Making tough parenting decisions alone

Amanda is a mum of twin boys that she conceived using a donor. Here she shares one of her toughest moments as a solo parent.

I finally found something that I absolutely detest about being a solo mum by choice, or ‘SMC’.

SMCs, for the uninitiated, are women who really want a family but through choice or circumstance do not have a man in their lives to make it happen. So they seek out a donor to have a child, or become mums through adoption or foster care.

In my case, I undertook IVF at the age of 37 with the help of an identity-release donor and, on my first try, fell pregnant with twin boys. My boys will shortly be turning five and are the light of my life.

Throughout these last five years, I have been stoic, confident in my choice, fearless at times and VERY independent. I’ve needed to show myself, and everyone around me, that I can hack it and not give anyone the opportunity to say ‘you shouldn’t have done it’. I have hard times like every parent out there, single or otherwise, but the ‘by choice’ part seems to dictate that I can’t really complain about my lot. You very quickly learn to suck it up and keep smiling.

Mostly though, it’s been wonderful. It’s not hard to find reminders that having a partner doesn’t guarantee life would have been any easier. I’ve seen enough proof of this amongst my girlfriends –  dads who ‘babysat’ their kids instead of looking after them, women who felt they had another child instead of an equal partner, broken relationships and the fighting… oh the fighting! Of course, there are many wonderful, present dads out there – my brother is one – but I rarely felt like we were missing out on much with me parenting solo. My boys have strong male role models in their life and are thriving in all areas.

Two years ago though, my confidence in my choice took a hit. My son was diagnosed with a heart murmur that required surgery. He’d actually had it since birth (the twins were born 6 weeks early, so there were a few issues), but we’d hoped the leaky valve would close on its own. But at a check-up when he was 3, it hadn’t closed up and it was time to do something.

And suddenly there we were at the hospital for his pre-admission clinic, with his twin brother home with a babysitter. I listened as the surgeon explained in graphic detail how they would enter through a vein in his groin, and with long tubes, wires and x-rays, find the exact spot in his heart; a tiny, tiny spot; and insert the stent that would close it.

As far as heart surgery goes, this type of procedure is all rather ho-hum apparently. They do hundreds of them every year with no drama. But this was my gorgeous baby boy and I had to be the responsible one who listened to the discussions of the risks, so many risks, and then sign the forms. It felt like a unique form of hell. Yes doctor, you can tell me till you’re blue in the face that it’s a quick procedure, low risk, easy as pie, ‘done a million of ‘em’, but far out! It’s his heart, for goodness sake. Cue guilt, frustration, sadness, jealousy, the whole lot. Why was I making this decision alone? How on earth could I possibly make the right choice by myself? Shouldn’t there be someone else as emotionally invested in this child as I am to weigh up the pros and cons with me?

But no, it was just me. It is just me.

I had family and friends there – I am so lucky with my support network, which is critical as a SMC – but in this instance, it mattered little. I’m all these boys have in the world, and I felt like I may not be enough this time. For the first time in his young life I found myself regretting that I was alone on this ride, even though intellectually I knew that if you consider all the information logically then you’re probably likely to make the right call.

In the end, I signed the forms, his surgery was a success and we were back at home with his brother the next afternoon. I know I made the right decision when I had my boys and most of the time I feel affirmed, but seeing your child head into surgery and not being able to share the burden with someone else can certainly knock you off your feet.

I was, and still am stunned at how easy and quick Jo’s method was for getting my daughter to sleep through the night. – BabyBliss parent

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