The Road to Single Motherhood
By: Melissa Mensavage
When it started
I was sitting there rubbing my cold, clammy feet together waiting in the crisp, mauve-pink paper vest and sheet laying across my lap. I was wondering how long this was going to take and how soon I could get back to the office when the doctor walked in.
We said the usual uncomfortable greetings to each other. I was ready to rush through the visit because I really don’t enjoy the annual gynelogical exams (as if really any woman does!). The doctor then turned the usual visit down another road after reviewing my chart.
“Do you want to have children?” he asked, with his back turned to me, standing at the counter.
Floored, and annoyed, I responded. “Yes. Someday.”
Looking over his glasses at me, smiling, he said, “well now is the time.”
“Now is the time,” I repeated.
“Yes. You are thirty-five -prime time to have a baby -or it will be too late.”
“Yes. Well I need to find the guy,” I said, with a defeated tone.
My heart sank so far into my stomach I thought he was going to see it when he completed the exam. I felt the tears well up behind my eyelids. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that the window of opportunity was getting close to an end. I wasn’t anywhere near close to snagging a husband, let alone a date. How in the world was I going to have a baby?
The appointment came to a close. He wished me luck and left the room. I proceeded to lie on the patient bed for a few more minutes when there was a knock at the door. The nurse wanting to clean the room for the next patient didn’t realize I was still there. Still undressed. I was feeling paralyzed with this information. The nurse was startled, said her pardons, and proceeded to leave when that nagging, uncontrollable, I-am-not-breathing sob escaped. She turned around and reached her hand out to me, with kind words of “his delivery tactic can be very poor sometimes. Do your research on this and call me with any questions,” and lastly, “it’s not over yet; you have time.”
Feeling lethargic, I got dressed, wiped the mascara off my cheeks. I put my game face back on and returned to work, not giving this appointment and conversation another thought. I had big time travel plans for work coming up. I was a part of a high exposure project. I needed to make a name for myself. I let work runneth over everything baby related in my brain.
I was surprised to find myself feeling an emptiness within me a couple of months later, after the project came to a close and I was starting to resume my regular responsibilities. I wrote it off to post-implementation let down/depression. A few more months passed and this emptiness was still lingering. The emptiness would appear in the mornings before I arrived at work, it would appear as a heavy heart and the same lethargy I felt the day of the appointment. I would go through the motions but at a slower pace and internally I felt like I was a zombie.
This was also around the same time Angelina Jolie had just adopted -or was in the process of adopting -a child internationally, as a single parent. I read an article about her decision in one of the fashion magazines that contained the most adorable picture of her and her son. He was sitting on the bed, she was laying with her head in his lap. He had one hand on her face, embracing it, cuddling it and was kissing her forehead. I felt the love. I felt the connection between the two of them. I felt the same tears stream out of my eyes as they did the day of my appointment.
Through the tears and the mascara, I flipped open my laptop and starting searching the internet for international adoptions. Overwhelmed by the countless number of links to adoption agencies, websites with tips on adoptions, and online adoptive parent communities, I closed the laptop and again put it out of my mind.
It had been about eight months since I had completed the international adoption search on the internet. I hadn’t really given the baby thing too much more thought after that. Though I did focus on dating very seriously after that appointment. I joined Match.com and eHarmony.com, and communicated my ass off with dozens of men. I had numerous first dates with all the WRONG men. Date, date, date, date, date, and as I sat there in the bar or restaurant or coffee shop with these men, I knew within ten to twenty minutes of meeting them that they weren’t going to be the next boyfriend or husband, which meant no marriage, no baby. I would completely check out of the date. Trying to find a nice break in the conversation so I could make up an “emergency” and bolt! I was getting super frustrated with the dating process. I had nothing nice to say about it. I then met a man from work who I connected with while traveling in Mexico. I thought he was nice, somewhat funny, cute. He and I were both so cynical about dating. I immediately had us married in my head because now I was 36. One year older, one year closer to that cut-off date.
We had chatted via instant messaging quite a bit, grabbed drinks and dinner a couple of times. It was after one date when he proceeded to kiss me goodnight with chewing tobacco in his mouth that I realized that I was done with dating for a long time. I mean, really, who does that?
As I drove home from the restaurant, I knew I was never going to hear from him again. And it was then the adoption/single parent idea just popped right back into my head and settled in. It felt real and right, comfortable, like an old shirt.
The next day, I opened the laptop and again Googled “international adoption”. This time, I read each link that was returned, one at a time. So much information to process, so much to consider regarding what country, age of child, costs, etc. I wrote down as much as I could on the countries that accept single parents. I put all of this information in my purse and kept it there. Before I did anything I needed to tell my mother. She is my sanity, my insanity, my rock. Whether or not she approved, I was moving forward with becoming a mother.
I picked up the phone, dialed her work number and before she could say hello, I blurted out “I want to adopt a child internationally. I want to be a mom. I want to give a child a good home.”
I was nervous about her response. I expected her to either say nothing or have a negative comment about being a single parent. She had neither. She said, “have you considered having one of your own?”
“Uh, you need a man for that mom. And I don’t have one.” (Hello, mom, obvious? Thanks for rubbing it in!)
“No, you can try using a donor. I am sure there are donor banks somewhere.”
Dumbfounded by her response, my lower jaw hit the desk. After a long pause I said, “Ok, never thought of that. I’ll consider it.”
And that was it. Call was over. I went back to work.
That night, instead of doing more research on adoption, I Googled “donor sperm”.
It came time for my annual appointment. I had a different kind of nervousness going into the office. I wasn’t nervous for the exam as I usually am. I was nervous because I had planned to ask about the donor insemination process. This meant I was going to tell someone about my desires. My unconventional, non-suburbia way of achieving my dreams of being a mother. I was shaking when I wrote it down on the paperwork. I was petrified of the judgment the doctor would have about me wanting to be inseminated using a donor and not having a husband.
I didn’t say a thing when I was called back to the exam room. I let the nurse take my vitals, and when she asked if I had any concerns for the doctor, I bit back quickly, “No!” I know she read the paperwork I had completed when I arrived for my appointment. I didn’t want to tell her; that would make it real, and I wasn’t ready for the judgment.
Then I waited. And waited. It felt like an eternity for the doctor to enter the room. My hands and feet were clammy and I could feel my heart pounding so hard it was coming out of my chest.
Finally, the doctor entered. We exchanged the usual uncomfortable greetings. He flipped open my chart and started mumbling off my vitals, my history and then paused. He sat down in his chair, and turned around to look at me.
“So, you want to have a baby with donor sperm?”
“Yes,” I replied, biting my tongue to a point of bleeding, fighting off the tears, praying my heart stays in my chest.
“Ok. Well, we don’t do that here. You’ll have to see Dr. XYXY. Do you understand the process?”
Fumbling over my words, I said, “Yes … not really …well, no.”
He explained the details in his thick Irananian accent, never making eye contact with me. I kept my head down, repeating “uh-huh”, to all of his statements. It was like neither of us wanted to have the conversation, but he was doing so out of medical obligation and I was doing so because if I didn’t, I’d be letting myself down.
Appointment came to a close and as he walked out of the exam room, he said, “I’ll have the nurse give you Dr. XYXYX’s phone number. Good luck. We’ll see you when you are pregnant.”
No sooner did the door meet the door jam, was I standing over the garbage can vomiting up whatever I had left from breakfast. I couldn’t believe I did it. I actually told someone who could make a difference in this plan, of the plan. An action step completed. An action step that actually had action. No more dreaming about this, no more fantasizing. Actuality. Reality. “Holy Crap Melissa” I said to myself, looking in the mirror on the wall as I pulled myself together.
Standing at the nurse’s counter, with the doctor next to me, he instructed the nurse to provide the phone number and the reason why. I could have fallen over and crawled under the carpet at that point. I thought I was going to get out of the office before it was mentioned. Nurse looked over her glasses at me, and said, “ok” in a disapproving this-isn’t-the-city-this-is-married-with-two-kids-suburbia tone.
I grabbed Dr. XYXYX’s card and hightailed it out of the office. I cried all the way back to my car. How dare she judge me? I thought to myself. She has no idea what I’ve been through in my life. No idea that the quality of man that I find attractive and available today is far less than I had ever imagined. No idea that if I don’t become a mother, it’s a life deal breaker (now, not sure exactly what that means because it’s not like I was going to die if I didn’t become a mother. And there are many avenues of motherhood other than just giving birth to your own biological child).
I put the card in my wallet, where it sat for almost a month before I looked at it again.