A growing trend in Seattle and around the country: women who feel they don't need a partner to have kids. KING
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Strong, single, and going at it alone. We're taking a look at a growing trend in Seattle and across the country: women who feel they don't need a partner to have kids. They call themselves 'Choice Moms.'
More than 50,000 women in the U.S. make the decision every year, according to the founder of ChoiceMoms.org.
Mikki Morrissette is a Choice Mother of two, and developed ChoiceMoms.org nearly 12 years ago. Since then, her website and others dedicated to these hopeful parents have seen their memberships explode.
Morrissette speaks to 'Choice Moms' all over the country. She says her research has found that the typical Choice Mom is in her 30s or 40s when she becomes a mother, is college educated, and well-established in her career.
She defines a 'Choice Mom' as "a single woman who proactively decides to become the best mother she can, through adoption or conception. Sometimes she finds a partner after she marches toward her goal of building a family' sometimes she doesn't."
Three such women are Lisa Huntsman, Anne Achberger, and Tracy Miller. They all live in the Seattle area, and are at different stages of the 'Choice Mom' journey.
Extended interview with Lisa Huntsman. KING
All three said they always dreamed of meeting someone, falling in love, getting married, and having kids.
"I'd love to be married. "I'd love to do this in quote 'the right way,' but maybe that's not for me. And why should that stop me?" said Huntsman. "So about a year and a half ago I realized Mr. Right isn't here right now, and I still want to be a mom. And my eggs aren't getting any younger, so I started looking more into it."
Huntsman felt it was more responsible to have a child on her own than to try to force a marriage to someone, simply for the sake of having children.
You'll hear the same from most 'Choice Moms', especially when they're asked how their kids might be impacted by growing up without a father figure in their lives.
At age 37, after some serious soul searching, Huntsman picked out a sperm donor. She considers herself lucky because she got pregnant the first time she tried artificial insemination.
"I ended up spending $2,000 or $3,000, and I went Intrauterine insemination, or IUI," she said.
When we first met Huntsman back in January, she was 38 years old and nine months pregnant.
"I think this is a big turning point in society that this is becoming more and more common," she said. "You know, women can do this, we can manage being single mothers."
That doesn't mean Huntsman didn't have plenty of concerns going in. She told us some of her biggest fears.
"In no particular order: money, support, I was actually terrified my parents would loathe the idea," she said.
Huntsman's mother, Greta Huntsman, admitted she was not thrilled when her daughter first told her she wanted to have a baby on her own.
"I was not thrilled because her father and I live 1,500 miles away. She's got no family here, and I was just thinking who is going to take care of the baby?" said Greta Huntsman.
Greta says she was worried because her daughter works long hours as a night shift ER nurse.
"Because of her weird work schedule, and just having no real support group here, I had concerns" said Greta.
But as Huntsman came closer to having the baby, Greta says she's warmed up to the idea.
"I think it's wonderful that women feel strong enough and comfortable enough to have a child on their own without having a significant other. I think it's a wonderful thing," she said.
Extended interview with Anne Achberger. KING
Anne Achberger couldn't agree more. She was 38 years old when she had a baby boy, all by herself. Her son, Gus, is now 19 months old.
"There are hard times when he's screaming, and I can't pass him off to a father, but there are so many more joy moments with him, and being able to snuggle with him," said Achberger.
Achberger will be the first to admit, being a single parent is not easy.
KING 5 asked her what her biggest piece of advice would be for new 'Choice Moms' like Huntsman.
"Asking for support would probably be my big one. The success those first couple of months for me was all about leaning on my village," she said. "Because I've always been this independent woman, but I had to learn how to tell someone I needed help, whether it was friends or family."
Achberger also has advice for women who may be thinking about becoming a 'Choice Mom,' but haven't yet made a final decision.
"I often tend to tell people thinking about or trying to conceive that just because you go this route doesn't mark off marriage. You can still get married at some point. I hope to get married," she said. "It's just that the biological clock ticks, and I wanted to have him before I couldn't get pregnant anymore."
So what was her biggest fear going in?
"Being a Christian, and everyone knew I was single, and then suddenly I was pregnant, my biggest concern was whether people would think I was sleeping around or had a one night stand," she said.
She laughs about it now. Gus was certainly no accident. He was the result of months of intense planning, financially and emotionally.
It took two sperm donors, four tries, and about $6,000 for Achberger to get pregnant. She says the baby she'd dreamed of was only possible because her health insurance covered part of the cost of artificial insemination.
Now that he's nearly two, Achberger says she manages on her own with the help of daycare, a somewhat flexible work schedule, and a whole lot of multi-tasking.
"Every day, every moment I have with Gus is filled with joy," she said.
So much so, Achberger hopes to soon start trying for baby number two. She's even considering using the same sperm donor, so that Gus will have a full sibling.
"If we can swing it, that's my plan. If we can figure out daycare, because daycare is so expensive," she said. "I have a lot of budgeting conversations with my other single moms."
It is possible – several moms who belong to a Facebook group for Seattle-based 'Choice Moms' have two kids. A few have three, all on their own.
Extended interview with Tracy Miller. KING
Tracy Miller is an active member of that online community.
"It's a support group; it's there for a reason," said Miller. "I jumped into this group and I've been with it for years now, and we all rely on each other."
Miller became a mother at the age of 45 when she adopted her daughter Emlyn from Vietnam. She opted for adoption after 20 failed attempts at artificial insemination, starting at age 33.
"I had enough money at that point to either go IVF or adopt, and I went with adoption," she said.
The adoption cost her about $40,000.
"Totally worth it," she said. "It was a long journey for me personally, but I still look at Emlyn, and she's almost 10 now, and I look at her and I'm like - I'm a mom! I can't believe I'm a mom!"
By sharing their stories, Huntsman, Achberger, and Miller hope to show people that there is no one "right" way to build a family. Ultimately, choosing motherhood is what felt right for them.
The women stress that it is a very big and personal decision, and they encourage any woman considering going this route to do their research: analyze your finances and your support system and make sure it's a choice that makes sense for you and your child.
"You have to really soul search and decide if this is the path you want to go," said Achberger.
They also recognize that some people believe it's important for children to be raised in a two-parent household, and worry that the absence of a father figure could have a negative impact on their kids.
Morrissette says that data about teenage single mothers and women who unexpectedly get divorced have resulted in a stereotyped image of single mothers as impoverished, overwhelmed, and emotionally tapped out.
She strongly believes that is not the case with 'Choice Moms'. She says most 'Choice Moms' tend to have strong family values and are extremely devoted parents. She also says the fact that 'Choice Moms' are having kids later in life makes them more financially stable and more prepared to be a parent.
"I'm obviously farther along in life. I'm a homeowner. I have a good career going," she said. "You know, working women these days can do this. We can manage being a single mom."
As for having her child's best interests at heart, let's go back to the day Huntsman's daughter, Sibyll Greta, was born.
"You are the most wanted baby in the world," Huntsman said to her little girl, as she wiped away tears. "Totally, absolutely worth the wait."