Solo Mama: If You Have Recently Awoken, Please Stay Awake

I’ve been writing posts in advance so I have content to publish regularly. My post for this week was supposed to be about mental health and pandemic environments, but it felt weird to let it post this week.

Everything that has happened over the past couple of weeks, the awakening that started when George Floyd was killed…so many people finally tuning in suddenly realizing how out of whack things are, even though they’ve been out of whack long before any of our lives began. People wearing t-shirts saying “Black Lives Matter” and studying up on white privilege. I’ve been waiting for these past couple of weeks for most of my life. For all this to matter and to finally hit peoples’ radars on a large scale.

I hope this lasts. Personally. Please see the depths of this. It’s not about police brutality. It is about a very broken way of life and a broken society. There are at least two reasons we should not place policing at the focus of all this.

First, when things go wrong, we look for someone to blame so we don’t have to look at ourselves and take accountability for how we have contributed to the issue – oppression, racism, privilege, opportunity (or lack of), etc., and what we can do differently at the most basic level as an individual.

The second reason, from a justice perspective, is that if we only pay attention to the front of the system, then we miss the accumulation of disparity – like a giant snowball of injustice – that occurs once people get past that first gate. Did you know that there are 5 black people for every 1 white person under some type of supervision in our justice system? There are 3 Latinx/Hispanic people for every 1 white person (and that is severely undercounted due to our poor ethnicity data capture in our justice system). People of color are less likely to make bail during the pretrial period. They are less likely to retain adequate defense. More likely to take poor plea deals. More likely to be sentenced more severely than white people accused of the same crime with the same criminal history (sometimes even less of a criminal history than their white counterparts). They are less likely to be diverted to programs the prevent further involvement in the system. Less likely to be sentenced to a treatment court that focus more on treatment of substances or mental health rather than incarceration. More likely to have their probation or parole revoked due to technical violations (as opposed to new crimes).

In our current system, this means that even if a populationally proportionate amount of people of color to white people enter our justice system, they still will experience disparate treatment at every stage of the process.

That’s just one aspect of our society. Looks for stats in every segment of our society, private or public sectors. Look for underrepresentation of people of color in our corporate executive leadership, the number of people who fall out of hiring pools because they have “black” sounding names, look at health indicators (look at who COVID 19 is hitting in disproportionate numbers), morbidity and mortality rates, high school graduation rates…

Oh – there is also intersectionality to consider. What is intersectionality? Think of these as layers of a person’s characteristics that either cause them to be more or less advantaged in society. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression are all examples of characteristics that, when layered on top of each other, can make life easier or harder for an individual in certain circles. Google Kimberlé Crenshaw to learn more about intersectionality. She coined the term more than 30 years ago.

Finishing with my beginning thought. I hope Black Lives Matter is not a trend. I hope people stay grounded and don’t fall into an “us versus them” mentality in regards to any group of people (which seems to be the trend on all issues over the past couple of years).

Finally, I hope people stay awake, stay curious and stay introspective.

Let Me Repeat Your Order to See if I Got This Right…You’d Like an Aerospace Engineer Who Loves Cricket and Spicy Food and Has a Good Health History…

It has been two weeks and I’m trying to stay on a regular schedule of documenting life as it goes with my two minions. Well, unfortunately, they are far from minions. They are usually not that cute, they rarely listen to what I have to say, and I can always understand what they say back to me. It has been a tough two weeks, personally and professionally. Rather than dive into all that stuff, which would be drama, and my mom frequently says to me, “I don’t know how people live with so much drama. How YOU live with so much drama,” I’m going to take a brief intermission and capture some thoughts and experiences around my choice to have a child in an unconventional way. Following are a couple common questions or comments that are expressed about my decision.

“Wow. That must have been a tough decision. What made you decide to do that?”

I am a data collector. I love information, and before I make decisions, I usually spend an inordinate amount of time reading, researching, googling and interrogating any relevant person who will talk with me. On the eve of my second divorce (not really the eve, but in the last months), I seriously came to the conclusion that I wanted a child. I had somewhat wanted a child, through my first and second marriages, but as each marriage wore on, envisioning myself with a child in these situations almost brought on anxiety attacks. My husbands were not bad men by any stretch of the imagination. I just really struggled with marriage, I hadn’t figured it out, and I didn’t want to complicate things with a child. A couple of years after my second divorce, I became committed to this idea of having a child. I studied. I joined SMC (Single Mother by Choice) online groups and chats. I attended local SMC meet-ups. My two go-to books were No Man? No Problem! Knock Yourself Up: A Tell-All Guide to Becoming a Single Mom by Louise Sloan and the more serious Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman’s Guide by Mikki Morrissette. At the time, I was actually in a somewhat serious relationship with a guy who supported my plans, he just didn’t want to be “the one” and I was fine with that. I truly wanted to give this a shot on my own. I may have been a disaster in the romantic partner arena, but I was convinced I could be a good mom.

“Did you just pick the father out of a brochure?”

If it were only that easy. But it’s not. It’s not technically that easy, and because of the way that many of us are raised in this day and age, there is something unnerving about “selecting” a father. I chose to cover all my bases. I became a patient at a local clinic that specialized in reproductive medical practices, its primary consumers were couples having fertility issues. I went through all the testing to ensure that I had functioning ovaries, the proper hormone balances, and even a counseling session to ensure that I knew what I was getting into. I chose to  go with an FDA-approved facility to provide donor sperm. I learned the language of “anonymous” and “identity” donors and in the end I chose an “identity” donor which allows the child the opportunity at the age of 18 to learn the identity of their donor and the chance to contact them, which the donor has agreed to through their status as an “identity” donor. Choosing an identity donor made choosing much easier. As you can imagine, there are not many men that go this route. My choices went from hundreds to a handful after I filtered out donors on a few other criteria. I really struggled with this part of the process. As I was growing up, I was never exposed to this technology and no one had ever said to me, “when you sit down to look through a catalog of potential fathers, this is what you should look for.” In fact, any media that touched on the subject portrayed this choice as radical and almost alien. While I was thankful for all of the online groups I had joined and reading I had done to help “normalize” this, I really struggled and often felt like a failure for even taking this path towards motherhood rather than the “traditional” path. I learned that as I joined SMC groups, I often participated with biases, thinking that these women must either be lesbians (which was fine in my book) or too crazy to have a relationship (which concerned me because I wondered, did I fit into that category)? Unfair, and a really ignorant perspective, but it was there, churning inside of me every time I engaged with other SMCs. I came to learn that most of these women were successful, attractive, professional, diverse, intelligent, easy to talk to and get along with, and of course, independent.

This post has gotten long. I’m going to cut out now. Reliving this and being honest about the process can be a little draining. I hope to pick up again in the near future and address the “lighter” side of being an SMC. Thanks for reading.