Here at mbg, we believe you’re the expert on your own wellness journey, and becoming a parent is no different. Yet from the moment of conception, or often even before, mothers and fathers are told what to do. Our Parenting Paths week celebrates a handful of parents who’ve listened to their intuition and gone their own way. So far, we’ve looked at a family who chose time over money, and a single mother who’s taken a spiritual approach to raising her son.
Sarah Fain and Liz Craft are writing partners. Together, they've written Emmy Award-winning television show The Shield, among many others, two young adult novels (Bass Ackwards and Belly Up and Footfree & Fancyloose), and have started a podcast together called Happier in Hollywood, part of Gretchen Rubin's Onward Project podcast group.
Fain is also an SMC—what she calls a "Single Mom by Choice," or an "only parent," in her words. She always wanted a family but hadn't met the right partner by the time she was 38 and decided to take matters into her own hands. Here's what her journey to motherhood looked like:
"Well, I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to be married, but I WAS entirely sure I wanted to be a mom."
In big cities, it's common for women to focus on their careers well into their 30s. When her friends started having babies, Fain realized that "a clock is hard to argue with. At 38 you're either going to have kids or you're not," she said, in good spirits. Fain explored several options, pursuing meetings with other parents, adoption centers, and donor centers until she found the right option for her.
"Everybody was super supportive."
Interestingly enough, the toughest hurdle for Fain to jump was the one inside her own mind, mainly because choosing something so outside of the norm and envisioning a family that looked different from the one she thought she'd have was tough. "I think I feared judgment, also. It felt a bit like a failure if I can't do what everyone else is doing and have a life that everyone else is having," she said. But when she was absolutely sure, she told friends and family and was met with heaps of support.
"For the sake of your article, I'm sure it would be better if I could say that there was resistance. But the truth is I didn't I think there was! You know, one really great thing about LA, with my friends and family specifically, is that I really didn't face a lot of resistance."
"Yes, you can order sperm online."
Once her mind was made up, it was go-time! Like most worthy endeavors, finding a sperm donor starts online. Fain said you can find out varying degrees of information about donors. The more money you pay, the more you know. To her, understanding health history was a top priority. You can also read essays written by the donor that illustrate who they are as people.
Her donor is anonymous, meaning he doesn't share his name, but he's open to being contacted by his donor children when they turn 18.
It took Fain two full years to get pregnant. She did eight rounds of intrauterine insemination—essentially where they load the sperm into a device and release them directly into the uterus. About a year into trying, she found out that there were polyps on her ovaries and had to get a procedure that held up the process. "I cried for two whole days. I called in sick, I told my writing partner Liz I can't come in today. And then, you sort of get back up. It does require a lot of understanding and patience from people around you," she recalled.
"And at the same time, these kids just glommed onto each other. Kids don't usually behave like that. Then I got that kind of full-body chill."
Fain was describing the day her daughter Violet met her donor siblings—entirely by accident. A donor sibling is a child whose parents chose the same sperm donor, so technically they are all "half" brothers or sisters. Violet was playing with two little boys she met at music class, one of whom looked eerily familiar to Fain. The kids "glommed onto each other," even though they'd never met. Fain had a feeling, and even got chills, thinking that Violet somehow knew she was related to those two boys. "I left the class and I called my writing partner and said I was 70 percent sure I just met Violet's donor siblings. And I went home and I looked at the Facebook group [for donor siblings in our area] and there they are within a mile and a half from me! I sent them a Facebook message," and they now see each other almost every weekend. They are all quite close, and the relationship is important to both Fain and Violet.
Her advice? "Don't wait."
If you're thinking of following in Fain's footsteps, her main advice is not to wait. "There are always reasons to wait, but I'm so, so envious of people who started younger and who just embraced it from the beginning. Your parents are young if you start younger, you have more energy if you start younger," Fain said.