Table of Contents
Letter From The Editor
For the past few weeks my neighborhood has been filled with the drone of Brood X cicadas. You’ve likely either seen them or read about these cicadas, which in many parts of the country emerge from the ground to mate and lay eggs in massive numbers during a brief window every 17 years. I have distinct memories of Brood X two cycles ago, when I was in elementary school. I loved how slow and strange they were, how easy it was to gently rescue a cicada from the sidewalk and relocate it onto a tree.
These days I’m less excited about handling cicadas, but I’m struck even more by their vulnerability in their short time above ground. They remind me how insistently life wants to reproduce and how varied the strategies for doing so are. Pursuing single motherhood, especially in the face of crisis, can sometimes feel irrational or unwise. But when I think about the cicadas’ long wait and furious song, I’m reminded that the desire to have children doesn’t have to be justified or rationalized or perfectly explained.
For me, and I think for many of us in the SMC community, finding a way to care for future generations is a deeply felt, innately hopeful urge, one so strong that we figure out remarkable ways to overcome the difficulties of doing it solo—whether through birth or adoption, teaching or mentoring or aunt-ing. In this summer of re-emerging, I’m sending forth good wishes to all of those who come after us—and to the people caring for them.
Resister now! SMC 40th Anniversary Celebration Oct. 16 and 17th.
Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) is turning 40!
We’re excited to mark the occasion with a two-day virtual Celebration event which will take place on Zoom on Saturday Oct 16th and 17th. Connect with our founder, Jane Mattes, and members from all over at every stage of the SMC journey — thinkers, tryers, and mothers.
We’re putting together an exciting line-up of speakers and panels to provide support, information and connections to those who are considering, or have chosen, the SMC path. Please save the dates and plan to join us as we engage as a global SMC community!
Saturday, October 16 (1-6pm)
Sunday, October 17 (12-5pm)
Registration is now OPEN for both SMC members and non-members on our website: HERE! Note: Scroll down to see discounted rates for Canadian citizens.
More details to come as we build out the schedule.
Friendships, Age, and Single Mothering
The average age of all first-time mothers has risen dramatically, up from 21 in 1972 to 26 in 2018. For most SMCs, the average age of a first child is much higher, so while the SMC Forums have members from the late twenties to the late forties, many of us are in our late thirties and forties. Whether you’re thinking about adopting or considering IUI/IVF, you’ve likely spent at least some time thinking about how age factors into your decision.
At 48 years old and considering having a child on her own, R. posted on the Forum about her concern that she will be “out of sync” with her friends, who have children of high school and college age: “I worry that starting a family at my age will leave me feeling isolated and that I might end up regretting my decision to have a child.”
SMC thinkers, tryers, and moms in their thirties and forties mentioned having similar worries. Several Forum members suggested that R. could consider adopting an older child. Posters reassured R. about the prospect of bringing home a newborn as an older mother, too:
B. described her experience having her first child at 46 as socially affirming: “I had a small social circle before the baby, so I wasn’t worried about becoming more isolated. But to my surprise, I actually feel more connected to others now. There are some friends I actually spend MORE time with—not only are they vicariously enjoying spending time with a new baby without having to have one themselves, but they want to help and be there for me since they understand the challenge of having a young child.”
T., who is trying to conceive, is looking forward to learning from her friends’ experience: “My friends have all been there and done that. If my teenager rolls his/her eyes at me I have friends I can call for advice. And maybe even more importantly I have seen their kids go through adorable stages and difficult stages and I know it works out in the end because they are now amazing young adults.”
Whether or not your current friends are helpful, a new baby can be impetus for reaching out to new communities, B. writes: “It’s highly likely you can connect with other people who have kids the same age. I’ve done that, first with a local moms’ group for newborns and now with other parents at my daughter’s daycare. I do feel like the oldest one around, but not because anyone has made me feel that way. And most of the time I don’t care […] Becoming a mom was totally worth it for me.”
C., who had her 10-year-old at 42, says her son’s community includes many parents her age, and F. suggests meeting up with your local SMC chapter, which is likely to have a wider pool of similar-aged moms.
An added benefit of being an older mom, says C.: having a 10-year-old means she’s forced to stay current: “I listen to Lizzo, Imagine Dragons, and Drake. I am reading and watching Harry Potter for the first time and have learned more about the Astros and baseball than I ever thought my 50-year-old brain could possibly handle.”
Tryers Surprise: Why Do I Need to Visit a Therapist to Use Donor Eggs, Embryos, or Sperm?
Yikes. You’ve already done your thinking and planning and initial meetings with doctors, you’ve joined an SMC chapter—and now your reproductive endocrinologist (RE) says you have to see a therapist? What’s going on?
SMCs pursuing adoption or fostering have long had to deal with similar, potentially uncomfortable requirements—home visits, social worker interviews, etc.—but those of us using reproductive technologies are sometimes surprised that a counselor might be involved in our pregnancies. Like some of the SMCs who posted on the Forum recently, I initially found it jarring to be “required” to have a session with an infertility therapist prior to beginning IVF.
It turns out there was little for me to worry about. This requirement is common at clinics in the U.S., though Forum members mentioned being able to decline it or substitute a session with their own therapist. I was reassured to know that the clinic I used was following recommendations put forth by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
ASRM’s recommendations specifically describe the meeting as “psychoeducational” rather than gatekeeping or evaluative; if you meet with a therapist who makes you feel otherwise, head elsewhere. (Forum member F. recalled that the first session she had was “a disaster and an embarrassment […but] the second time was actually really helpful and I liked the therapist a great deal.”)
In the end, the meeting I had boosted my confidence (I had thought about nearly all of the questions the therapist brought up) and provided some practical guidance (among other things, I left with a list of relevant websites and children’s books). Forum member L. remembers a similarly useful experience: “The counselor was easy to talk to and wanted to know about my general background, what led to my decision, and if I had a support system/who was in it. […] She offered guidance on what to look for in a sperm bank (ex. family limits, background checks of donors) and donors (genetic screening, health history). Since I knew my donor would likely be of a different race […], we discussed raising mixed race children. I got some helpful pointers from her about possible terms to use (donor peer vs. donor sibling) and how to talk to my father about my plans.”
Remember that, as W. puts it, “the intent is basically just to make sure you’ve considered various aspects of raising a donor-conceived child. You don’t have to know all the answers already, you don’t have to have the ‘right’ answer, and it’s ok to change your mind later. They just want to know that you’re thinking about it, and they can help you by presenting things you hadn’t considered before.”
Covid-19 Reopening with Kids
Here are some resources for thinking about handling Covid-19 precautions this summer and fall. Your doctors and local jurisdictions will have information particular to your family’s situation.
In the US and Canada, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has FDA emergency approval for children age 12 and older. The Moderna vaccine is expected to be approved for this age group soon. Pfizer has announced that this fall they will seek FDA approval to vaccinate kids 2 and over. CLICK HERE
Experts still suggest using some caution in selecting summer activities for unvaccinated kids. CLICK HERE
As you consider your level of caution, however, it’s worth knowing that for most healthy kids, Covid-19 is likely less risky than many ordinary activities, like swimming or driving. CLICK HERE
Camps and summer activities that enroll only vaccinated campers can operate with no precautions, says the CDC. Those with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated participants should continue to require masks, keep children in cohorts, and minimize crowded or indoor activities. CLICK HERE
Masks and social distancing may well be part of this fall’s back-to-school season, depending on your locality. The CDC recommends that schools plan to continue Covid-19 precautions for the 2021-22
school year. CLICK HERE
Looking forward, as the pandemic recedes, perhaps there will be a boom in babies born to SMCs! CLICK HERE
Ask the Doctor
Myth: “Like on TV, a guy can walk in and donate sperm, easy.”
Sperm donor screening and testing is a rigorous process; approximately one of every two hundred initial applicants is accepted into the program. The process starts with a self-reported medical history that includes the prospective donor and first- and second-degree relatives. They are asked to list all medical and health conditions as well as treatments. If their medical history is suitable and they meet the Cryobank’s and regulatory requirements, they are invited to the clinic to produce semen samples for screening.
Trained staff will perform semen evaluation on several samples over a few weeks to ensure that the prospective sperm donor has a healthy sample with enough motile and functional sperm that can survive the freeze/thaw process. A member of the staff will also sit down and do an in-depth interview to review and confirm the reported medical history, review the program, and ensure that the prospective donor is a good fit.
If they are a good fit, they will have a physical exam, infectious disease testing and genetic disease screening. Additionally, the most commonly completed additional steps are a criminal background check, a psychological screen, verification of transcripts and/or a diploma or professional certification, and ongoing eligibility screening.
If all testing and screening is acceptable, they are accepted into the donor program and begin producing samples that will, after a quarantine period and retesting, be made available to potential recipients who need donor sperm to help create their family.
Donor screening is ongoing. Questionnaires are completed with every donation, blood draws and physical exams are completed periodically, and the donors communicate their lifestyle and medical changes to the staff. Even after the donor stops actively producing samples, they are required to complete additional blood draws to release donor sperm from quarantine. Ongoing check ins with the “retired donors” to collect updated information about them and their family are important because as people age their health changes, this is relevant to donor conceived people and important for them to include in their health history. Look for that updated information in summary profiles online.
Obtaining donor sperm from an FDA licensed cryobank is the best way to ensure the highest quality and safest sample for your family building journey.
Michelle Ottey, PhD, HCLD is the Laboratory Director and Director of Operations for Fairfax Cryobank. Michelle is responsible for managing the labs of the Cryobank which includes staff and donor management, working with Client Depositors and Directed Donors, and the storage program for semen, embryos and reproductive tissues.
What's the Buzz
We’d like to wish a warm welcome and express our thanks to our newest SMC Contact Persons:
Anne-Marie Ross East Bay, CA email@example.com
Dory Dietrich Boulder, CO firstname.lastname@example.org
Jamie Salsberg Palm Beach, FL email@example.com
Natalie Havlina Boise, ID firstname.lastname@example.org
Sara Jones San Francisco Bay/South Bay, CA email@example.com
Does your area need a Contact Person (CP)? Might you want to be one? Do you have any questions about being a CP? Just let us know and we’ll be glad to discuss it with you. Contact Jane at our office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you heard about FertilityIQ? I am very excited to share this great resource. FertilityIQ is a platform where verified fertility patients anonymously assess their fertility doctor, nurse, clinic, and more. The data on fertility resources is free, and really helps in choosing (or avoiding) a doctor or clinic.
They also have outstanding and data-filled video courses on every aspect of family-building, including single motherhood by choice.
We urge you to fill out a survey about your experiences with fertility doctors. Please be as detailed as possible so that others may benefit from your experience. You can go here: https://www.fertilityiq.com/survey-intro to do an assessment of your fertility resource.
Also – to support us in these unprecedented times, the FertilityIQ team is giving a gift our members – 50% off every single one of their courses, and even 50% off access to our complete research center. Just use this code: 50%OFF at check-out.
Thanks to all in advance for filling out the surveys and for spreading the word about this!