Brenda's life fits the literature's conception of these women. She has a steady career with the New York Board of Education, a large network of friends, and owns a three-bedroom home in Brooklyn, New York. Although she has hired a full-time live-out nanny, Brenda's friends are available for her children. "They're all on call," she says. "If I really needed them they'd be there."
In addition to help from friends, single women can gain support through groups such as "Single Mothers By Choice." Founded in 1981, its membership consists of thousands of highly educated women with an average age of 35, according to its website. Fifty-two percent of its members conceived through donor insemination, 25 percent have adopted, and 20 percent have become pregnant through a "known donor" or sex partner. Half of its members chose motherhood after a divorce.
The Emotional Health of the Children
Brenda chose not to adopt. "I don't want them to go on a mission," she says, regarding a search for their genetic parents. She believes her children will be emotionally healthy with a single mother. "As long as they're loved and supported and know they're wanted," she says. She doesn't worry about male influence in the children's lives. "Growing up with three brothers, I'm a little bit of a tomboy," she says about eventually playing baseball with her son. She also expects her friend's older sons will become like brothers to her children.
Dr. Jacob, who also counsels couples and singles at the University of Connecticut's Center for Advanced Reproductive Services, agrees with Brenda regarding the long-term emotional health of these children. "If kids feel connected and feel that they can be kept safe, then they become resilient people and that's really the issue," she says. Dr. Jacob adds that genetics, unconditional love in the home, and a strong attachment between the child and the primary caretaker fosters resilience in the child. She encourages mothers to tell their children the truth about their father in "child-size bites."
"Helping kids understand about their donor conceptions is something that takes ten or 15 years," she says. "It's not a one-time event." Brenda is still developing a strategy for telling her children about their "parental" donor.