‘If you make me choose, you won’t like seeing me walk out the door.’ A month later, I did just that. I restarted my life to have a child.’: Woman leaves toxic marriage, becomes single mom by choice

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“‘If you make me choose, you won’t like seeing me walk out the door.’

This was part of a conversation that I had while married to my now ex-husband. During our marriage, one of our biggest and unwavering arguments was based around having children. It was a constant rollercoaster of emotions every time the topic arose. We would talk about taking those next steps, and then he would give the approval, and I’d go off to the doctor for a prenatal check-up and blood tests. We never talked about calendar dates, but I kept a watchful eye.

In the moments waiting to see if I was going to have a period that month, he would say the timing wasn’t right because of work or that he had simply changed his mind. In other instances, as far along as waiting for blood test confirmation due to a very late or missed period, he would tell me if I was pregnant that he wanted me to get an abortion. Other times, he reminded me there was always a set of stairs he could push me down if I tried to do this without his consent.

It never occurred to me to try to con him into sex in order to get pregnant, and I was quite offended by his accusation. After years of emotional torture around my yearning to be a mother, we had the most epic argument. I explained to him how much I was pulled internally to be a mother and that it was the most important thing to me out of any and all of my achievements. I told him that day I’d rather go through parenting on my own than miss the opportunity altogether. I told him that if he made me choose between being his wife and the chance to be a mother, he was going to watch me walk out the door. A month later, he saw me do just that.

A divorced woman wearing glasses with long hair
Courtesy of Samantha J. Richardson

After leaving a tumultuous marriage filled with various abusive factors lingering the whole time, I knew I needed to get back on my feet before I could ever approach figuring out how to go about being a mother on my own terms. I restarted my life on my own terms and with the help of a psychologist to work through the issues of my marriage and to prepare my mental health for having a child.

‘It’s a lot of hard work being a mom,’ people used to tell me. I knew that. I knew it would be the most thankless and rewarding job I would ever have. I was used to fighting hard and busting my bum for the things most important to me, and I couldn’t wait to jump into this challenge. I wasn’t sure what the official process was or even if this was something I could do here in Australia or if I would need to go overseas for such procedures. I began researching everything I could about options, costs, the best clinics to go to, and what the laws were on using donor sperm.

Once I had put together a game plan of what doctor and clinic to attend, I booked my initial consultation appointment and started my journal, marking every moment I could. I knew that this was going to be an involved process, and I wanted to document everything I could so that my future child knew all that I went through to bring them into this world. I wanted them to know my mindset with each appointment, the questions and concerns I had, and to see me break down the donor options into a top three. I wanted my child to understand without a single doubt in their mind how much they were loved and wanted, long before they were ever a blurry dot on a screen. I knew if they were anything like me, they’d be full of questions for me when they were old enough to understand that all they ever had was one parent. I tried to think about the questions I would have if it were me, and I tried to address those in each journal entry.

A hopeful mom wearing a blue shirt and glasses
Courtesy of Samantha J. Richardson

My first journal entry was in June 2018, which was my first appointment doing all this on my own. I documented it like a detailed police report, forgetting at that moment who would be reading it years later. Sometimes I forget how analytical I can be. I changed my technique after that, and each entry began with ‘My Dearest Darling.’ I did all the genetic testing as well as all the prenatal requirements.

Before I could move on to the next stage in the process, I was required to attend counseling sessions and verify the financial requirements. Once that was completed, it was time to comb through the list of donors to nominate my top three choices. I opted for overseas donors because there were more details provided on them rather than Australian donors, which I found to be quite disappointing. At that stage, their medical files were provided to me for review, as well as a photograph of them as a child. Some of the files included a personal note from the donor saying, ‘To whomever received a blessing from my donation, I wish you all the best and a life full of happiness.’ Reading something like that really made me feel like I was on the right track. Everything was falling into place; I had picked a donor and had my injection dates and times for triggering ovulation in preparation for the coming procedure.

Everything was organized until I had a check-up with my back specialist following the surgery I’d had the year before. It was a Wednesday when I sat in the doctor’s room as he told me that part of my disc had lapsed again and I needed another surgery. More to the point, he wanted to book me in for it a week later. ‘The sooner we address this, the better off you’ll be,’ he said. I sat there in shock, listening to his words echo as he confirmed my worst fear—my transfer appointment with the IVF clinic on Friday had to be canceled due to my back surgery the next week. It wouldn’t be healthy if the transfer worked on Friday and then I had major surgery a few days later, with all the surgical medications. If I didn’t cancel the transfer, I would risk major health issues and birth defects to the baby, something I wasn’t willing to risk after fighting this hard to get here.

A hopeful mom with long hair in a car
Courtesy of Samantha J. Richardson

The doctor told me the surgery would offer me a better pregnancy later, as I would have a stronger back to support the weight. I agreed and called the IVF clinic to explain to them and press pause on my dream to be a mother. As it turns out, it was a good call to cancel that appointment. There was a pretty substantial complication during surgery, which required me to have another surgery a couple of days later and a much bigger and more effective surgery a week later. In total, I spent about four weeks in the hospital due to the surgeries and substantial rehab to ensure there was no damage to the nerves running from my back down my legs. The volume of medications that surged through my body at that time could have caused anything from defects to a miscarriage.

Given the surgical complications, I was relieved I had postponed. Once back on my feet and medically cleared, I went back to the clinic to pick up where I left off. Due to the amount of time that had elapsed, there were a few tests I needed to repeat, and I needed to start the injection process all over again. Finally making it to transfer day, I was nervous and excited. Here was the moment I had waited for. It was a quick appointment and relatively painless. I took it easy for the rest of the day before returning to normal life and waited the two weeks to see if it was successful. It wasn’t, and I accepted that this would be no different than anything else I had pursued in my life—a challenge to surpass before being successful.

A hopeful single mom having a drink and wearing a black dress
Courtesy of Samantha J. Richardson

I went through three more cycles of failure. I had given up too much and was too focused to back down now. This wasn’t about failure or defeat—it was about overcoming a challenge. Mindset is everything in pursuing fertility treatments, and I decided not to look at each time the process failed as a loss, but just another obstacle. It was unfortunate that it didn’t work, but I chose to put a more positive light on it and see it as being natural and believing that when the time was right, it would work out. I knew in my heart at some stage I would get there. I had to believe that.

I decided to change clinics to see if they could offer up other options or reasons why I wasn’t successful. It was recommended that I see an obstetrician-gynecologist—a specialist I hadn’t felt the need to see in years. After sitting down with her and going over my full medical history, she suggested that the contraceptive injections I had been receiving during my twenties had suppressed the symptoms of endometriosis. No one had ever suggested that to me before, but after talking to her about the side effects and pains common to having ‘endo’ and the mild symptoms I had dealt with over the years, I could see where she was coming from, and opted for letting her do a laparoscopic surgery to see if there was endo after all. It turned out not only did I have endo, but I had a severe case of stage four endo, which had left my internals with massive damage to my ovaries, tubes, and bowels. The prognosis was that I was going to need bowel resection surgery to remove the damage to my bowels caused by my endo.

My doctor had been able to flush my tubes during the procedure, but because of the damage, she could see that there was a disconnect with my reproductive organs and getting pregnant naturally would never occur. I took her news like everything else in my life: with a grain of salt and a dose of my stubborn attitude. I consider myself to be lucky, given that the specialist and my doctor not only knew each other but also communicated with each other, and me, openly. It was suggested that because of the endo damage, I was a prime candidate for a hysterectomy, which gave me a very tight timeline to work with. The pressure was on and the odds stacked against me, but I always seem to fight that much harder when I feel backed into a corner; this was no exception. It was suggested that if I wanted to have any chance at all to be a mother after all this, I needed to be pregnant by the end of the year. The time crunch was on.

A woman wearing a blue shirt and glasses
Courtesy of Samantha J. Richardson

My doctors worked together to get me the referrals I needed to start IVF immediately due to my medical conditions, and I found a clinic with a limited waiting period. Once again, I went through their requirements and medication. Another stimulated egg cycle followed the fertilization of donor sperm, provided by an Australian donor after all, and then by an embryo transfer. This time I knew what my true odds were going in, and I was prepared to wait my two weeks to find once again it didn’t work. I felt different this time than I had previously: I cramped more and generally felt different, but I was convinced that was because I had new knowledge of the damage to my reproductive organs now that I didn’t have when I started this journey. At that stage, it had been two years of surgeries and IVF treatments following four years of failed attempts while married. All I knew is that I would rather willingly be a single mother than have someone else dictate when I could have children. And now, I didn’t have much time at all. I had spent the time since my separation and divorce working on myself and not meeting anyone I wanted to spend my life with or start a family with.

I remember having a chat with my father and telling him my plans and everything I was doing and why. I was surprised by his supportive remark when he responded with, ‘At least you won’t have any baby daddy drama.’ He was right, too, I wouldn’t, but I would struggle in other ways, especially as, at this point in my life, I had also had four spinal surgeries. But to me, it was worth the risk. I waited oh-so-patiently until the day my period was due. I figured that, as at-home pregnancy tests can test up to six days prior to a missed period, the day it was due should be good enough to give me an idea. I took the test and walked away for my own sanity. I came back about fifteen minutes later prepared for one lonely line, but this time there were two. In shock, I took another—also two lines. I took a test each morning until the day of my scheduled blood test.

A pregnant woman wearing a pink shirt
Courtesy of Samantha J. Richardson

My appointment time was at was 9 a.m., and by 1:36 p.m., I had received a call from the clinic telling me my blood results were positive. I was in the car at the time and had to pull over for safety so I wasn’t trying to drive through my tears of joy. I was over the moon with excitement, and naturally, the first thing I did was go back to my journal to tell my future child they were finally with me. It was more like a pep talk with me telling them to keep holding on and growing stronger, and I would do everything I could, too. I wanted to always be as real and raw with my thoughts and emotions in the journal that would be the story of their life. Seeing that blurry dot on the screen seemed like a dream, and the moment I heard the heartbeat for the first time, I knew true progress had been made. The first scan where that blurry dot finally looked like an unmistakable baby was the most surreal moment of my life. Watching my little one doing flips on the screen gave me a bit of an idea of what I was in for.

A pregnant single mom by choice stands in an elevator
Courtesy of Samantha J. Richardson

I’m aware of the issues I’ll come across as time progresses. The biggest ones are the frequent questions I get asked: ‘Who is in my support network?’ and ‘Have I considered that my child will feel deprived because they don’t have a father?’ They say it takes a village to raise a child, but perhaps it just takes one very determined mother. I have support from friends and family, and though they live nowhere near me and aren’t likely to assist in raising this miracle of mine, they do understand and support my decision for what I have done. No, I don’t feel like my child will be deprived. I strongly feel I have enough love, strength, and patience to provide for them. I am looking forward to tea parties and little athletics and everything in between.

A new single mom by choice holds her baby
Courtesy of Samantha J. Richardson

I don’t look for a partner or someone to potentially take on the father role in my child’s life, but if someone ever comes along to turn my head, I expect them to understand why I have done things the way I have and know they have to love and care for us both because we are a package deal. I entered into this on my own and expected for it to stay that way; I don’t expect a white knight, and we don’t need to be rescued.

A mom holds her baby girl at the beach
Courtesy of Samantha J. Richardson

My child will always come first and will always be the most important person in my life. I would like to offer support to anyone who considers this path, as it can be lonely. I recommend considering all your options and even talking to a psychologist as it really helps you to be in the right frame of mind for such a journey. There will be people who understand and support you and people who think you are selfish and don’t understand how or why you could do this. I’ve been criticized for giving my child the disadvantage from the beginning of not having a father. I do worry about that and hope my child will understand and respect the decisions I have made for them and the love and support they will always have. In my case, I believe having the opportunity to raise a child with one parent is so much better than with a potentially abusive or neglectful second parent. Stay strong and true to yourself and your beliefs; if you can stay strong mentally and follow your heart, I think you’ll be fine.

I’m currently in the UK with my daughter, Scarlett, who was born in March 2021, and another daughter on the way, due in June 2022. Just writing books, working as a freelance writer, traveling, and raising kids.”

A mother holds her baby and flips through a baby book
Courtesy of Samantha J. Richardson
A single mom by choice holds her baby girl
Courtesy of Samantha J. Richardson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Samantha J. Richardson. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories about single mothers by choice:

‘I said if I wasn’t married by 30, I was going to have a baby on my own. They laughed, told me I was crazy.’: Single mom by choice shares journey with infertility

‘Here…AND HERE!’ The reality of having TWINS hit me. I cried alone at night, thinking I wasn’t doing enough.’: Single mom by choice delivers twins, shares parenting journey

‘If I’m not in a relationship when I’m 30, I’m using a sperm donor!’ I never took it seriously.’: Single mom by choice pens journey, ‘I hope she’s proud to be my daughter’

‘At 18, I nonchalantly said to my friend over dinner, ‘I could always have a baby on my OWN.’ I was unlucky in love. Months before graduation, I committed.’: Single mom by choice says ‘this is the best decision I ever made’

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