I always planned on being a mom, but I never planned on being 32, single and on the phone with a pregnant teenager who wanted to give me her baby. The connection came via my cousin after word spread through my family that I was “looking for some sperm.” In reality, I was discussing freezing my eggs with my doctor, but I guess that’s how it translated in family gossip. (Note to those looking for sperm: it’s not very hard to find.)
Before that day in April 2010, I hadn’t given much thought to domestic adoption. I had looked a little bit into international adoption, but nothing serious. I was waiting to see if I would end up meeting someone who could accompany me on the adventure. So when I first talked to Sara*, I was still processing the whole thing. She was 19, hiding the pregnancy and not involved with the father. I hired a lawyer and we moved on to the next step. Two adoption agencies were required because it was an out‐of‐state adoption, and the whole thing started getting really involved. For both of us.
While she begrudgingly began counseling, the agency in my state started its investigation on me – blood work, physical and psychological examinations, a home evaluation, a background check, two interviews, reference letters… I was applying for the biggest job I’d ever have (it’s kind of a shame that more future parents aren’t examined as closely). Spoiler alert: I passed the inquisition. I was awarded a certificate and everything.
Meanwhile, Sara and I talked every day. We discussed how she was feeling, the day’s events, and whatever was on tv. I listened to her frustrations and doled out advice. What she needed was a big sister, and I felt like that was something I could be for her. Being a journalist, I did a lot of research. I read books (highly recommend Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions for new moms ‐ single or married). I priced diapers and formula, and multiplied the sums by an educated guess of how many of each I would need per month. Friends volunteered their Costco memberships and their baby accoutrement. I called my insurance agent to inquire about adding a baby to my coverage, and got the okay from my landlord to bring a child into my home.
I talked to my sister, a newly‐divorced single mother. Her perspective was that “no man at all” was better than one who was supposed to be around and wasn’t. I was going into the situation expecting – and prepared ‐ to be on my own. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but people do it all the time, and with a lot less. I was fortunate to have a good job with a kid‐friendly schedule and great income.
For a couple of weeks, I took note of anything I did that I wouldn’t be able to do with a baby. And I found that except for a couple of trips to neighborhood bars with friends, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do with a baby. Would my life be different? Sure. Would my friendships change? Perhaps. Does that happen to anyone who has ever had a baby, whether she was on her own or not? Of course. Single parenthood was not the way I originally pictured becoming a mom, but I also refuse to settle when it comes to a man just to avoid being a single mom. The idea of not being a mom at all transcends any fear or hesitation of doing it on my own.
I realize there is a lot of I in this piece, but I assure you I wasn’t thinking only of myself. This wasn’t a flippant decision, and I was taking none of it lightly. I wasn’t buying cutesy baby things and thinking it was all going to be cupcakes and rainbows. I chose an agency that would offer Sara counseling because I wanted – more than anything – for her to be sure she was doing the right thing for her and her baby. I knew I could care for and love the baby. I realistically believed that although it wouldn’t be easy and I wouldn’t be perfect at it, nobody’s perfect at it, even when two people are involved. Everyone is doing the best they can, and I felt like I could do that.
Six weeks from that first call, Sara went into labor. Suddenly everything was very real. She texted me with every contraction, and delivered the baby right before I boarded the plane. My dad drove me straight from the airport to the hospital. Walking into that hospital room was the most nerve‐wracking blind date ever. I don’t know what scared me more: meeting the baby, Sara’s ability to change her mind or actually walking out of the hospital with a child to raise. I relaxed into my first mommy duty: feeding the baby her first bottle, and wondered when she would start feeling like mine.
As it turned out, I would never know. Moments later ‐ through tears ‐ Sara told me she couldn’t go through with it. Through my own tears, I told her I understood. She said something about me being able to visit, and that’s when I stopped hearing words. I’m not sure how I walked out of that room. And to this day it pains me to think of what my dad saw as I walked down the hallway toward him. He and I are super close, and honestly, there was no one I would have rather had there with me. That day I had the one supportive man I needed.
I’ll be 35 next year. I don’t know what the future holds. I know I want to be a mom, and I know there are ways for me to achieve that goal on my own. I’m still holding out hope I won’t have to, but it’s nice to have options. Would I be nervous to adopt again? Sure. But everything has risks. And it was Helen Keller who said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.”
*Name has been changed.