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Episode #8: Having a Baby, DIY-Style

Let’s start with the classic riddle that goes: 

A father and a son were in a car accident where the father was killed. The ambulance brought the son to the hospital. He needed immediate surgery. In the operating room, a doctor came in and looked at the little boy and said, “I can’t operate on him. He is my son.” 

Who is the doctor? 

The mother. 

Here’s another riddle: 

A woman has been divorced for 21 years. She has an 11-year-old daughter. Who is the daughter’s father? 

The daughter’s father could literally be anyone really. 

THIS riddle is about me and my daughter. 

The answer is: 

There is no father on her birth certificate. 

Just like the way people – men and women alike – have a tough time figuring out who the doctor is in the operating room riddle, they can only think of the doctor as a man, but the father has been killed in the car accident – people – also men and women alike – can’t figure out who my daughter’s father is because she’s 11 and I’ve been divorced for 21 years. 

They don’t automatically jump to, “Oh, so you had a kid on your own!” They default to you have to have been married to have a kid. You might be divorced from that marriage that created a kid, but you had to be married to create the kid. You had to be married and, together decided to create a family to have a kid. Because that’s the fairy tale, isn’t it? What’s the nursery rhyme? “First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes baby in the baby carriage.” Right…. 

For me, it was more like:

First comes love-ish and getting engaged to prevent breaking up 

Then comes marriage and a Hail Mary and hoping he’ll become an ambitious husband Then comes I don’t want to have children with this man who is not stepping up as a husband, so therefore he would not step up as an equal partner and parent 

Then comes he wants to separate because he’s been emasculated 

Then comes my shock and complete surprise and desperately trying to hang onto the marriage because other people get divorced, not me 

Then comes therapy and the realization after a few months of said therapy that I didn’t even like him anyway! 

Then comes dating which officially marks the end of my marriage 

Then comes more therapy and a diagnosis of depression and *OCD light* and medication Then comes the eventual getting over it all and moving on with my life 

Then comes getting engaged again a few years later at 37 

Then comes complaining to my new therapist about my fiance; my therapist – and this is for real! – said, “Honey, maybe this is just as good as it gets.” WTF?? 

Then comes trying a little longer with my fiance – my fiance who I literally run circles around in every aspect of life – until I just can’t any more 

Then comes kicking out the fiance after 13 months in the relationship and I consider this a success because I was with my ex-husband for 13 years wishing he’d be someone else and this time I’d only wasted 13 months of my life wishing my fiance was someone else Then comes more dating and more disappointment and wishing they were all someone else Then comes waking up one day and realized I’m 42 and if I’m ever going to have a baby, now is the time 

Then comes asking 3 friends if they would be willing to donate with absolutely no strings attached – no name on the birth certificate, no legal rights and no financial responsibilities Then comes all 3 friends saying “yes” and I choose one of them 

Then comes no doctors, no medical intervention whatsoever, no telling of my plans to any friends or family 

Then comes a positive pregnancy test 5 weeks later 

Then comes “holy shit!” This was meant to be! 

Then comes even more good news with the results of a test that told me my baby is healthy and my baby is due September 18th, my parents’ wedding anniversary 

Then comes telling the good news to my family – I tell my parents in March with an early anniversary card and a sonogram picture of their grandchild 

Then comes telling my grandmother who asked, “So, how’d you do it??” To which I replay, “The old-fashioned way, Nanny!” And Nanny says, “Good for you!” 

THEN. THEN comes baby in a baby carriage. 

You think that’s too long for a new nursery rhyme?? Too long for a meme? Yeah, probably. But it’s my story. Our story. The story of how my family was created. My daughter and me. 

Her donor – her father as we have come to refer to him – is my friend. He is technically referred to in the DIY space of having a baby as a “known donor”. His name is NOT on her birth certificate. He has no legal rights. He has no financial obligations. I did research before I approached him and the other potential donors that said sure, I could get lawyers involved and draw up legal documents to “guarantee” such agreements, but that such agreements could always be broken. What if the donor fell in love with the child and wanted legal rights – visitation, custody even – or what if the mother fell on hard times and decided that some financial assistance would be helpful after all? Just like I decided to forego any medical intervention and doctors in the creation of my baby, I decided to forego the involvement of any lawyers and to trust my gut which told me: I trust these friends and they trust me. And I was right. We have stuck to our agreement. My daughter’s father and I stay in touch. Pre-COVID, my daughter, he and I typically see each other a few times a year. She stays usually a night with him after the three of us have dinner together. They might watch TV or a movie together and have breakfast together in the morning. He usually annoys her because he is not me. He’s not really a parent to her and she has to wait for him to drink his coffee and shower in the morning before they go down to the hotel lobby for breakfast. She’s used to waking up to me in the morning, her mother who knows to make sure she eats as soon as she’s hungry to avoid any “hanger” – the anger that can come with her hunger. I spoil my baby and he does not. I think these little breaks from me with him have been good for my daughter to appreciate how good she has it with me. Mostly, I’m happy for my daughter to know her donor. He wasn’t some one night stand that ended up in a pregnancy and I was never able to find him and tell him. He wasn’t a donor from a sperm bank, having been chosen by me based on his baby pictures and self-described athletic abilities and educational history, who she’d be able to look up and try to connect with when she turns 18. He wasn’t an ex-husband who shared custody of her, whose house she would go to on weekends or every other week. He wasn’t an ex-husband who left and created another family with another woman who seems to like and love his new kids better. And I’m not a mother who is still trying to find the one night stand man. I’m not a mother who has to wonder if the donor from the sperm bank is a weirdo or a liar or someone who has donated so many times that my daughter could one day grow up and date a sibling. I’m not a mother who has to shuttle her daughter back and forth from her ex-husband’s house. I’m not a mother who is bitter or who feels guilty about her ex-husband creating a new and maybe *better* family with his new wife. 

I am a mother who wanted so badly to become a mom, that she created her own way of having a family. I am a mother who didn’t and doesn’t care about what people might think. My baby was no accident. My baby was planned. I wear like a badge of honor that I am a single mother. Because while that may not have been my childhood fantasy or vision when I played house with my sister, cousins and friends, it did become my vision at age 42, when I saw my only option. An option that, quite frankly, might have been good to know at 22, when I got engaged to a man who I wanted to be someone else. To a man who I ended up telling myself would grow into the role of husband once we took our vows as if he would be picking up a movie script – the movie that played in my head on repeat – that walked him through the steps to finish college, to get a graduate degree, to build a career with a quick trajectory up the corporate ladder, with an ever-increasing salary that would allow us to afford a bigger house every 5-10 years, that would support him and me, that would support him and me and 2-3 kids and a dog or two. The movie script that played in my head also included – especially included – that he fucking adore me – truly saw, knew and cherished me – and that he anticipated my every need and was consistent with my need for everything must be in order at all times within our home. The movie script also included that he took care of all of the bills, insurance claims – basically, all of the administrative details of running a household – while I got to plan dinner parties, celebrations, make our home beautiful and dote on our children. Oh, and of course because my husband would be so professionally and financially successful with all of his unbridled ambition, I’d always have the option to be a stay-at-home mom. This movie was so clear in my head and it played out around me in the movies and in some family members and colleagues and former classmates. 

I believed this would be the movie of my life, too. Because I was taking all the right steps, wasn’t I? I was getting a college degree, like they were, right? Well, they were getting their degrees a little differently than I was. They were being sent away to college, being supported and celebrated by their parents. They were meeting their husbands at said college, which is where it’s clear I wasn’t taking the same steps they were. I was scrappy and putting myself through college, working in bars and restaurants to pay my rent, tuition and books. My parents were young and entrepreneurs and figuring out their own shit, not centering their lives around my college career. They didn’t send me to an SAT prep course, let alone make sure I sat for the SATs. I found out the day before the exam from a friend, from a classmate, that I should sign up. And I sure as shit didn’t meet my ex-husband at college. I barely spent any time on campus – I was there just for the classes and maybe some library time. Otherwise, I was serving cocktails and food. 

I met my ex-husband at a party. I was impressed that he could take a power nap on the floor in the middle of someone’s living room with an open beer in his hand and balanced on his chest. He was cute and had a good head of hair. And good man hands. I don’t know how it happened that when he woke up in the middle of the party that he and I got to talking. I don’t know – can’t even imagine – what we talked about. I just remember that there was a connection and that we were dating and spending all our time together. I was nineteen and he was twenty and his wanting to be with me made me feel lovable and he didn’t want to change me, for me to act a different way as my parents did. I wasn’t a rule follower and he wasn’t either and I liked that. Of course now, I can see that we weren’t following the movie script from the beginning. People who aren’t rule followers aren’t good at following a script. If I’m such a non-rule follower, why did I want to get married? Marriage as an institution doesn’t really make sense in the modern world and many marriages end in divorce. Or at least in unhappiness. 

Anyway, I was set on this path with my ex-husband at age nineteen and would stay the course until I was 32. I am so relieved that I didn’t have children with that man. I do not have any ties to him at all. 

I had my daughter on my own and I am raising her on my own. I created a new movie script at 42 and this is my story.

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