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.
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.