When you're facing a major life change, it helps to talk to someone who's already been through it. All Things Considered is connecting people on either side of a shared experience, and they're letting us eavesdrop on their conversations in our series Been There.
Liv Aannestad has known she wanted kids as long as she can remember.
"I always assumed it would happen the normal, typical way: I'd meet somebody, maybe either in high school or college, and maybe have a few babies," she says.
As years went by, and she still hadn't met the right person, Liv started thinking about doing it on her own — maybe adopting or fostering — but the timing never seemed right.
Now, she thinks it is. Liv, who is 36 and single, recently became pregnant through in vitro fertilization. Like all expecting parents, she has a lot of questions.
Pam Rector went through a similar experience 18 years ago. At 42, she knew she wanted to be a mother, but also that time was running out.
"The biological clock was ticking and I wasn't with somebody. And I thought, if I met someone it would still take a couple years to meet them, date them, marry them, have kids with them," she tells Liv.
Pam's daughter turns 18 next year. Liv is expecting her first child in March.
Advice From Pam Rector
On dealing with judgment from others
My folks were not so keen on the idea. My mom was a big fan of [talk radio host] Dr. Laura [Schlessinger] at the time. So my mom was saying, "Dr. Laura says that this is very selfish." And my dad said to me "You're just having a midlife crisis, why don't you get a red car or something."
But once I was pregnant, they were like over the moon. All of that fell away. But the judgment thing wasn't a big issue for me. I don't want to say I didn't care, but my desire to be a mom was more important than what people were going to say to me.
On the option for the child to meet the donor
At the time what the donor agreed to is that, when the child is 18, then the child can contact the bank and then the bank will contact him. [My daughter is] interested in meeting him and seeing him.
But she's always known, obviously. You know, when she was little I practiced telling her the story about the nice man with the seeds that the doctor put inside me and that's how you came to be.
On how a one-parent family is different
We've had the conversation about "Do you wish you had a dad?" And she has said sometimes she wished she had a dad because dads are fun and dad's play.
But I think the thing is she also has said to me [if she had a dad] that she and I wouldn't have the same relationship that we do have. She's, you know, half of the family.
On accepting and asking for help
For a lot of single moms, we are independent women and we can handle our own business. But then this little baby comes and sometimes you just can't do it all. So you have to know how to ask for support — or when people offer — to take it.
For me it was a hard lesson to learn, because I'm used to like, "No, no, no, I've got it, I can handle it."
But no, she was a colicky kid, she cried from 7 to 11 at night. When people said "What can I do?" It's like, "You can come over, bring food and carry her around so I can eat while she's doing the crying thing."
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Liv Aannestad has wanted to be a mother for as long as she can remember.
LIV AANNESTAD: I always assumed it would happen the normal, typical way. I'd meet somebody maybe either in high school or college and get married and have a few babies. But it didn't happen that way.
SIEGEL: As years went by and she still hadn't met the right person, Liv started thinking about becoming a single parent. Now, Liv Aannestad is 36, and this year she started the in-vitro fertilization process. Like every prospective parents, she has lots of questions, so we introduced her to someone who could answer them.
PAM RECTOR: Hi, Liv. How are you?
AANNESTAD: Hello. How are you?
RECTOR: Good. Good morning.
SIEGEL: Pam Rector is a single mother by choice. Her daughter is now 17. Pam and Liv spoke as part of our series Been There, connecting people at either end of a shared experience. Liv, the prospective mother, wanted to know what it was like for Pam when she decided to get pregnant on her own.
AANNESTAD: One of my concerns I was going to ask you about is, do people judge you for this when they find out that you did it on your own?
RECTOR: My folks were not so keen on the idea. My mom was a big fan of Dr. Laura at the time, so my mom was saying, you know, Dr. Laura says that this is very selfish and blah, blah, blah. And my dad said to me, you know, you're just having a midlife crisis. Why don't you just get a red car or something?
But once I was pregnant, they were, like, over the moon that all that...
RECTOR: ...Fell away. So...
AANNESTAD: Then it becomes real I guess.
RECTOR: Yeah. Then they're, like, at the ultrasound. But I don't think - the judgment thing wasn't a big issue to me. I mean I don't want to say I didn't care, but it - my desire to be a mom was more important than what people were going to say to me.
RECTOR: So question for you - are you having doubts about the path, like, disaster fantasies (laughter) or huge fears or...
RECTOR: Do you have...
AANNESTAD: I do do that. I...
AANNESTAD: I mean I - it is the right decision, but I have my thoughts of, you know - obviously the question of, is the child going to be resentful of the fact that there's not a father figure? There may not be a father figure. I did go with a open or non-anonymous donor, so they have the option of contacting them when they're 18. So I was going to ask you if you had done that.
RECTOR: Yeah, I went with the California Cryobank, and at the time, what the donor agreed to is that when the child is 18, the child can contact the bank, and the bank will contact the donor. Does your daughter want to meet him? She's interested in meeting him and seeing him, but she's - she has always known obviously.
You know, when she was little, I practiced telling the story about the nice man with the seeds that, you know, the doctor put inside me. And that's how you came to be. And she's been - I mean, you know, because you can pick whatever you want donor wise, I picked somebody with Italian background because I wanted a little SPF in there.
RECTOR: And you know, I remember; we were in an elevator one time. And so she gets really beautiful skin in the summer. And someone said to her, oh, your skin - it's so beautiful. And she was three. She's like, oh, thank you; I got it from my donor, you know?
AANNESTAD: Yeah (laughter).
RECTOR: And I'm like, OK, this is a girl that's comfortable with...
AANNESTAD: It's not an elevator...
RECTOR: ...Her story.
AANNESTAD: conversation though maybe.
RECTOR: Yeah, yeah.
AANNESTAD: Is there anything that was unexpected as you went through this process that I should know about?
RECTOR: I think for a lot of single moms, we are independent women, and we can handle our own business. But then this little baby comes. And sometimes you just can't do it all, so you have to know how to ask for support or, when people offer, to take it. And that's hard - for me, it was a hard lesson to learn because I'm used to, like, no, no, no, I got it; I can handle it.
But no, you know, she was a colicky kid. She cried from, like, 7 to 11 at night. When people said, what can I do? It's like, you can come over. Bring food, and carry her around so I can eat while she's doing the crying thing.
AANNESTAD: That's a good point because I could see myself being afraid that people are going to say I told you so, you know? Like, well, you did this on your own, so it might lead me to say, oh, I'm fine; I don't need help - but yeah.
RECTOR: There was a big group of people that were very supportive to me, but in the end, you're doing it by yourself.
RECTOR: So I think it's important that you know that there are going to be times where you're just like, oh, my God, this is just so hard, you know?
RECTOR: I've got to do the taxes. I've got to do the this. And now the plumbing broke. And the baby's crying. And the (unintelligible). You know, some days are just not that pretty, (laughter) and you just take the breath and get it done.
I look back at videos that I have. You know, like, I'm videoing my daughter, and there's nobody in it but her, right? Like, there's not videos...
RECTOR: ...Of she and I.
AANNESTAD: Right 'cause you're holding the camera, right?
RECTOR: Right, so it is a different family situation.
AANNESTAD: Do you think you had - have a better relationship with your daughter because it's just you and her?
RECTOR: You know, we've had the conversation about, do you wish you had a dad? And she has said sometimes she wished she had a dad because dads are fun, and dads play. And - but I think the thing is, she also has said to me, I know if I had a dad, that she and I wouldn't have the same relationship that we do have. She's, you know, half of the family.
SIEGEL: That was single parent by choice Pam Rector talking to Liv Aannestad, a single mother to be. Liv's now pregnant, due in March. They spoke together for our series of conversations called Been There. You can take part, too. If you're going through a big change and you want to talk to someone about it, you can let us know by email. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org with Been There in the subject line. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.