Becoming a parent for the first time is a wonderful yet overwhelming experience – and even more so if you do it alone. While many adults today choose to parent solo, it is unquestionably commendable to juggle the extraordinary demands of parenthood by yourself, without the help of a partner. The journey to solo parenting is often a complicated and emotional path and a less often discussed path to parenthood is through donor conception, allowing a mum or dad-to-be to have a child of their own without the need for a partner.
An intensely personal journey, we spoke to Jodie of @bellami.and.mummy to discover the highs and lows of her experience with donor conception and raising her daughter, Bellami, alone. Jodie openly shares her life as a solo mother on Instagram and has cultivated a supportive and loyal community, including other parents who have chosen donor conception as their path to parenthood.
Our interview with Jodie @bellami.and.mummy
Please could you begin by telling us how you came to the decision to start your parenting journey alone?
For me it was an easy choice to pursue parenting alone. Around the age of 18 I realised I was aroace which is short for aromantic and asexual. I knew 110 percent that meeting someone, falling in love and starting a family was not the way it was going to happen for me and I knew that, if I wanted children, I’d be doing it alone – I just didn’t know how at that point in my life.
You’ve spoken openly about your journey to motherhood being a long and painful process and your battles with anxiety. How did you find your pregnancy with Bellami?
My pregnancy was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through. It never crossed my mind when I was trying to conceive that pregnancy would be anything but amazing – I expected to glow and love the experience, but it was the complete opposite for me. The first few days of pregnancy were nice, I was excited, happy and looking forward to the future but then I developed hyperemesis gravidarum and I spent the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy going back and forth to the hospital to get IV fluids. I was weak, I couldn't eat or drink, I could barely lift my head, but by around the 20-week mark my condition calmed. I was then able to eat and drink small amounts, I had some energy back and could do basic things but this also allowed for me to over think and my anxiety took over. I spent the rest of my pregnancy convinced I was losing her at every minute of the day and this eventually led to me being induced at 38 weeks pregnant for the sake of my mental health. The reality was that Bellami was thriving and healthy but I wasn't in the same situation.
Bellami is beautiful and you seem to have an incredibly special bond. Do you feel that it being just the two of you contributes to this?
Ah, thank you. Honestly, I don't know. I do know she's my whole world and I just enjoy her company but I think she's just an easy child to create a bond with – she's very social and gives so much to all people that it's just easy. She has amazing bonds with my brother, sister and mum and no doubt she would have with my dad if she had been born when he was still with us. I do enjoy not having to share her but equally that's hard when we’re having bad days.
What advice would you give to others who are considering donor conception?
Oh that's a tough one. I think that everyone's journey is so different that it's hard to give advice that will fit everyone. I guess out of everything I allowed myself to overthink selecting a donor. It was stressful, I wanted everything to be perfect about this stranger that was going to be contributing to half of my child’s genetics, and then I ended up going with the complete opposite of who I thought I was looking for. Once she was born and in my arms, none of that mattered. She is perfect.
You have talked about your diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis, how does this impact motherhood when you are having to manage it all yourself?
It's been a huge burden on motherhood for me, it's meant admitting sometimes I can't do it all myself. Some days I'm just not well enough to take her to nursery and have to ask my mum, some days we just do nothing but watch TV which is not at all what I imagined our life together to be. I hoped that once I got on medication I would be OK but the reality is it's not that easy to treat and it's a very slow process.
To help others who might be thinking about taking this route, is there anything you wish you had known before beginning the journey of parenting solo?
I wish I had known how many solo parents were out there, I went into this thinking there were so few men and women who actually did it alone, I thought I'd be met with so much criticism and, although I have been, it's been hugely outweighed by the sheer amount of positivity and number of solo parents I have met. I met another solo parent at one of the baby groups we attended from when she was 12 weeks old and I met another online who happened to live just 10 minutes from me and that's just the local ones. I've also become friends with many more solo parents from Scotland, Wales and England to Denmark, America and New Zealand. In fact, I probably know more solo parents than I do coupled parents now and it's been amazing learning all the reasons and ways they've become parents. Fertility Week isn't something I even knew was a thing before I went down my own journey to motherhood.
All Images by @bellami.and.mummy
Follow Jodie & Bellami | Instagram
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