By Emily Engel, Author of Going it Alone
I met up last Sunday with a group of mums that has been meeting for 30 years now. We first got together when a notice in the waiting room of our clinic invited any other single women having fertility treatment there to meet up. The nurse had said she thought we were an independent bunch and not in need of support, but to go ahead and post the notice if we wanted… Within weeks, a handful had responded, and by the end of a year, there were over a dozen of us, including the first three babies.
Thirty years on, we still gather several times a year, and there are literally dozens of support groups for solo mums and would-be mums around the country. Clearly, we were all pretty independent and determined, but that did not mean that we didn’t want to get together to share our experiences and support each other with the challenges that we faced, both in trying to achieve a pregnancy, and later in raising our children without a committed second parent.
In my case, I would never have achieved my hopes without their support and example, having needed 30 cycles of treatment over 4 years and two miscarriages to get there
Any sane person would have given up and chosen a different way of changing her life! When I did finally get there and my son was born, and maternity leave gave me time to think a bit, I joined the Donor Conception Network and started working on spreading the word to ensure more women had access to mutual support.
Of course, there are some who simply are not ‘group’ types, but no mother has ever raised a child without moments when she could do with someone who understands and sympathises, and can maybe even help or make suggestions from experience. In our case, we really don’t need ANY judgement that it might be easier if she had found a ‘dad’ first. We all know that might be true, just as we all know that it’s not always the case, but having made the decision, we need to feel supported when the going gets tough, not blamed.
All of us have enjoyed moments of joy and delight as our children grew up, and all of us have had moments of sadness or distress – ordinary ones such as the potentially life-changing and baffling choices and decisions we face: choosing child-care and schools, juggling work & family commitments, as well as illness, disability, menopause and ageing parents, the empty nest and of course, the Covid pandemic.
I was amazed and a little saddened when I got home yesterday to realise how important our group still is, even if we all have friends, some of us have new partners, and all our children are now grown up, albeit with different levels of independence. But overall, I realised how important this group has been over the years, and I wanted to shout out over the rooftops to all of you who are following on this amazing choice we have the privilege of making: it’s so much better when you have found your tribe to surround you.
As soon as you start your ante-natal classes or go on maternity leave, look out for other solo mums nearby. Talk to your midwife and health visitor, contact the DCNetwork : there are many others around you who will be glad to be in touch, and some may become lifelong friends, for you and your children.
We differ in many ways, but we all agree that having each other has helped smooth many hurdles and enriched our lives as well as our children’s, who always had the certainty that there were others in the same boat, chosen and cherished by a loving mum who had followed her own hopes
To buy a copy of Emily’s book, click here