Who’s the brave one?

I am an older single mother having started the process at the age of 42 and, after many disappointments, eventually bringing home my daughter four years later. I also live 3,000 miles away from my family having emmigrated to Israel in my 20s. You can read about both these events, my IVF story, and my life now as a single mum and an expat, in my blog, MidLifeSingleMum! 

By far the most often heard comment about my decision to have a baby on my own has been, “you’re very brave.” From the time my pregnancy started showing right up until today, three years later, I have heard this comment time and time again: You’re very brave.

During my pregnancies (yes there was more than one – but that’s for another post) I had no idea what it meant. With the hindsight of being a mother I understand it a bit more. However, being brave is the opposite of what I was. Bravery to me is facing old age without ever having been a mummy. Bravery is giving up on the love of your own baby and child. Not having the chance to bring up a child and help her (or him) to reach her best potential. Not to pass on all the things you have learned in life. Not to be part of the club that is motherhood.

A little background about me: I was the kid who always wanted to hold and play with the babies. I was the girl who was babysitting at the age of 12. In my teenagehood I was a leader in the local youth club and later ran it. I taught in Sunday school, I spent my gap year working in a children’s house on a kibbutz and I became a primary school teacher myself. I was the single friend that married friends with children could feel comfortable asking to stay for the weekend and even, one time, if I would go on holiday with them. It was inconceivable (pardon the pun) that I would not have children of my own one day.

I was ready to have a baby at the age of 12. Obviously I wasn’t mature enough or in any position to do so, but in my head my biggest ambition in life was to be a mummy. Whilst some of my friends wanted to be doctors, lawyers, or teachers, I honestly set my sights on being an executive wife, making dinner parties, and bringing up a large family. Man makes plans and God laughs – no kidding.

So there I was in my 40s and still no baby. How did this happen? I was extremely social as a young adult but somehow I never found Mr Right. I always said I would go ahead and have a baby on my own if I got to 38 and was still without a partner. But at 38 I was living in a rented apartment and I felt that my life was too insecure to bring a baby into it. When I was 39 my parents helped me buy an apartment (I say me, but it was actually a collaboration between them and the bank).

I now had a home but I was also dating someone. I hoped that we would simply get married and fit in a couple of kids before I was too old – not necessarily in that order and I did try a number of times to let nature take its course. (Btw, I blame the gossip magazines for featuring celebrities with their babies born at 40+ or even 45+ and failing to mention the intervention that was almost certainly required. They give older women a false sense of their fertility at an age when it is really very difficult to conceive.) Sadly my relationship did not last.

Happily, my friend N, had twins with the help of IVF. All my hesitations flew out the window and I knew that it was now or never. I’ve written about my IVF journey on my own blog (actually I’m about half way through the story) so I won’t repeat the details, except to say that I was determined to be a mother. Every disappointment along the way (and there were many) was a frustrating delay, but just that: a delay. I went from accepting the notion of donor sperm with IUI, to drug induced ovum stimulation, to IVF. There are many ways of upping the ante when you are definitely going to be a mother, from donor gametes all the way through to adoption. I think I would have gone the whole way had it been necessary.

I have single friends who started fertility treatment and it sadly didn’t work. Others gave up after a couple of tries. Women just a few years older than me were not aware of the opportunity and it was not as widely accepted as it is now. I have friends who have thought about it and decided that single motherhood is not for them. So who is the brave one? Not me – I’m the lucky one

By Rachel Selby, Midlife Singlemum