A Single Mother by Choice
The journey to becoming a single mother to Logan, now fourteen, and then Lucas four years later, was relatively easy once I recognized that fear of the unknown and the belief in fairy tales were not a part of who I was or ever would be. I had found my tribe and I would evolve, over time, to be one of them.
There was a myriad of sperm donors to choose from, every make and model one can imagine! I knew there were certain required traits. I had wanted my offspring to have my rich blonde hair colouring, my piercing blue eyes and my pale and creamy skin. Beyond that, I hoped for some degree of intelligence. The one thing I was looking for was a donor whose offspring would not be a klutz, would not be chosen last for the (insert name of sports team here)—who basically had some athletic ability. I found it amusing that there were some people who spent an eternity pondering over potential donors. I spent exactly twenty minutes. In my mind, it was one of those things where you never really knew what you were going to get. Spending more time and effort was not going to change that. Someone was not going to knock on my door one day and say, ‘Victoria Jones, we are here to award you the trophy for choosing the best sperm donor vintage’. This was definitely not that!
I put in my order on a Monday and the goods were delivered directly to the local sperm bank on Friday of that very same week! What service! Six vials of my potential future offspring just waiting for an opportunity. The obstetrician, a good friend of mine, merely said, “Just call me when you need me and I will meet you at my office.” There was to be nothing more than tracking with an ovulation predictor and making a call for insemination at the appropriate time. We would start simple and escalate as needed. There was little talk of ‘maternal age’ or possible problems associated with being ‘an older mother’. I was almost thirty-eight at the time.
Fast forward about five weeks when I found myself staring at a positive home pregnancy test. That was easy, perhaps too easy. Fast forward another two weeks and I was sitting with the obstetrician discussing prenatal vitamins, prenatal testing and the timing of everything that was about to happen. This was perfect, everything in an orderly fashion. There would be blood work, an ultrasound at about eight weeks to examine the thickness of something called the nuchal ridge, and close surveillance due to my ‘advanced maternal age’.
Fast forward to the eight-week ultrasound. There had been an ongoing and lively debate between myself and my obstetrician. These types of debates almost always happen when those on both the physician and the patient sides of the equation have been formally trained in the medical profession. I desperately wanted chorionic villus sampling, CVS, a new technique recently made available to patients. A small sample of the placenta would be taken for analysis. Genetic assessment, formerly performed at over sixteen weeks by amniocentesis, could now be performed at about ten weeks. The debate was spirited, with both of us standing our ground. She was concerned about the reports, although rare, of finger loss in the fetus as a result of the procedure. I retorted that it was a very small chance. Besides, there were many successful individuals, including physicians, who did not have all ten fingers! We settled on chorionic villus sampling if the ultrasound was abnormal, specifically if the nuchal ridge was thickened. Both of us were convinced that this would not be the case.
She counselled me as the ultrasound began. It would take about ten minutes and she had performed hundreds, even thousands, of this type of exam previously. She reassured me that the ultrasound would likely be normal. She seemed almost gleeful as we started. For me, it was just another step in the process towards getting to where I wanted to be.
I followed the lines of her face, concentrating intently on her eyes and the corners of her mouth, as she passed the probe over my naked abdomen. Her pupils dilated and the corners of her mouth turned down. It reminded me of the phrase ‘upside-down smiley face’. This was a phrase that I had used many times before when instructing residents on a certain surgical procedure. ‘Make the incision as an upside-down smiley face’, I would say, while thinking, and sometimes even commenting out loud, ‘I don’t know why I call it an upside-down smiley face when we all know it is a frown’. Goddammit, I know a frown when I see one! I moved my eyes back up to meet hers, and I knew instinctively that something was wrong, devastatingly wrong I surmised. She stammered, “It’s, it’s, it’s…. not normal.”
“I know,” I said, as I comforted her by laying my hand on her shoulder. I sat up to hug her. “It’s going to be all right,” I commented. “We have a plan. Abnormal ultrasound, and I get chorionic villus sampling.”
I had won the battle, however I feared I was going to be losing this war.
The NYC Flash Fiction Contest is an annual international event where writers compete to produce 1000 word stories over 48 hours! Writers are provided with a genre, place, and objects. The rest is up to them!
My first entry from July 2018 was historical fiction and I had to incorporate a bicycle repair shop and a cheque - check out 'Money Can't Buy Me Love' in my blog post!
I arrived ahead of time, as I had every Saturday for the past five years. Jerry’s Rent and Repair Bike Shoppe, a grungy, badass hole in the wall, had become our favorite weekend dive. It took us away from the day to day uncertainty of our way of life, if only for a few hours. We both felt the oppression of our reality being lifted during the times we spent at the shop and cycling throughout the city on our tried and true rentals – a three-speed Traveler for Terry and a 10-speed Varsity for myself. During these times, it almost seemed like we could last forever. Somehow it was never enough.
I approached the counter where I was greeted by Jerry, owner and ‘whatever the shop happened to need at the time’ manager.
“How’s it hangin’, Steve?” he smiled as he shot me a deuce.
“Fab man, just fab! Love the new bandana, man!”
“Shall I get your ride ready for you?” He asked heading toward a long row of rentals resting along the north side of the shop.
“Not yet, man. Don’t know if we’ll be groovin’ today.
A look of confusion crossed his face. “I can dig it. Find me when you’re ready.”
I looked down at my watch. Terry was five minutes late. This was not unlike him, and I wondered whether it signaled the start to another otherwise normal day or if it was to be the end of an era – our era. As I meandered around the shop, past the long line of beloved bicycles waiting for their annual service, I wondered what my life would be like without this place. I tried my best to remind myself that Terry was just late…
I strolled by Jerry’s white and blue transistor radio chained to his Remington cash register. I smiled as I recalled him muttering something about the boob tube never being able to overtake the old Marconi. With the ability to reach so many people, I was sure he was onto something. The radio sprung to life as I rolled the dial to the right and adjusted the antenna. The reception was remarkable today - I could make out almost every word amongst the static!
The big news stories of the day reached out to pull me in. Exactly four weeks had passed since America had managed to land a man on the moon! The gruesome facts in the ‘Manson murders’, as they were being called, were just coming to light across the nation and the world. The newest bit of interesting broadcast, unlikely to turn into much of anything, was a massive traffic jam as people headed to the annual Woodstock Fair in upstate New York. I suspected it was something added just to fill the feed. The announcer faded as the Fab Four came to life in front of me.
‘Can’t buy me love, love
Can’t buy me love…..
Cos I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.’
I took a seat at a bench in the corner and pulled a single blank check from the back pocket of my faded Levi bell bottoms. I stared blankly at it as I passed it back and forth between my sweaty palms. I knew that what I had to offer to Terry was unconventional to say the least. It was the only way I could think of that he might consider staying in my life. The past years had been very difficult as we had watched the rise in the feminism movement and the anti-war faction and almost anything that spoke to the freedom we all so longed for, but only for some of us. There had been faint rumblings of a man named Milk and others like him. These were brave men, unlike myself, who we dreamed would make our lives important as well. Until then, the only hope I had was the single blank check staring up at me from my hopeful hands.
I checked my watch once again. The Seiko suggested that Terry was already half an hour late. This was not unlike the love of my life; however, we had fought more often over the last several months and unless there was a way that both of us could be committed to this relationship, I figured that it had run its course. I would never have imagined myself in this predicament as I had loved only women up until the time I was thirty-one. I knew from the moment that Terry and I met that things going to be different.
The idea of offering him everything I had with a single signature on a lone blank check had come to me only recently. I struggled to understand what exactly I was trying to do. I only knew that I was willing to offer him all my worldly possessions to get him to stay. I pulled a ballpoint pen out of my back pocket. As I gazed down at my name and address, I thought about how many times Terry and I had discussed this becoming his address as well. I dated the check, August 16th, 1968, and noticed that my writing was barely legible. Was what I was willing to offer going to be enough?
Terry was now 40 minutes late and I feared that he was not coming. I hung my head and the first tear landed. I used it to smear the date. The second tear was used to erase Terry’s name. It was unlikely that this check, which held my hopes and dreams only five minutes ago, would last long enough for Terry to show his face.
I looked up and my eyes locked with Terry’s. As he made his way towards me, I took one last look at what remained of the emaciated check. I placed it back into the deep pocket of my Levi’s. The Fab Four had been right all along.
Dr. Victoria Jones is a surgical oncologist who lives with her two adorable sons, Logan and Lucas, conceived via donor insemination. She has published extensively in scientific journals, and won research, teaching, and mentoring awards. She enjoys any type of learning and/or self-development, travel, cooking, and wine. She spends her free time transporting her children back and forth between their myriad of exciting activities.