As an SMC, I often get asked “How do you do this alone?” The truth is, while I have chosen to raise my daughter without a partner, I never intended to do it alone. Building a support system of friends, family and fellow SMCs has been a crucial part of my journey. I do believe that it takes a village to raise a child and in my case it also took a village to make a child. My path to motherhood included donor sperm, 4 IUIs, two rounds of IVF, 2 miscarriages, loss and ultimately the birth of my daughter via surrogacy using my remaining frozen embryos. I wouldn’t have had the resilience to continue on my eight year fertility journey or my first years as a mother navigating parenting during a pandemic without a really solid support system.
As I look back on my journey I remember the “Choose My Baby Daddy” party where some of my closest girlfriends helped me finalize my sperm donor selection, a rotation of friends attending fertility appointments with me, an amazing surrogate that showed me just how positive a fertility journey can be and an AirBNB in Colorado when I finally got to meet my daughter. An important component of that support system has been the other SMCs I’ve met since I joined Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) as a Thinker. Meeting other mothers and hearing their stories and seeing them at meetings with their children gave me the visual blueprint for life as NYC SMC. I knew that if others could do it, I could as well.
This remains true to this day as I gather strength from the SMC community to parent in unprecedented times. This is why I was especially excited to host the SMC 40th Anniversary Celebration recently with our founder, Jane Mattes. It was super inspiring (and reassuring) to hear from SMCs with grown children and from the grown children themselves. Much like when I first joined SMC meetings and gained support and knowledge that helped me navigate my fertility and early motherhood, I’m now looking ahead to gain insights as I progress through the toddler years and beyond. Having watched the video recordings of the Celebration, I find the content truly timeless as it centers on the core concern of motherhood- are the kids ok and am I doing this right?
Hearing the amazing young adults reflect on their experience as children of SMCs, I was thrilled to see that they were more than ok. It was amazing to hear them reinforce that they don’t feel a loss in their lives but rather a security around a family dynamic that has been consistent through their upbringing. It was especially helpful to hear how the children and mothers have navigated donor siblings, male role models and dating.
There were three topics that stood out to me that have already made their way into my daily parenting. The first was Jane Mattes’s presentation on the ‘Daddy Question.” I have always been open with Nora (2.5 yrs. old) about her origin story but had found myself waiting for her to ask about it rather than leading the conversation as much as I would like to. This discussion reminded me of my intention to lead this conversation with the same approach I’ve taken to potty training and transitioning to a big girl bed. That approach has been exposure and repetition. Since the Anniversary Celebration I expanded our library to include favorite books about different families, donor insemination and surrogacy. (See some of our members’ favorite books here.) Now Nora is old enough to lead this conversation and I’ve been thrilled by her growing understanding and our mutual comfort with the topic. In fact, I’m finally finishing the journal that I started with Nora’s surrogate as a keepsake for her to have a documentation of our own special story.
The second topic that really stood out for me was the coverage of donor siblings. I really enjoyed the wealth of research and insights in Rosanna Hertz’s presentation around her conversations with families who have connected with others who share a donor and then hearing from fellow SMCs on their relationships with their donor siblings. I realized that my idea of waiting till Nora is a young adult to allow her to choose whether she connects with her siblings could inadvertently cause Nora to miss out as many connections are already being forged now. The evening after the event I took the first step in building connections with Nora’s donor siblings.
The last topic that stood out throughout the program of events was managing all the responsibilities and focusing on self-care. I enjoyed the mindful parenting sessions and also hearing the best practices from other mothers. More than one mother shared that they take a day out of the weekend where they limit the activities and focus on keeping up with household chores and recharging for the week ahead. Hearing this freed me of my ‘mom guilt’ and allowed me to hear my own intuition that what Nora and I need most right now is Sunday pajama days. So Nora and I will be spending more Sundays proudly sporting our matching PJs.
I hope that you enjoy the 40th anniversary content on video and that you continue to build your own support system by connecting with our great community at every stage of the SMC journey!
Note: You can purchase the videos of the two-day 40th Anniversary Event here: https://www.singlemothersbychoice.org/shop-estore/
Kat Curtin is a SMC to 2.5 yr old Nora and the co-lead of the NYC SMC chapter. She works in Product Marketing for tech start-ups. She also recently graduated from the Integrative Women’s Health Institute and does women’s health coaching.