Prepare for a positive birth experience with our new book

Episode 387


In this episode I chat to Alexandra about the day she woke up with a sudden longing to have a baby. Her partner at the time didn’t have the same desire so she left New York and returned home to Melbourne to live with her parents, heartbroken but hopeful. She dated with dedication but didn’t meet anyone who she felt could be the father of her child or a life partner. Under pressure to beat her reproductive timeline, she pursued the path of solo-motherhood, had a really positive birth experience and was incredibly supported in early postpartum.

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“I met a lot of people but in parallel I was looking into solo parenthood, I was attending support groups and looking into fertility treatment. I was raised to think that I will meet someone, fall in love and have babies with someone but it wasn’t the case for me. I could meet someone at any point but not have a baby at any point. A lot of my book- Inconceivable –  is wrestling with that decision and to present the grey areas; the ambivalence, anxiety, worry and all these feelings and questions about whether it was the right choice.

“I had a few different fertility clinic experiences. I started with one doctor who was very matter of fact but I wanted someone who was warm, empathetic and encouraging. I found that in Kate Stern at Melbourne IVF who is a guru of the fertility world and such a firecracker of a person. I definitely found that Melbourne IVF were savvy about the process of solo motherhood, it was nothing new to them. You have to do two counselling appointments if you’re doing assisted fertility treatment regardless of if you’re single or in a partnership and the counsellor hinted that maybe it would be a good idea to freeze my eggs because I was seeing someone at the time and she suggested it may work out. That was disappointing.

“There’s a growing number of women in Australia choosing to be solo mothers; the largest percentage of people using donor sperm are single women followed by queer couples. The numbers are definitely growing and people are doing it in a movement; to be doing it with such a deliberateness, it’s a turning point. I really wanted to destigmatize this path to parenthood.

“It was the first time I was looking at my fertility although it’s not very accurate. My chances of getting pregnant at 39 were 15% with IUI so it was quite low. I was under no illusions that it would happen straight away. I’d witnessed the physical, emotional and financial toll of other women attempting to conceive.

“If you’re under 39 and have no known fertility issues, you have to do two rounds of IUI before you move to IVF and get the Medicare rebate. It’s still discriminatory against single mums and queer couples. I was very lucky, I got pregnant the first time. I couldn’t really absorb the reality that it was happening; that I’d taken hold of my own fate. I was very nervous about money, it was probably the thing I was most concerned about.

“I did shared care and went through the public hospital system. I wasn’t sure who should be in the room with me when I birthed so I decided to hire a doula and I also had a student midwife who was also a solo mum.

“I finished work at 37 weeks and I went into labour that night. I was quite uncomfortable by that point as my pelvis was so sore and I could only walk about ten steps. I had some spotting so I went to bed and woke up the next morning. I was really relaxed and had very light contractions. I went to bed that night and woke up to the ‘pop’ of my waters breaking and I ran into the other room to get my brother and he drove me to hospital.

“I got to the hospital, vomited the pad thai I’d had for dinner, and they wheeled me up to the ward. My doula and student midwife arrived soon after and I got in the bath and it was such a warm, calm, encouraging space. I felt like I had a cheer squad with me. I was in a very calm space and I’d done hypnobirthing training and I think it really helped. After about 9 hours they asked me to get out of the bath for an examination and that felt like an impossible journey. I was fully dilated so I started pushing and that’s when it felt really painful and difficult for me.

“I needed my doula to tell me that I was going to be a good mother. It was a symbolic moment for me. After pushing for an hour an obstetrician came in and my baby’s heart rate was dropping and there was a tussle between my doula and the obstetrician and I kept pushing but the obstetrician suggested a vacuum and I was happy with that, it was time. The obstetrician asked for my consent for an episiotomy but I decided not to have one which was a good choice as I only had a small tear. Within a few pushes with the vacuum he was born and the obstetrician encouraged me to reach down and pull him up. And it was so amazing, I can’t really describe it.

“There was a huge amount of empowerment and freedom in conceiving on my own and I had an instant connection with him, I was overjoyed and overcome with him. The room emptied out and it was just my doula, my baby Quinn and I. He was breastfeeding and it was a quiet moment and then my parents arrived. My dad suggested I go and stay with them for a bit and then they left and my doula said: go and stay with them, you should absolutely do that. She said it with a certain gravity and now I know why, she was saying: take the help.

“I stayed with them for three months and it was invaluable. My parents were cooking, feeding me, bringing me drinks, adoring my son…they were just thrilled. I was ready to go home after three months but I was also terrified. I wondered how I was going to do it and then it passed pretty quickly. Parenting is so action based that you can’t really stop to think about it too much. I had a postpartum doula for the first few weeks and she’d come and tidy up, make a bulk meal for the week, make cookies and she was a joy to be around.

“At around the six month mark that’s when the pandemic hit. I’m a single parent and isolation is something I’m already a beestick away from, so then to be faced with a global pandemic was not the funnest experience. Thankfully I was in two mothers groups and the whatsapp messages were flowing freely but if you’re not going back to work at the six-month mark that’s when you can start to feel really alone.

“I’d put Quinn’s name down for childcare when I was pregnant but because of Jobkeeper Payment I could extend my maternity leave to a year. The agency I was working for wanted me to return three days a week and I just didn’t know how I was going to do it; it seemed insurmountable. I had a few freelance jobs lined up so I decided not to go back to the agency. A few months later I emailed an old colleague of mine and she needed a copywriter and has four kids of her own so she’s so incredibly flexible and supportive. It’s so important for workplaces to have that flexibility for mothers.”

You can learn more about Alexandra’s book Inconceivable here

Topics Discussed

donor-conceived, Doula, One baby, Positive birth, solo mum by choice, Student midwife, supported postpartum

Episode Sponsor

Today’s episode of the show is proudly brought to you by our friends at Bellamy’s Organic.

With so many food choices, it is difficult to know what’s best. At Bellamy’s Organic, they only make certified organic, nutritious baby food. They believe that a meal is more than nourishment and that’s why they’re committed to introducing an early love of nutritious, wholesome organic food to children. With Bellamy’s Organic, you can be confident you are giving your little ones a pure start to life. Available in your local supermarket or pharmacy, or shop directly on the Bellamy’s Organic website.

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