‘I split from my partner of 7 years. My life completely turned on its head. How would this impact my future child?’: After unsuccessful relationships, solo mom follows ‘perfect path’ to daughter

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“At 29, I split from my partner of 7 years. For me, it was extremely unexpected. It felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. Life as I’d known it had completely turned on its head from one minute to the next. I’d expected to spend the rest of my life with this guy and have a family together. Now that this was not to be, I felt quite some anxiety about what that meant for me. Would I be able to meet someone else? Would I have time to start a family?

Courtesy of Mel Johnson

Based on the fact I was only 29, I rather naively believed I had plenty of time to meet someone else and start a family together. I thought maybe it would take 6 months of dating to meet someone, date them for 2 years or so, and then I could still have children before 35. Everything was going to be all right.

I was ready to settle down and have children. It’s what I thought I was about to do. I wasn’t too keen to start completely again, but what choice did I have? It was a set back in what I had planned for my life, but nothing I couldn’t get back on track.

So, I started dating. I was ready to get out there and meet someone to spend the rest of my life with. I had no clue how to date. It had been 7 years. Everything was different. But I threw myself into it. Internet dating, speed dating, blind dates, an array of apps, there were so many options.

Courtesy of Mel Johnson

Over the next 5 years, I went on a crazy number of first dates. I just couldn’t find anyone I was compatible with. I met loads of interesting people, but very few where I thought there might be any long term potential.

I met a few people I felt could have been a great match, but sadly they didn’t feel the same. Then there were a few who were interested in settling down with me where I just wasn’t feeling it. In the vast majority of cases, we had a nice evening chatting, but neither one of us felt any connection.

During this time, I was absolutely living my best life. I was traveling, exploring different countries, meeting different people. I was having an amazing time and numerous adventures. All the same time, at the back of my mind, I was hoping I would meet someone who I could share these experiences with.

Courtesy of Mel Johnson
Courtesy of Mel Johnson
Courtesy of Mel Johnson

I dated a few people where it was very clear they were not looking for a committed relationship and certainly were not ready to have children, or at least not with me. I was wasting my time. I knew what I wanted. I was ready to be a mom. Everyone around me was getting married and having children. I felt like the only person in the world this was not happening for. It really wasn’t for my want of trying! After years of unsuccessful dating, I started to worry I was going to miss out on motherhood altogether.

My opportunity to become a mom seemed to be dependent on my meeting a suitable partner. Something I was having no luck at. The more I tried to meet someone, the less successful it was, and time pressure was mounting up on me. As I approached 35, I started to question whether I was looking for a partner, or if it was a sperm donor I wanted. It was hard to be my best self on dates with the burden of this pressure hanging over my head.

Courtesy of Mel Johnson

At 36, after the breakdown of yet another short term romance, which — let’s be honest — had absolutely no chance of becoming anything more than casual, I decided I needed to take matters into my own hands. I’d half-joked about using a sperm donor with friends and family over the years, now I decided to share with them I was considering this as a serious option.

I’d thought about adoption, and it is still something that isn’t off the table for me in the future, but I really wanted to experience pregnancy and childbirth, and I worried adoption may be really tough without a partner for support. After some initial research, I decided donor conception was the right route for me. I would use a sperm donor and have IVF in order to try to fulfill my desire of becoming a mum.

My nearest and dearest were onboard. It wasn’t what they had originally hoped for me, but they knew how much becoming a mom meant to me, and they didn’t want me to miss out. My mom was behind me 100% and agreed to support me where she could. My friends seemed proud of the decision I was making.

Courtesy of Mel Johnson

Some questioned whether I’d thought it through fully and whether I’d be able to cope. I was confident I would be able to manage on my own. I had the resources and the support network in place to make it a reality. My hesitation was much more heavily weighed down by what people would think of me and the decision I was making. Would they judge me? Would they think badly of me? Would it impact my future child being donor-conceived? These questions all worried me.

I didn’t know anyone else who’d taken this path to parenthood so I had no one to discuss it with. I’d grown up presuming I’d live the classic fairytale. I’d meet a guy, get married, have children, and live happily ever after. All without much effort on my part, if I’m completely honest. I thought that is what happened to everyone. I’d never considered it might not happen for me. I didn’t think there were any other options. It was the only route to parenthood I knew.

It seemed like all around me I was surrounded by tales of meeting Mr. Right. In the films I was watching and the books I was reading, the happy ending was always meeting a great guy. That is what I wanted for myself. There was no alternative narrative for me to consume.

At 37, I came to terms with the fact that if I didn’t make a different plan, my dream to be a mom may not be possible, so I decided to start the journey to solo motherhood. I decided to have fertility treatment using donor sperm. After years of considering this as an option, I felt the time was right for me to try to make it a reality.

I was surrounded by friends and family who were all there supporting me. I had the finances in place to support myself and a child. I knew I could do it.

Courtesy of Mel Johnson
Courtesy of Mel Johnson
Courtesy of Mel Johnson

In 2018, when I was 38, my daughter was born via IVF with donor sperm. My mom was my birthing partner, and I can’t imagine anyone being more supportive than she was. I remember seeing my daughter for the first time and being so overwhelmed and overcome with love. It had finally happened for me, my dreams had come true, and I couldn’t be happier.

Courtesy of Mel Johnson
Courtesy of Mel Johnson
Courtesy of Mel Johnson

I’ve found being a solo mom amazing. On reflection, I’m not sure how good I would have been doing it in a partnership. Although there are times when it can be tough, I think any new mom would say the same. Lack of sleep is probably the most difficult thing to manage.

Courtesy of Mel Johnson

From time to time, it would be nice to have another helping hand around the place or someone to give me a hug after a long day, but I get great support from those around me.

Courtesy of Mel Johnson

Looking back now, I can’t believe I worried so much what others thought of me. But I did. I felt embarrassed I was doing things unconventionally. I had wished I was able to follow a more traditional path to motherhood. I felt like I’d not been successful in this area of my life.

Courtesy of Mel Johnson
Courtesy of Mel Johnson

It feels like finding a partner is something we celebrate. My lack of being able to meet someone suitable to settle down with gave me feelings of failure. I also worried I would be lonely and much less happy than my peers who were in relationships. Now, the reality is I don’t think this is the case at all. I think there are challenges and advantages. It’s not better or worse, just a different experience. I am lucky I share it with so many amazing people in my life.

Courtesy of Mel Johnson

My daughter is far and away the best thing that has ever happened to me. She brings me so much joy and fulfillment. After spending so long agonizing whether this was the right decision for me, I genuinely wouldn’t have it any other way. It was the perfect path for me.”

Courtesy of Mel Johnson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mel Johnson. Following her own journey to solo motherhood on The Stork and I.You can follow her on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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