Story by Michele Elizaga
I have been single for most of my adult life and never lost hope that I would be married. Once married, then I would have children. However, being a Mom wasn’t something I had certainty of from an early age like I’ve heard some women share. So, when I found myself still single at 40, I wasn’t sure having children of my own would be an option and I wasn’t sure I had it in me at this age.
Halfway through my fortieth year of life, I went over to my best friend’s house for a glass of wine and a much needed catch up on all the things of life. By the end of our conversation, she shared something I never would have expected to hear…
“You can be a Mom.”
And these words surfaced something so deep in me that all I could do was respond with tears…and then she added…
a“You don’t need a husband.”
Then something else I needed to hear…
“And you won’t be alone.”
So I cried more tears…and then she said,
“And you can have your own.”
By this last statement, I was sobbing and disoriented. I was disoriented because I had never considered any of this, let alone believed it was possible. But I knew could not ignore how her words resonated with the deepest part of my heart.
So, the next morning I woke with having a baby on my mind, and was committed to taking the steps to pursue single motherhood, in spite of the questions and fears swirling in my head…
Me, a single mom?!?
Can I afford 1. trying to have a baby 2. supporting a baby?!
Could I handle the disappointment of it not happening?
How will I ever meet someone now??
What will others think of me?!
CAN I REALLY DO THIS?!?!?!
So, the first step was to research fertility specialists and make an appointment.
“You should purchase multiple vials of sperm and plan for multiple cycles,” said the fertility specialist.
I replied, “But all I have is enough for one vial and I just believe it’s going to happen.”
To which he responded, “Okay, but do you understand the likelihood of conceiving the first time? The chances of a healthy couple conceiving on their first time is only 20%.”
And he never actually told me what my chances were and I never asked, but I’ve since googled it and found it is less than 5% for a woman the age of 40.
So, sticking with my budget and faith, I purchased one vial. But the journey nearly ended before I placed the online sperm order simply because I couldn’t land on a donor that felt right in my heart.
Having read stories of other women who had gone before me, I decided to find a Filipino donor to ensure my baby looked most like me and avoid comments like, “they must get that feature from their father.”
Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of options for what I was looking for. So, taking into consideration how I would one day explain to my child why I chose this donor, I decided on a donor with a healthy medical history who I felt had a compelling reason for donating and from the information I had, appeared to be an overall good human.
The donor I chose served his community as a police officer and had previously served his country in the Air Force. The thing he was most proud of in life was raising his children, and his reason for donating was to help others who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have a child. And finally, he was darn cute in the photos of himself from when he was a young boy posted on the website (current photos are not shared for anonymity purposes).
So,with my one vial of sperm and all the initial labs and tests looking good, I was set to undergo an intrauterine insemination (IUI). To increase the likelihood of success, the fertility specialist wanted me to use a drug to stimulate my egg production. However, I believed my initial work up was promising and I didn’t want additional hormones, so I declined. I could tell he wasn’t pleased but I had to go with my instincts.
Finally, when it came time for the intrauterine insemination (IUI), I was sent home with a prescription and instructions for a trigger shot which is a flood of hormones that would initiate ovulation to best time the IUI procedure. This time I couldn’t say no. I had to take the doctor’s orders, however, I prayed that if there were another way, then let it be.
When the bloodwork came back to check where I was a in my cycle, it revealed I was about to ovulate any minute so I got a call from the office to come back in so we could do the IUI immediately. This was a super simple procedure that took less than ten minutes and I was sent home with the date in which to take an at home pregnancy test.
I decided to take the test a day earlier and happened to wake that morning at 3am. I had the urge to use the bathroom, so I knew this was my chance. I opened the pink box and followed the instructions, and within seconds, two lines were visible on the test stick.
I sat in shock and once I got up, I fell to my knees on the bathroom floor and thanked God. It was too early to call anyone until I realized it was evening time in the Philippines where my parents live. This made for an interesting conversation because they had no idea what I was trying to do. I didn’t tell them because I just wasn’t sure they would approve, nor did I want them to be part of the disappointment, if it didn’t happen.
So, the conversation went like this…
Me: I have some news…
Me: So first, I need you to know that I’m still single…and I haven’t had sex with anyone…but I’m pregnant.
After they got over the shock, they were happy for me. And from there, I told my sisters and then my best friends and made so many phone calls and shared the news with so many in the weeks that followed.
Now that I was pregnant, I was so sure I was having a girl, which was a bit of a surprise since I always imagined having two boys, but I also imagined being married. So, there’s that! But all this to say that when I was told I could take a test as early as 10 weeks that would confirm my baby’s gender, I was in.
My Nurse Practitioner told me it would take about a week for the results to come back.
A week went by and I heard nothing.
By a week and a half, I received a voicemail. The medical assistant asked if I would return the call to schedule a time to come into the office.
And my heart dropped upon listening to this message. I knew there was more to it.
The thing is, I wasn’t at all concerned there would be anything to it. I was still basking in the light of having beat the IUI odds that I had no concerns for genetic conditions, which is what the test was primarily intended to screen for.
Driving to the appointment later that day, I was filled with anxiety thinking that I would learn my baby wasn’t going to live.
Upon arrival, my nerves had calmed, and I was brought back to the room where I patiently waited for my Nurse Practitioner, who I had been seeing for nearly fifteen years.
She entered with a smile on her face. I smiled back and immediately asked, “is everything okay?”
Her smile quickly changed as she shook her head and said, “no.”
I immediately got up to embrace her and began bawling, and through tears asked, “what is it?”
She said, “Down syndrome.”
When I could finally catch my breath, we sat down and she held the results in front of me which showed a 9/10 chance for Down syndrome. It also showed that I was having a boy.
Because we had such a long-standing relationship, she knew me well enough to know that the question did not even have to be asked of whether or not I was keeping him. And she shared that most babies with a chromosomal difference like Down syndrome don’t make it to 12 weeks, and my baby did.
She said, “he’s a fighter.”
And fight is what he has done in the face of every obstacle that has come his way.
I had hopes to have a natural birth in a birth center and while the ultrasounds leading up to his birth didn’t show any immediate concerns, I felt it was best to deliver him in a hospital.
I chose a midwife for my prenatal care and she knew that my desire was for a natural birth so she did all that she could to support this. At my 39-week appointment, I was not at all dilated.
My pregnancy was considered high risk due to my age and the likelihood of my baby having Down syndrome, so it was not advised for me to go beyond my due date. I left the appointment knowing I would be scheduled to go to the hospital as soon as possible, and begin the process to induce.
Labor was full of ups and downs. Things weren’t progressing, then they were progressing. My baby’s heart rate was okay, then it would drop. A natural birth appeared to be imminent and then suddenly a c-section was scheduled. While waiting for the c-section, I dilated to 9cm and by this time my younger sister and two best friends were all in place to help me deliver my baby. I had an epidural so I was using all my might to push without really feeling anything until next thing I know, I’m being rushed to an operating room while gripping my best friend’s hand asking her if I’m about to lose my baby.
I later learned that Matthew’s heart rate was dropping while I was pushing so they had to make the hard and fast call to quickly get him out via emergency c-section. Unfortunately, I had to be placed under general anesthesia, so I woke in the operating room without my baby.
Matthew was rushed to the NICU because he required oxygen support so it wasn’t until 5 hours after his birth that we would meet in the NICU while I was nauseous and still feeling the effects of the anesthesia.
While it went so different than I had imagined, it was the sweetest reunion and there was nothing like holding this little baby that grew inside of me.
I spent four days recovering from the c-section and going up and down between the postpartum floor and the NICU to visit my son.
When it was time to leave, I believe my body went numb to protect me from the deep grief of leaving the hospital without my baby. But I didn’t miss a day of visiting over the course of seven weeks and then advocated for his transfer to the Children’s Hospital for a consult that resulted in a much-needed surgery. He stayed at that NICU for another week and a half.
I never thought I would make it through this time, but here I am to say, I did.
I’ve never been so physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Yet, I have never felt more empowered and whole.
A chaplain came to visit us during Matthew’s stay in the NICU and he shared the most beautiful anecdote.
He told me, “Our souls are given a glimpse of this life upon entering it and given the choice to say yes or no. Matthew saw that he would have Down syndrome and all these health conditions. But he also saw that he would be loved by you. That you would be his mom, so he said yes.”
The whole time I thought I chose Matthew, but knowing he chose me has been the greatest source of my strength.
Matthew has pulled a strength out of me I never knew I had and made me love like I never knew was possible. The joy he continually brings to my heart feels like a dream.
He is now two and half years old. Not only did we make it through the traumatic birth and extended NICU stay…but together, we have also endured through a pandemic and losing my father to COVID.
Single parenting a child with a disability is not for the faint of heart. Then add the loss of a parent and a worldwide pandemic and safe to say, you’ll learn what you’re really made of.
I’m still single but becoming a single mom has shown me that this is the love story I’ve always been waiting for. I often recall the conversation I had with the chaplain and am reminded that Matthew choosing me is the greatest love I could ever receive.
‘You Can Be A Mom.’ ‘You Don’t Need A Husband.’ ‘And You Won’t Be Alone.’ ‘And You Can Have Your Own.’Posted by HrtWarming on Saturday, 19 February 2022