Words by Dominique Afacan
When I was 38, I decided enough was enough with the dreadful app dates. It was time to take things into my own hands and get pregnant on my own. Or at least with the help of a sperm donor. Two rounds of IVF and one embryo transfer later and against the odds, I had succeeded. Of course, while I had prepared for solo motherhood, I had no idea what to expect from a solo pregnancy (and that’s without throwing corona into the mix). Yes, I had expectations and fears, but the reality was very different. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far (with six weeks to go!).
Before I got pregnant, I worried that the happy moment I saw the two pink lines appear on a test stick would be compromised by the sadness of not having a partner to share in my joy. The reality was totally different. I had invited so many people along on my pregnancy journey that if anything, I wanted this to be a private moment. I wanted to do the test before text messages began to flood in asking not very subtly, ‘how things were’ at the end of the two week wait. I ended up testing a day early and as the two lines slid into view, I let out a weird, crazy lady laugh. I remember looking at myself in the bathroom mirror as if to make sure this was all really happening and then sitting on my bed staring at the test in disbelief. It felt magical – and anything but lonely.
I might have wanted to be alone for the test bit, but wow, after that, I needed my friends more than ever. All the casual chats I might have had with a partner were now allocated to various friends who I drafted in from all areas of my life. My list of topics up for debate was endless – I needed to brainstorm on names, decide which pushchair to buy (that was tiresome for all involved), get the lowdown on breast versus bottle (this still feels like a minefield), and discuss every twinge and new development in my body. My support network was key, and without them I would doubtlessly have gone mad. I still did, a little bit.
I was really lucky that three of my oldest friends happened to get pregnant at the same time as me. I really thought I’d missed that boat on that, what with being 40 and all, but it happened, and it was such a treat. The fact that I was single made no difference whatsoever to our collective experience – we all got together on a Zoom call every few weeks to compare bumps and exchange our latest news – and for the most part, we had similar woes – fears about bleeding in the first trimester (I was sadly a pro at this), stressing about corona (even more of a pro), and then anxiety about the actual birth (gold medal champion). Partner or otherwise, I felt like we were all in it together.
I am not a fan of the term baby moon, not sure why, but I am a fan of holidays, and I wasn’t going to let the fact I was single stop me from taking one. Originally, I had plans to go to Mallorca, but corona put a stop to that. So off I went to an Airbnb in Whitstable. By myself. It was only one afternoon back at the cottage, feeling warm and cosy after a lovely windswept walk along the beach, that I realised I wasn’t alone at all. There were three heartbeats in that cottage – mine, my baby’s and my dog’s. I found that so heartwarming.
Before I actually got pregnant as a solo mum, I felt a lot of shame around the whole thing. I suppose I thought people must think I’d failed in some way to get to this point. Fast forward to today (and thanks to a hell of a lot of therapy) I now love telling people about my unusual journey to motherhood. I’m proud of myself and all the challenges I’ve overcome to get here and I’ve noticed that people tend to mirror that attitude back at me. When I was filled with shame, people responded to me with pity and concern, now that I am genuinely happy and comfortable with my position, people respond with excitement and enthusiasm.