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What It’s Like To Have A Solo Pregnancy

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I was ready for kids at age 28 — and well aware that women’s fertility starts to plummet at 35. When I saw my doctor that fateful year, she asked me if I wanted children. “Yes,” I replied. “Definitely.” With a stern look, she snapped, “Well, you’re not getting any younger!”

Thanks for the news flash, I thought. What kind of idiot does she think I am?

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I was a romantic, procrastinating idiot, to be exact. Despite my clear intellectual understanding of the issues involved, it took me until age 38 before I seriously started thinking about single motherhood, and even then, I had to be dragged into it kicking and screaming by my biological clock, which was starting to sound more like a car alarm.

How did I get to this point? Thirteen years earlier, I dragged my then–life partner, Joan, to a six-week gay and lesbian parenting seminar in San Francisco, where we lived at the time.

We learned about the legal, medical, and logistical issues around having kids outside of a heterosexual marriage, then joined a monthly brunch group. Over coffee and potluck in Berkeley or Bernal Heights, 15 or 20 of us would sit around someone’s living room discussing our childbearing dreams.

Here was mine: Having grown up without a dad (he died before I turned two), I really wanted a known donor to assist in my solo pregnancy— a friend who would be in my baby’s life.

Joan and I would then each bear a child, performing the inseminations at home, by candlelight, and we’d all live happily ever after. Right.

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Ten years and three breakups later, I was single, living in Manhattan, and no closer to motherhood. I joined another parenting group: Single Lesbians Considering Motherhood. We were all 38. This being the big city, there was neither potluck nor living room. Twelve of us sat around a grim conference table and talked about the terrors of being single mothers.

My biggest fear went something like this: Was it fair to the child to have only one parent and no dad? Month after hideous month, I spun out elaborate scenarios of my future 15-year-old’s painful psychological struggle with his or her unusual birth circumstances, and I’d cry for him. Or her.

Sure, everything I’d read about alternative families said the kids do just fine—studies show most have a surprising lack of angst, or even interest, regarding their unusual roots. But try telling that to the black hole of worry that had taken up residence in my psyche.

When I wasn’t keening over my potential child’s imaginary angst, I worried about myself.

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Was it fair to me to become a single parent? Could I even do it? Would I die of loneliness? Or die young — leaving my as-yet-unborn child alone? Would I become a crazy over-involved mom with nothing else in my life? Would I ever have a romantic life again? What if I couldn’t afford it? What if I didn’t sleep for 10 years?

One of the 43 women I interviewed for my book put it perfectly: “When I first made the decision, I’d go to bed and worry about what I’d cook for my 5-year-old.”

I worried away the better part of three years. Then, when I hit 41, with my fertility window closing fast, I finally got my act together.

Romancing Potential Dads

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My first task was finding a father. Even if he wasn’t my partner, I figured, he’d be in the picture as an uncle figure. Uncle Dad. I summoned my courage and asked a close friend, my gay ex-boyfriend Xavier, to father my child, envisioning the tall, handsome half Latin off spring he’d give me.

Xavier was a sensitive intellectual, the kind of guy who, in college, could be found pureeing squash for a soup or reading Rilke—in the original German. In my fantasy, he’d introduce the kids to high art and literature. Plus, he was smart, sweet, good-looking, and I loved him. (I had this crazy idea about wanting to make a baby with someone I actually loved!) And Xavier was a slam dunk—he’d offered to be the donor for Joan and me years earlier.

After I popped the question, I sat back and waited nervously for his “yes,” falling more deeply in love with my fantasy children, imagining their trips to South America to visit their cousins. I’d have to learn Spanish, of course. But a few months later, Xavier said no. He’d had a distant father, he said, and didn’t want to repeat that pattern.

I was crushed, but I was also on the clock. After a month of licking my wounds, I worked up the nerve to ask my good friend Jim, the only other man I could imagine taking this huge step with. No again. I calmly thanked him—then began sobbing the moment I got off the phone.

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I was heartbroken: I knew this meant I had to give up on the dream of giving my child a father, and I so badly wanted my child to have what I had not.

With a real dad for my kid off the table, I became totally immobilized. In fact, I might have stayed frozen forever if it weren’t for Roberta, my straight, married best friend from high school.

She, proud mother of a one-year-old, hounded me, prodded me, called me long distance (incessantly) to say, and not gently: Do it. Do not wait another minute. You could lose your chance.

Courting Perfect Strangers

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So I scraped myself off the couch and started looking at sperm banks. It turns out there are dozens sprinkled all across the country, and most have websites. Searching for a donor from a drop-down menu feels like online dating meets 10th grade biology (remember Mendel’s hybrid pea plants?) meets the American Kennel Club.

I hated the idea. It seemed cold and weird and unnatural — even threatening. A stranger’s sperm entering my body, and not only that, potentially creating a life. It was anathema to me to make a baby with a serial number instead of a human being. But it was my best Plan B.

A random known donor or an accidentally-on-purpose pregnancy were too risky. And I didn’t want to adopt; like many women, I had always wanted to experience biological motherhood—pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, a genetic connection to my child, the works.

So, instead, I shopped. My first-choice donor was an allegedly cerebral, good-looking performer. I ordered him right up. But he had hit his maximum of 15 families and his semen was no longer available.

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My second select was tall, dark, and handsome. Blue eyes, on the ski team in college, liked to dance and cook. “He sounds dreamy!” my mom said. “Can you get his number?” (Inappropriate, Mom!) Still, all that, and he was available! Sounded too good to be true.

And it was. After eight months of intrauterine inseminations (uncomfortable affairs at the doctor’s), I learned donor McDreamy was shooting blanks.

Donor Three was a tall, green-eyed actor, again handsome, musical, and athletic. His life goal, he wrote, was “to impact the world by artistic means.” I was impressed. Most of all, he seemed like a nice guy.

Turned out, he was The One. I got pregnant on my second try, but was told it was questionable from the start. “Well, you’re pregnant, but…” were the nurse’s exact words. A few weeks later, I lost the baby.

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Signing for the Stork

Labor Day weekend, one year and one month from the time I first started trying to conceive, it was time to inseminate again.

I never dreaded the process, but it did get harder as time went on, and I had to sweep aside doubts like: Was the fact that it was taking this long a sign that I shouldn’t do it?https://e36e706e788c8bd71c818b3345d52554.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

This time, since my doctor’s office was closed for the holiday, I had the sperm bank FedEx the semen to my mom’s summerhouse in Maine. The two-foot-tall stainless-steel tank full of sub-zero liquid nitrogen (to keep the sperm frozen) arrived on schedule to her charmingly painted front porch, looking for all the world like a bomb.

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I come from a nice, conservative, Southern Republican WASP family. Receiving packages containing the frozen sperm of perfect strangers is definitely not What We Do. But, by this point, the process was so old hat for all of us, nobody even blinked.

When the ovulation test-stick announced my egg was on its way, I collected the essentials from the kitchen—mixing bowl and ziplock bag, for thawing the vial of semen, and bright yellow dishwashing gloves to protect me from the frozen gas. Then I climbed the narrow stairs to my sweet attic bedroom overlooking the ocean and did the deed.

Becoming a Family of Two

Nine months—and one last insemination attempt — later, I was listening to a nurse shouting: “One more time, push, push, push!” With a painful tear, my son, Scott, was in the world, and the doctor put him immediately on my chest.

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“Hi, baby,” I said in a soft, quavering voice, tears running down my cheeks. I held him close, stroking his tiny head over and over. At the end of the long, strange process, lying in bed in the warm summer light, with this beautiful, cuddly little boy, seemed so easy and natural. After 41 years of waiting, I had my baby at last.

It’s now a year later, and Scott is walking, waving bye-bye, roaring like a lion, and laughing hysterically when I try to tell him no. Despite the fact that the process of conceiving him was, in every possible respect, the way I didn’t want to do it, I can tell you that I don’t think about any of it now, and haven’t since he was born.

Even my reaction to his anonymous “dad” is very different than what I’d feared: I have a few pictures of his donor at age 7 or 8, and as it turns out, Scott looks just like him. But now this man I know only by a number isn’t a stranger anymore. “I know you!” my heart says fondly when I see the photos. “You look like my baby!”

Scott’s a gregarious little guy, charming and flirting, batting his blue-gray eyes at everyone. And motherhood’s actually been easier than I expected, so far.

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Still, with every passing day, he’s more of a handful, and when I have to take a 40-pound suitcase, a 23-pound child, and a 12-pound stroller up five flights to my apartment by myself, single parenthood isn’t exactly a cinch. (And I’ve lifted weights for 15 years; I don’t know how wimpy moms survive.)

At the same time, with every passing day, Scott becomes more of a companion to me. He brings me joy with the joy he finds in everything. The playground. A leaf. A balloon.

The first time I came through the door after work, and he headed straight for me as fast as he could, as if his life depended on it, babbling, “Ma ma ma ma ma,” I don’t think I’d ever heard a more beautiful sound.

Originally published on YourTango by louisesloan

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The ‘Bad Habit’ That Could Be Sabotaging Your Relationship Right Now

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Falling in love with someone you’ve been dating is typically a beautiful, romantic experience, but when depression, low self-esteem, and other mental health issues crop up and cause you to turn to the negative coping mechanism that is the bad habit of procrastination, it can raise problems in a relationship you otherwise might not encounter. Procrastination is the gap between intention and action, which is why people who procrastinate sometimes have trouble finding love or end up self-sabotaging their relationships.

The word procrastination comes from “pro” meaning forward and “cras” meaning tomorrow. Procrastination, therefore, means to put off until tomorrow. It is the act of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference for more urgent ones or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones.

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Procrastination voluntarily delays an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay. And, no, procrastination is not a problem of time management or planning. It is a force that prevents you from following through on what you set out to do, which can lead to self-sabotaging relationships.

In a nutshell, procrastination:

  • Is irrational.
  • Drives you to act against your own judgment.
  • Is counterproductive.
  • Is devastating to personal and business lives.

Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators.

Are you one of them?

Research shows that we regret those things we have not done more than we do the things we have done. Procrastination blocks you from living life to its fullest. The main reason why we procrastinate is that taking action will cause us a certain amount of pain and discomfort. We avoid undertaking certain tasks because of the risk of shame, vulnerability, and failure. Taking action means that we might be making a mistake or we might fail. We do not want to take action and look anything less than perfect. We, therefore, choose to avoid taking action and instinctively retreat to our comfort zone.

Unfortunately, we will never make progress unless we take action. In trying to protect ourselves from failure, we often erect our own barriers to success. Psychologists refer to this as self-handicapping, which is the strategy of intentionally sabotaging our own efforts and research shows that by creating impediments that make success less likely, we nicely protect our sense of self-competence.

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Paradoxically, we are more likely to self-handicap when the stakes are highest. The more important a task is, the more a procrastinator needs to protect himself by not trying too hard. Procrastination appeals to some of us as a way of controlling our lives in some small way; a life that can become chaotic and unmanageable. In this way, procrastination is a coping mechanism, as by remaining in our comfort zone, we avoid negative consequences that may come with taking action.

Unfortunately, procrastination is a form of self-deception and one that only adds to the chaos.

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Whatever your comfort zone is, you pay a hefty price for staying inside it. Your comfort zone is a shrunken world where opportunities, ideas, and wonderful relationships can easily pass you by. When you procrastinate, you pass the buck to your future self. So how does this affect our relationships?

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Healthy relationships are built on teamwork.

When you sign on to become someone’s partner, you become one part of the partnership. When one member of the team keeps missing their goals, the entire team loses, hurting your relationship. If you fail to contribute your 50 percent, you are not holding up your end of the bargain. If you are a procrastinator, you are therefore sabotaging your relationship. Some relationship counselors refer to procrastination as “a slow-burning relationship issue,” acting like a python slowly squeezing the life out of your love.

Here are the 4 ways procrastination is destroying relationships:

1. It can stress you out.

A procrastinator is often a kind and caring person who wants to make their partner happy. They are more relaxed and thrive in non-demanding environments. Procrastinators will do marginally useful things as they avoid undertaking tasks that they may feel are difficult or time-consuming. As a result, the partner might feel unimportant, un-cared for, and ignored.

Consequently, resentment, lack of trust, and a downward spiral may begin, eventually further damaging your self-esteem, self-confidence, and motivation. You may even become discouraged and stop trying out of fear that any action you take will be too late or insufficient.

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2. You risk losing your partner’s trust.

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One day, your words and promises might come to mean nothing to your partner. When your partner expects you to do something and you to put off the task for another day at another time, the result is that you become perceived as not being dependable.

Relationships thrive when promises are kept, agreements are honored, and commitments are met.

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Procrastination leads to wasted time, endless delays in completing the task at hand, and many missed opportunities. In relationships, the undone tasks can become a symbol of the partner’s unmet needs, as well as a measure of disrespect, and lack of caring for the procrastinator.

All these things not only hinder the progress of your relationship but also make your partner feel as if they cannot rely on you. Your partner may slowly start undertaking more tasks on their own and relegate you more and more to the sidelines. This can result in you feeling useless. We all want to be needed, so being seen as unreliable can cause further damage to your self-esteem.

3. It can delay improvement in your relationship.

Many unhappy couples spend needless months lamenting the state of their relationships while making no strategic or proactive effort to remediate the situation. If you are a procrastinator, even though you are clear about your unhappiness, you may even procrastinate initiating the conversations to heal your relationship.

Initiating the necessary conversation is understandably difficult and scary. However, your relationship will only grow when you overcome harmful and self-defeating behaviors. Not acting may bring temporary peace, but it only compounds future discomfort.

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Initiating conversations about the weakness in certain aspects of your relationship is a challenging task that evokes fear and uncertainty about the outcome of the discussion. You may find it easier to resort to silence and hope that the relationship will just improve on its own. But guess what? This will never happen! Procrastinating is trading the discomfort of the moment for a more prolonged, more chronic unhappiness.

4. Procrastination affects your feelings of self-worth.

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Procrastination could potentially lower your self-esteem and cause an increase in depression, affecting how you deal with others, especially those closest to you. The doubts that may creep up about your competency may potentially drive you further away from your partner as you attempt to hide your fear of failure from their view. Your partner needs your loving presence in the relationship. This requires your attention and commitment to honoring your agreements.

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Strengthening a relationship means investing your time in it. If you have no time to invest, it will be impossible to hold on for long.

Originally written by Christopher D. Brown on YourTango

Featured image via Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels

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I Was Misdiagnosed For 12 Years Before Hearing About A Rare Genetic Condition

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Starting in 2010, I began collecting diagnoses like candy. After recovering from leg surgery (due to an overuse injury from excessive ski training), I started involuntarily vomiting everything I ate or drank… and it hasn’t stopped since. 

At the time, I was a cross-country skier attempting to make the 2014 Olympics. 

I was one of the fastest junior skiers in the country. My coaches were two men in their 70’s who had been best friends since they were young. They had a long history of coaching the U.S. and Canadian ski teams. I respected these two men and deeply loved them for investing in me and believing in my dream.

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After racing in Germany at age 19, and having a terrible overuse injury flare in both legs, I chose to push on and go race in Switzerland with the team. However, my body had other plans. One night, I was doing push ups in the cabin we were renting, and all of a sudden my rib cracked and I fell on my face, screaming in pain. So I flew home and had lower leg surgery, and rested my broken rib.

After that, I became sicker and sicker, and watched my Olympic dream crumble, my hopes of having kids tarnished, and my desire for feeling better battered. I have acquired so many misdiagnoses because nobody could explain my symptoms, even remotely, from what my imaging, tests and studies showed. 

For twelve and a half years I went from one doctor to the next, exhausting all their options, and then being written off as a psychiatric case. 

I’ve been to treatment centers thirteen times for a severe eating disorder that I do not deny is real, but that started as a result of not being able to keep my food down, as well as a result of childhood trauma. 

When I sought medical help for the vomiting, I was diagnosed with mild idiopathic gastroparesis and colonic inertia. I was prescribed laxatives and a motility aid. Neither of those worked, and I remained constipated, in abdominal agony from cramping, vomiting, and having bowel blowouts from how many laxatives I had to take to relieve my bowels. 

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Next the vomiting was called Rumination Syndrome and I was instructed to breathe differently while I was “regurgitating.” However, I wasn’t regurgitating, as the vomit was projectile at times and I was unable to hold it in my mouth. In treatment centers, I was instructed to swallow the vomit down.

When nothing was working to stop my vomiting and rapid weight loss, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic suggested I get an ileostomy to relieve the intense abdominal pain from a colon that wasn’t working. I had surgery in 2017, and with minimal complications, I’ve lived in so much less pain since. But unfortunately, it didn’t affect the vomiting.

In 2019, I was diagnosed with Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome and told to fill out a chart detailing emotions, feelings, and situations before, during, and after an episode. 

I was shut in a room alone for three weeks while I supposedly “unlearned” vomiting. 

I was forced to clean my own vomit off the floor while still actively dry heaving, because it was supposed to teach me to stop vomiting willfully. But it didn’t.

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In 2019, I had surgery for a Jejunostomy feeding tube that goes into my small intestines, and I was tube fed, but struggled with pain and cramping. I also couldn’t get the volume up to a decent calorie amount because my intestines would be in so much pain, and I would start vomiting bile. I could vomit up to 30 times per day. It was absurd. 

In 2020, I was inpatient in Colorado, and I met another patient who was from Boston. I immediately thought she was cool, and we started getting to know each other. 

She told me she had a genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome that makes your collagen defective. 

She pointed out a bunch of little things in my body that were typical in someone with the condition. I was curious enough to ask her for her geneticist’s name because I live in Maine, and Boston is within driving distance. I called the office, thinking I’d be on a waitlist for years, and they got me in to see the doctor in just three weeks. 

After I was discharged from the program for failing to meet their criteria, I met with the geneticist. He diagnosed me with hypermobile type Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I had a bunch of comorbidities, such as POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), MCAS (Mast Cell Activation Syndrome), CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), an autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s), Colonic Inertia, and moderate Gastroparesis. 

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Suddenly the pieces of my confusing health history started making sense. 

I was directed to a gastroenterologist who helped me feel more comfortable by switching me to a G/J tube (which was a little surgery for a lot of relief). It allowed me to drain bile and acid from my stomach and feed through my intestines. However, my intestines stopped absorbing the tube feed and I lost a bunch of weight and became emaciated yet again. 

A year ago, I was switched to TPN through a PICC line in my upper arm(s) – I had multiple, and now a Hickman Central line in my chest feeds me. I had another Jejunostomy surgery when I continuously threw up my G/J tube, because I still need the tube for medications. 

At that time, we switched my G/J tube to a straight G so I could drain more volume faster. I wear a urine self catheter bag around my leg that attaches to my G tube for draining anything in my stomach. My J tube is just for medications, but without it I end up hospitalized. 

I finally feel heard, seen, valued, and considered. 

I’m not simply dismissed as the “chronically ill” (rolls eyes) and mentally unstable patient who ends up in the ER every few weeks for some random issue, like throwing up a feeding tube, or fainting and hitting my head. Nobody is sending me to another treatment center or locking me in an institution, despite that possibly being a good idea, if I think about it…

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Patients with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) often are misdiagnosed multiple times before figuring out they have EDS. 

EDS patients are repeatedly treated as if our pain and symptoms are all in our head. 

We are often dismissed because the doctors simply don’t know, but to save face, they blame us for somehow causing the issue. 

If there is one thing I want people with undiagnosed EDS to know, it’s that you know your body best… That’s it. Trust in your experience.

Photo by Adrian “Rosco” Stef on Unsplash

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