As a child, I would put a throw pillow under my shirt and pretend to be pregnant. A little later, I would “give birth” to a Cabbage Patch doll. It was my favorite game to play when I was alone. Little did I know how prophetic and cathartic this little game would be.
Things get real when you’re about to turn 40. In my case, the days of being able to carry my own child were numbered. I recognize there were options, but I always knew I wanted to carry my baby when the time came. It is the most personal of all my personal choices in life. It was was a non-negotiable. I also knew it was now or never.
As I write this, my son who is inside me is 16 weeks old. I am a single mother by choice. This means I have decided to carry and have my own child with the help of a donor. I am a single mother by choice because at 40 I can still have my child safely. Finding love may come later, but I couldn’t be with someone for the sake of it.
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The caprice of romance is no aging woman’s friend. I was so enchanted by romantic love that I took some facts of life for granted, one of them being that by the age of 35, I will not be as fertile. At 40, I’m basically giving my ovaries the middle finger. The plan was to meet my life partner in my 30s, and then settle down and have babies. But as I rapidly reached my late 30s, this grand plan seemed foiled. Finding the right man became less important. Having a baby meant everything. You never feel more like a statistic than being in your late 30s grappling with fertility issues.
I properly started acting on it a year ago. I sought counseling to make sure I wasn’t going in over my head. I did a full medical check up to make sure my body could take having a child. I looked at my finances to make sure I could afford being a single mother. It all seems clinical and lonely but I was happy every step of the way. I never felt alone. Even when I was injecting myself twice a day with hormones for egg collection —I only felt closer to my child.
I held donor selection dinner parties with my best friends at home, poring over exhaustive but interesting donor profiles from all over the world. I had an egg collection “shower”.
The fever dream of an empowered single-mom-to-be is bright with doing-it-all and being-it-all. I held donor selection dinner parties with my best friends at home, poring over exhaustive but interesting donor profiles from all over the world. I had an egg collection “shower”. My family and friends gave me so much love, support and positive vibes, it felt better than the oxytocin-addled feeling of falling in love. Being in charge of my own destiny is the most powerful feeling of all.
I realize this is not a conventional route. When I google single mother by choice or SMC, most of the articles that come out are from between the years 2016 to 2018. There’s not a whole lot of us, but enough to contribute to the ever-changing face of the modern family. Where there can be a mom and dad, two moms or dads and so forth, there can also be one mom and a village. I am blessed to have an amazing support system. My mother, brother and friends are part of my son’s life and future.
I recognize how lucky I am to have been able to make this choice. However, being lucky doesn’t mean it has been easy. Motherhood ain’t for sissies. The modern mother is plagued with images of svelte celebrities in bikinis weeks after giving birth. The pressure to be effortlessly perfect is embedded in our brains. When a ‘real’ mom movie or show comes out, the moms are usually bedraggled walking disasters, a veritable parody of motherhood.
Motherhood begins the day you learn you’re pregnant, and I’ve been sick since day one. My brain is caught in the mommy fog that only responds to food and anything that causes nausea. I cannot write nor do my day job properly. I burst into tears in every conceivable public area. My emotions swing strictly from homicidal to exhaustion to pure panic. I wake up from vivid nightmares, such as leaving the baby at the grocery or accidentally feeding it poison.
My son is 16 weeks old and he has already become my entire life. I worry about him all the time. I worry about the food I eat and how it will affect him. I worry about miscarriage at an hourly pace. I worry about what school is best for him. I worry over the million things that can go wrong in utero. I know it’s a mother’s job to worry, like with any superhero, my kryptonite is always what is closest to my heart. Whatever highs I can feel being a SMC, nothing lands me down to earth faster than the thought of my son living in a world I cannot control.
Still, I feel that every challenge and reward has led me to becoming this nervous but happy mom. Everything I learned about life and myself so far was in preparation for this. I could’ve frozen my eggs and held out for a bit longer but I felt it in me to do this all the way.
I shared this sentiment with my mother, who in her early seventies lived in a different world and generation. She too thought having a child this way was a great idea. Her support gave me all the strength I needed. It meant everything. She is the keeper of unconditional love. I can only dream of being a mother as selfless and understanding as she is.
It’s important for my son to know that I wanted him so much in this world. He needed to be born. In so many ways this is why this article was especially hard to write. How do I share something so personal and precious online without risking our privacy? How do I protect him from prejudice? How do I as a mother prepare him for a world that is still not ready to understand how women can make such choices?
It’s important for me to keep seeing what I have and not look for what I lack. The last time I wrote something I shared the loss of my father, and now here I am announcing the arrival of my son. As children we play games to picture our future. It’s probably been more than 30 years ago since I last played pregnant. Pillows off, carrying my son has been the greatest honor of my life.
Photographs by Joseph Pascual
Makeup and hair by Jinx Aggabao