I Did it on My Own: Story of a Single Working Mom

By: Stef Tarner

I didn’t start out planning to be a single, working mother. In fact, I grew up imagining a huge family: meeting the man of my dreams in college and getting married soon after; I’d have my first child of five by the time I was 24, and then start my career as a stay-at-home mom. Easy. No worries.

Except, the old adage that life doesn’t usually work out the way we plan… it applies more often than not. I didn’t meet any marriageable prospects in college and moved permanently from small town Indiana to New York City before I was 24. My boyfriend was from the East coast and, even though he was 4 years my senior, believed our twenties were too young to plan a family. So, I focused on my career in publishing and wound my way up the corporate ladder like every other ambitious twenty-something. I moved out of Manhattan a few years later, got a dog instead of having a baby, found a one bedroom apartment in an outer borough, and waited for him to tell me he was ready to start that huge family I’d always wanted.

I waited ten years before I left him for refusing to commit –about eight years too long if you asked my mother. By then, I was 33, and told by multiple specialists it would be difficult for me to get pregnant… that in fact my ideal fertility window would have been 18-26. They asked me the standard questions: do I have a partner? Are we having regular sex? Am I monitoring my ovulation? To which I answered “no” to all three. Each doctor gave me a fake, sympathetic face, nodded sagely, took a long dramatic pause and said “it may be too late.” Well, f--k. I wanted to kick my own ass for being so stupid and then kick the ex-boyfriend in the nut-sack for leading me on with platitudes, talks of soul mates and future children, and endless don’t worry’s. I threw a pretty fantastic pity-party: cried, wallowed in a depressing puddle of “why me?” and danced between cursing fate and mourning the child I might never have (because, hell, I still had to find someone I cared about enough to marry and father said child – it’s not like I could mail-order that dream). It was at the depth of that sorrow when I decided it no longer mattered: I would do it on my own.

I went off some of my medications, stopped drinking alcohol and excessive caffeine, started consistently buying organic, began taking prenatal and other vitamins to help conceive. I bought a Clearblue Easy ovulation prediction kit and an endless supply of sticks to pee on religiously every month. I was taking control and it felt empowering. A year and a half later, I picked out a donor from a cryobank in California – which by the way is a lot like online dating, only without the unfortunate penis-size emails from weirdos, painful first dates, and awkward thanks-but-no-thanks conversations. How do you even choose the perfect donor for your future baby? The answer: you don’t. You enter your criteria into a search – brown hair, blue/green eyes, 5’8” - 6’2” – you check out their profession, hobbies, family heritage and medical history (maybe even a photo), and then you “eeny-meeny-miny-moe” the crap out of the profiles which made it into your final round of potential sperm.

My son is beautiful… I feel truly blessed. And, aside from my second trimester where I was so randy a partner would have been very welcome, I had an amazing pregnancy (even though I was considered high-risk due to my age). I don’t at all regret my decision to have him on my own. I’m 36 and have a solid and successful career with a salary to match; I’ve learned how to manage pressure, deadlines, and work relationships: I’m able to balance my professional and personal lives – something it took years and multiple positions to learn. I moved away from the city and bought a house my son can grow up in; I can afford to get my son everything he needs, and a lot which he probably doesn’t – something which would have been improbable and stressful even five years ago, let alone when I was 24. Yes, he’ll need a nanny or day-care instead of me staying home with him all day, but he’ll be loved beyond reason anyway.

Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way we planned –pretty much ignores us and tells us to shut up and let it work –but in the end, it carries us to a better place than we ever imagined. We just can’t be too afraid to grab on and not let go, even all on our own.