SINGLE MOM BY CHOICE: KEY FIRST STEPS
Deciding to become a single mom by choice is the beginning of a new chapter in your life—one where you’re in the driver’s seat, making the decisions that feel good to you to create the family of your dreams. A single mom by choice, or SMBC, is a mom who chooses to have a child on her own, typically using donor sperm to conceive. Being an SMBC brings with it so much joy, agency, and autonomy. While there are a lot of steps in the process, you can take them one at a time, at your own pace. Let’s talk about the vital first steps to get you started.
STEP 1: FIND YOUR MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS TEAM
You’ll want to know more about your physical health as you prepare for your pregnancy journey. You should start by consulting with your OB/GYN, Fertility Specialist, and in some cases, a Reproductive Endocrinologist. These professionals will be integral parts of your team on the journey to parenthood. You’ll likely encounter lab work and testing like cycle Day 3 bloodwork, ultrasound exams, etc., and discuss procedure types like IUI and IVF that will help determine what vial types you’ll need when using a sperm donor.
STEP 2: FIND YOUR SPERM DONOR
One of your most significant initial steps in pursuing single parenthood by choice is deciding on a sperm donor. To sidestep complicated relationship dynamics that can come with using a known donor, many SMBCs choose to use donor sperm from a sperm bank. Your first step after deciding to go with banked sperm is to decide on a sperm bank and ask questions about donor screening (for conditions, infectious disease, and sperm quality), donor family limits, and security. Once you’ve found a bank that gives good answers to those questions (to be clear, high-level screening, lower family donor limits, and enhanced security are the correct answers), it’s time to make an important decision: which donor will you use?
Once you find the donor that works for you, it will be important to have vials ready to go when you need them. You should buy and store enough for several rounds of treatment. Donors can sell out quickly and it would not be an easy task to start the search all over again. Also, if you want a full sibling later, that option will be available. Sperm banks will often offer a buyback plan once you complete your family, so having extra vials on hand if you need them can reduce the worry of a donor selling out. How many vials to buy can be discussed with your physician, as they can provide you with your expected success rates per cycle and how many vials are needed each time.
Considering a Directed (known) Donor? For some single moms by choice, there’s a known donor in mind who is a part of their life who may already be ready to donate and needs a bank to help facilitate part of that process, also called a directed donor. If considering using a directed donor, be sure to consider the associated costs in your budget for the following:
- Legal fees
- ID/Non-ID status
- Genetic testing
- Infections disease testing
- Sperm quality testing
There’s no right or wrong way to approach your child’s relationship with a known donor, but you must be on the same page with them. This means clear communication on their future expectations regarding connection to you and your child. It’s also essential to address any complex relationship dynamics or current/future emotional impacts when using someone you know as a donor. It’s best to enlist the help of a lawyer to prepare legal documentation detailing that alignment and ensure proper procedures are followed.
STEP 3: BEGIN (OR CONTINUE) YOUR PHYSICAL PREPARATION FOR PREGNANCY
As you narrow down your donor choices, you also want to begin to prepare your body for pregnancy. Pregnancy can have complex effects on the body, and it’s important to do everything you can to incorporate healthy habits and prepare your body appropriately. Having a physical, catching up on dental work, and starting a prenatal vitamin will help get you into peak condition for getting pregnant—whether it happens quickly on your first vial of donor sperm or whether you use assisted reproductive technology to conceive.
STEP 4: BUILD YOUR VILLAGE
As you mull over the donor of your dreams on your path to becoming an SMBC, it’s a great time to build your support network while you plot your timeline to parenthood. Talk to your friends and family about how they are willing to support your single parenthood by choice and consider your proximity to folks who are willing to help a lot (like your parents). The well-worn saying that “it takes a village to raise a child” is incredibly accurate, and you will be well served in solo parenthood by establishing that village ahead of time.
Think about your own social life, too. Do you have any mom friends or other people in your life who may be expecting? You may want to find a prenatal class or local group to join once you’re pregnant (whether it’s yoga, birthing, or something else) to start building those potential long-term friendships. Doing so can expand your support network to include other parents who will eventually have kids the same age as yours.
STEP 5: RESEARCH CHILDCARE
It may seem too early to start researching options for childcare, but as an SMBC, it is something to put on your radar sooner rather than later. Since you’ll be the primary caregiver for your little one, knowing that you have a trusted person nearby (and hopefully a backup!), you feel comfortable leaving your tiny human with is critical, both for emergencies and for daily life. Also, look into what childcare your work may have in their benefits plan. There may be onsite childcare options or discounted rates with local daycare providers. This is a good time to research your work flexibility for the future. What does your PTO plan include, and what will your estimated balances be? Are there supplemental benefits that you can sign up for to incorporate into your parental leave? Do you have a flexible work-from-home policy? These are all things that can help alleviate some of that post-natal stress by giving a clear idea of what to expect.
STEP 6: MAKE LEGAL PREPARATIONS
If you have a health crisis, you want your wishes to be clear and legally binding. It’s tough to see lawyers when caring for a newborn, so taking care of that paperwork ahead of time can be well worth it. It’s also a good idea to start thinking about life insurance and a will and trust for your child.
STEP 7: START YOUR TREATMENTS AND THINK POSITIVELY
The road to parenthood is unique for everyone and can vary from a completely smooth journey to an adventure paved with potholes, roadblocks, and construction delays. If you’ve had fertility challenges in the past, pre-existing mental health diagnoses, or even if you haven’t and are anxious about the journey, it might be helpful to seek support and add a therapist to your medical professionals’ roster.
Becoming a single mom by choice can be incredibly exciting and empowering. Getting from the dream of a child to the reality of your life as an SMBC starts with actions, and your decision to pursue parenthood is the first step. Whatever your journey may hold, we hope these steps help you along the way to defining parenthood on your terms.