.
The first few weeks after she was born, my sleep was off. I was so tired. It was hard because I wanted to breastfeed but wasn’t producing a lot of milk. My daughter was tiny. I was nervous she wasn’t getting enough nutrients. I met with the breastfeeding expert at the hospital, but I just didn’t feel like I was getting the hang of breastfeeding.
I talked with a great friend who specialized in that area, as well as another lactation consultant, which helped ease my anxiety. I had to take supplements and drink teas, and even nonalcoholic beer to increase my milk supply. It was worth it, and as time went on, things got easier. My family cooked meals and watched my daughter (when she would let them) so that I could rest.
Isn’t She Lovely?
My daughter, Candyce, is 6 years old now. She has a “y” in her name like I do in mine. She is my “mini-me.” She is smart, logical, and very witty. She is artsy (which she gets from my mom) and loves SpongeBob. She is the joy of my life.
Like a lot of kids her age, she is asking for a brother or sister now that she’s older. Once you’re pregnant, you can sign up for a sibling registry to interact with moms who have kids from the same donor. One of the other moms organized a private Facebook page and reached out to me. About five families met in Austin, TX, one weekend. One even flew in from Mexico. We had a great time and plan to meet again. We call the kids “diblings” — donor siblings. This was the best decision of my life. I’ve never looked back.
Grow Your Village
For anyone considering becoming a single mom by choice, I always say do your research. If it’s something you’re seriously considering, start planning immediately (financial, emotional support group, e.g., family, friends). Join a group or two for support. Facebook has so many groups for just about everything.
I have to say, I’ve been extremely blessed and grateful in that I have a great community. A couple of years ago, my mom moved from Connecticut and is living with me to help raise my daughter. Her grandparents were a strong influence in raising her when she was young, and she wanted my daughter to have the same experience, as well as just wanting to experience the joys of being a grandparent.
I’m not truly a single mom, because of my community. My support system of friends and family have come through to make this journey much richer.
Kathryn Murray is a child psychiatrist. She and her daughter, Candyce, live in Los Angeles