Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Who disapproves? Here's who...

One woman on the Choice Mom discussion board noticed a pattern -- that others have agreed with -- about who tends to disapprove of the Choice Mom path, and who does not:

I've started casually telling family and friends that I'm planning on starting to conceive or adopt by myself w/in the next two years. I've gotten a range of responses, some negative and some positive.

The people who have responded negatively so far (some single parents and some married) have launched into these shrill lectures about how being a parent is such hard work and being a single mom is basically IMPOSSIBLE and about how it's going to "ruin" my life and probably end up with me getting fired from my job.

The people who have responded positively (also some single and some married) have told me that while parenthood is hard, they have faith that I'll love being a mom and that I'll be a good one, and that I should totally go for it!

I have noticed, though, that the negative reactions have tended to come from married and single moms who never particularly wanted to become parents (and became moms by accident or because of spousal/ family pressure, etc.) or who never particularly enjoyed being parents themselves (unfortunately my mother is one of those people). And the positive responses have tended to come from people who just really enjoyed parenting, either with or without a partner.)

Has anyone else noticed that? That people's reactions have had more to do with their own attitudes about/experiences with parenting and less to do with choice/single motherhood in general?

Responded one woman:

I have noticed the same thing. Most of my responses were positive...even from my dad. I think he just wanted to be a grandpa. But, a few of the negatives were from people who didn't appear to enjoy being parents themselves (or were jealous that I had the money/guts to do it alone when they didn't). My one aunt, who now has an 8 year old who she does every thing in her power to avoid, was definitely not positive. She thought I was insane and that "there was no way" I could pull it off.

Well, I have my almost 3 year old daughter now. And I adore her. Even when she always rearranges the ornaments on the Christmas tree! I love being with her...and yes, it has changed my life and it is definitely hard...but I wouldn't want it any other way. Of course, that same aunt says that she got "stuck" with a bad kid (he has asperger's) and I got an "easy" child. Well, that may true but I would be trying to work with/help my child regardless of the challenges.

I think most people react based on their own feelings/experiences. You have to do what you think is best for you.

What about you? Have you noticed a pattern in the people who tend to disapprove of this choice, whether they are focusing on issues that affect a relatively small percentage of kids who grew up in a divorced or highly stressed environment, or whether they are focusing on how hard it would be to parent alone?

Friday, November 13, 2009

When a divorced mother who is retired chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court recently wrote an opinion piece about the importance of marriage for CNN, indicating among other things that single parenthood is glorified, one of her points was this:

“Memo to single mothers by choice: When you decide to have a child alone in order to fulfill your deep need to parent, you may be deliberately substituting your emotional loss for that of your child, who will have to grow up without a father.”

The opinion piece obviously sparked a nice discussion on the Choice Moms board. Here's the comment posted by one of the women:

"How about this: If you choose to have children with the man you are married to (or hoping to be married to, or hoping to find), you must consider the very real possibility that the marriage will fail and your children will suffer a lot more pain from the divorce and custody roller coaster (or a dysfunctional/unstable/abusive family situation) than you. You’ll be inflicting emotional torture on your children by attempting to satisfy your (and society’s) romantic/economic/sexual/social/traditional needs.”

What do YOU think?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Darwin, from Choice Moms

As my daughter will quickly tell you, anytime I hear the terms "Darwin" or "evolution" or "DNA" my ears perk right up. I have so many unread books about evolution in my bedroom you would think it was my life's ambition to understand all the microscopic nuances of barnacles and birds that Darwin himself found so fascinating.

The truth is, however, that it fascinates me -- but I don't comprehend it. I just absorb the tidbits as they come.

One person who fuels my amateur learning is my high school buddy Troy, who is able to master technology and use it to spread news about anything from popular culture to science.

Here's what he passed along today that I thought Choice Moms like myself might find interesting:

Time magazine: "Human Evolution: Are Humans Still Evolving?"

"Sperm hold a much higher chance of carrying an error or mutation than an egg, especially among older men. "While it used to be that men had many children in older age to many different women, now men tend to have only a few children at a younger age with one wife. The drop in the number of older fathers has had a major effect on the rate of mutation and has at least reduced the amount of new diversity - the raw material of evolution. Darwin's machine has not stopped, but it surely has slowed greatly," Jones says. (See TIME's special report on the environment.)"

Something I've written about in my "Choosing Single Motherhood" book, but it's always interesting to see someone else reinforcing the us food for thought in how and why we bring men into our children's lives:

From LiveScience, "Dads Are Key to Making Us Human":
"While other primate babies can fend for themselves in roughly a decade, human childhood stretches 18 to 20 years, said David Geary of the University of Missouri and author of "Male, Female: Evolution of Human Sex Differences" (American Psychological Association, 1998).

Also, anthropologists speculate that the relative helplessness of human children has made multiple caregivers a vital necessity - that encourages bringing dad into the picture. Even today, in both traditional and industrialized communities, a father's presence correlates with improved health and decreased child mortality, Geary said.

Evolutionarily speaking, he added, the kid-phase probably lengthened as dads got more involved. With an extra person dedicated to caring for them, kids have no need to rush towards adulthood.

Perhaps out of worry for their kids' future financial security, dads across human cultures mostly focus on preparing children to compete within society. They give advice, encourage academic success and stress achievement, Geary said. But it is not all lesson plans and lectures.

Kids also learn from fathers during a unique form of papa play. Unlike mothers, fathers tend to roughhouse with their children.

"They rile them up, almost to the point that they are going to snap, and then calm them down," Geary said.

This pattern teaches kids to control their emotions - a trait that garners them popularity among superiors and peers, he said."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Choice Moms Radio Show

If you haven't listened yet, here are the "Choosing Single Motherhood" radio shows now available from the website:

* Show #11: Dating as a single parent
* Show #10: Emotions of the Choice Mom journey, the anger, frustration, sadness, fear and joy we go through in each stage, from Thinking to Trying to Waiting to Becoming to Being a Choice Mom.
* Show #9: Finding the right doula, including the heartfelt story of a Choice Mom and doula who became a mother through adoption. More resources.
* Show #8: Myths and realities of single-parent adoption
* Show #7: Egg-freezing and other choices: Rachel Lehmann-Haupt's story
* Show #6: Birds and Bees for Grown-Ups: what you need to know if you're trying to conceive
* Show #5: Juggling the work-and-home life balance
* Show #4: The good, bad and ugly of single parenting
* Show #3: Enhancing your fertility, reducing your stress
* Show #2: Peace of mind by protecting you and your children legally and financially.
* Show #1: Raising donor-conceived kids.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why we have to be careful about known donor arrangements

submitted by my favorite legal counsel about known donor negotations, Ami Jaeger, of BioLaw in New Mexico:

Florida – Two Gay Couples Fight over Custody of Child

“Two dads face off against two moms. It’s perhaps the most unique custody battle in recent Florida history and maybe the most radical verdict. Katherine and her eight-year partner, Ana Sobrino, decided to have a baby about a half-decade ago. Again and again, they tried using sperm from anonymous donors. But Katherine ­ a driven real estate agent then in her late 30s ­ couldn’t get pregnant.

Enter their close friend, Ray, a handsome, gay Air Force veteran.

After some casual negotiation, he donated and Katherine conceived. In August 2006, a sweet and burbling baby whom we’ll call Austin was born. Katherine put Ray’s name on the birth certificate because she wanted the child to know his dad’s identity – That turns out to be a big mistake.

The baby was raised mostly by Katherine and Ana at their NE 24th Street home, but Ray and his partner Craig also spent time with the boy. “[Ray] made it clear he wanted to be involved in the child’s life,” a counselor later wrote. He took Austin to baby music lessons. Sometimes the child would sleep over at his “da-da’s” apartment overlooking a canal. Then, last fall, the mothers decided to move to California, and things got ugly.

Ray sued Katherine in November 2008. The case tells the story of two sets of gay parents ­ all of them loving and active in the child’s life ­ vying for custody. “Responsibility for the child should be awarded to the mother and father equally,” Ray demanded in the suit. “[I am] the natural father.”

After considering arguments from both sides, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Leon Firtel on June 3 found Ray was nothing more than a sperm donor. Because there was no contract before birth, he had “no rights.” Says Ray’s attorney, ”[The ruling] is the most tragic of my career, and I will not rest until Ray is reunited with his son.”

Opposing council responds that Ray surrendered his role when he let the mothers become primary caregivers: “Ray has changed his mind about his parental role… Katherine and Ana feel like their family unit is being attacked.” A motion for reconsideration is scheduled in circuit court this week.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Picking a sperm bank, as well as a donor

A recent post on the Choice Mom discussion board reiterated the varied ways we approach selection of a sperm donor when we are creating our families.

I know several donor-conceived offspring who don't think anyone should choose an anonymous donor. That sperm banks should recruit only open donors who agree to be contacted by their offspring someday. (And some believe donors should never be used at all.)

Especially in the past, when sperm donation was primarily for married couples facing infertility, donor recipients wanted to know nothing about the donor at all. It has only been in recent years, especially with lesbian couples and single women more open with their children about the fact that they are donor conceived, that releasing the identity of willing-to-be-known donors has even come into question.

Certainly those who need sperm donation today in order to build a family know much more about the donor than people used to. Profiles have become much more extensive in the United States, to meet customer needs in a competitive industry. Obviously testing is much stronger than it was in the day when fresh sperm was lined up at clinics for day-of-inseminations for infertile couples.

Although there is more information at our disposal about sperm donors, we haven't fully evolved yet as a community to understand how important it is to also examine the policies of the sperm banks.

There tends to be an assumption that an FDA-approved sperm bank meets not only all the safety requirements we need, but also meets the potential social and ethical needs of our future families. This is not the case.

Every sperm bank creates its own policies -- about refunds for low quality vials, about numbers of offspring allowed per donor, about reporting of genetic abnormalities, about which genetic tests are standard, about how "open" its open identity policy actually is. Many sperm banks don't support the mission of the Donor Sibling Registry, where half-siblings and donors who both want to meet each other can find one another.

Not only do women (and couples) need to consider what issues might be important to them, and to their child, down the road, but they must then ask questions of the banks they are considering before they make decisions about a donor.

I've discussed some of these issues on the Choice Chat the 100-page "Behind Closed Doors" book and my "Choosing Single Motherhood" book...on the Choice Mom workshops around the country...and in an upcoming "Choosing Single Motherhood" radio show.

Now it's time to get more serious. Choice Mom-in-the-making Jessica has been a long-time partner in the quest to help the Choice Mom community become stronger consumer advocates.

I want the sperm bank industry to build toward a national registry that will, at the very least, enable consumers to learn about genetic issues and numbers of offspring born to particular (still anonymous) donors (AFTER those same consumers take the important step of -- anonymously -- reporting that their own child has been conceived so that the tracking numbers are more meaningful than they are now).

Jessica wants to raise funds for a rating card of all U.S. sperm banks so that we can be more informed consumers about how standards and policies compare BEFORE we choose a bank.

And together we want to continue raising awareness in the community, as we have on the Choice Mom discussion board again recently, that there might be issues to consider for our children that are even more important than hair and eye color.

Every person building a family will always have the right to decide what their own priorities are. But we can do a better job of pointing out some of the priorities we might not even think about until after our children start asking us questions.

Are you interested in helping us with this mission? What matters to you?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Unwed is not the same as Unprepared

this was originally posted on the Thinking blog, but it is appropriate in this space, dedicated to the politics of this choice....

The Choice Mom board recently had a discussion about how a CNN article recently described us as "unwed." Some women didn't particularly like the term, since it implies a lack that we don't all feel. Like saying someone is un-blonde, instead of brunette. Some wondered, why not simply call us single, without implying that we're supposed to be something else? Here's one response to the thread from Pamela, 39.

I so agree with the neg. tone of 'unwed.' Funny how technically at the moment I'm a spinster! Single mom, I'm okay with that, but there are so many ways to become a single mom and each road has different social acceptance and different levels of sympathy or in some cases stigmas. I personally prefer to look at it this way:

I was raised being told I could do anything, and though the road was often more challenging as a woman, the road was not blocked (for the most part). The rewards along the way for milestones achieved are still less than my male counterparts, but I'm allowed to walk a road my grandmother was forbidden to travel. I was raised to be independent in thought and action. I was encouraged to follow my dreams and let my spirit guide me. Attending college was not an option -- it was expected, and I was the first woman on both sides of the family to obtain a degree. I am a confident, successful, smart, good-looking woman who by popular belief must by 'broken' in some way as I haven't found a man to marry.

No, I'm not broken, I'm not wounded, I'm not needy. I am the product of a generation of women who were raised believing the world was their oyster. A generation of independent, confident women that society shaped and formed, while forgetting that the boys they were raising alongside these amazing smart and talented girls were not being raised much differently than their fathers -- and when these boys became men and they looked for their mates, they saw women who did not fit the qualities they were programmed to look for in a wife. They saw qualities to pass over.

So am I broken or is it that lens in which men view me that has been curved incorrectly, such that the beauty of an independent woman is not seen? Society shaped me, encouraged career development and beliefs that I could have it all -- career and family. Yet when I achieve career, and family is nowhere to be found, and I pore as much effort into finding a man as I did into my career, I'm still left empty handed. Yet, I view the lack of a man as yet another obstacle in the long journey of my life and begin to develop a work-around. Donor insemination to the rescue, something that's been kept in the closet for unfortunate couples having issues with fertility is now my saving grace.

I like thinking of myself as going down the road towards being an independent mom, because I do not plan to be dependent on social assistance. Save it for the single, UNwed mothers who are UNemployed/UNderemployed and UNable to provide for their children/self and Dependent on others for their needs.

I may be single and thus unwed as I approach motherhood, but I am also independent and will be an independent mom!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Southern blogger shares strength of community

I discovered this blog recently, Single Mothering Southern Style, by Amy Hudock, and thought it was an eloquent reminder of how important it is for women to become aware of the Choice Mom/Single Mother by Choice community and what we can offer to each other:

Today, Choice Moms™ launched the "Choosing Single Motherhood" radio show, hosted by Choice Moms founder Mikki Morrissette. The one-hour weekly talk radio show is specifically designed for the thousands of single women who proactively decide to build a family on their own.

The show will air every Wednesday from 1-2 p.m. PST and 4-5 p.m. EST on VoiceAmerica's Variety Channel. The first show airs on Wednesday, April 1, 2009, with special guest Jane Mattes, founder of the Single Mothers by Choice organization.

I'm not a single mom by choice, by the strictest definition. But when I read Mary Pols' book Accidentally on Purpose, where she talks about getting pregnant by accident but turning it into a new purpose for her life, I identified. Told that I would never have children, I was more than surprised to find myself at 36 and pregnant and single. When I told the father of my child, he proposed marriage, then changed his mind and offered me a large payment to, essentially, go away.

I thought that I would raise this child alone, and I was scared. I wondered if I could do it. But then my mother said: "Amy, here is your miracle child. You wanted a child, didn't think you would have one, and now is your chance." Miracle child. Yes, she was. So I decided to become a single mother. By choice. She became my purpose.

But I was derailed by my own self-doubt. Her father (though Jewish) spoke to a priest who convinced him that while a child might not be convenient, he couldn't simply tell me to walk away. He decided he wanted us to be a family -- and I wanted to do the right thing as well. And I was afraid to go it alone. So we married. Of course, it didn't last.

I wish I had seen more support for the choice to become a single mom back then, like this radio show. Perhaps I would have had more confidence in myself than to enter into a bad marriage situation. Perhaps I would have made a different choice. I found out that I can be a great mom while single -- and that knowledge can help any mother who becomes single -- by choice, by divorce, or by being widowed. So even though I am not a mother by choice in the same way as these mothers, I still support their work in encouraging women to believe in themselves enough to become the mothers they can be -- regardless of their relationship status.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ethics of reproduction

In a vein related to the story of the single mom of 14, whose fertility doctor transferred more than the generally accepted two embryos even though she'd already given birth to six children before her octuplets were born, this recent story came out of Canada about a 60-year-old woman who went to India in order to conceive her twins.

Obviously, apart from the sensationalistic quality of the media stories, and the debates about whether this is or is not acceptable, will come the discussions about regulating the fertility industry (overseas treatments notwithstanding) so that doctors are held responsible for "over-fertilizing" certain patients.

And, of course, this discussion will beg the question of who is acceptable and who is not? Who decides? Should there be uniform laws, or clinic-by-clinic policies? Should psychiatric evaluations be required of all candidates? Just single ones? Non-heterosexual ones? Candidates over the age of 40? 50? Should one counselor, or one doctor, be the arbiter?

In my view, the octuplets story focus has been skewed by the fact that she is a single woman. Regardless, implanting six embryos in an IVF procedure for a 33-year-old woman who has successfully delivered six children already, should certainly have raised red flags by the fertility doctor -- even if she was married. That she could pay for the expensive treatment does not mean that she could also pay for the caretaking of that many children, with the potential health issues of multiple births. And even though she requested it, any fertility doctor knows that a woman (or couple) willing to have that many children at once is not thinking clearly about long-term ramifications.

In the donor industry in general, I know that there have been concerns raised in other countries that if parents are required to use an open-identity donor, as they now are in the U.K., for example, it would restrict the number of donors available and curtail the ability of people requiring insemination to build a family.

While there are different recruitment practices that can keep donors coming through the door, my strong view is that yes, it might be harder to create children if there is a restriction placed on what donated gametes can be used, but if there is a strong reason that compels that restriction, then it should be employed. In the case of the U.K., and several other countries, government did decide that it is IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD to have the ability to know something of their biological "other half" should they desire it, based on research with adopted and donor-conceived adults.

In the U.S., I do not see open-identity as becoming a requirement, since we are a country too vast and too wedded in choice to require it.

Nor, octuplet publicity aside, do I see being a single parent as becoming a deterrent. Even if we were to move toward greater regulation of the industry, the case is quite strong that single parents can and do raise great children (the isolated statistics in troubled non-Choice families notwithstanding).

Now it is a matter of more people in policy-making power of certain states, adoption agencies and clinics to recognize as well that non-heterosexual parents also do a great job of raising kids.

On the other hand, there is to my mind NO compelling reason for anyone to potentially have six or more children at once. The desire of someone to "increase the odds" of a successful (costly) IVF procedure by implanting more than two at once is uncalled for and should, indeed, become a regulation based on common sense.

What is your opinion? Are regulations uncalled for? Or warranted?

Here is one of the earliest reactions to the octuplets story, taking root in Georgia.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

14 Babies for a Single Mom

So, the news this week that a 33-year-old unmarried woman in California delivered eight babies -- with six already at home with grandparents -- is obviously creating a frenzy of conversation. In the media. On the Choice Mom discussion board.

One version of the story is here.

Undoubtedly this will lead to speculation about where ethically the line should be drawn. Some certainly want it drawn tight -- only a husband and a wife should be allowed to have children together. Others loosen it slightly. Not many feel there should be no lines drawn at all when the well-being of a child is concerned. But who decides? And at one point is it drawn?

Should there be a limit to age of a parent? Is 50 too old to start? What about the women we've seen in the news delivering babies at 60? Is it only the women who are "too old?" What about when men father children in later years, Charlie Chaplin style? Is that more acceptable? And if so, why?

In adoption, some countries reject applicants who are obese, or who smoke, or who already have children.

Certainly many places reject lesbians and gay individuals and couples as being "unfit" parents (even though research tends to indicate this is not true).

So, drawing lines is not an easy matter.

On the Choice Mom board, the story has kept us busy. Most of us consider it unethical for a single woman to be allowed treatment to implant multiple embryos when she already has six children at home. Here are a few excerpts of our varied opinions.

"I work in the pediatric ICU as a nurse practitioner and I have seen the effects of prematurity (both health issues for the children as well as the economic consequences for hospitals). I hate to pass judgment but it is soooooo hard to not when we are in a community that is struggling as single moms to provide the best environment for children. I am very shocked at the apparent lack of thoughtfulness on either the mom or the fertility doctor. I am glad *I* had an ethics consult when I was getting started. I am not saying no single woman should have more than 6 kids, but I think her situation is very concerning. Living in a 3-bedroom house with her parents."

Here's a CNN article about it.

Said another:
"I hate to be judgmental, but I really think this is very irresponsible, with or without a dad in the picture. I would not think of bringing even one child into this world if I was having trouble supporting myself and my current obligations financially."

"...And all that is said with complete respect to a mother's choice not to reduce or abort for any personal, ethical or religious reasons (except that if she used fertility drugs, I would PERSONALLY consider it hypocritical not to use medical means to reduce the number of fetuses in order to improve the lives of the remaining ones, since using medication in such a way, probably without proper medical supervision, is already a risky step outside the realm of natural / religious circumstances)."

It does affect society's view of our path. This woman's path is different. We support bringing into the world kids that we are prepared to support financially and provide loving care to. We support responsible medical ethics in using assisted reproduction. This will have an impact on the entire industry and maybe on our choices, too. It is hard to conjure up a scenario in which this is a justifiable choice."

Another (note that the eighth baby was a surprise during delivery; the mother chose not to abort any of the seven known children):
"I draw the line where parents inflict harm on their children. Attempting to carry 8 babies to full term is risky and almost guarantees that at least some of them will not have healthy lives. Same goes for drinking or using drugs while pregnant. I also draw the line where parents put themselves in a position where they are unable to meet their obligation to their children: to provide each and every child with sufficient love, attention, care and guidance, in reasonable living conditions."

"I think that having a baby as a single mom is a debatable topic (with people on both sides of the fence, which is fine). Having 14 children when you cannot adequately provide for them is not. It'll be interesting to see the story unfold. See what her motives were in trying IVF, who the sperm came from, where the money for IVF came from, how she expects to support these 14 kids, if she ends up with her own "+14" tv show. The women on this discussion board put so much thought into having children. We're well prepared, we've done our research, we've got money in the bank. Imagine if everyone put this much thought into having babies. Every kid would (hopefully) know just how much he/she was wanted and is loved. Ah, utopia."

This smart advice:
"Before you undergo the process, you really should consider what you would do if you found yourself pregnant with multiples, especially high order ones. Since many of us wind up using ovulation-stimulating drugs or IVF, our risks are higher. You should have thought through the options beforehand so you have a fair sense of what you would do in certain situations, rather than wait until it's thrust upon you and you have to make a quick call in an already stressful and hormonal place.

"I decided early on that I could not do anything to increase my chances for multiples. All of my planning and my understanding of my resources (financial and emotional) told me that I could really only handle one as a single parent. I would have liked more than one child, but at this point unless Prince Charming does pop into my life in the next year or so, that's not going to happen."

"It is hard for me not to "judge" as I see things from a medical standpoint. I don't know how many of you have been in a NICU and have see the heartbreak I have. You always hear the wonderful stories of how well premature babies do, rarely do people talk of the grief and sadness that can and does happen all too often. Sometimes being alive is not living. I do not know why someone with six children would opt for IVF, OR have all embryos transferred. I try to be open-minded but I am enraged. There are so many ramifications that aren't medical."

On the other hand:
"I have been following this discussion with a certain amount of trepidation. Who are we to judge a woman's actions? How do you justify passing judgment on another when we ourselves are going against societal mores and rules pursuing our own paths? Where do you draw the line? Do you watch the TV show about 17 kids? Is THAT criminal? Do you decry the woman's choices because of her singlehood? Because of the idea she may have used injectibles or IVF to super-ovulate, or because she has so many children under 7? I can only say I am very glad I am not in her place. I know I would be having trouble managing 6 children, despite the fact that I have a supportive family, etc."

Here's a BioNews article about it, and the responsibility of the fertility doctor.

So...let's open it up in the more public forum. What do YOU think about this story?

And, does it make a difference to your thoughts if the woman is 33, or 25, or 40? Does it make a difference if she has a high school education, or is in her post-graduate studies? Does it make a difference if she has the means of financial support for all of her children?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

In response to Ann Coulter

submitted to Huffington Post

For those of you not attuned to every attention-getting proclamation of Ann Coulter, she recently went on a 3.5-minute rant on “The Today Show” (Wednesday, January 7) about why single motherhood is the root of evil in society today.

An old argument, defended in an old way. Largely focused on statistics about the pregnant teens, rapists and murderers who were raised by single mothers. Any societal problem, she said, is “really a problem of single mothers.” This is not an outrageous statement, she added, but a fact. And it’s the exultation of single motherhood in the media and movies, courts destroying the institution of marriage, and children raised without fathers that is filling up our prisons.

One thing you have to say for Ann – she does provocative bullet-point copy well.

As the moderator of a discussion group with more than 900 single women who are proactively CHOOSING to become mothers without a father in the home, and founder of the website, I can tell you that the TV clip was passed around quickly in our community.

First, my own soapbox: Obviously it’s so easy to think it simply has something to do with how many parents are home – quantity, not quality – rather than think any more deeply about what is going on in the home. Why are those mothers single? Why is there no father?

I presume Ann hasn’t waltzed into a prison lately to ask WHY those rapists and murderers are there. What was it about the single-mom home that led them astray? Mom working two jobs to make ends meet and not being home to set curfews? A father’s rejection and abandonment? A caretaker who was immature, depressed, focused on self to the exclusion of all others? Too much exposure to an alcoholic or abusive parent?

I happen to know, from my own suburban childhood, three people who have been jailed for assault, murder and attempted rape. Each of them came from a stable two-parent home. There’s obviously no clear-cut answer to the complexities of a person’s psyche.

It might be scary for some to admit, but having specific rules – one biological father and one biological mother in the home to raise children for 18 years – is no guarantee of anything.

Second, people who proactively choose to become a parent on their own – such as the tens of thousands of Choice Moms (aka single mothers by choice) -- are NOT doing a disservice to society. Our children are generally confident, strong-minded people who benefit from attentive, loving, disciplined parenting.

Some of us do struggle financially, especially these days. Some of us do struggle emotionally and logistically with the lack of a partner in our life. But there is a big difference between someone who can “deal” with these struggles, and someone who cannot.

Although more Choice Moms are starting families on our own in our 20s (this surprises me, but it is a trend I’m seeing in my membership), we are not victims to any circumstance other than the fact that we didn’t have a partner around when it was time to build our family.

A professional survey of more than 500 Choice Moms, conducted last year and to be officially released in a few months, reveals that a majority of us have postgraduate college degrees. Most of us saved money and found housing in a stronger neighborhood before becoming parents on our own. Most of us don’t consider single parenting to be any more difficult than it is for other parents. Most of us consider it very important for our children to have male role models.

We argue with each other about everything from home-schooling to breast-feeding – we tend to be strong-minded women with strong values that are not shared by everyone in the community.

We include women like Arlene, the politically conservative Choice Mom of a five-year-old daughter, who shared this with me:
“I enjoy reading Anne Coulter since I think she is a gifted writer, has a sharp wit, makes brilliant observations and is not held back by the PC police. One of the issues I agree with her about is her view on the children of single mothers having more problems than their peers. However, Ann is NOT referring to all kids of single moms -- certainly not to the offspring of mature, intelligent, financially secure women.

“I had a child on my own for one reason: a loudly ticking biological clock and an intense wish (need?) to be a biological mom. I can always get married (at least it's in the realm of possibility), but the clock waits for no one when it comes to childbearing. I do not think it is optimal for a child to be born to a single mom. However, I think a single mom can do a great job of raising a child (as many have in various sets of circumstances through the ages). But I would be in deep denial if I thought the absence of a father will not have an impact on the life of a child.

“I tend to run in conservative circles. However, I have not had one negative comment about my choice. When presented in an honest and forthright manner, who wouldn't understand? Everyone knows that there's a lack of desirable marriage-minded (particularly Jewish) guys, so who can blame us?”

Now that is a reasonable voice I can listen to. Too bad there aren’t more non-celebritized voices like Arlene’s filling space with the “liberal” media, otherwise all of us could truly get greater perspectives on “the other side” of issues.

My final point to share is this: Of course all children should be surrounded by people who love them, who protect them, who teach them discipline and respect, who notice when they’re struggling. It’s great when they have a mother, and a father, and a grandparent, and family friends, and teachers, and other role models to do this. No one should be raised by simply one person, or two people.

The website this month, in fact, looks at the amazing support we give and receive from our wider community. Including, in webcast form, the fun anecdote of how four single women delivered two babies in 24 hours. And, in blog form, the story of a D.C. single mothers by choice group that is rallying around a newborn whose mother unexpectedly died of pregnancy complications. And, in podcast form, the strong women who are learning how to ask for help and reach out to a wider circle to add to their life and that of their children.

There is no weakness in becoming part of a larger whole. We are not supposed to be isolated individuals living in cocoons of our own making. We are ALL, single and married parents and non-parents, supposed to be here for each other, raising strong children together.

Hopefully, someday, Ann will discover this and write a new book about that.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Tragedy reminds us about being prepared

I just learned that a 40-year-old Choice Mom-in-the-making, who lived in the D.C. area, suddenly died Christmas Day while 32.5-weeks pregnant, from the very rare pregnancy complication of HELLPS (Hemolytic anemia, Elevated Liver enzymes, and Low Platelet count).

Her baby boy was born safely, but she did not get to meet him.

On SO many levels this is tragic and makes all of us in the Choice Mom community stop with a collective gasp and remember what a blessing it is that all of us are here to enjoy the friends and family that surround us.

There are two silver linings in this woman's story.

One is that she was connected to her local Single Mothers by Choice community, which is now contributing to a trust fund in her son's name. Choice Moms is now beginning the steps toward establishing a fundraising event to involve our worldwide community. I'll continue to post here as this develops.

The second silver lining is that she was as prepared as anyone can be for this kind of tragedy.

This woman already had a guardian picked out, life insurance, and a will prepared. But most of us don't have this level of foresight, especially when we are so eager to conceive, deliver and embark on motherhood for the first time.

Choice Moms wants to help all of us become better educated about the importance of these steps BEFORE you plan to bring a child home. As Jessica, who told me about this woman's story, pointed out, many insurance companies won't give you insurance if you are pregnant.

Who wants to help us on this fundraising and awareness mission?