“Why I Chose to Become a Single Mom at 27”

Alyssa Garrison promised herself that if she wasn’t with someone who was legitimately interested in starting a family on a reasonable timeline by the time she turned 27, she’d do it on her own. And so she has

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A photo of Alyssa Garrison in a rainbow tube top with a baby bump, holding an ultrasound

(Photo: Ainsley Rose)

I sat on the exam table waiting for my doctor to make her way to my room, nervously tapping my feet and humming to stay distracted. This was no simple STI screening or yearly exam, this was an appointment I’d made to say the words I’d been dreaming of saying for years, words I had yet to actually say out loud seriously to anybody up until this point, an appointment that could change my life forever. I was about to tell a medical professional, a total stranger, the deepest desire in my heart.

She walked in, sat down and went into her her traditional “what brings you here today?” script. I took a deep breath, choking back tears for no particular reason, and just like that, spoke my plans into reality.

“I want to have a baby.”

Growing up I was never particularly into babies. For a short time before puberty hit, I was a star babysitter, but as I got older I started to shy away from it. If you asked me at the time, it was because I “didn’t like babies,” but in retrospect I think I was so drawn to the idea of being a mom that I was awkward and embarrassed around other people’s children, unsure how to process the unexpected rush of emotions every time someone offered to let me hold their newborn.

By the time I turned 20, I had fully identified and accepted my baby fever. At this point I was dating mainly women, and I found myself romanticising who would carry a child, who our sperm donors might be and what our little rainbow family might look like. In the years to come I dated all over the gender spectrum, and no matter the situation I was always planning what my family might look like from, well, basically the first date. When I came full circle to my high school days and decided to give cisgender heterosexual men another try, I was surprised to find that unlike my other recent love interests they did NOT like talking about babies on the first date… or the second, or the tenth for that matter. My intense desire to become a mother and refusal to hide those desires led to a whole lot of spooking and ghosting—panic seemed to be the most natural response. A number of boyfriends banned me from discussing the subject with them altogether. Not only were the men in my life seemingly less and less ready for the “having kids” conversation, the pressure of me knowing so clearly what I wanted and being vocal about it was basically a relationship self-destruct button. Friends kept telling me to hold my cards closer, to leave those talks for later, but it was simply too important to me to just brush aside. And so, one by one, my romantic leads disappeared before my eyes.

Around my 25th birthday I made myself a promise: if I didn’t have someone serious in my life by the time I turned 27—someone legitimately interested in starting a family with me on a reasonable timeline—I’d start one on my own. This promise began as a sort of ranting declaration that I’d make after a couple glasses of wine, but as the clock kept ticking I started to feel more serious about actually following through. With each passing birthday and holiday I found myself less excited to celebrate—these days were just a reminder of the baby-sized hole in my heart, and though I was always thrilled when I saw other women’s pregnancy announcements on Instagram, it stung to feel like I was so far away from that milestone myself. I hadn’t even met the right partner yet!

A photo of Alyssa Garrison cradling her baby bump

(Photo: Ainsley Rose)

I’ve always done things a little bit differently than everyone else. I refuse to hold pencils or chopsticks like you’re “supposed” to but I make them work in my own creative way. I moved across the country on a whim at 18 to a city I’d never even visited before. I didn’t see a career in the world of journalism that felt like me, so I built my own platform, Random Acts of Pastel. As my 27th birthday neared, I found myself in a relationship with potentially the most immature thirtysomething in Toronto and I started to ask myself, Why am I trying to force this part of my fairytale to look the same as everyone else’s?

Shortly after my birthday and subsequent breakup with the kiddult boyfriend, I stopped taking my birth control pills and started researching. No matter how much I read about single motherhood by choice, none of the stories really sounded like mine—almost all of the women I read about who had made this decision were driven by age or illness, something forcing a “now or never” type conundrum. Sure, my mother and grandmother both had endometriosis, which can lead to infertility and even hysterectomy, and the possibility that I might have it too weighed on my mind. But an endless list of other reasons seemed just as pertinent. I had always seen myself as a young mother, like my mom had been. I had so much love and magic to share. I didn’t have to give up my job—Random Acts of Pastel was practically made to be a mom blog. I could go on and on with the reasons, but the biggest one was this: I had accomplished so many things so quickly—like turning my lifestyle brand into a viable business—because when I want something, I will lay down my life to make it happen. I’m about as extreme when it comes to dreaming as it gets. The only thing I had yet to truly go for, to fight for, was also the most important thing I could think of doing in my lifetime—creating a life and becoming a mother. As with everything else I’d done in the past, like the cross-country move and the decision to quit an agency job to pursue blogging full-time, it was totally irrational and a bit insane sounding from the outside, but it just felt right. So I decided to go for it.

I started by taking ovulation tests each month, shopping for donor options on CoParent.com, researching fertility clinics, cutting back on drinking and quitting smoking for good. When none of my at-home ovulation tests came back positive for months after I’d stopped birth control pills, I started to worry there was something else going on. That’s when I booked the appointment with my doctor, a step that made everything feel way more real. To my surprise she was unwaveringly supportive, sharing that she had a few other patients who were doing the same thing, and we started testing how viable my eggs were, how many were left and if I was ovulating at all (for the record, this is all done through blood work on specific days and takes a full cycle).

The day I went in to collect my results I already knew the answer: I had just had my first positive ovulation test that morning, and the bloodwork confirmed I was ready to start trying. My doctor wished me luck, warned me about meeting strange donors from the internet (“make sure you get a clean bill of health!”) and suggested some fertility clinics should I try that route. I left her office shaking—according to my test that morning, I had less than 48 hours to inseminate!

I had put a lot of thought into my options, re: donors, but didn’t yet have a full plan in place. Fertility clinics are the most tried and true route, but with sperm priced at about $400 a pop and the suggestion you get inseminated at least twice every month, the bills would rack up quickly, and I was more into saving that money for the baby itself. Donor match websites like CoParent.com were an option, but it was a lot of risk to put on someone you don’t actually know that much about, and tales of meeting in hotel rooms with a stranger to hand off semen just didn’t feel comfortable. Then there was the known donor route, something that always appealed to me, and since I was on a tight time crunch if I was serious about conceiving that month, it was the most accessible option. I made a list of friends, lovers and acquaintances that I thought might potentially be up for the task, and sent some VERY awkward text messages.

A photo of Alyssa Garrison holding a positive pregnancy test

(Photo: Ainsley Rose)

From there I took matters into my own hands… literally. I self-inseminated at home, something I read online that people are doing more frequently these days in place of a clinical experience. Websites suggest all sorts of methods, but the most popular is using a clean, new menstrual cup—who knew, right? The donor I chose signed a contract giving up all parental rights, and we agreed on total anonymity (sorry, that’s one secret I’ll never tell). There was no ceremony or party, but I did set good intentions and lay on my back for much longer than I needed to.

That month didn’t work, and I decided to take a break the following month because I was travelling so much. Then I tried again with a new donor who I’d met on my travels, thinking someone from out of town might be a less complicated choice. When my period came that month too, I started to panic that something was seriously wrong. I had heard baby-making could be tough, but like I said, I’m used to working hard to make something happen, and I felt totally powerless when it came to reaching this goal. The next month, things got serious—I had my original donor commit to daily drop-offs the entire week of ovulation, just to be safe. Every day I laid for hours with my feet up in the air; wishing, hoping and praying.

In the end, I conceived on Mother’s Day—as it turns out, I had been ovulating three days earlier than the average 14-day calculation, so my timing was off all along. I felt something different almost immediately this time, but it wasn’t until I’d taken three positive home tests that I started to believe it was true. A doctor’s appointment confirmed the tests, and just weeks later I saw my baby’s heart beating for the first time. I’m not sure I really understood the meaning of true love until that moment.

So now what? Well, I went from eating a burrito a day to gagging at the smell of one, I cry constantly (usually when I hear a Disney song of any sort, in any context), none of my bras fit… and I am so completely grateful, with every bone in my body. For the first time in a long, long time, everything just feels right. Challenging and scary and unlike anything I could have imagined, but right. Maybe my fairytale ending doesn’t look the same as everyone else’s. Or maybe this is just a really special story that redefines what modern love, motherhood and family looks like—and we’re only just at the top of the very first page.

Related:
Alyssa Garrison: “Why I Decided to Get Baptized at 27”
Jessi Cruickshank: “I Found Out I Was Pregnant Over FaceTime”
Five Millennials on What It’s Like to Live With Infertility

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