When you’re a single and childless-by-circumstance woman approaching the event horizon of your fertility, still hopeful that somehow partnership and children might happen for you, one of the most common pieces of ‘helpful advice’ (and I use those quotes advisedly!) you might hear is, ‘Why don’t you just have one on your own?!’ It can also be phrased in the past tense, once you’re a little older, accompanied by that pitying head-tilt…
These enquires are usually delivered as if this were (a) something that hadn’t ever occurred to you and (b) slam-dunk easy. When Guthrie Woods found herself in exactly that position – turning forty without Mr Right anywhere in sight – she decided it was time to seriously consider it.
This book, ‘The Mother of All Dilemmas’ is the result: part memoir, part reportage, it records Guthrie-Woods’ painfully honest fact-finding mission as she tries to work out whether she had what it took to be a single mother by choice: emotionally, logistically, financially, physically and spiritually.
One of the things that this book touches on, which is something many Gateway Women members have shared with me over the years, is how perhaps sometimes the desire for a child can be wrapped up in a deep and natural craving for daily love and physical companionship; being a single and childless not-by-choice woman over an extended period of time can lead to acute feelings of physical and emotional deprivation that are rarely discussed openly; I really appreciated how Guthrie Woods was determined to be honest with herself about her own motivations and whether they were reasonable expectations to place on a child
I feel this book should be thrust into the hands of every person who dares to say ‘Why not have one on your own?’ to a single, childless woman – I guarantee they’ll never say it again!
I also think it would offer information and solace to a great many single childless women struggling to move forward either with pursuing the hope of solo parenthood or making peace with not doing so. This is the first time I’ve seen the dilemma of whether to have a baby, or not, as a single woman so well-articulated, and Guthrie Woods has done future generations of women facing this difficult choice a great service with her painstaking honesty and emotional generosity.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a San Francisco–based freelance copywriter and editor. For eight years she wrote a weekly column for LifeWithoutBaby.com, a website and blog dedicated to giving a voice to women who are childfree by chance, choice, or circumstance. She currently runs her own blog, 52Nudges, in which she takes weekly “risks” to push her out of a sometimes-too-comfortable nest. With Lisa Manterfield, she co-authored Life Without Baby: Holiday Companion, a compilation of humorous, healing, and thought-provoking posts designed to help other childless women get through the holidays and get closer to making peace with being childless. In July 2021, she released her memoir with a message, The Mother of All Dilemmas: Dreams of Motherhood and the Internship that Changed Everything which is on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats.
6 Comments on The next time someone suggests to you, ‘Why not have a baby on your own?’, like it’s an easy option, ask them to read ‘The Mother of All Dilemmas’ by Kathleen Guthrie Woods
I’ve not read this book. My experience is the opposite. I pursued solo motherhood through fertility treatments for two years, and failed. This leads me to a question, I’ve been a GW member for about six months and have met one or two others who also pursued fertility treatments solo. Why are there so few women across the various support systems who were attempting solo motherhood and failed?
Thank you so much, your work has been invaluable in my healing.
Hi Emily – I’m so sorry to hear that pursuing solo motherhood didn’t work out for you. I think that those who casually mention ‘why not have a baby on your own’ have no idea of the challenges (mostly) older women experience when they try to get pregnant through treatments, there’s still this idea that IVF is some kind of silver bullet. I confess that over the last decade, I have only got to know a handful of women in your situation but as you say, there must be many, many more. Perhaps as a group, as you find your voice, you may find that this naturally leads to more support being offered? One woman who has this as part of her own story and has become an award-winning coach is Sophia Andeh at Butterfly and Beyond – you might want to explore her work? Hugs, Jody x
Just finished reading the book this week, and loved it! You’re right, Jody, I have seen (but not read) books by single mothers explaining why & how they did it and how they manage, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book from the perspective of a woman who considered going it alone but ultimately decided no. And I love that Kathleen takes us inside her thought process and research on the topic.
Thank you so much for this Jody and all your writings and talks and webinars . I have been following for some years and feel immense gratitude for the work you have done. In this last year at the age of 46, I have considered the route of solo motherhood which I had never wanted to do before, but I have not been able to grieve and the first step to getting out of a stuck mess I had relapsed into was suddenly the idea to find a tangible way to grieve by going to a fertility clinic who would be happy to consider me at my age expecting to be told that I had no chance with my own egg and therefore would then try to do the real grieving journey. I was thrown into an unexpected possibility of trying for a baby and this year found myself signing up for your webinars ( really poignant and helpful ) as well as signing up to ‘ The stork and I ‘ solo mums to be, i have been agonising about how I could cope financially , emotionally and so forth but have gone as far as buying donor sperm. However there are still hurdles to go before I give IVF one go and I can not articulate all the different levels of feeling and thought and anxieties. It has felt of late that whatever outcome I am presented with I don’t know how I will cope. If I can’t have a child of my own the feelings I have are that my body will shatter , explode and fall knot a deep hole.
I am single, self employed and time is very much against me. I thought it was too late when I hit 42 and already was feeling this in the years approaching but suddenly felt shock at this age. The deepening stuck mess became entrenched age 45 to 46 and since making the decision I would try for a baby I got myself out of this unwell mess I was in…..however….it is a less than 5% chance of it happening …
Jody, I have been meaning to write to you for some time now….
It has suddenly come out spontaneously here and I apologise for length.
I look forward to purchasing this book. Thank you .