Once upon a time, telling people you want to have a baby by yourself using a sperm donor would have been utterly unthinkable. But talking about my life as a solo mum is something I think is vital in order to support others, and when I saw Cheryl speak about having a baby with donor sperm I was elated. “I want more children, but you don’t need a man to have a baby,” Cheryl told the Sunday Telegraph, adding that a friend had used a sperm donor. “Not everything has to be conventional.”
People think when you have a baby on your own, you’re saying ‘I don’t need a man!’ but it’s not like that at all. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have loved to have met a partner to do this with - or indeed that I wouldn’t like to meet someone now I’ve had my daughter Daisy, but women need to know that if they don’t meet the right man and they want to explore motherhood, there are options available to them. That it’s more conventional than you might think.
I had always presumed I’d have a pretty ‘conventional’ life; meet a guy, get married, have children. And that’s where my life was heading, until, when I was 29, I split up with a long-term partner. It was at 37 when I found myself still single that I began to worry that I might miss out on motherhood – that I realised I had to make a decision about whether to be a solo mum. That’s when I booked an appointment at a fertility clinic, and that appointment made me 100% sure I wanted to go ahead with this.
It can seem like the decision to become a solo mum is different to deciding to be a mum in a relationship. As far as I’m concerned, hardly any of my journey is different – except that I had to buy sperm! The feeling of wanting a baby is the same, the feeling of wanting to be a mum is the same. It's the process to make it happen that’s more complicated.
But it’s one I will never regret – and one I truly learned so much from. There are so many things I’ve learned being a solo mum and I’m still learning every day.
There’s managing your social life to reduce the loneliness that comes with spending many evenings with no adult company. There’s learning to ask for help - I wasn’t used to that as an independent single woman. And there’s re-thinking how you ensure you get some precious time to yourself. And that’s all on top of looking after your baby.
Still, I found it’s actually not as hard as you think it might be. I’ve only ever known doing it solo, and I think it’d be harder if you went into this as a couple and then that couple became one – like Cheryl with her first baby, Bear. Because that’s not how you’d gone into it.
I decided I also wanted to help support other women who were considering the same journey, and so a few months after my daughter Daisy arrived, my coaching company, The Stork and I, was born.
Being a solo mum hasn’t always been what I expected. I thought I would miss having a partner more than I have. All my effort, emotional and physical, went into the pregnancy and being the best mum I can be. I've had to get used to planning my weekends in advance to ensure I have things organised with others, as I find life more fun in a bigger group.
If I could give one firm piece of advice to women – including Cheryl – who are considering solo motherhood, it’s to focus on your own plans and what’s right for you, rather than worrying what others think. Don’t avoid social events where there’ll be couples and families; Go, and become part of that family. Friends with kids welcome you in, and you become part of their ‘tribe’. I believe that family is much broader than just immediate relatives, and you miss out if you don’t go because everyone else is in a couple. But if you reframe it as ‘I’m going to be with all my loved ones’, it changes.
As Cheryl says: “You can spend ages looking for the right man, waiting for the perfect time to get pregnant, then the right man might turn out to be the wrong man. There are definitely other routes I would consider.”
What you can’t do is wait forever to make that decision. I didn’t, and there’s never a day goes by when I wish I’d waited even a second longer.
Mel Johnson is an experienced life coach and founder of The Stork and I. She provides individual and group coaching as well as writing a solo mum blog that provides useful advice and information. Follow The Stork and I on Instagram for a more in depth look at life as a solo mum.