In this feature, we sit down with a single mother and discuss her experience of getting pregnant using in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and why she decided to take the plunge and tackle parenthood by herself.
Was having a child something you always wanted?
Yes, absolutely! I grew up in a large family which meant I was always involved in looking after my younger siblings and eventually my nieces and nephews too. Initially, I wanted to pursue a career in teaching or childcare and although I ultimately took a different path, I still found joy in interacting with children and knew that I would eventually want one of my own.
When did you first consider taking on parenthood by yourself? and what made you ultimately decide to go for it?
I probably knew from about the age of about 20 that single parenthood would be a possibility for me and it just became clearer the older I got. I found that I didn’t end up settling into any committed, long-term relationships and so I knew that if things didn’t change I would have to make the decision to become a parent by myself or not at all.
Once I reached 27-years-old things changed. It was weird but one month I felt like I was still far too young and then suddenly, I just felt like I had done enough with my life and I was ready for the next step even if it meant doing it solo. At that point I knew I was mature enough to commit my life to raise a child, accepting that going forward it would no longer be about me, but about my kid.
Do you feel like you have experienced more positive or negative reactions from others about your decision? and what were they like?
Surprisingly, more positive. I was definitely expecting more jokey-reactions and more people teasing me, but actually almost everyone I told was really excited and positive about my pregnancy, they showered me in offers of help.
One of the nicest reactions I experienced was from my manager who I had to tell about my pregnancy before I had even officially received a positive confirmation. This was because my job required me to complete mandatory training which would have posed a risk to the baby and so when I explained my situation to my manager he went out of his way to sign me off the training without exclusively stating why. It was really lovely that he wanted to give me the best chance of success whilst also making sure no one else was aware of my potential pregnancy before I was ready to tell them.
What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about single motherhood?
That you will be doing it all by yourself. I have received endless offers of help from every corner of my life – be it, family, friends or even work colleagues. There has been no shortage of people wanting to enjoy this experience with me and wanting to help out on every occasion. This is why I don’t feel alone at all because I have such a strong support system and as they say, it takes a village to raise a child and thankfully my big family alone is the size of a village and a half.
What made you decide to go down the IVF route over alternative options?
For me, there were really only two options and that was IVF or adoption. From my past experiences having been involved in caring for other people’s kids, I knew that I would easily be able to love another person’s child like my own and provide them with the best care I could, however, adoption does limit the experiences I could have in terms of the pregnancy and potentially the early years of that child’s life.
This is why I came to the decision that for my first child I would undergo IVF treatments as I felt like it would be the best route for me. Now, that I have experienced having my own child and raising it from birth I definitely may look to adoption in the future because I think it is a great way to provide a caring, loving home for a child that deserves one whilst being a perfect way to expand my family.
Can you explain the IVF process? Was it overall a good or bad experience?
So everyone’s experience is very different but for me, I initially started with Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) treatments instead of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) which is kinda like a mini version of IVF that involves inserting the sample and letting nature take its course.
I started by going in for several consultations where we discussed any problems that I may have had in the past and conduct several tests to check that there is nothing which might prevent me from completing the IUI process or cause complications later down the line.
At this point, they found that on one side I had a blocked fallopian tube and when they gave me the drugs to stimulate my ovaries, I was more regularly ovulating on the side that had the blocked tube which limited my chances of conception on IUI treatments from 20% to 5%.
After many months of repeating this process and finding out, I had ovulated on the wrong side, again and again, I decided that it would be better to go through the full process of IVF, although it is worth mentioning that this meant it almost doubled in cost.
With the IVF process, I was given drugs which overstimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs – the more the better is the motto of the treatment! Once the eggs had been stimulated I was then sedated and underwent a small operation to have those eggs collected. The collected eggs are then fertilised, probably in a petri dish although I didn’t see this part. Then after about 3-5 days they select the most well-developed egg and put it back into me – simple!
At this point, I had to wait 12 days to find out whether the process has been successful or not, which is definitely the most nail-biting part of the experience. I highly recommend stocking up on pregnancy tests at this point because you will want to take them multiple times a day during this period. When you do get a positive confirmation you will then want to take even more just to confirm the confirmation! I was very lucky that I got pregnant on the first attempt of IVF and I still feel incredibly grateful for that as I know that it can be a long and gruelling process which takes a toll on you, emotionally and physically.
Overall, I would say that IVF was a good experience for me. It was long-winded going through IUI and then IVF and the doctors had a tendency of making me wait for appointments and test results, which made getting back in time for work a little difficult sometimes. The only pain I experienced was during the stimulation of my ovaries because it becomes very sensitive since it’s a little overcrowded in there. It was sore for a few days and then once I ended up with a successful pregnancy it was also sore again because the pressure of the fertilised egg growing impacts the ovaries that haven’t yet fully healed – but it is nothing to worry about!
How did you find undergoing treatments whilst keeping it quiet from others?
Generally, it was not too bad to keep it under the radar since I would book appointments around my work hours and if I really needed an excuse I would call on one of my few friends who knew about the treatments at this time. Thankfully I had no physical side effects during the treatment although going around hiding the fact I was stabbing myself in the stomach with needles was a funny thought, just in case anyone discovered them and wondered what I was up to. If anything, it was more uncomfortable trying to hide my morning sickness from work colleagues once I got pregnant. I mean there are only so many toilet trips you can take before you start getting some funny looks.
What extra things did you have to plan for as a single parent before getting pregnant?
There was nothing I would say that was an extra thing to consider compared to what parents in couples have to plan for. All the important things are the same regardless of who is raising the kid but I would say there are just different priorities assign to different things. For me, childcare was the biggest priority of all because I had to account for who would care for my child when I went back to work, otherwise it would not be possible for me to have a child. Before I even started treatments I made sure I could afford childcare and that it was available to me during my work hours. I knew that as a single mother I would be in no position to be a stay-at-home parent and having no childcare was a deal-breaker.
How did you prepare for parenthood?
I think firstly it was important to make sure I was financially prepared, I was already in a good position in terms of finances because I had been saving all my adult life so I felt assured before I got pregnant that I could cover the expense of a child by myself – because they aren’t cheap! Another way I prepared was making several decisions about how I was going to raise my kid by researching topics around breastfeeding, bottle feeding, sleep routines, weaning and so forth. Although I had been around babies and kids my whole life, it is still very different to being the parent who decides exactly how a child will be raised and so I wanted to make sure I was ready to take on that responsibility. Then the next part of the preparation was just getting all the childcare equipment together, like the crib, moses baskets, toys and clothes, If anything I think was overprepared, I already had a highchair before I was even 6 months pregnant, even though I was at least a year of needing it!
What is the best part of being a single parent?
I’d say getting to decide the name by myself! There were absolutely no arguments there and it was nice to take full ownership of the decision. I generally just like that I can make all the decisions myself and that I don’t have to compromise on any part of this experience.
What is the worst part of being a single parent?
Definitely knowing that you have no one else to blame for any mistakes you make along the way, being a single parent from the get-go means I have to take full credit for how my kid turns out, good or bad! Also, it means that if you are unsure about something there is no one right next to you to ask for advice but thankfully, family and friends are always just a text away.
Do you have any concerns about the donor’s involvement with the child in the future?
No, I don’t have any concerns really, I see it as a decision for my child to make when they are older. My child has to be 18-years-old before they can request to contact the donor through the clinic and then it is up to the donor as to whether they want to respond.
I think it is a great thing that this option is available because it gives my child a chance to know more about their roots. If contact is successful on both ends then it would be an adult relationship between them which doesn’t worry me because I hope to have raised a kid who as an adult will have the sense to only deal with people who are beneficial to their welfare. I think the biggest concern any parent would have is that the donor might cause problems for their child but I feel confident that my kid will be able to decide that for themselves and they will have my support behind them.
How do you plan to tell your child about the IVF in the future?
I don’t think this is particularly a topic for the future since it is something I discuss around my kid all the time even though they currently can’t understand what I am talking about. It’s important to me that the IVF does not feel like a taboo topic and as far as the child should be concerned, there are many different types of families and this is ours.
It’s only uncomfortable or something that should be questioned or seen as a negative if you present it that way and I don’t want any negativity on this topic being transferred over to my child. Obviously I know I can’t control what other people may say to them in the future but as long as they are brought up in an environment where people view our little family as just another example of normality then hopefully any negative outside opinions will be deflected.
How do you find balancing parenthood alongside working as a single mother?
Currently, I am still on maternity leave so I haven’t yet experienced facing this problem although I do have precautions in place ready for what is coming. Thankfully I work in a job that does not require me to take work home and so it is reassuring to know that I can separate the two aspects of my life and keep work as work and home as home. It is really crucial to me that when I am home I get to be fully present with my kid and enjoy every step of their upbringing.
Is parenthood everything you hoped for and more?
Definitely more. More chaos, more carnage, more mess, more noise and far more fun. Every parent, single or otherwise signs up for a challenge when they take on the commitment of raising a child and I have definitely received mine, and I love it! I can’t wait to see what happens next on this journey of parenthood.
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