One of the most humiliating moments in my life was when I was in fifth grade in Mrs. Davis’ class at Mother of Good Counsel School in Louisville, Kentucky. I raised my hand, Mrs. Davis called on me, and I proudly announced that my mom was pregnant, after which one of my classmates yelled out, “So your parents ‘did it’?”
Although I was 10 years old, it had never occurred to me.
I knew how babies were made because my mother had explained “the birds and bees” to me two years earlier, when I had simply asked what a tampon was. But, when my parents told me I would be getting a fourth sibling that summer, I never thought of sexual intercourse—or, worse, my mom and dad having sex with each other. I thought it sounded disgusting.
So, when my classmate “outed” them not only to me, but also to my entire class, I was humiliated.
Of course, in the late 1970s, assisted reproductive technology (ART) was in its infancy—and shrouded in secrecy—so it was assumed that all parents had sex in order for their children to exist. But, that didn’t make me any less embarrassed.
My son, age 4, and my unborn son, due in April, won’t ever have to suffer that same type of humiliation because sex wasn’t involved in their creation.
With my 4-year-old, I got pregnant as a single-mother-by-choice via intrauterine insemination (IUI) with donor sperm.
To conceive the son I’m currently carrying, my husband and I had to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF), so sperm met egg in a lab. In fact, my husband was on a business trip in Dayton, Ohio, during my embryo transfer, so he wasn’t even in-state when I got pregnant.
But, just because intercourse wasn’t involved with the conception of my sons doesn’t mean there wasn’t an overabundance of love.
All aspiring single-mothers-by-choice have to be damned serious about parenting before embarking on pregnancy attempts. We have no back-up. Our emotional and financial resources are it, because, regardless of the goodwill of family members and friends, as single moms, we are the only person fully, completely, totally responsible for our children.
Single-mothers-by-choice consider every scenario in advance, because we have to. So, when we are lucky enough to bear children, we’re not resentful about sleeplessness, about thousands of dirty diapers, about the toll our children have taken on our bodies and our social lives. Our children were desperately wanted, so wanted that we undertook what is considered an alternative lifestyle choice, sometimes to the dismay of family members, friends, and religions.
I’m Roman Catholic with ultra-conservative parents, so my choice to get pregnant on my own was not greeted with enthusiasm, for the Catholic Church approves only of conception via intercourse with a spouse.
When I met with my parish priest six years ago, I told him that I felt that God was supportive of my decision. He responded by telling me I needed to be forgiven for my arrogance, for assuming that I knew what God’s reaction was.
But, I’d rather rely on God, whom I view as loving, than the fallible men at the helm of the Church, men who, over the life of the Church, have routinely changed their minds. And, I feel that a loving God would approve of my becoming a parent, because He created me, a woman meant to be a mother, a woman whose destiny wouldn’t have been fulfilled if she hadn’t been able to parent a child. And, He certainly hasn’t punished me; in fact, I’ve experienced a series of miracles ever since.
I met the perfect man for me nine days before becoming pregnant. He stayed. We got married in late 2006, when my son was 21 months old, and my husband subsequently adopted him. While many DES Daughters are never able to have children, I have a healthy 4-year-old son and am now pregnant again—at age 41, with a uterine abnormality.
While single women have to be passionate about their decisions to be parents, so do couples suffering from infertility, as my husband and I were. Having sex to procreate is easy—and free. Having to resort to infertility treatments is time-consuming, emotionally draining, body-abusing, unbelievably stressful and expensive.
Infertility treatments require complete dedication to parenting. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to tolerate injection after injection, blood draw upon blood draw, countless doctor’s appointments, invasive medical tests and procedures, devastating disappointments, and pregnancy losses.
I find it bizarre that the Catholic Church only advocates conception via intercourse between spouses. I personally know married couples who not only have unhealthy relationships with each other, but also should never have had children, because their unhappiness spilled into their parenting. I know married couples whose parenting is based not on the best interests of their children, but on their personal preferences or their needs for their children to be extensions of them. I know married parents whose love is conditional, whose parenting turns to manipulation and threats if their children aren’t “towing the line.” I know married couples who have abused their children, both emotionally and physically.
My children were conceived with so much love. They are and will be parented by a couple, deeply in love and now married, who suffered to conceive them, who will love them unconditionally, and who will nurture them into the men they’re meant to be.
When our sons are old enough to understand their conception and birth stories, I hope they’re tremendously proud of how much they were wanted—and how much they’ve been loved.
The fact that no sex was involved will simply be a bonus.