Becoming a single mother in my 50s was not part of my life plan. And the steps that eventually led me there were not at all as I had originally expected they might be. In the end it was a fortuitous mixture of luck, determination, and the timely intervention of a kindred spirit that brought to me to my happy place.
I was around 40 when I first started thinking about having children without a man by my side. My reasoning was that if I died without ever having been married that wouldn’t be so bad. But if I died without ever having had children, that was just simply too devastating to even think about.
‘Should I freeze my eggs?’
So I began researching around freezing my eggs. The technology of egg freezing at that time was in its infancy and it wasn’t until I was nearly 45 that I pushed the button on that front. Although my age was clearly against me, I obtained 16 eggs suitable for freezing and that left me relaxed that at least two children would be possible. How wrong that proved to be.
The relationship that I was in at the point of the egg freezing was clearly going nowhere, so shortly after I’d packed my eggs into the freezer, I upped sticks and followed my career abroad. There I threw myself into a life of ballroom dancing, horse riding and a whole lot of fun going out. But the desire for children did not disappear.
The complication for me was that I wanted any child of mine to have a father, even if not in the traditional family sense. And since my life had firmly transitioned to my new homeland, that meant someone living and working in the same country as me. Five years later this person appeared, a good male friend, someone who also wanted a child and who had a positive attitude towards a co-parenting arrangement.
How I finally got pregnant
We jumped through all the complex co-parenting arrangement hoops (lots of counselling and paperwork, primarily) and we used his sperm to fertilise my frozen eggs in London. From my 16 eggs, a few embryos developed but the pre genetic testing revealed that they were all too deficient and not worth transferring. It was a horribly harsh and unexpected blow, and only a few days before Christmas. But thankfully my friend was determined to follow through and had coached me to be ready with a Plan B in case Plan A did not work out. Which is why, only two months later, I found myself in an IVF clinic in South America receiving embryos created with donor eggs and my friend’s sperm.
The donor had been chosen in part based on a photograph of me that I had emailed to the clinic – although donors are paid, the vast majority remain anonymous and so there was never any question of us meeting. Of the details that I was given, I remember that she was 23 years old, studying engineering and had a bridge of freckles across her nose.
The IVF was successful and 8 months later my son arrived. Due to the laws of the country I was now living in, I needed to be married in order to have a child, which was something that my friend and I had agreed on prior to embarking on the whole adventure. We did not plan on sharing a household, but I moved so that our two homes were very close, only a 5-minute drive apart.
A new realisation: I wanted twins
Once I returned to work, our 50/50 co-parenting relationship took shape and it grew organically, with our son quickly adapting to his two households. Except I very quickly began to miss the presence of a child in the house during the time my son was staying at his father’s. I soon realised that I really wanted to have some more children. In fact, I really wanted to have twins. But my friend wasn’t looking to have more shared children so I decided to go it alone, this time using donor eggs and choosing an anonymous sperm donor.
My rationale for wanting twins was so that they would always have each other when their older sibling was away. It took three attempts this time, but the final result was definitely worth the wait. I already had my son and now, at 54 years old, I had also become the proud mother of twins, a girl and a boy.
What I gave up…and what I gained
So what have I had to give up in order to fulfil my dream? Saving has stopped, that’s for sure. Dance classes and socialising have been severely curtailed. I can’t remember the last time I bought new shoes/clothes/a handbag. Holidays are equally infrequent. And I never made it back to riding horses.
Has it all been worth it? Absolutely, resoundingly, yes. Having waited so long to have children I had already done all the other things that I wanted to do. And my financial position is sufficient to provide as necessary, especially when it comes to the help I can afford to ensure that I can both work and rest as required. The children are now by far the most fun part of my life. I finally feel complete.
I was childless and heartbroken. Nature healed me
Like nearly half of my generation I haven’t had kids. Nature, wild swimming and the sea healed me
I gave up on IVF and became a stepmother instead
Elizabeth Kesses reveals why she chose not to have a baby, but how stepmotherhood changed her