Table of Contents
From the Editor
I’m delighted to join the team that makes the SMC newsletter a reality! I’ve enjoyed every SMC newsletter issue since joining the organization more than eight years ago. If you have an article idea you would like to share, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also looking for SMC members who would like to review books or family films and local chapters that would like to be profiled in upcoming newsletters.
SMCs Take Over the World
Well, not quite, but the Brooklyn Marriott doesn’t know what hit it.
by Nancy Nisselbaum
It was a day of connections, a day of memories, great joy, laughter and strength. On Saturday, October 15, 2011, over 300 women converged on the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge to rejoice, celebrate, come to terms with, consider and talk about single motherhood.
We had attendees from 6 countries and 19 states. The women who attended were from all walks of life and at all stages within the process. I spoke with women who were starting to experience empty-nest syndrome, women trying to conceive and facing infertility woes, women in the midst of the adoption process, and women who, like me, were ensconced in the ins and outs of everyday motherhood.
There was time for schmoozing and meeting people I only knew cyberly (is that a real word? Well, it is now!). Putting faces to screen names was revealing and ultimately heartwarming. Getting hugs from women who have guided me with their advice along this path was soul strengthening. I met women who have been there and done that and lived to tell the tale, women who have pioneered the path before I even set foot on it.
And then, lo and behold, it turns out I’m one of those women too. I met people who have looked to my posts to see how they should handle difficult situations⎯whether they involve talking to your child or dealing with schools or simply explaining the facts of life to nieces and nephews.
But these meet-and-greets were not the main attraction. On this particular Saturday, there were three panels that all these women awaited with rapt attention. There were Moms of Grown SMC Children, Looking for Genetic Roots and Grown Children of SMCs.
The speakers for Moms of Grown SMC Children were Susan Anderson, Ronne Carol Garber, Diana Greenwald, and Karen Kessler. And you know what? They all said, “Relax. You’re doing fine. After a while, no one notices or cares that you’re the only parent in your family who shows up at the Little League field.” What’s important is that you show up. Their basic take-away was that if you feel that this is right path for you, then go for it. What matters most is that you be a positive parent, that you love your kid(s). Even Susan, who grew up and raised her daughter in the Deep South, where you might expect people to have strong opinions, said that most people were accepting, that some older folks at church were confused, but that most people understood the drive to be a mom.
Ronne started pursuing her dream in the 1980s. She didn’t tell her parents at first (as many of us may not do today) but when she did, her dad said she had a lot of guts. Her mom took a little while to come around, but come around she did. She had two children and said she wouldn’t change a thing. When one daughter recently got married, Ronne proudly walked her down the aisle.
Diana’s attitude is that the kids are all right, but that, yes, it does take a village. For her and her daughter (by adoption), the hardest part of their relationship is learning how to separate. As Laurabeth was growing up, Diana made sure to choose male therapists and teachers and coaches. All were wonderful male influences along the road to adulthood.
Karen chose a known donor and her son, Ean, has met him. There is an intense closeness in the relationship of a single mom and single child and that intensity makes separating difficult at times. Karen said that Ean needed to be angry with her, needed to create conflict. He felt he had no outlet for his anger except at her. And yet, through it all, he is what she is most proud.
The Genetic Roots panel consisted of Rosanna Hertz (who co-authored a study with Jane Mattes), Wendy and Ryan Kramer (who founded the Donor Sibling Registry), and Joni Mantell (who specializes in adoption and infertility counseling). And the interest from adopted children and donor conceived children seems to be converging. The questions that all panelists found children facing were: Who am I? Why am I here? Children wonder about genetic traits that they’ve inherited. Where did my interest in XYZ come from? Such questions relate to both adopted and donor-conceived children.
Whether you became a mom through adoption or sperm donation (known, anonymous, or ID release), the most important take-away was that the more information you can share, the better the emotional state of your child. Kids need validation. You as a parent are not here to take away the pain of their emotions, but rather to accept their pain and hold it.
Everyone was eagerly waiting to hear the Kramers speak. Rosanna Hertz first made a point that the Kramers riffed off⎯that growing groups of parents are forming “clans.” Meaning that the growing number of half-sibling groups is making for a whole new understanding of family and that every family has its own definition. Both Ryan and Wendy spoke of the importance of openness and honesty when it comes to being donor conceived. Ryan felt his mom was at her best and most supportive when she respected and honored his curiosity about his donor. At some point, moms have to realize that this isn’t about them; it’s about the kids and how they see themselves. Some children won’t give a hoot, whereas others want nothing more than to know the other side of their genealogy. And neither choice is wrong.
Then came the Grown Children, something many of us were on the edge of our seats for as well. What were these young adults going to say? How had their parents messed up? Were we all doomed to having unhappy, dissatisfied children who yearned their whole lives for a dad? In a nutshell, no. Hanne Anderson, Laurabeth Greenwald and Eric Mattes spoke beautifully about growing up as children of single mothers by choice, saying how for the most part, it was never a big deal, that it was the way their life was. There was a sense of confidence in knowing all the facts of how they came to be, whether through pregnancy or adoption. Not having a dad was a non-issue⎯being in an SMC family seemed normal because it was normal and it was all they knew. The thing they did wish for, more than a dad, was a sibling, someone to talk to and someone who could lessen the likely intensity between one child and one parent.
The afternoon ended with a wrap up from Jane who spoke about the need to avoid the extremes of parenting (too close, too distant; too strict, too indulgent), and how to help your child deal with you being the only parent, and how to help them separate and differentiate from you. But the biggest idea, one which was shared throughout the day, was that how a child is parented is much more important than how many parents reside in the home. Single motherhood is what it is. And we all strive to raise our children with love and respect. And at the end of the day, that’s the best any of us can do.
I left the Marriott having gotten hugs from women I’ve only ever spokento via email of sorts and now have a tone of voice, a turn of phrase, and a smile to put with a screen name. Single mothers by choice taking over the world? Nah. But we’re raising healthy, happy kids, full of confidence in knowing who they are, that they’re loved and wanted, and that as moms we’ll support them in their curiosity and their decisions.
Seasons of Community
by Cheri Tabel
In August I posted a question on the forum about “building community” that went something like this:
This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. How to build a “community” for Jackson & I. I have terrific support from my parents, who live in town. I have several close friends, but our kids are different ages, different schedules.
We live in neighborhood with either very young (toddler) kids or older (middle school kids).
I’ve left the church Jackson was baptized in (and I was confirmed in). It has become super conservative and not the place for us. The problem with selecting a spiritual home is that I’m not sure how much of a community it’ll be for us, as we live in a very traditional area — marrieds, with 2+ kids.
I’m hopeful to build on some of the relationships we started last year in kindergarten, but that would be for Jackson more so than me. I’m going to – hopefully – join the PTO. I attended a few meetings last year and it seems kind of clique’y. Hoping to crack that code!
I can’t really put my finger on something that is “wrong” as much as something that I want to grow, if that makes sense. I would love to hear about your “communities.”
As always, the online SMC community provided helpful and thoughtful responses. The replies ranged from the tactical (volunteer, find or start a SMC chapter, or consider scouting) to the bigger picture of the investment of time and effort required to build a community. I took each and every response to heart.
And that had me reflecting on the “seasons” of community. Why suddenly did I feel the need to build a community? Haven’t I had that all along?
When I was trying to conceive, I had a small, but very close community of friends and family who knew what I was doing and were with me along the way.
While I was pregnant, my local support grew as I could share my excitement and great news with even more friends. People were excited for me and helped me prepare for the arrival of my little guy.
Once Jackson was here, I felt isolated in some ways from that community, as I tried to do it all on my own. People who were so supportive during the pregnancy blended into the background, while others – especially parents who had “been there, done that” became extremely important – I had so many questions!
As he became older, my community changed again, now families from his daycare became allies and our lives revolved around school activities: field trips, holiday parties, fundraising, birthday parties and sharing our children’s milestones.
And now here we are, in grade school. Even though he is in first grade, I realize I posted that question on the forum in August, because in a lot of ways I felt like we were starting over. Jackson’s school has almost 500 students and it is easy to get lost in the crowd. Kindergarten was a blur and the transition was difficult. The tight-knit community of daycare evaporated. This year, I knew I wanted something different.
Now, almost three months after posting that question, I find myself building the community I had been looking for ― we’re growing relationships with families at school through Cub Scouts and school activities. We met with a great new group of local SMCs, and for the first time Jackson was able to meet children who were conceived like him. I find myself saying “yes” more to invites (when I may have said no in the past) and I always end up being glad we went.
Recently, at our town’s fall festival, we ran into a family from Jackson’s daycare. Jackson was thrilled to see an old friend and they had a ball playing games and picking out pumpkins together. The parents and I easily picked up where we left off – chatting, sharing and catching up on our kids. I also ran into one of my best friends from high school. We lost touch when she moved to California after college and yet here we were, talking like we hadn’t lost a day.
There’s something powerful in reconnecting with people who know you. There’s something promising in connecting with people new to you.
Seasons of community.
As I looked back at the responses I received on the forum in August, this one stuck out the most.
It’s definitely work to build a community for ourselves and our children and harder if one isn’t comfortable putting oneself out there (as I am not). I feel very grateful that (we) have formed strong bonds with a few families.
Now that my child is in high school, I’m actually working on building myself a new community, one that isn’t primarily defined by my daughter’s relationships. It’s going to be a little challenging, I think.
Building community has neither an end nor a beginning. It is a constant state of being.
When Jane sent a notice recently asking for a volunteer to be the newsletter editor, I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to reconnect with the community that has meant so much to me from the beginning of my SMC journey. I’ve always felt honored to read your stories and doubly so now that I can help put them on paper to share. And please do share! You can send your thoughts and stories to me at email@example.com.
WANT TO BE A CONTACT PERSON FOR SMC IN YOUR AREA?
The primary purpose of the CP is to welcome new members of SMC and to let them know what is happening on the local level. The CP assists in setting up organizational meetings for new members and organizes local chapter meetings. The roles and responsibilities of a local chapter are distributed amongst those who are interested in having an active chapter. If you’re interested, and for more information, contact the SMC office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julia Edson is the new CP for Walnut Creek, CA. She can be reached at Julia.Edson@att.net
26067. I number I wore, reported, and responded to for five months. 26067, the number assigned to my twin baby girl when she was born. Cheyna Skye Lynne and Ryan Michael Chase were born at Hackensack University Medical Center at 32 weeks gestation. Cheyna was born with tracheoesophageal atresia and fistula, which basically meant that her esophagus was not attached to her stomach. She required surgery several hours after her birth, and spent five months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Being over 40 and carrying multiples was a high-risk pregnancy and I was constantly being medically monitored. My pregnancy was full of hopes and terrible fears, and I was on bedrest from the second trimester. Some doctors reassured me everything would be fine, others predicted that I had little-to-no chance of having my babies. My fear of losing them was palpable. I was afraid to hope. I begged them to hold on tight. I wanted my pregnancy to be over, and my babies to be here so I could hold them, keep them safe, and be far, far away from the medical community that held me captive.
Little did I know.
I went to the emergency room on Christmas Eve because of a migraine and was told I would remain in the hospital until the twins were born. I was 31 weeks pregnant. Several days later, my doctor told me that I was scheduled for a Csection the following morning. Something was wrong with my tests and I was going into medical distress. My twins were delivered at 10:14 and 10:15 am on December 29, 2006. I saw them briefly, before experiencing a feeling of being pulled under. “You’re losing a lot of blood”, my doctor explained. A trauma code was called and a surgical team worked for several hours before I was transferred to ICU. I had several blood transfusions and a hysterectomy due to a condition known as placenta acreda (placenta wrapping around other organs), a condition that kills 50% of the woman who have it. As I became conscious in ICU, doctors explained to me that my daughter needed emergency surgery, and I scribbled my consent on the paper placed before me.
I didn’t see my babies again until the next day, when I was wheeled to the NICU. My twins didn’t see each other again for five months.
Within two weeks, my baby boy, Ryan, and I were released. Every day for the next five months, I went back and forth to the hospital, caring for my infant son at home and my baby girl, Cheyna, who remained in the NICU.
I never got to be on the maternity floor with the teddy bears and balloons. I never got to see them as newborns sleeping together. People didn’t know what to do. Many were afraid to call and ask about my daughter’s progress. As the time passed, so did many of the people I once knew. Later some would tell me that they didn’t know what to do – so they did nothing. People I hadn’t seen for years surfaced; while those I thought would be there weren’t. When I tried to talk to people some pointed out that I was the one who “wanted this,” unaware of the callousness of this statement. My life became the hospital. 26067. I wore the number imprinted on a bracelet for five months, but in my mind, forever.
I’d call the hospital in my sleep, through the night and in the early morning hours to get a report about my daughter’s progress. 26067. I’d repeat the number to get precious information about my baby. Sometimes the nurse’s report would be positive, calming my fears. Sometimes my dreams would mix into daytime nightmares where I’d tear out of bed, wrap my son in blankets, handing him off to his grandparents, and drive half dressed to the hospital.
My days and nights were confused. I felt guilty for not being able to stay at my baby’s bedside 24 hours a day. I felt like I was abandoning Ryan when I left for the hospital. Wherever I was, one baby was missing. Like a canoe rowing back and forth across a lake — I never could be on both sides at once.
While she was in the hospital I often felt my baby was not truly “mine.” In essence she belonged to the hospital staff caring for her medical needs. Many times I was afraid to hold her, to love her, and ultimately ― to lose her. While other mothers were shopping for baby clothes, pushing their tiny sleeping infant in a stroller, I learned to attach leads, read monitors and care for my baby who was always connected through wires and tubes.
On Memorial Day 2007, after five surgeries and five months in NICU, Cheyna Skye came home. My parents brought Ryan Michael to the hospital to be reunited with his twin, which allowed me the normalcy of leaving the hospital with both my babies. Photographers caught the twins on film as they saw each other for the first time since their birth. They touched each other’s faces, exploring, reconnecting.
At home, amidst the monitors and feeding tubes, I was finally able to place both my babies together, in the same crib, which I pressed against my bed. I couldn’t get close enough to them. They were amazed by each other, and watched each other’s every move.
Two years have passed. There have been two more surgeries and several more hospitalizations, but the twins are finally home and we are growing together as a family. They fight as typical siblings do, but share a unique bond and intuitiveness about each other that can only come from their special connection. Cheyna continues to see medical specialists and remains sequestered at home during winter months where my mother and father care for her and her brother while I am working. She is too susceptible to the germs she would encounter in a daycare setting, as her immune system and lungs are still developing.
At 28 months, Cheyna runs, climbs, and talks non-stop, like any other 2-year-old. Looking at her, one would never guess the rough start she had in life. She is bubbly and very bright, knowing all her letters and speaking in full sentences by 22 months. At birth, the nurses called her “spitfire,” a trait that got her through her hospital experience and a description that still holds true today. Ryan is a compassionate, active, sweet and smart little love. His patient nature contrasts his sister’s desire to always be “first,” and their personalities fit together like pieces in a puzzle. In the womb, he was always kicking her. I had told him the time would come when she’d get him back. And she has.
When she was barely 18 months old, Cheyna saw the wind blowing a bush and looked to me with a frightened expression on her face. “It’s the wind.” I say the word verbally and in sign language so that the experience has meaning. “Wind.” She repeats the sign. Now that she can name it, she seems more confident. The next day we are sitting on the porch again. A big yellow butterfly lands on a purple flower bouncing the branch up and down. “Wind,” she proudly signs with a smile. So I show her the sign and word for “butterfly.” The next day, as we were leaving a store, I told her we were going home. She looked at me unsure, “butterfly?” she signed. I smiled. Yes, baby. Butterfly. Home is where the butterflies are. And you are finally home.
Things you can do to offer support to a mother/parent of a baby in the hospital:
• Offer something specific, don’t just say “call me if you need anything.” Mean what you say. One person offered to watch Ryan, and when I called her she made excuses. She was just trying to be polite, which hurt me. Yet a friend I hadn’t seen for two years came and stayed for a week, taking care of my son during the night, cleaning, doing laundry, and letting me get some sleep.
• Volunteer for something you feel would be helpful. Schedule to watch a sibling, bring a meal, ask the parent for a list to do food shopping, laundry or run errands.
• Don’t be afraid of asking specifics about the baby. If the mother/parent doesn’t want to talk, they’ll tell you. Giving the opportunity to talk about their fears and issues can help someone feel less alone.
• Ask if you can visit at thehospital, or sit with a parent during surgery. I often sat alone, or with my father, in my baby’s room, watching the clock. Go to the hospital or free up a family member so the parent doesn’t have to be alone.
• Don’t be afraid of sending a gift. Some people waited to find out if she was going to be alright before sending a gift. One even gave a gift only for my son, saying she’d bring something for my daughter when she came home. I donated her “gift” immediately, feeling hurt that my babies were not treated the same. The underlying message that my daughter may not come home from the hospital hurt me terribly.
• Send a note letting the parent know you are thinking or praying for them. Some people put Cheyna’s name on prayer chains and lists. Knowing that someone I didn’t even know was praying for my baby made me feel special that she was thought of.
• Don’t wait for the “dust to settle.” In my case that took five months. The longer you wait the harder it is to connect. The parent needs support while the dust is still flying.
• Be aware of special dates — birthdays, holidays, etc. These times can bring added stress. A friend bought things for my twins for Easter, knowing I couldn’t get out to buy them the books I wanted them to have. That made me feel less guilty about not being able to do the things I wanted to do for their first Easter. It also made me feel more connected to her.
• Instead of telling your friend that you’ll do something after everything settles down, give them the gift of a house cleaner for a day.
• Offer to do something in the baby’s honor, like donate blood. Between Cheyna and myself we had around seven transfusions. Even if your blood can’t be used for the baby, it will help someone else, and knowing that you did this for their baby will touch a parent’s heart.
Join the SMC Discussion Forum
The SMC Forum is an online discussion site for our members where people hold conversations in the form of posted messages. Whether you are thinking about becoming a Single Mother by Choice or are trying to conceive or preparing to adopt; whether you are pregnant or are already a mother, you will find a welcoming community here.
Forum discussions include subjects dedicated to every aspect of the SMC journey. The messages are divided up into various sub-forums covering topics dedicated to all stages of parenting, as well as practical matters, like sharing tips on dating, budgeting, household maintenance, recipes, and much more. Within each sub-forum, members may start individual threads to ask questions or discuss issues of interest to them and other SMCs.
The Forum is a place to get 24/7 support and information from other members who are going through the same things, and from those who have been through them already. To protect your privacy, membership in the SMC Forum is restricted to those who are registered members of SMC.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR JOINING THE FORUM
In order to participate on the forums, you will need to create a new account. To register, please go to http:// forums.Singlemothersby choice.com.
Click “register” and follow the directions. You may register with any email address.
To complete registration you must fill-in the text box marked “address.” Other members cannot see your name and address, but this information allows us in the SMC office to confirm your membership.
You will be notified by email when your account “goes live.” After you register, there will be a short delay in being able to access the boards until your request is processed, usually less than 24 hours. Once you get a 2nd notice of activation from the forum, you’re good to go, and if you’d like to post an introduction, there is an Introductions thread under “Community” where you can do that. Enjoy!
If you have trouble registering, or with anything related to using the Forum, please email the Listmamas at: SMCemail@example.com. Please describe the problem in as much detail as possible.
SMC now has a blog! It can be found at:
LAST CHANCE FOR 2011 TAX-DEDUCTIBLE CONTRIBUTIONS!
If you would liketo make a tax-deductible donation to SMC, we are a non-profit 501.3c organization. December is the last month to make your tax-deductible donation for 2011, so now is the time to do it. You can send a check (SMC, PO Box 1642, NY NY 10028) or donate anywhere on the SMC website by clicking on the “Donate” button. We appreciate all donations, large or small, and we will send you a letter of acknowledgement for tax purposes promptly after we receive your donation.
If you have someone new in the house please send the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leyla and big sister Clara are overjoyed with the arrival of the newest member of their family. Felix Alexander Kaleo Aygun arrived 3 July 2011, born at home in water and weighing just over nine pounds. We are so happy!
On July 6th,Claudine Damm gave birth to her son, Caden Sebastian, bringing light and joy into her life. He was two weeks early, 7 lbs 6 oz, and bright-eyed and alert from the moment he arrived.
Casey Henry is proud to announce the birth of her son Dalton Whitfield Henry on August 31, 2011. He weighed in at a strapping 9 lbs, 7 ounces and was a lanky 22 inches long. He completely changed my life and every day with him is amazing!
I am overjoyed to welcome my daughter, Ellery Charlotte Jacobsen. She was born August 2 at 5:40 pm. in Providence, Rhode Island. Weighing in at 6 lbs 5 oz and 19.75 in. long, she is a little peanut. We are doing wonderfully. I have been waiting for her my entire life. She is a dream come true.
Liam is now a big brother! Maura Rose, was born October 12, 2011 at 7 lbs, 4 oz, 21 1/4 inches long. She has her brother’s mouth and a hint of his dimples. We are beyond blessed.
ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER
SMC Founder and Director: Jane Mattes
Assistant to the Director: Lynn Peterson
Graphic Designer: Eric March
Newsletter Editor: Cheri Tabel
This newsletter is published quarterly by Sigle 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 Cheri Tabel 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 ask if it can 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.
Entire contents copyright © 2011, Single Mothers by Choice Inc. All rights reserved.
Mico Promotions, Inc.