Women are increasingly choosing single motherhood when they are ready to have a family.
Not every journey to a family is what we traditionally think of – two people meet, get married, have a baby, live happily ever after. Some people choose to create a family without a partner. Women creating families solo is commonly known as single motherhood by choice. Lauren, a teacher in the Baton Rouge area, recently joined the ranks of single mothers by choice and feels empowered by her decision.
There are many reasons why a woman may decide to have a child without a partner. She may have promised herself that she would become a parent by a certain age if she had not met the right partner. She may have been married and divorced without children and still wants to be a mother. Or perhaps she always pictured herself as a mother and not a wife, so single motherhood makes sense.
The decision to raise a child without a partner comes with unique challenges
When Lauren was 30 years old, she vowed that if she had not found a life partner by the age of 35, she was going to have a child on her own. A long-time teacher and now instructional coach in the Baton Rouge area, Lauren always knew she wanted to be a mother, but had never been in relationships with someone she could see herself with for the rest of her life. And at this stage in her life, she felt like she didn’t necessarily need a partner to ultimately find happiness in a family.
So at 33, she started researching what her options were to have a child on her own. She knew it would not be an easy journey and would require a lot of sacrifices. She also wasn’t sure how her friends and family would perceive her decision, so she put the decision off for a few more years. Then, on a later visit to her gynecologist, she confided with her the dreams she had of being a mother and realizing her window of opportunity was quickly starting to fade. She referred Lauren to Dr. Neil Chappell at Fertility Answers to help her understand the single motherhood journey she would be on and what it would entail.
After her first meeting with Dr. Chappell in the summer of 2020, Lauren still wasn’t sure she would go through with it. Single motherhood and raising a child without a partner would have it’s unique challenges she knew, both emotionally and financially. But she was now 35 years old and having a child had always been how Lauren had envisioned her life. And while her parents were at first a little skeptical about the path to motherhood she was embarking upon, the eventual support of her family and friends helped her make the decision to go for it. “My friends and siblings were always very supportive of me becoming a mother without a husband,” says Lauren. “My parents, well, they took a little more convincing.”
Single motherhood by choice is often achieved through intrauterine insemination
The most common way for single women to achieve pregnancy medically is through intrauterine insemination, or IUI, using donor sperm. This option is preferred for women who have no known fertility issues. Like all fertility treatments, IUI success rates depend on a woman’s age and her current fertility health. Women under 35 generally have a 10% to 20% chance of pregnancy with each IUI cycle.
After completing pre-conception testing at Fertility Answers, Lauren started injections to stimulate her ovaries and dived into the task of picking a sperm donor. National sperm banks require donors to be rigorously screened and tested and are able to provide genetic, health and family background information on all their donors. Lauren whittled her list down to a few whose background were similar to hers and whose grandparents lived well into their 80s without major health issues.
“Then everything happened really fast!” remembers Lauren. Because her genetic test results came in right before her cycle started, Lauren had only 24 hours to make a final decision on her sperm donor. To pick the final one, she asked a friend to help. “We quickly planned a ‘girls night in’ and she helped me pick the winner over a glass of wine.”
Unfortunately her first insemination didn’t end with a pregnancy. Disappointed, Lauren prepped her body the next month for a second IUI, but as luck would have it, her cycle happened during the unprecedented cold snap in February 2021 that froze out much of the southern U.S. Her donor sperm ended up stuck in Memphis and she ovulated before it arrived, canceling that cycle. “It was all for the better,” says Lauren. “I produced too many mature follicles in that cycle and I think it was God’s way of saying I didn’t need more than one baby!”
So the next month, resolved that this was going to be her last attempt due to limited finances, Lauren prepared for another IUI cycle. This time her ovaries produced one mature, beautiful follicle and her IUI went off without a hitch. After ten days, on April Fool’s Day, Lauren took a pregnancy test and it returned the faintest positive line. “I couldn’t believe it at first that it had worked!” says Lauren. “And the best part was that it was eight days before my 36th birthday, so I kept my promise to get pregnant by 35.”
Advice for women choosing single motherhood
Sophie was born in December 2021 and Lauren says she was the best decision she ever made. “Being a mom is everything I dreamt it would be. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”
Lauren has some advice for other women who are considering single motherhood by choice. “Make sure you have a good support system of friends and family,” says Lauren. “This journey is an emotional rollercoaster and you will need all the support you can get. Also, make sure you have the financial means to do this on your own, because it may take several tries to get pregnant. And lastly, if this is something heavy on your heart, it must mean you really want it, so just do it.”