As a young girl, I knew three things with certainty: I wanted to be a mom, I wanted to be a writer, and I had crushes on other girls. At 9-years-old, I sat at my mom’s typewriter creating a list of names I would give my future children. I wrote fiction as a child on that same typewriter, weaving the names of my future children and future wife into the stories and worlds I created.
In some ways, my journey to motherhood turned out to be stranger than the fiction I wrote as a child. At 32-years-old, I gave birth to my daughter Evelyn (which means “wished for child”) as a single mom by choice.
As a lesbian, I’ve always known that I would need the help of a sperm donor to conceive. What I didn’t know was that I would be choosing that donor on my own. I’ve had long-term relationships, but none of them panned out. Because I knew my fertility was finite and love could come at any time, I wasn’t afraid to consider having a child on my own. Maybe it was my grandma’s adage, “If you wait for the perfect time to have children, you’ll never have them” that gave me the confidence to consider embarking on parenthood solo.
Through the help of online classified ads on a website called the Known Donor Registry (kind of like match.com, only for people who are looking for sperm!), I found my known donor and conceived my daughter through the tried-and-true “turkey baster” method, using a medicinal syringe in lieu of the turkey baster. Because I was doing home inseminations without a partner, this meant that aside from my donor’s genetic contribution in a sterile cup, I was on my own in the whole “getting pregnant” process. My donor did his thing in the bathroom of my home, after which I was left to my own devices with the company of no one but my dog. (Who was absolutely no help in my endeavor to get pregnant, by the way.)
After five months of trying to conceive, and peeing on many (many!) home pregnancy tests, I found out I was pregnant. Nine months later, I gave birth at home surrounded by my midwives, my mom, and my best friend (who just so happens to be my ex-wife — we stayed friends long after our break-up, as lesbians are wont to do). In February, 2013, I became a solo mom to my long-awaited daughter. I was elated. Overjoyed. And as a new mom all on my own… slightly overwhelmed.
In my daughter’s infancy and toddlerhood, life was mostly good. I loved parenting from the very start, but there were moments that I struggled under the weight of all the responsibility on my shoulders. There were nights when my daughter refused to sleep unless she was laying next to me — or on me. When my daughter would struggle with sleep, I would struggle right along with her, longing wistfully for my pre-motherhood days, or longing for a partner to help carry the load.
“If only I had a partner,” I would think to myself. “I could ask them to take over so I could have my much-needed break, and maybe then I wouldn’t feel the need to scream into my pillow.”
One evening when my daughter was a baby, I was perusing Reddit and cramming a PB&J sandwich into my mouth while reading all about the reasons why people (well, men in this case) would never date single moms. The stereotypes and assumptions astounded me. And then they made my heart wilt a little. “Do people really think this poorly of single mothers,” I wondered, followed up with, “Will I ever love again?”
As it turns out, lesbians aren’t nearly as turned off by single mothers as men are. I haven’t found it any more difficult to find potential love interests now as a parent than I did before becoming one. A lot of lesbians know they want a family — or, at my age (38), already have children and aren’t squeamish at the idea of dating a mom.
One thing I do battle with, however, is queer invisibility. At this time in my life, I often feel invisible as a queer person. This relatively newfound invisibility hurts and feels weird, as I’ve been an out and proud (and visible) lesbian for my entire adult life. But now, to look at me is to look at a slightly overweight mother of a small child who needs so much of me — my time, my attention, my resources. Because the cultural presumption of straightness is deeply ingrained, it is clear that people read me as a middle-aged straight woman more than they don’t. Something about having the title of “mom” brings with it presumed heterosexuality, even in an urban and diverse city like Toronto.
Now that I’m a mom with limited free time, I don’t spend any time being out in the “queer world” in the ways I used to. My saving grace is that 90% of my friends — the village helping me raise my daughter — are queer-identified. Even still, some of my friendships have suffered because a large number of my queer-identified friends have chosen a child-free life, and no longer invite me to their late-night outings. At this stage in my life, when I’m more likely to spend my evenings at home on the couch in my sweats than at a queer film festival, my identity as a mom is the one that takes front and center more often than not.
Now that my daughter is 5 ½ years old, life is getting easier. She can get up in the morning and get herself breakfast, allowing me to catch a few extra minutes of sleep. She can tell me when my t-shirt doesn’t match my socks (which is evidently very important to a 5-year-old fashionista!) and sometimes, her jokes are even funny. I’ve found love and am in a long-term relationship with a fellow single mom, and we plan on getting married in early 2019. I am so glad I have my daughter to love and raise, and that I had her before meeting my partner. If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.