Table of Contents
From the Editor
Spring is here! After shoveling more than my share of snow, I couldn’t be happier. Spring makes us think of new life. And in this issue we talk about life +1: multiples, donors, donor offspring and dating. If you have an article idea you would like to share, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SMC Life – The Twin Perspective
By Ona Brazwell
When I first began my journey towards becoming a mother, a visit with an infertility counselor was mandatory. It was a mostly predictable conversation for me where I was asked what I would do to cope with parenthood, the stress of treatments, and the potential that the treatments might not work, but then the counselor asked me a question I was not expecting, “What do you think you will do if you succeed – A LOT – as in you become pregnant with twins (or more)”.
My response was, “Aah!” Truthfully, before cancer, chemo, surgeries and the impending fourth decade laid waste to my ovaries, I actually had a genetic predisposition towards twins. Growing up, my family would always say, “You know, every third generation is twins and guess where you fall?”
I have two sets of second cousin twins and my grandfather was a twin. I don’t know if it is true or not, but I was lead to believe, growing up, that I had a 90% chance of having twins. So, while the question the counselor posed was totally unexpected and I did go “aah,” quite loudly, in reality, I did it mostly for comedic affect.
Afterwards I thought to myself “Ha! Twins! I’ll be lucky if I can even fall pregnant.”
Guess who is laughing now?
I am a single mother by choice to almost 2 year old wonder twins! Over three years after that visit to the counselor, all my attempts with IUI and IVF had failed and I was given “the talk,” but in the end, I was blessed with a boy and a girl through IVF and embryo donation.
Since before I began trying to conceive, I had been involved with the SMC/Choice Mother community and in all that time I had only met one other single mother of twins. When I learned I was going to have two, I felt like a bit of an outsider in the SMC community. So, it was quite a surprise when the two women I had met at a recent Choice Moms conference when I was 11 weeks pregnant, both became pregnant with twins within six months of my pregnancy! Once their twins were born, it seemed all the twin SMCs started to come out of the woodwork. Our little offshoot of the SMC community has grown in the last year and it is an amazing resource for moral support and advice. As SMCs we all have a unique lifestyle and perspective that many of our non-SMC friends and family just don’t get, but mothers of multiples face even more unique challenges. It is something that cannot be put into words and can only truly be understood by someone who has walked in these footsteps.
Some of us were excited in the face of the initial news of multiples, but some of us were downright terrified.
Some of us were excited in the face of the initial news of multiples, but some of us were downright terrified. We all face unique challenges and our own moments of terror as our little ones grow, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. The most amazing part of this kinship for me is the moral support. Whenever things get rough we can look to each other and say “Hey, she survived this. So can I!” It’s such a gift to have examples to follow and sources for advice for our unique challenges.
Our little group includes everyone from school teachers to surgeons. We all juggle our careers and our family in unique ways. Our children’s temperaments range from high needs to so laid back they are in danger of falling over. Many of us faced unique medical challenges associated with twin pregnancy, pre-term birth (the average twin delivery is at 37 weeks), many of us had to endure NICU stays for our babies, and some of our babies were born with conditions more common with twins such as Torticollis and flat head syndrome. We are more likely to have to handle speech delays (and twin secret language development), nursing challenges, and so on. We also have to juggle our finances and deal with the frequent money hemorrhages and childcare costs that come with having a twofer. It’s funny and a bitsilly to me now, but I hadn’t even thought about the fact that each check-up meant double the co-pays until we were at their first pediatric visit.
Ours is a story of hope and perseverance, but most of all it is a story of immense blessing. Recently, some of the ladies got together for a playdate/photoshoot and seeing each of us caring for our two little monkeys and watching the children interact with each other was such a joy. The photographer, a married mother with TWO sets of twins herself, said she was amazed at how non-chaotic the event actually was and was truly impressed that we all had chosen to be single mothers and were all raising such amazing, healthy and happy little people. We even managed to get one photo where everyone was looking at the camera!
I’m sure there are some women out there reading this now who are considering medicated IUIs or IVF and are concerned about the chances of multiples. Or there may be other mothers of multiples or expecting mothers of twins or more out there who are struggling to relate to other SMCs who have just one child to focus on. To all of you, our little group is here to say, “You can survive this!” In fact, you may find that it is the most amazing and wonderful experience you have ever had. I only hope that all the other twin mommas out there are able to find a group as terrific as our little band of sisters.
Go to “What’s the Buzz?” section to learn how you can help a SMC pregnant with quadruplets.
Reaching Out to Donor Offspring Families
A SMC member posted the following question to the Forum:
My plan right now is to eventually reach out to families who have used the same donor I did. There are six or seven that I know of (they’re on the DSR.) For those of you who have done this, when did you do it? When your child was still a baby? When he or she was older? Did you let your child drive the timing?
Within a few weeks of my child being born, I registered on the DSR. No one was yet on there for my donor. Within a few more weeks a lesbian couple signed up and had contacted me. Our daughters are just three weeks apart. We have never met, but have a good relationship sending pictures, and are Facebook friends, exchanging Christmas cards, etc. Having to navigate how we will each handle how much we tell our kids and when has not come up yet, but I am just happy to know that we have each other’s contact info in case our girls ever want it in the future. I feel as good about having this info as I do about having the donor’s id release info when my daughter turns 18. It is there if she is curious and wants to know more. I am giving her the option.
I waited until my son was older, so that he would be the one to decide if he wanted contact, and if yes, how much. That’s a bell that can’t be unrung.
I registered my daughter when she was about three months old. At around 10 months, we received an email from a nearby family. She told me there was a Facebook group and they were planning a reunion in the fall. So we are on Facebook, met seven of 13 of the halves we know of, and we are putting together a photo book of all the halves so they can see each other. Right now, my daughter is the youngest of the group. So far it has been great! We have exchanged medical information (a couple minor things) and see updated pictures on Facebook often. I guess I am lucky since so far, all the other moms, all known halves are from SMC or two mom families, are very nice and we all get along so far.
I waited until my son was older, so that he would be the one to decide if he wanted contact, and if yes, how much. I figured that if I had signed up with the DSR and made contact before that, that’s a bell that can’t be unrung.
When I was pregnant I was looking around my bank’s internal registry, and a woman had posted a notice there looking for more vials; she already had a daughter and wanted to T42 with the same donor, but he was sold out. So I said “hi, I can’t give you any vials but he’s knocked me up too.” We have become Facebook friends and I like her! She is a SMC too, but not a member of the organization. I don’t consider us related, but it’s nice to be in touch and I would be happy to meet her and her kids someday if it’s convenient. I think it’s up to our daughters to decide how to define their relationship, when they are older. I also find it very reassuring from a medical perspective, too. My baby is extremely petite, and it was helped allay some worries about that when I emailed her and learned that her girl was, too. I am registered on the Donor Sibling Registry, but I’m the only one from my donor on there. No one has contacted me. I’d like to be in touch with more donor families. A lot of this is curiosity, the most important consideration is potential medical issues.
Our half-sib families found us when my daughter was six years old. I started email contact with them and photo exchanges. Less than a year later we met up at Disney World and the kids attached to each other quite easily. My daughter still refers to them as her “brothers” and fully understands they are half-siblings and not like a brother that lives with you. She has a level of affection for them and looks forward to seeing them about once a year. All three of the kids are singletons and I think that does affect how excited they are about the prospect of having a sibling, even if it’s long distance. I think if my child had a sibling at home, the interest would be minimal. My approach was that I would not hide any information from my child, so when I found out about the half-sibs I showed her photos and we discussed the donor connection. She was six at the time, so mostly seemed to understand it. Her understanding has grown over the years. The kids are now 10 and 11 and we just saw them in October and it’s been a positive experience for her.
How Does Two Become Three?
By Cheri Tabel
I spent many years thinking, researching and planning becoming a SMC. I contemplated almost every single angle of making the choice – the impact on my life, my future child’s life, how I would explain my choice to family, friends and co-workers. I also spent a considerable amount of time on “our story.” How is it I would explain my choice and the child’s conception to my future child. While I can’t pretend I had every detail buttoned down, the time spent pondering these things made me confident in my choice and moving forward with being a SMC. And 8 ½ years after having my son, I can see how that time empowered me in many ways.
But there was one thing I didn’t consider when I was digging deep into this choice – how would I add a “plus one” into our mommy and me family?
In the Beginning
Last year I decided to get back into the dating game. I hadn’t dated anyone seriously since ttc’ing (not necessarily for everyone). I dated someone briefly when my son was three, but on the first date the man said he would be open to adopting my son, and I could never quite get past the comment. My first thought was “oh, hell no.” I had visions of someone else parenting my son and I mentally headed for the hills.
Could I pursue a relationship with someone who would not consider being a parent to my son?
Fast forward to this year and I was dating a guy I liked. While discussing how our relationship was evolving, after dating a couple of months, he commented that he “did not want to be a father” to my son. His explanation was that after raising his son on his own (the son is graduating from high school this year), he did not want to be the authority figure in my son’s life. He was tired of being the bad cop and the good cop and was just opting to be a good friend, “I can be the one taking him for ice cream after you’ve chewed him out for something.” My heart hurt for my son. Could I pursue a relationship with someone who would not consider being a parent to my son? How would that impact him? My head was spinning.
“How can two people be a complete family?”
This quote, from the winter issue of the SMC newsletter regarding the choice to have more than one child, has been in my head for some time.
My son and I ARE a complete family. We don’t feel any less than another family with three or more in theirs. For me, this question becomes how can three people be a complete family? Meaning, how do we add a +1 to this tight family unit? How does two become three, or more, if he has children? How do I balance time between the most important being in the world (my son) with growing a relationship with a man I care for and love?
And while I didn’t spend time during the ttc process thinking of “Mr. Right of the Future,” I always thought that the man that was meant for me would adore my son and want to play an important role in his life. Yes, be his father.
The End, for Now
A few days ago I ended the relationship with the “I’ll take him for ice cream” guy. The relationship wasn’t right for me for a number of reasons. As I considered a future with him, I realized that my son and I have a right to the family we want. Just as I had a dream to be a mom, I have a dream to grow our family. Just as I didn’t settle when it came to my son, I won’t settle for less than the dream now. And in the meantime, two is just right for me.
How Often Do You Think of the Donor or Birth Parent?
A SMC member posted earlier this year wondering how others thought of their donor.
I was wondering about this question. I read the thread on the Forum: ‘Is the donor really the donor?’ and was interested when a poster said that she rarely thought of the donor once her child was born.
I think of the donor a lot – if not every day outright, he is certainly in the background, like a hum, almost all the time.
Sometimes, I will look at my daughters and see something – a feature or an expression or behavior – that I don’t recognize in myself or my family and I think of him with a huge wave of gratitude.
I did not always think of the donor as often as I do now. My thoughts about him have ebbed and flowed – when I was first pregnant, I remember thinking about him all the time and feeling a weight of having made a decision that would affect my future in such a clear and defined way. And then, once my oldest daughter was born, I stopped thinking about the donor much. But, I find that as my oldest daughter gets older, and takes on more of her own definable personality, and now that I have two kids and see how they are alike and not alike, I think of the donor more often.
My mom is visiting and last night, my daughter put on her just-bought-for-her-birthday-party-dress from Costco and she looked so damn cute and was so full of life and so contagious in her excitement and my mom turned to me and kind of made a gesture of awe over my child and whispered, ‘that donor is fabulous’.
That took me by surprise – but I laughed because I feel the same way. Whoever this man is, where ever he is, I sometimes find myself thinking, ‘thank you thank you thank you’.
I feel so bonded to him, this young man who probably does not give much thought about what he did. It’s so strange to think that he doesn’t know (or possibly care, at least at this stage of his life) that we exist, when I hold this sacred place for him in my heart and feel I would move mountains to show my gratitude to him for what he has done for me. I hope someday that I or my daughters can tell him what a profound impact he made on my (our) life (lives).
Do others think often about and feel this way about their sperm donor or egg donor or, if you adopted, the birth mother?
My mom turned to me and kind of made a gesture of awe over my child and whispered, ‘that donor is fabulous’.
Honestly, I hardly ever think of my donor. I did more when I was pregnant with my son. When I do think about him, it is in terms of gratitude for being able to be a single mom to such an awesome little boy- but I guess I imagine him more as an “idea” than a real person, which is odd. I’m pregnant again, and just pulled out his information and skimmed over it again as I hadn’t read it in years. I might think about him differently as my boys grow up and ask questions. For now- I just know I’m blessed!
I don’t think of the donor outright every day, but he’s always there in the background. I have several pictures of my donor at various ages — that can be both good and bad — and I found myself looking at my baby and looking at a picture of the donor when he was around the same age and trying to pick out points of commonality and difference. And then I decided I would stop doing things like that. But I do think of him and I feel profoundly grateful to him. I suspect this will change as my son gets older. Right now I feel like he’s just this gift that was dropped into my life and I can’t stop thinking about where he came from.
Aside from responding to questions here or at local SMC meetings, it’s very rare. But I don’t spend a lot of time looking for me in my kid either. I sometimes see things in my son that I think of as coming from me or my side of the family but mostly to me he’s an amazing unique individual and I don’t attribute much directly to me or the donor, he’s just who he is. My son will occasionally mention the donor – he knows the donor is good at math and science, my son’s strengths, and he likes to identify with that. The reality is that those strengths are present in my family too, but I like that my son feels this connection to the donor at some level. But he hasn’t expressed any further curiosity beyond the small amount of info that I have shared so far. He’s comfortable saying he does not have a dad and he has a donor instead, but it’s kind of separate from thinking about the donor as an individual person, if that makes any sense.
I would say that I think about my son’s donor only occasionally. Partly because he has not seemed that interested in talking about the donor, partly because he is just so much like me in both positive and negative ways. The only really big difference is that my favorite activity is reading, and I truly believe that my son would rather have a root canal than read a book of fiction. On the other hand, I think about my daughter’s birth mother a lot. When my daughter thinks about her birth mother, it’s not just to wonder if she gets her looks or her abilities from her, it’s also to wonder what it was like living with her as a baby for the 3 weeks that she did, and most of all, to wonder why her birth mother abandoned her at the hospital. Intellectually, she knows why, because I’ve explained why her birth mother could not parent a child, but it’s something that is just so hard for her to comprehend on a deeper level. And because I know she’s thinking about it, I think about it too.
I would say I think about my son’s birth mother every single day. My gratitude to her is beyond words. I can’t even imagine what she went through in order for me to receive the most amazing gift in the world. Even though I do see myself in Jonah – in his expressions, the phrases he uses, and his body language – obviously the physical attributes are not inherited from me. So I only see her when I look at him (he looks like his birth mother). Funny though, I did meet his birth father, but don’t think of him nearly as much.
I never think of him. I don’t really. I’m not trying to be dismissive about him, I just don’t think about him. I didn’t stress about picking a donor like some people do, I didn’t care if he ran out of vials before I got pregnant, I only really looked at his medical profile and made sure he had the same hair/eye color as me. It isn’t that I’m not grateful, I just don’t think of it like he did me some huge favor. I am grateful that men in general donate sperm of course, but if this specific donor hadn’t donated, I’d have chosen another and still had a perfect son in my eyes, regardless of who he looks like.
My son was conceived thanks to the generosity of a sperm and egg donor, both anonymous. Each indicated that they already had two children of their own, so I’m sure they had an appreciation for the great potential of their donation. Starting with my son’s birth and through every milestone in the two and a half years since then, I can’t help but think that there are two other people that would be so proud of him if they had the opportunity to know him. When my son receives compliments at school for sharing or being kind and caring, I immediately think of his donors. There are times when I wish I knew who they were so that I could thank them for the gift they have given me/us and to share with them how wonderful “our” son is.
The Things Kids Say!
No doubt about it – our kids are adorable and funny. Need proof? Just read the things they say.
My son always refers to the “sofa-couch.” I guess he’s heard different people use each term so he’s combined them in his head. It cracks me up every time he says it.
I offered my five year old son some pecans as a snack. He looked at the chopped nuts and said, “But Mommy, what happened to their feathers?”
I don’t know if you’re open to cute quotables by the parent, LOL, but for some reason the other day I thought of two things I said when my daughters were newborns. I was so used to being “Aunt Holly” to my nephews and nieces and my friends’ kids, that I referred to myself once as “Aunt Mommy.”
And I can’t remember how long it took before I started saying “pediatrician” and stopped saying I was taking my kids to the vet.
At Passover, we were studying slavery, and I said, “We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt.” My daughter asked, “Were YOU a slave?” and I said, “No, but our parents and ancestors were, a very long time ago.”
“Oh,” she said. “Poor Grandma and Grampa.”
My son made something in daycare that’s a long tube, like the ones for Christmas wrapping, but had a balloon attached to one end. When we got home, I looked back at him and asked what it was. He tapped me on the shoulder with it and said “It’s a Mom Pat 5000”. Thought that was kinda sweet!
When N was tiny, about 2 years old, one night I was snuggling with him right before he fell asleep one night. I kissed his little sweet-smelling neck and said, “there’s no place in the world I’d rather be than right here with you.” A few seconds later he answered in a sleepy voice, “I’d rather* be to da beach!” I laughed so hard and never forgot it, and even now it still pops up during the bedtime ritual. * back then he couldn’t pronounce “r” or “th” so rather sounded like “waaver”
When my son was maybe 3 years old he once declared, “I love you like a juice box.” Which I gathered at the time meant quite a lot!
What's the Buzz?
SMC MEMBER EXPECTING QUADS NEEDS HELP
Note from Amy: At age 36 I knew it was time to make my dream a reality and have a child. After spending years recovering from medical issues stemming from a car accident, and trying to find “Mr. Right,” I made the decision to start IUI’s to achieve my miracle on my own. I had 5 failed IUI’s with one traumatic miscarriage, but I refused to give up, so I decided to turn to IVF.
Following my doctor’s recommendation, I decided to transfer three embryos, with the hope that one would take. The IVF cycle was a success and when my first ultrasound showed I was pregnant with twins, I was shocked, but also overjoyed! A week later, I had my follow-up and was anxious to hear those two little heartbeats. That day I got the news that would forever change my life, not only were there two heartbeats, there were FOUR! One of my twins split, and another sac had formed within a week. I was floored, scared, panicked and excited all at once. This was the last thing I expected. I knew in my heart that I could never voluntarily reduce an embryo, and as long as they were flourishing, I knew they all were meant to be mine.
I planned for one. I would have been able to handle two. But, four? I am frankly still in shock. I cannot even begin to fathom what childcare, clothing, and basics of day to day life will cost me, let alone things like college tuitions for four at the same time.
Today, I am 17w3d and doing wonderfully. While I embrace every day with these four miracles in me and relish every moment of this wild adventure, I am also terrified. I have had to go on disability, as I am on complete bed rest, which has taken a hit on my income. I am almost certainly facing more time off with NICU stays and I am still not sure how to juggle everything because I do not know yet what my future will hold and all my energy is spent on growing these little miracles. My job is very physically demanding so I am not yet sure what sort of toll this pregnancy will have on my past car accident injuries or how it will affect my ability to return to work.
I am more than embarrassed to ask for help, but my local SMC community has rallied around me and has taken it upon themselves to help without my asking it. One SMC friend contacted Jane and asked if she could post this so that everyone who wanted to help had one central place where they could do so. I am just amazed at all the support I have received from this community and thankful for that alone, but please know that I will pay all this kindness forward and will never forget how everyone came and lifted me up when I most needed it.
Donations to Amy may be made through SMC.
Go to http://www.singlemothersbychoice.org/community/ and click on the “Donate” box on the right side of the page. To be sure that your donation goes to Amy, please follow-up by sending us a quick email (SMCemail@example.com) to let us know that you’ve made a donation for her.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to SMC, we are a non-profit 501.3c organization. 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 promptly after we receive your donation.
New Documentary Film About SMCs
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage. For filmmaker Nina Davenport, the nursery rhyme didn’t go as planned. Still single at age 40, she decides to have a baby on her own–or rather, with the help of her best friend Amy as birth partner and her gay friend Eric as sperm donor. We see how the process of baby making affects each of their lives profoundly and in surprising ways. The film taps into the zeitgeist topic of how the modern family is being re-imagined.
To learn more about this acclaimed film, and to check on showings around the country and on HBO this summer, go to this Facebook page:
Single Adoptive Parents by Choice: Perceived Stigma, Challenges, and Strengths
Are you a single person currently pursuing adoption? Are you a single person who has adopted within the last three years? If you answered yes to either of these questions, please consider participating in a study exploring the experiences of lesbian, gay, and heterosexual single adoptive parents by choice.
Participants will be interviewed over the telephone, and interviews will last approximately one hour. Participants will also be asked to fill out a demographic information form. All of the information collected in the interview and questionnaire will remain confidential. Upon conclusion of the study, I will provide a summary of the findings to all participants. You will be compensated $20 in exchange for participation.
The study is being conducted by Lori Kinkler, M.A., doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Clark University, is being advised by Abbie Goldberg, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Clark University, and has been approved by the Clark University Institutional Review Board.
If you are interested in the study, or know someone who might be interested, please contact Lori Kinkler at firstname.lastname@example.org (email) or (210) 846-5674 (phone).
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 may also assist in setting up organizational meetings for new members and organize 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, contact the SMC office at email@example.com.
Jamie Lynn Benfer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the CP for Birdsboro, PA area.
Stacey Schroeffel (email@example.com) is the new CP for Pittsburgh, PA.
Nathalie Cruden (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the new CP for Iowa.
Melissa Anderson (email@example.com) is the new CP for Schenectady/Albany, NY area.
Lisa Giusto is proud to announce the adoption of her daughter at birth. Grace Kaarli Giusto was born on February 6, 2012.
Leslie Nichols would love to announce the arrival of her son, James Webster Nichols, 6
lbs., 7 oz. & 21.5 inches on July 23, 2012.
Mom Hillary and Big Sister Emma of Orlando, FL are proud to announce the birth of Levi Benjamin born on December 19, 2012, weighing 8 lbs., 12 oz. and 21.5 inches long. They share the same donor. Mom and baby are doing fine.
Stacey Schroeffel is thrilled to announce the birth of her son, Edwin James, on November 14, 2012. He was 7 lbs., 3 oz. and 21 inches long.
It is with much joy and excitement that Tashina Benymon announces the arrival of her beautiful baby boy Ayden Andrew Benymon born on January 4, 2013. Tashina has been a SMC Tryer for six years and is overjoyed to be blessed with her miracle baby! Ayden came into the world with a head full of hair, beautiful smile, and very alert weighing 5 lbs., 15 oz. and measuring 19 inches long. You can see pictures of Ayden under the “Ayden Benymon” photo file on Yahoo Groups. Tashina sends her love to all who have been faithful supporters throughout her journey.
Michelle Walton announces the birth of her son. He was born on November 18, 2012. He weighed 8 lb, 12 oz at birth and was 20 inches long. His name is Alexander Kyu Walton. I LOVE being a mommy!!
Remember to notify us when you become a mother!
If you have someone new in the house please send the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.