I had the opportunity to sit down with Laurel Livingston single mama to a beautiful 8 month old baby boy. In our interview she shared the journey to becoming a choice mom, and the struggles she bravely faced on the sometimes steep journey. – Daniela Koenig
Finding yourself single in your late 30s is not easy but what if you know you want to have a child and know that your biological clock is ticking. The journey to becoming a single mom (choice mom) is lined with many ups and down, feelings, disappointments and much joy as well. I had the opportunity to sit down with Laurel Livingston single mama to a beautiful 8 month old baby boy. In our interview she shared the journey to becoming a choice mom, and the struggles she bravely faced on the sometimes steep journey.
What made you decide to become a single mother?
I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mom. Facing the fact that I was getting older, and not in a relationship or dating someone whom I wanted to raise a child with, single motherhood became the deciding factor of either being a parent, or possibly missing out.
Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a single mother?
I had been thinking about becoming a parent for the better part of 7-8 years and I kept postponing becoming a choice mom because I was relying on and hoping that I would find a relationship and partner to create a family with. Around the time I was 36 I got into a relationship with the hopes we would have a child together. We broke up two years later, at which time I gave myself a deadline of a year to decide if I was going to pursue having a child. When I found myself single at my 39th birthday I made good on my promise to myself. I conceived on my first try, but unfortunately miscarried a few months later.
For nearly two years, I would try to conceive for a few months, then take a break when I wasn’t successful. After I did that for months on end, with no success, I decided I needed to take an honest look at why I wasn’t conceiving. I realized I was too busy, overworked, and too stressed to be able to conceive. I made some significant changes in my life in support of conception.
Sure enough, after those changes settled into place, at age 41 I tried again, and became pregnant the 2nd month of trying.
How was it to be single and pregnant?
In the beginning I was studying for my marriage and family therapy licensing exam and so most of my energy went into my study process. At times, I felt alone, being single, not having a partner with whom I could share all the changes I was experiences. I made sure I supported myself by being healthy emotionally, psychologically and physically all through my pregnancy.
What has been the most challenging experience of the journey?
Trying to conceive month after month, for years, was challenging. At times it was difficult to find the courage and strength inside of myself to continue trying. I believed that there was a child for me and that this was the right choice for me, but the endurance required to stay connected to that belief was sometimes hard to stay connected to. . I kept re-committing to my desire to become a parent.
Doubt was a steady companion during certain parts of the journey: the list was endless and at times exhausting:
“Am I suitable to be a parent?”
“Can I do this?”
“Am I financially secure enough to raise a child by myself?”
“What will people think of me doing this by myself?”
“Can my body get pregnant?”
“Can my body keep a pregnancy?”
I had to face many of these doubts on my own, which was sometimes hard. I had wonderful friends, but none of them were trying to conceive. What saved me was the community of other Thinkers, Triers and Choice Moms who had been through the process and could understand. I can not stress enough how important it is to have a good support system on the journey to becoming a choice mom.
I was lucky that I met another single woman who was trying as well, it was encouraging to have a friend going through similar experiences. We would call each other almost daily; tracked each others cycles, and were there for the disappointments and the joys of the journey. Furthermore, my spirituality, journal writing, exercise, support from a therapist, many friendships were the cocoon of support I enveloped myself in to be able to continue trying all those months.
What has been the most challenging now that you are a mom?
The challenges have changed with my son’s age. Mostly what I’m aware of is how different my time is used; I have limited time for myself, for exercise, and for self-care.
What has been the most rewarding experience?
The gift of my son. Thinking of him brings tears to my eyes as he is the light and delight of my life. He’s a reflection of pure goodness and joy. He looks at me with unconditional love. It’s still unbelievable at times to realize that I’m a parent now. For so many years I asked to be a parent, and now, I sometimes find myself walking into the room where my son is, and thinking, “wow, you are my child” and I’m filled with joy.
What advice would you give single women considering becoming a choice mom?
Go for it! Don’t let your fear hold you back. For single women in the Thinking phase of becoming a choice mom, I would encourage you all to become really clear who and where your support systems are. Friends, neighbors, other parents, spiritual community; ask yourself who are the people you can count on? Also consider the different kinds of support you will need and who that support will come from:
“Who is someone you can call in the middle of the night?”
“Who do you trust to leave your child with for a few hours?’
“Who do you trust to leave your child with for a few hours?’
“Who will be there to help lift you up when you are feeling down?”
“Who do you feel comfortable connecting with, and sharing the good and the challenging?”
Another thing I’d encourage single women in the Thinking phase is to anticipate the cost of having a child, especially in regards to child care. Ask yourself:
“Who are the people who can take care of your child if you just need an hour or two to yourself?”
“What kind of child care will you need to be able to go to your job?
“ How much time can you afford to take off?”
“Do you want a nanny to take care of your child or do you want your child to be in day care?”
“How much does child care cost in your area?”
I talked to other parents about their childcare needs and how much it would cost. Being clearer about the cost of childcare would have not changed my mind about having a child on my own but I would be digesting the cost much easier now. I also would encourage single women to think about their living situation. Is the location a place you feel comfortable having a baby in, do you feel safe. Access to shops, walking, ease of work to ability to connect with others. The journey to becoming a choice mom can be isolating and lonely at times, you want to make sure that your living situation doesn’t isolate you more.
Another piece of advice I’d suggest, talk to a therapist early in your process. I would encourage all women thinking about being a single mother to get support from a professional. It’s important to give the part of you that “wants” a child a lot of space to be heard and validated..
Lastly, for single women thinking about becoming a mom, it’s one of the hardest, and greatest decisions you’ll ever make. There was a palpable shift when I became clear I was going to move forward with pursuing motherhood. Once I decided, I then stopped thinking about it, and moved into the trying phase. There was fierceness I tapped into, which kept me going through all the months of trying.
What advise would you give single women trying to conceive?
Keep believing it’s going to happen! Get creative in trying, if something is not working, try something different. Include alternative health practices, Yoga, acupuncture, herbs, etc., which can help make conception more favorable. Switch things up, if you tried with one donor for awhile, and you are not conceiving, consider choosing another sperm donor. If you’ve tried home insemination and it’s not working, try insemination in the doctor’s office, and vise verse. Consider all your options.
Remember, it’s uncommon for women to conceive on the 1st, 2nd or even 3rd try. It is easy for some women and they conceive right away, however, for many women, it takes time. This doesn’t mean that you cannot get pregnant, it just means the process requires patience and perseverance.. It’s important to be realistic, alongside getting support from a good health care provider whom you trust and supports you being a choice mom.
Once you do conceive, there is another shift that happens All the doubt that was present in the thinking and trying phase ,vanishes. You begin to think differently – you think like a mom.
What advise would you give single moms?
Become intimately familiar with your strengths, and weaknesses, and use them to your advantage. Recognize and acknowledging signs of when you need help and learn to ask for help.
In the beginning when I was getting accustomed to being a new mom, having a baby, and dealing with sleep deprivation, I had a wonderful support network of friends being there with me. I also kept reminding myself that this is something I really wanted and chose, which helped me realize that exhaustion was only a temporary part of the journey.
How do you feel about partnership now that you are a single mom?
I think it’s possible. In some ways, it may even be easier, as the pressure to find someone to mate & reproduce with is now gone. The challenge is the time and availability, particularly in the first year. I’m open to the possibility of meeting someone, and do hope that’s my future.
Any last thoughts?
Go for it! I want to encourage you to believe that you can do this! Also I really got that the unfolding of my journey to becoming a choice mom, with all its many ups and downs was perfect even though in the moment I didn’t know it. Looking back I can see that it was all part of the destined journey for me to motherhood.
Laurel Livingston is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Berkeley. As a Choice Mom herself, she works with women in the various stages of exploring parenthood, as a single mom. Her practice has a Somatic focus, inclusive of the body and the breath, as a means of self discovery. Her style is authentic, warm, relational, and practical. She uses a compassionate approach toward guiding her clients on their path of inquiry. Her practice is comprised of individuals, couples and issues related to fertility. You can find out more about her on her soon to be released website www.laurellivingstontherapy.com