Table of Contents
From the Editor
When I think of fall, I think of transitions. School starts. The seasons change. Actually, things are always changing, day-to-day, week-to-week, and year-to-year. For this issue I asked our authors to reflect on major transitions. We have wonderful articles about being in limbo— a key part of any transition, unexpectedly growing from a family of two to a family of three, and bringing home an internationally adopted baby. Also, Jane Mattes, SMC’s founder, was generous enough to sit down with me and talk about the transitions that come with parenting an adult child among other topics. She observed that change brings growth- something that I’m trying to remember these days.
-Laura Isabel Serna
From Homestudy to Home
by Michelle Rosen
It was winter in rainy and cold Northern California. I live on the bottom floor of a two-floor home. I suppose that once this was the basement and was converted into a separate one-bedroom apartment. From the front of the house, you’d never know that. But my ceilings are only 6ʼ 6” high. Being 5ʼ 3” myself, and knowing that my adopted baby/toddler would be smaller than I, I found this cozy. But I was concerned: perhaps it was not regulation and would be deemed inadequate for a child? The heating system is old, ineffective and in winter, I need to use space heaters to keep the place warm. This also made me nervous: the main wall heater is metal and does get hot if you come in contact with it. Though it is inaccessible behind my desk, I covered the wall-heater at best I could with potted plants. I’d heard that people had been denied adoption approval because of wall heaters.
The day of the homestudy arrived. I unplugged the smaller space heaters I had out of fear that the Social Worker would frown upon them. But, now I was worried the apartment would be too cold by the time the SW arrived and I’d be told I could not raise a child in such a cold environment. I filled my diffuser with two essential oils– Peace and Calming and Harmony–thinking I could influence the temperament of this unknown and possibly belligerent Social Worker (who did end up mentioning how nice my home smelled). Before our first meeting, the SW complained that she had to travel from the East Bay of San Francisco all the way to the west, to Marin County where I live. I remember thinking, “But you’re charging me $2500 for this report. Travel complaints should not be included in the price!” So, I had reason to wonder about the mindset of the SW assigned to me. I sat and waited for her, wondering if I should’ve baked some chocolate chip cookies. Finally, the SW arrived.
I’d read on the SMC Adopt list about some nightmare situations other prospective adoptive parents had with their social workers. So, of course, I assumed the same could happen to me. First, there were the low ceilings. Next, the old heater and space heaters. On top of that, I have only a shower stall, no tub. Would the social worker think me not capable of bathing my child with just a shower stall? (It turns out, my daughter, home now for a month from Nepal, hates bathing! Tub or shower. So in either case, tears and cries are elicited at bath time.) I hadn’t childproofed my cabinets yet. And I lived in a probably illegal one-bedroom apartment. I figured at least one of these items would become a big issue. A friend who was getting ready to foster to-adopt told me she had to secure her book shelves to the walls and lock all her vitamins in a cabinet with a lock and key. I had nothing like that prepared. I was sure I would be found wanting as a potential adoptive mother.
The social worker also dismissed a lot of things with the wave of a hand telling me, “Oh, you have plenty of time to prepare these items before the adoption actually happens.” (Turns out, I had another three-plus years, but I didn’t know that at the time). At one point, the SW mentioned that her daughter was due to give birth any day. I had myself experienced numerous miscarriages prior to moving into adoption as the way to create my family. While I had in many ways resolved my feelings about this, I still had sadness and jealousy when I saw large, pregnant women walking down the street, a toddler already in tow. I know I felt a big twinge of envy when my SW announced this, and hoped it didn’t show. Would she see this and determine that I was not yet sufficiently over my losses and thus was not ready to parent an adopted child? I planted on my best smile, told her how wonderful that was for her, how exciting! I think she believed I was truly joyful for her.
At the time that I did my homestudy for my adoption of my Nepalese daughter, I was moving on a fast track. I’d completed my adoption dossier in record time and gotten my homestudy done ASAP. At that time, my agency told me that adoptions could happen within 6 months of my dossier being submitted. My SW did her best to write up the homestudy as quickly as possible, and I got my INS approval within four months after starting the entire process. One month after that, Nepal put all adoptions on hold. Basically they were on hold for three years, though during that time there were spurts of movement— false promises that soon I would be a mom.
In the interim, I re-did my homestudy twice more. I got re-fingerprinted two more times and had to re-do many of the documents I’d prepared for my original dossier as they were too old. And, I also got three and a half years older and the desperate urge to be a mom diminished with each passing year. When I started the process of trying to be a mom at age 40, I could never imagine my life without this. After many miscarriages, I still felt the same way, so I began the process of adopting from Nepal (I chose Nepal b/c in my gut, I knew it was the place my daughter was going to be born). But, after so much heartache (I had even gotten a referral for a little girl in Nepal, waited a year to bring her home, and was then told the Nepalese government would not honor this referral, and I was back to square one), my desires began to change. I went from putting everything on hold to living life in the present again. I began to date more seriously (or at least look for a man more seriously) and redevelop a fun social life.
And a few months ago, five years after my first miscarriage and a little more than three years after starting the adoption process, when things were still not really moving in Nepal, I began to consider life as a childless woman seriously. I have nieces and nephews with whom I am very close. Perhaps, I thought, this could be enough for me. I went from 100% sure I had to be a mom, to 60% for it, 40% neutral. And then, I got the call: my travel approval to go to Nepal to pick up my recently referred daughter had come through. I was on my way to Nepal.
Now, the waiting has ended, the wondering is over. A few days ago, I went through my folder with all my adoption preparation related papers, saved a few for my daughter for the future, and recycled the rest. As I write, my daughter is sleeping in her toddler bed in our one-bedroom flat. I still find it odd in the morning when Sarala wobbles over to my bed and shakes it, mumbling, “Mamu” (her recent nickname for me). I look at her and wonder who this adorable, dark, tiny stranger is. But as the day goes on, I know she is my daughter and the love for her keeps deepening. And all the preparation to get her here, with me, is far-gone.
SMC now has a blog! It can be found at:
The posts are from members, me and interested others, so if there’s something you’d like to post, send it to me (email@example.com) and let me know how you want it to besigned, or if you want it to be anonymous.The blog is public and availableto beread by anyone, so keep that in mind. No particular length is required. And remember that we also would love to get newsletter articles from our members for the newsletter, which is aimed at our membership, rather than the general public.
Transitions: An Interview with Jane Mattes
Q Since you are an SMC through “chance and circumstance,” do you have any advice for other chance and circumstance moms about how to deal with the daddy question when the father was known and there was a relationship with him?
That was the hardest part, especially when Eric was young. I did my best, but truthfully with all of these questions about the dad, none of [the answers are] perfect for those early years. Because developmentally kids can’t “get it” until they are at least, I’d say, in their late teens/early twenties. That’s when they really get it and maybe not even totally until later on when they have had enough experience with people and relationships of their own that they understand the real significance of a dad in a family and that not every couple marries and stays together.
Q Did your son Eric ever go through a phase of needing to know his father and did he do anything about it?
He went through a phase of wanting to know if he could find him if he wanted to. It was hypothetical. I said yes, I would do everything I could to help him. I had not heard from his father in many, many, many eons. So I said I would help him find him if I could, but it was really up to him. And then he decided not to.
Q Speaking of relationships, how did you handle dating when Eric was younger?
When he was two or three, I had a relationship that lasted a while. I didn’t try as hard as I should have to protect him from that relationship. After that I didn’t let anybody near him until we were going to be engaged, which never happened. He truly loved the man I was dating when he was two or three. You know, he thought this was his dad. It was very, very painful when the man disappeared despite his promises that he would always stay in touch with Eric even if we didn’t work out as a couple. He didn’t follow through with that. He didn’t explain to Eric or to me really why he was leaving; he just disappeared from our lives. It was very hard for Eric, and for me too, but especially for Eric who couldn’t comprehend at that time, developmentally, that someone could just disappear like that.
Q Do you think that those experiences have influenced Eric’s own dating life?
Yes I do. He did say when he was a teenager that I was way, way, way overly sensitive about that breakup. Given my personality, he was right. I think he got it in perspective eventually, but it took a while. I don’t think he dates casually for that reason. He dates a lot, but he doesn’t get involved with a woman unless he thinks there’s some potential.
Q Did your relationship with Eric change as he’s gotten older and come to terms with what it means to be the child of a single mother by choice?
Yeah (laughs) we got past the hard adolescent years, which I was utterly unprepared for even though I’m a therapist and should know better. And we got through that with some difficulty but we now have a relationship that we’re both very happy with in terms of being not too close, not too distant. It feels just right to both of us.
Q Have you found that your identity as a single mother by choice changed as your son went from being a baby to being a child and then a teenager and an adult?
Sure. He launched twice. He went to college and that was a launch. Actually, he launched three times. He finished college and got a job and that was a launch. He started graduate school in 2007 and finished in 2009 and that was the final launch. And then I said to him, “You know, I’m not sure what exactly my role is with you anymore because you’re a grown up now and I am not sure what it means to be the mother of an adult.” With each of those three launches, but especially with the third launch, I felt like mothering became more and more in the background and that my whole identity was different. I was no longer first a mother and then everything else.
Q Did being an SMC become less important as he got older?
Being an SMC became less and less important, but being a mother stayed important for a very long time. And actually, being the child of an SMC — everybody thought it would be his burning issue and it never was and isn’t.
Q Have you ever struggled with the public nature of the role you’ve taken on as the founder of SMC, especially what it means for your son? There’s a school of thought that maintains that you shouldn’t disclose your child’s conception story since it’s their story, that it shouldn’t be public. Has that ever been an issue for your son?
Not that I know of. He’s kind of been proud of it. And as far as I know he’s been very comfortable with it. What I did was I didn’t let reporters interview him. I think I made one exception to that for NPR when he was younger, because I love NPR and that was a very one-time thing. I did feel that my being out there would help the world understand it better and I hope it did. I really weighed what it would do to him and I thought the long-term benefit was worth it.
Q Do you have any regrets?
Yes, I regret having let go of myself as much as I did. I was overly focused on him, at my own expense. I think I thought that doing that was somehow healing to me, which it was, but I think I did it to an extreme.
Q Do you mean focusing on him as a mother?
Exactly, his needs versus mine.
Q What advice would you give people in terms of balancing?
I guess if I could have I would have, but try to keep a little more of a balance so that you can be there for your child in the way that he really needs you to be but not at your own expense.
Q Are there any practical tips you would give? I’m a very practical person and I hear you say that and I wonder what does that look like? Does that look like going out with your friends or taking classes?
I did all those things. It was really more about where my heart was. My heart was focused on him and on being the most wonderful, perfect mother I could imagine being. And then (a) I wasn’t a perfect mother, nobody can be and (b) I lost focus on myself and what needs I had. I just wish I’d done it differently. On the other hand, better late than never, I kind of woke up once he went off to college and with each of those three launches that I mentioned I was more and more able to get myself back. Going through those teen years and the early twenties actually really helped me to grow up in a way I hadn’t before. I hadn’t really had a relationship of any serious nature for a long time and I hadn’t been accountable to anybody. He was holding me accountable and expecting me to act like a mature, un-neurotic person. I had the same expectations of him. It was ultimately very helpful.
Q Did you ever want to have a second child and, if so, why didn’t you?
I felt like the monetary situation, the finances, made it impossible for me to have two. I also worried that I didn’t have enough (emotionally) to give to two. I was very involved in my career, and in terms of my own upbringing I was an “only” and I wasn’t that familiar with siblings. It was kind of unknown territory and a little scary. Back when I did it almost everybody had just one and having two was something we thought of as a delightful fantasy. We felt it was a miracle that we pulled off having one, and the idea of two was just not seriously considered for many, many years of the SMC organization’s history. It’s interesting how that’s changed dramatically. Now, whatever people wanted in a marriage they feel they can have as a single.
Q There are more films about children conceived with donor help and women who chose to become single mothers. How do you feel about the publicity that being a single mother by choice is getting recently?
I haven’t actually seen any of those movies, though I plan to once they are on DVD. As far as the media coverage, it seems that people don’t quite get it.They get it much more than they did thirty years ago or even twenty years ago—SMC is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary next year by the way. Yet, they can only know through their own experience and their own eyes, so a lot of people (this gets mentioned a lot on the email lists) say, “I know what it’s like – it’s like when my husband goes away on a business trip,” and they have no idea, really what the differences are. I think they just can’t fathom it. I think the media portrayal and the recent movies are a little bit better than that but they don’t get it exactly right because of course each one of us has a unique story. Even within Single Mothers by Choice, every story has a unique part as well as a universal part. From what I’ve seen of the film clips of the J Lo movie that is an example of where they totally don’t get it. In The Kids Are All Right the context is this is about a family, not some odd or funny storyline. So I think they got it right more than any other popular movie so far. There have been some great documentaries that get it because they’ve been made by people either in the midst of doing it or the midst of thinking about it. Popular movies have been somewhat disappointing. We’ll see what the Jennifer Aniston movie is like.
Q I was thinking about this issue in terms of the idea of transitions. I was thinking of fall and going back to school, and, well, motherhood is all about transitions. I was wondering if you had any general advice about transitions whether it’s your child going back to school and being in a new grade, or your child going off to college etc.
Relish the moment and expect it to change. The moment is wonderful, yet part of life is change. I think you can help your child to prepare for the transitions and also at the same time help yourself by knowing that change is not just loss but it is also a gain. With each loss there is also something else that you gain. Sometimes we try to hold onto something for too long. At each stage I would think. “This is so great I don’t know if the next one could possibly be as great,” and it actually was. With the exception of adolescence, which is only great in retrospect, each one was better than the one before. And being the parent of an adult is an absolute joy.
Q Can you talk a little bit more about that? What’s pleasurable about it?
He likes me. He thinks I have some wisdom. He says things like “I appreciate you sharing your life’s experience with me,” or something to that effect, those aren’t his exact words. I get the feeling he wants my input. He likes spending time together. When we spend time together we really have fun. It’s a combination of all the nice things of any good relationship.
Interview has been condensed and edited
What I Wish I’d Known as a Brand-New Mom of an International Adoptee
by Karen Moline
When I brought my then 6-monthold son back from Da Nang, Vietnam to our home in downtown Manhattan in early September 2001, I remember most clearly the dazzling blue of thesky and the thousands of people streaming home from the World Trade Center covered in the pulverized dust of all those dead souls, their faces frozen in shock. On that terrible day, my son watched soberly from his favored perch in my hip sling as I stood in front of K-Mart on Astor Place (having made a panicked run for diapers and formula) wondering just what I had done to this sweet little baby. However lacking his life had been in that small orphanage, surely what I had brought him to on that day was much, much worse.
But I have to say that although my memories of that day are as indelible as the look on my then-third-grade teacher’s face the day President Kennedy was shot (eek, I’m that old!), much of the rest of my son’s early years in New York is a distant blur. That’s because I had not done my homework. I’m not just talking about researching the adoption corruption in Vietnam that I was too naïve to understand at the time. I’m talking about how unbelievably unprepared I was to deal with for my son’s issue. So much so that I made them much, much worse, for both of us, before I finally got my act together and was able to make them much, much better. So here’s my better-not-to-sugar-coat-it list of the Top 7 Things I’d Wish I’d Known as a Brand New Mom.
1 ADOPTING A CHILD IS NOT THE SAME AS GIVING BIRTH.
The fundamental nature of adoption = loss for the adoptee (and the biological family). Furthermore, any child who has lived in an institution like an orphanage for any amount of time is going to have unique issues that babies born to mothers able to care for them will never have to endure. Which is why…
2 THE ADJUSTMENT PERIOD CAN BE REALLY ROCKY
I was head over heels in love and ecstatic with every burp, gurgle, and laugh my baby made. But the daily caretaking was tough, and when you are single it is even rougher as you can’t share the stressful duties with someone regularly. If other moms downplay how really, really rough it can be, they are either delusional from sleep deprivation or sweetly lying to spare you the truth! But, of course, had I been warned that I would not get any sleep for years; that the time I thought I’d have to myself (as I used to have at night) would disappear, as I’d conk out when my baby did; that my overhead would quadruple and my income plummet…I would never have believed them. And because I was a walking zombie, my life was suddenly full of buttinskis, who knew the best way to fix what was causing my zombie’d state. They didn’t know that…
3 THE ONLY ADVICE THAT MATTERS WILL BE FROM OTHER ADOPTIVE PARENTS WHOSE CHILDREN CAME FROM SIMILAR
SITUATIONS AS YOURS, OR FROM ADULT ADOPTEES.
Yes, you will get tons of (usually unsolicited) comments and advice and suggestions from people who know you and love you. Yes, these advice-givers certainly mean well. Yes, you are grateful that they care so much. But my son was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress—wouldn’t you be if you had been taken by a funny-looking stranger from everything you knew, and all the familiar sights and smells and voices and faces and noises disappeared in a flash? And I was in such a stupor of jet lag and 9/11 trauma myself that I didn’t recognize it until what seemed like eons had gone by and my son’s sleeping problems did not get better. He was still trying to process his fears and anxieties, and paradoxically, the stronger his bond to me became, the safer he felt in acting out on these fears. He needed a feeding every 3-4 hours, round the clock, for over a year. Part of the problem was that he’d been so malnourished, starving really, and had salmonella when I adopted him that he truly needed the bottles. I couldn’t believe such a little body could take in so much food and formula (and then it all came out the other end! LOL) and stay so tiny. So I had to feed him, which meant I didn’t sleep for more than 2-3 hours at a stretch for over a year, and hen he was still up several times for another 2 years…..
At least I had spoken to enough APs (adoptive parents) to know not to let my baby cry it out. Orphanage babies quickly learn that crying doesn’t mean they get the attention to their needs that they deserve, so they shut down. No way was I not going to go to my son when he was in distress, which made the advice-givers in my orbit crazy. “Let him cry it out—it worked for me!” they all said. In desperation, I spoke to a therapist who specialized in adoption issues, and she told me that many babies were left or abandoned (as my son had been) when they were sleeping. They woke up and life had changed irrevocably. When she said that, I had one of those little light bulb moments.
She also added that I had been doing the right thing in treating my baby as if he were a newborn, with those endless on demand feedings and my carrying him around in the sling as much as humanly possible.
What did finally work with the Buttinskis was to say, “My social worker with the PhD said…” or “My adoption therapist said…”—because if the advice camefrom a “professional” than it was less likely to be questioned.
What also helped were two Yahoo groups: adoptionparenting (one word), with listmates, far more experienced than I was, who helped me transform my parenting (and my ability to ignore the Buttinskis); and International-AdoptTalk, run by adult adoptees who did not mince words about what it was/is like to grow up in this country. They told me that I should…
4 STICK TO CO-SLEEPING.
Babies and children coming from orphanages rarely sleep on their own, in cribs in dark and silent rooms. Expecting newly adopted, post-institutionalized children to instantly transition to their own beds in your home on top of all the other changes they’ve just endured will likely terrify them. Even though my son’s crib was right next to my bed, he still hated it—yet it took me months to finally cave in and do what was best for him: cosleep, with a fan on for white noise and a nightlight.
At which point the Buttinskis with the “You can’t co-sleep! Your child needs to be independent!” chorus would not change their tune. But what baby or terrified toddler needs to be “independent” or cry in the dark? Why is co-sleeping the norm in most countries in the world yet so savaged here? My Tibetan nanny got on my case and thank goodness she did. She already knew what many new adoptive moms don’t, which is…
5 THERE IS WOEFULLY LITTLE BLUNT PREPARATION FOR NEW MOMS BECAUSE MOST OF THE PAP (prospective adoptive parent) EXPERIENCE IS FOCUSED ON BRINGING CHILDREN HOME, NOT REARING THEM.
I love my Yahoo groups, but most of them are geared toward PAPs and are filled with lovely, heart-warming tales of instant bonding and happy families. I wonder if we can delete this sentence it’s not germane to the meaning of the paragraph.] They are delightful to read but can paint an unrealistic picture for the PAPs who not only could not believe that some of the nice people they counted on to behave ethically were in fact trafficking children for profit, but that there is a surprisingly large group of APs who were completely unprepared for the truly tough stuff, such as post-adoption depression, serious attachment issues, sensory disorders, language issues, and medical issues, and who need competent help and advice. My son was so ill for most of his first year with me that I halfheartedly joked that if I weren’t self-employed, I’d have been fired, as I was in the pediatrician’s office for hours at least once every 3 weeks. Knowing that my son’s ailments were minor compared to some of the mental and physical health issues my friends were dealing with still did not make up for the lost work days and income, as well as the stress and worry and even more sleepless nights watching over a feverish baby.
I think part of the problem is that so little PAP preparation is mandated for international adoption – a scant and rarely rigorous 10 hours for Hague countries. If foster parents need at least 30 hours of prep in order to become certified, why are PAPs going international so exempted? I’ve spoken to social workers who giveseminars to PAPs, and they uniformly said that most of these PAPs have glazed-over eyes during any blunt talks, and then they complain that it’s too much information on top of all the other paperwork because they’re sure that their children will be healthy and perfect and adjust seamlessly into their new families.
I can’t tell you how harmful this can be. In fact, I can barely endure looking at the photos of my son on his first few days with me, as he is so clearly terrified and bewildered. At the time, though, I thought he didn’t have any issues because he was so quiet and compliant! I wasn’t just dumb about his adjustment—I was in denial about…
6 IF YOU ADOPT TRANSRACIALLY, YOU WILL BE SHOCKED AT THE AMOUNT OF RACIST AND OTHER INCREDIBLY RUDE AND INTRUSIVE QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS YOUR CHILD WILL BE SUBJECTED TO.
I live in NYC, which is as multi-culti as it gets. But the insensitive comments floored me. Such as: “Does he speak English?” (Uh, no, he’s a baby, he doesn’t speak yet); “Chinese people are all good at math.” (He’s not Chinese and I’ll hold off on calculus till he can count past 10); “How did you get a boy? Don’t they only dump girl babies?” (Boys need adopting for the same reasons girls do, and no, my son is not Chinese); “How much did he cost?” (Adoption is not about “buying” children); “Oh, you don’t have a man so you adopted, right (Wow, aren’t you supportive of my choices!); and “It’s better for you to have a yellow kid instead of a black one.” (No response necessary).
My son quickly learned that a lot of the attention he got was not from people interested in international adoption—it was from people who felt they had the right to ask because he was visibly “other” to his Caucasian mom. (He was never bothered when out with his Tibetan nanny; they assumed he was her son.) And I quickly decided that I didn’t want my son to be the poster child for transracial adoption simply to satisfy the curiosity of strangers. He, like any child, is entitled to his privacy. I got very adept at answering prying questions by plastering on a bright smile and saying in a very sweet tone, “And the reason you are asking a stranger such a personal question is…?”, waiting for the inevitable sputter, adding, “Have a nice day!” and departing. But I could put up with these strangers because…
7 ADOPTING MY CHILD WAS THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE.
I can look back now at the eager, hopeful, naïve, and often-dopey new mom I once was and laugh at my dumb mistakes. My son doesn’t remember his countless midnight feedings or scary pediatrician visits or the orphanage he lived in; when we went back to Da Nang earlier this year he was welcomed with so much love and delight that he felt like a little prince reentering his kingdom. I can’t imagine giving birth to a child any more delicious and enchanting and perfect as he is.
But as he grows older and becomes more aware of what adoption truly means, all I can do is tell him the truth, and continue to learn from the moms and adoptees who’ve already walked the walk, to open my eyes and ears and heart to everything they have to share—to embrace both the wonderful and the horrific, and to hope that my son will be able to do the same.
Karen Moline is a freelance writer in NYC and a board member of PEAR(Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform, www.pear-now.org)
I Never Planned on Being a Single Mother of Two – Part 1
by Ellen Keller
My journey toward single motherhood began when I was 38. I ended a relationship, because I knew that I did not want to be with him for the rest of my life. I did, however, want to be a mom more than anything else in the world. I wanted to experience the “whole” thing, the pregnancy, the maternity clothes, feeling the baby kick inside me, and delivery. So, I met with my OB who referred me to my fertility doctor and I was on my way.
My insurance did not pay for any of the insemination procedures so everything was out of pocket. I decided on a donor and ordered two vials. I was extremely blessed to get pregnant on the second try so I never had to order any more. It never occurred to me to order more and store it so that I might possibly have another baby some day. I was certain in my decision that while I would love to have more children someday, I would only have one on my own; if I were to meet someone and have a family later that would be icing on the cake. My beautiful son, Ryan, was born on June 28, 2005. He was perfect. I had made my dream come true and life was wonderful!
I truly was blessed, although Ryan wasn’t the greatest sleeper, he was a happy baby and I found motherhood to be “easy.” In the meantime, I tried to do eHarmony, meet new people, date, but just never found the time or energy to pursue anything. I ended up back in an affair with a married man that had been on and off for many years. It’s not something that I’m proud of, and it’s another long story but bottom line, I was in love with him and could never seem to walk away completely. At this point, I could justify in my head because it fit with my new mommy schedule, I didn’t have a lot of time for him now either and I could call it off at any time.
I had grown up in Connecticut and despite twenty years in Chicago, I always dreamt of moving back there. Shortly after Ryan turned a year old, I decided my next goal would be to make that dream come true. In February 2007, I found a position within my company that would be based out of West Hartford. I put my house on the market and started taking trips out there to look for a new house.
Then, in March 2007, I found out that I was five weeks pregnant. I was in shock; I could not imagine anything worse. Such a difference from when I found out I was pregnant with Ryan! I remember calling my best friend sobbing and then going back to the drug store for more pregnancy tests. I think I took four and of course they were all positive. I went to see my OB and tearfully explained to her my situation. I think I wanted her to tell me that they baby was unhealthy or it wasn’t a viable pregnancy…anything to get me out of this. She scheduled an ultrasound and there it was, my baby. Abortion was never a question. I believe that every woman has the right to choose what is best for her, but for me it was never an option. That was especially true after going through a pregnancy like I did with Ryan. Since I had conceived through a fertility clinic, there were weekly ultrasounds so I saw changes weekly and saw how quickly a baby grows. I had to face the fact that I was going to have this baby and worse, I had to tell the father and my family.
I told my mom first. She knew that I had had an affair with a married man but no one knew that it was still going on. She was supportive from the moment the news was out of my mouth. Then I had to tell “A.” I was eight weeks pregnant and scared out of my mind. It didn’t go well. As one can imagine, his reaction was that I had to have an abortion. He would lose his (other) kids. It was all about what would happen to him, never about what I was going through. He went so far as to schedule an appointment for me to have an abortion. He said we would work through it, that he would be there for me through it all. Of course, that meant he would be there for the procedure and help me the next day. You can imagine my reaction; it wasn’t pretty. In the meantime, I told my siblings and my dad. That to me was as bad as having to tell “A.” I ended up sending my dad, who lives on the East Coast, an email. I just couldn’t bring myself to tell him. He was a lot more supportive than I thought he would be!
I decided I would proceed with my plans to move and I would just tell everyone that I decided to give ADI another try. Most of my friends thought I was crazy! I just let them think that and continued looking for a new house. I told “A” that I would move and he would never need to be bothered. That this would be MY child. I had an amniocentesis done in order to prove that there was nothing wrong with this baby. baby. He didn’t go with me nor did he ask me what the results were. He told me that the less he knew about it the better. That’s when I got mad! I sent him an email telling him I wanted nothing more to do with him and that same day I contacted an attorney to sue him for child support. I was five months pregnant and did not hear from him again until we were in the midst of our child support case.
While all this was going on, I was still trying to sell my house and move away, only now it felt more like running away. Thankfully, God knew what I needed better than I did. My house didn’t sell and my new boss said that it was fine if I wanted to continue working from Chicago. Shortly after that, employees in my organization that were not located in “primary” locations were being laid off. I would have lost my job if I had gone ahead with the move. I also would have been all alone. To this day, I do not know how I would have gotten through the pregnancy or handled two kids on my own if I didn’t have the support of my mom. My mom was there every day to help me. I had a difficult pregnancy and had a toddler to care for at the same time. I was so sick and Ryan was too young to understand why I couldn’t pick him up all the time or why I was constantly throwing up; he just wanted mommy.
I tried to make things as “normal” as possible and still prepare for a new baby in the house. I moved Ryan into his “big boy” bed because he was going to be a big brother. We read lots of stories about being a big brother and having a new baby around. I would have him put his hand on my belly when the baby was kicking. I don’t know how much he understood but he seemed excited. I was due at Christmas time so I scheduled a c-section to ensure that I would be home for Christmas with Ryan. However, showing her personality from the start, Emily decided she would come early (during a blizzard) and I had to be taken in an ambulance since my mom was too afraid we’d get stuck in the snow! On December 16, 2007, my daughter, Emily Grace was born.
To be continued
What’s the Buzz
A Review of
Single Choice: Many Lives
(directed by Anne C. Hurdhausen, 2010)
Decisions. Life is full of them. For many the decision to become (or not become) a parent is one of the most important decisions they will ever make. In her recent documentary Single Choice: Many Lives Anne Hundhausen examines the ethical, political, and emotional dimensions of choosing donor-assisted pregnancy. A thirty-something woman considering becoming a single-mother by choice, Hurdhausen’s own thinking process becomes the motivation for interviewing her own family members, former and current sperm donors, single mothers who have formed their families using anonymous donors, an executive at a sperm bank, and two grown donor children. While the cinematography is unremarkable (a stock shot of what I presume is a fertilized ovum features constitutes a running visual motif), Hurdhausen effectively presents the perspective of a range of stakeholders. The film juxtaposes, for example, a cocky young sperm donor’s declaration that 100 “little-mes” would be about right with a donor child’s assertion that four to five seems like a manageable number of children for a donor to have to interact with. The arc of the film moves from the director’s exploration of how her family would feel if she became a single mother by choice, the journeys of several other SMC’s, to the perspective of donor children, one of whom prompted the foundation of the Donor Sibling Registry. The film ends on a wistful note as Anne celebrates another birthday, her 37th, with girlfriends, still unmarried, still childless, still thinking. In juxtaposing all of these voices the film raises questions about the ethical dimensions of anonymous donor assisted fertility treatments. While some of her interviewees are adamant about the ethical pitfalls of anonymous donation and the industry that supports it, others are more philosophical, still others relatively unconcerned. The most compelling sequence, in this reviewer’s opinion, presents the participants as “talking heads” in a rectangular grid. Each speaks in turn, summing up her or his position. We are forced to look at all of them and remember that ADI is a practice that impacts not just the mother who chooses that as her route to motherhood but donors, children, and thinkers.
If you have an announcement to share send the information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include all the vital statistics.
Susan Shifflet writes I adopted Eve Raquel Liu Shiflett from China on 7/13/09. Eve was born on 3/3/08. My son, Gabriel Darwin Shiflett, was born on Monday, February 1, 2010. He was born at 5:43AM and was 7 pounds, 2 ounces and 20 3/4 inches long.
Jennifer Maureen Kulak would like to announce the arrival of her daughter, Maureen Josephine Kulak, onTuesday, May 25th at 2:06 AM. She was 8 lbs, 8 oz and 20.5″ long. Her namesake and grandmom, Reenie, attended the birth and cut the cord. I have never felt more complete than I do right now.
I am so very blessed and delighted to announce the arrival of my daughter, Jaymie Jo Barth, 5/20/10. She weighed 7 lbs 13 oz and measured 19.5 inches long. She is the center of my universe, the loveliest vision I’ve ever seen…everything I’ve been praying for. God has smiled down upon me; I am so blessed to be Jaymie’s Mommy! Kris Barth
Alison Bell is delighted to let you know that Johannes James was born at home on 9th May 2010 at 1.38am weighing 8lb 12 oz. Heis gorgeous and amazing. His arrival was unexpectedly quick – and we didn’t make it to the hospital – but both of us were very well. It’s been a long journey getting here, and I’m loving every minute of getting to know him.
Kathleen Hayes welcomed Henry Patrick Hayes in Chicago on Friday, January 15, at 6:37 a.m. via Csection after a 16-hour induction due to zero-level amniotic fluid. Henry weighed 7 lbs, 5 oz, was 21 inches long, and had a beautiful head of dark hair. He is my joy!
SuziTeghtmeyer is overjoyed to announce the birth of Leo Alexander on April 17th, 2010. Being only two days late, Leo surprised us all at a whopping 9 lbs, 4oz. Older brother Elliot Artemus (6/2/06, 8 lbs 4oz, same donor) is actually happy to be a big brother and loves to tickle Leo’s feet. As per the song, Our House is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard. Our family is now complete.
Andrea Hopkins is overjoyed to announce the birth of Anna Lauren, on June 13, 2010, in Toronto. Anna arrived three days before her due date weighing 7 lbs 9 oz, with a full head of dark hair and dark blue eyes. Big sister Claire Linda, 2, has welcomed “baby Anna” into our happy home. My daughters, longed-for and much loved, were named after my parents, Linda and Laurence Hopkins.I am blessed beyond words and content beyond measure.
Debra Cope is thrilled to announce the arrival of her daughter Susannah Genevieve Hongcheng Cope, born in Luoyang, China on December 25, 2005. Debra and older daughter Cassie, a now 10 year old “donor baby,” received Zuzu in China on August 24, 2009. One year later, Zuzu is a busy preschooler who talks nonstop, swims underwater, and loves dolls, butterflies, and Dora the Explorer. She has grown 7 inches and gained 11 pounds since coming home to Alexandria, Virginia.
Pamela Purdy is delighted to announce the arrival of Jonah Foster Purdy on April 27, 2010, 6 lbs, 1 oz, 18.5 inches, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Rachael Martin is pleased to announce the birth of her son, Oran Andrew John. Oran was born on April 5, 2010 weighing 8lbs 4oz and measuring 21 inches. Big sister Emma Clare is absolutely thrilled with her new brother and he is, by far, her number one fan.
Cheri McDonald is proud to announce the birth of her son, Nicholas Allan McDonald. Nicholas was born March 27th, 2010 weighing 8lbs 1oz and 21 inches long. It was a long journey but very much worth the wait.
With great excitement Connie Luck would like to announce the arrival of her second daughter! Mom, Connie, and big sister, Sophie, welcomed the arrival of baby Jenny Davies Luck on July 31st, 2009 at 10:01 in the morning, weighing 7 lbs, 7 oz. We are so excited to be three and baby Jenny is lucky to look a lot like her big sister already.
Rhyn Davies’ daughter Isla Alexa Robin, was born August 5. She’s doing well and is adorable (if I do say so myself).
Sweet Smells Abound—Ella Wangari Ross is Here! Have you heard? Our local bakery has announced the newest addition to its cupcake lineup. A little caramel sensation filled with gooey goodness. This sinful temptation arrived out of the oven 12 weeks early on March 27th at 8:25 pm. Containing 3 pounds and 2 ounces of sweet tooth madness, this wonderfully luscious treat came wrapped in 16 inches of pure bliss. Due to popular demand, this limited edition cupcake left the NICU bakery on May 24th. –Proud Momma Baker, Kimberly Ross
Annika Gwilym was born August 3, 2010 to Kathy Gwilym and loving aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents
ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER
This newsletter is published quarterly by Single Mothers by Choice Inc., a nonprofit founded in 1981. Annual subscriptions to this newsletter are included free with a membership ($55 for first year, $35 for renewal) or by subscription at $25 per year. Gift subscriptions are available. We are a nonprofit 501(c) corporation, and donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
We welcome submissions of original material. All material is published at the discretion of SMC and may be edited. SMC claims sole editorial authority and responsibility for the contents. Articles published in this newsletter represent the views of the author and not necessarily that of SMC. Send submissions to Laura Isabel Serna at the SMC office or by email to email@example.com.
Work published in the SMC Newsletter is intended for distribution to SMC members only. Authors retain the rights to their work and may use their own work in any form without the permission of SMC. SMC may re-publish authors articles in future SMC publications for distribution to SMC members. SMC will not publish newsletter writings in any other format (such as on the web, in another publication, etc.) without written or verbal permission from the author. The SMC Newsletter accepts advertising. Please call or email for rates. Jane Mattes, CSW, the publisher of the newsletter, is the founder of SMC and author of Single Mothers by Choice: A Guidebook for Single Women Who Are Considering or Have Chosen Motherhood. Jane is also a psychotherapist and can be reached at (212) 988-0993, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at the SMC office at Box 1642, Gracie Square Station, New York, NY 10028.
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