Table of Contents
Letter from the Editor
This will be my last issue as newsletter editor, as I turn my attention to big transitions in my career and home life. What a hopeful time to be making changes! Yes, the virus continues to surprise us, but rates of transmission seem to be slowing, spring is just around the corner, and for many of us a time of regrouping and rebuilding is about to begin.
This winter I’ve been dipping into the rich well of conversations about single motherhood held during the SMC 40th Anniversary Celebration—it’s gotten me excited about the future, both for my little family and for the wider community of single mothers and mothers-to-be. Perhaps you (along with over 850 others!) participated in the virtual event in real time.
The two-day conference included an introduction from SMC’s founder Jane Mattes and her son Eric; two complementary panels, one featuring adult children of SMCs and one featuring SMC mothers of adult children; a presentation on how donor-conceived children understand their stories and identities from Rosanna Hertz, co-author of Random Families: Genetic Strangers, Sperm Donor Siblings and the Creation of New Kin; and a discussion on how single mothers cope with daily life, from the earliest newborn weeks to the teenage years. Events especially geared towards thinkers and tryers included presentations on how to choose a donor by Lisa Schuman and on fertility treatments from Dr. Spencer Richlin; and a discussion by some of our members about the various routes to single motherhood by choice. Events especially geared towards moms included a panel conversation about connecting with donor sibling families and a presentation by Jane on how to talk to our children about dads, fathers, and donors. Both days provided ample time for Q&As, informal discussion, and networking—plus there were guided meditation breaks!
For me, hearing from adult children of SMCs was a highlight of the conference. Oddly enough, what I appreciated most about this panel was its ordinariness. Yes, the panelists talked about SMC-specific worries (wondering, for instance, if they’d missed out on seeing a couple in a healthy relationship up close or whether they’d know how to father) and the downsides to having an SMC (single mothers are often busy or work a lot, they might not be able to teach what are considered “male” skills, and several adult children mentioned wishing there was another adult in the house during parent–child arguments). But all these reflections struck me as akin to those that most of us would have on being asked to consider how any parent raised us.
In part, I think, the sense of normality these panelists described came from their moms’ openness about how their families formed and from the communities of like families that the Single Mothers by Choice organization has built over time. So, congratulations, SMC—here’s to forty more years of supporting and celebrating these very extraordinary, very ordinary families!
SMC-Hood and the SMC 40th Anniversary Event
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 gotten to know since I joined SMC as a Thinker. Both online on our Forum, and at in-person meetings, getting to know other mothers and seeing them at meetings with their children gave me the blueprint for life as an SMC. I knew that if others could do it, I could as well.
This remains true to this day as I gain 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 panels of SMCs with grown children and from the grown children themselves. Much like when I first joined SMC, 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 panel of 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 other aspects of the event 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 my now 2.5 yr. 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 SMC members’ favorite books on the “Shop” section of our website.) Now N. 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 the surrogate as a keepsake for N. to have as 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 N. is a young adult to allow her to choose whether she connects with her siblings could inadvertently cause her 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 her 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 our family needs most right now is Sunday Pajama days. So N. and I will be spending more Sundays proudly sporting our matching PJs.
I hope that you will enjoy the 40th anniversary content, and that you continue to build your own community and support system by connecting with our great community at every stage of the SMC journey!
Please see below for information on how to purchase the recordings of our two-day 40th Anniversary Celebration Event.
Kat Curtin is a SMC to 2.5 yr old daughter 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.
Buy Our SMC 40th Anniversary Celebration Videos!
In case you missed our 40th Anniversary Celebration that took place this past October, we are excited to be able to share our videos with you. Please follow the steps below to purchase our event recordings with your member discount:
1. Check our our Forum post HERE to retrieve your SMC Members’ discount code.
2. Go to the videos on our Vimeo page HERE.
3. Click the “Buy All $35.00” button.
4. Sign up or create a log in with Vimeo to complete your purchase.
5. Remember to use your members only PROMO CODE at checkout to receive $15 off!
Please spread the word to interested friends (but do not share the Promo Code)!
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Ask the Doctor: How to Choose a Sperm Donor and Fertility Treatment Option
Single motherhood by choice provides a powerful option for family building. The ability to choose motherhood on your own terms gives you full autonomy over your reproduction and family building plans. When planning for single motherhood, there are a few key decisions that are critical to finding the right treatment path for you. Choosing a sperm source is a very personal decision that can look different for each patient. There are, however, medical implications that need to be considered when choosing your donor sperm and your providers are here to help guide you through this process. Another key decision is how to best utilize the donor sperm to achieve pregnancy. This journey will be different for everyone and it is important to find a team that makes you feel comfortable, empowered, and gives you the best chance for a healthy baby.
The choice for sperm donor is a very personal decision. Some patients prefer to use someone they know, like a friend or acquaintance. This is called a designated donor and while it has benefits of knowing the donor personally, it is critical to make sure each party is entering the arrangement with full consent and that parental and financial roles in the child’s life are clearly defined. If this is the best decision for you then the designated donor should undergo a series of tests to ensure that they are a good candidate, including a semen analysis to screen for abnormal sperm parameters that could affect reproduction. Additionally, the donor undergoes testing for transmissible infections, a drug screen, and a detailed medical and family history.
We strongly recommend a genetic screening for both you and the potential donor to ensure that you don’t carry any of the same recessive genetic conditions that could lead to disease in your offspring. According to FDA guidelines, the designated donor will then freeze a semen sample, which undergoes a period of quarantine. After the quarantine period, the designated donor will get re-tested for transmissible infections and the sperm is released from quarantine once results confirm no disease is present. At RMA of New York we have a designated sperm donor program and experienced professionals will walk you through this process to make it seamless for you and your donor.
In most cases, patients choose to use non-designated sperm donor (known as an anonymous sperm donor) that is purchased through a commercial sperm bank. The sperm banks provide information about the donors such as physical attributes, heritage, educational background, personality and interests. It is common for baby pictures of the donor to be viewed and in some cases adult photos can be viewed as well. The sperm bank provide screening for transmissible diseases and ensure normal semen parameters before accepting a donor. In this case it is still critical for you to get screened for any prior exposure to transmissible disease, including cytomegalovirus (CMV), as well as genetic screening as mentioned above. Based on your results your medical provider can ensure you choose a sperm donor that meets your individualized criteria from both a social and emotional standpoint as well as a medical standpoint.
Once you have chosen the sperm source it is important to consider which fertility treatment is right for you. The 2 primary treatment options are intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). In IUI the donor sperm is placed directly into your uterus by a medical provider around ovulation time when chances for conception are highest. In IVF hormonal injections are administered in order to grow multiple mature eggs that are removed from your ovaries through a vaginal procedure and fertilized in a petri dish. The resultant embryos are then grown in specialized incubators and after about 5 days the high quality embryos can be screened for chromosomal abnormalities to find out which embryos have the best chance implantation and healthy live birth.
In order to understand which treatment path is right for you, you should talk to your provider about your age and ideal family size. It is important to undergoing a fertility work-up including ovarian reserve testing and an assessment of your fallopian tubes in order to make the most informed decision. If you would like to pursue single motherhood by choice in the future, but are not ready to start family building immediately, you can consider egg or embryo freezing to protect against age related fertility decline.
Rachel Gerber, MD, is a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist at RMA of New York at CareMount. In addition to her medical expertise, Dr. Gerber prides herself on treating every patient with compassion, empathy, and respect. She is a distinguished clinician and researcher, having presented numerous abstracts at national conferences and publishing in the top journals of the field.
What's the Buzz
We’d like to wish a warm welcome and express our thanks to our newest SMC Contact Person:
Anya Freedman St. Louis, MO 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 our office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Things Kids Say
K: What’s that noise?
K: Oh – I thought it was someone taking the trash out!
. . . . .
Me: Good night, little man.
C: Good night, big girl.
. . . . .
C, on opening a Halloween goody bag with lots of stickers, and generously sharing one with me:
“Here’s a sticker for good listening at work, Mommy.”
. . . . .
Conversation I had with my 19 year old yesterday.
B – A lightbulb needs to be changed in the bathroom.
Me – So change it.
B – I don’t know where you put the lightbulbs.
Me – There in the hallway closet like they’ve always been for the 14 years we’ve been living here.
B – Where in the closet?
Me – Go take a look and find out.
B – (After looking in the closet) Oh those lightbulbs. I thought they looked different.
B – (Waiting a minute or two) Aren’t you going to come with me?
Me – Why?
B – To watch me change it.
And that is the height of excitement in my pandemic life; an invitation to watch my son change a lightbulb.
. . . . .
For more cute quotes like these, check out the thread on our forum HERE!
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!