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Things You Only Know If You've Chosen To Have A Baby Alone

Grazia logo Grazia 21/04/2019 Sofia Tindall
a person sitting in front of a brick wall: sperm donor baby © Provided by Bauer Consumer Media Limited sperm donor baby

What surprised me most about looking after a new baby alone was the beautiful simplicity of focusing on one relationship. I spent the first months with my daughter Astrid thinking almost exclusively about her. I felt free from pressure to think about how I looked; was unconcerned by a washing pile that I never saw the bottom of and was more rested than most new-mum friends in marriages, who had a relationship to sustain as well as a small child to keep alive.

I didn’t expect these upsides of becoming a solo mother when I decided to try to conceive using a sperm donor. I just knew how much love I had to give a child, and how much I wanted the experience of seeing them make their way through this world. The stereotype of a career woman who forgets about family until it’s too late couldn’t have been further from my truth: I’d have loved to have had children in my early thirties. But after a string of serious boyfriends ended in a rebound relationship and a rapid divorce at 30, I became cautious about who to share my life with.

holding baby hand © Getty holding baby hand Then, finding myself single at 37, I had a fertility test. The results floored me: if I wanted to have children I didn’t have time to waste. I realised that if I wanted to follow the convention of boyfriend before babies, I had to feel OK with the idea of not having children naturally – but I found that prospect heartbreaking and was worried that not trying would become a lasting regret. It made my choice straightforward: I chose a donor from a sperm bank.

The process was surprisingly simple. Their website resembled an online dating site, but with more baby photos, less flirting. And I was lucky to get pregnant swiftly, with sperm inserted by a doctor. As weeks passed and my belly swelled, I was filled with anticipation. I’d even forget at times that it was unusual to be going through pregnancy alone – it was lovely to meet a couple of solo mums who had also used sperm donors at my pregnancy yoga class.

© Getty When I met my daughter, I felt an immediate burst of love. We spent the first months gazing at each other, cuddling, feeding and sleeping. Life stilled to baby pace. As she started babbling her first sounds, including ‘dadadada’, I told her that I love her so much, and that she has a grandma, uncle, auntie and cousins who love her too. I also began explaining to her that she has a mummy and not a daddy; that a kind man gave me an ingredient to make her. Fertility counsellors recommend being open about a child’s origins from when they are tiny, so there is never a ‘Sit down, I’ve got something to tell you’ moment.

From the moment I told friends and family of my plans, I’ve been amazed by my army of supporters. My mum was initially concerned that I might find it hard, but she understood how much it meant to me. And now, of course, she’s one of Astrid’s biggest fans. I’m also lucky to live in a liberal area (Hove, near Brighton), but I know that at some point I will encounter disapproval over my choice – I only hope it is me, rather than Astrid, who faces it. I do feel the weight of responsibility for two parents. When my daughter has a fever, I’d love help deciding when to take her to hospital; it would be great to have a second opinion on which nursery to choose. I tell friends how Astrid, now two, makes me laugh with her descriptions of ‘aero-copters’ and ‘cutties’ (cuddles), but I suspect these stories would be more amusing if you loved her as much as I do.

a person sitting on a bench in front of a building © Provided by Bauer Consumer Media Limited

Bringing up a child would also be easier on two incomes. If I’d had a partner I would probably have taken a couple of months more maternity leave from my job at a design agency, to make a full year, and, like everyone I know, I’m outraged at the cost of childcare. However, I save money by having few nights out, and I’ve found a community of solo mums who share advice on everything from sleep deprivation to handling Father’s Day at nursery.

I still hope to meet a partner in the future. The majority of solo mums I’ve met haven’t rejected conventional families or relationships, but were single when they realised that children were simply too important to them to risk missing out on. I have very little time to myself, but I know that as Astrid grows older that will change. My most hidden fear, one I suspect that I share with many solo parents, is that I won’t make it to a very old age. The idea of Astrid being left with no parents is hard to contemplate. But I wouldn’t change my daughter – including the way she came into my life – for the world.

happy mother's day! baby son congratulates mother on holiday and gives flowers © Getty happy mother's day! baby son congratulates mother on holiday and gives flowers In fact, I’m pregnant again, with a baby conceived using sperm from the same donor. I’m arranging help for the first few weeks to ensure both of my children get the attention they deserve, because I have no partner to share childcare. And I don’t think it’s going to be as straightforward as when Astrid was a newborn. But still, I can’t wait for our family to become three.

Genevieve Roberts’ book ‘Going Solo’ is published by Little Brown on 18 April

Gallery: 30 Old-School Parenting Rules that Still Apply [Country Living]

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