Women today are finding themselves single and mothers by choice. While some might be dealing with infertility issues others may be going against the patriarchy centric narrative that our fate in fulfilling our desires for motherhood lies solely in their loins. There are many pathways to motherhood that our parents never dreamed of having that are available to us and today we have the privilege of learning from this honest young Black sister who literally and figuratively put in the work and followed her heart and intuition by choosing donor insemination as her route to fulfilling her dream of becoming a mother.
Q. Everyone has an origin story however there is always something so uniquely profound about the stories of women who dare to live as their full selves. Where does your sense of self come from? Who and what nurtured and supported you in valuing living as your authentic self?
I was born and raised in a small town by a single mother who gave us the freedom to be ourselves and allowed us to discover our likes and dislikes without restrictions. We were never forced to do anything we didn’t want and looking back it truly created the foundation for my confidence in standing up for what I truly believe in without any fear of being judged, looked down upon, or even punished for it…within reason of course.
My journey to discovering a sense of self began during my high school days. As I mentioned I came from a small town where there was no sense of societal hierarchy. I was an extremely bright child and was advised to apply for a scholarship at one of the top girl’s schools in the country. I did and received a full scholarship. It was a make or break type of environment. There seemed to be this idea of perfection that all the young ladies were to ascribe to belong. I was a complete misfit in every possible way and instead of changing the core of who I was (which I continue to discover), I fought against every single societal pressure that was enforced on us by the school and this new society I found myself in which ranked people by westernised ideals of who young women should aspire to be and behave like.
I always say high school was my greatest battle, I was not only fighting the school rules in rebellion, but I was also fighting to be my authentic imperfect self. As one of my favourite authors, Brene Brown writes in ‘Daring Greatly’, “Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance”. I pushed every boundary that I felt hindered my ability to be ME!
Yes, there are rules to be followed, the world would be chaotic if we had none, but the moment they affect and infringe on your beliefs and values to the extent they did on mine, it’s ok to fight back.
My mom has been my greatest supporter. I believe those early days of self-discovery were key in establishing solid self-esteem and propelling me into the journey of self-actualization. Parents must help their children nurture and cultivate loving relationships with themselves, a healthy self-esteem is foundational in self-actualization. I was allowed to love myself, with my imperfections, but reminded that one can always better themself, not for others only but most importantly for self. My mother may not always agree with my decisions and views, but she has always respected them and offered her advice without pressuring me into anything I was uncomfortable with.
I have also read a lot of self-development material since a young age. My inquisitive mind has always led me to question everything I am told, research different views and then form my own opinion. I rarely take anything that impacts my life majorly at face value. Be it politics, sexuality, religion, or tradition, I have questioned it all and allowed myself to explore all available options that I wanted to and formed my views and choices based on having done so.
Q. Can you tell us about yourself, what was your childhood like? Do you have siblings and where did you go to school?
I consider myself kind, patient, non-judgemental, loving and loyal almost to a fault. I try to balance my liberal open-minded nature with a strong core foundation of my true self and what I truly believe in and value. I have a small community of people whom I love dearly and surround myself mainly with that community.
I am in my early thirties and I have siblings from both my mother and my father, biological and adopted. My parents got divorced when I was extremely young, so I never experienced a two-parent household, yet I feel like I didn’t miss a thing. I grew up in such a close-knit family and with an intentional support system. In my eyes, my mother is truly superhuman. Even when she tells me stories of how she struggled in our early years, it’s hard for me to comprehend as we truly had a magical upbringing, in my view.
I struggled a bit in primary school when kids would ask me where my father was. I remember I used to fabricate stories about his whereabouts; primarily because I had no idea where he was, his whereabouts were something that never came up in conversation. It’s probably one of the reasons why I am so insistent on or rather unrelenting about having age-appropriate and honest conversations with my children. Children need to be aware of their circumstances and reality so that they are better equipped to defend and or stand up for themselves when the cruelty of the world comes for them.
I went to high school at a girl’s school in Johannesburg and completed my tertiary in Cape Town. I am currently based in Johannesburg and am on a long journey of entrepreneurship.
Q. You’ve always wanted to be a mother, can you take us back to who or what initially inspired this desire and who and how did you keep fanning the dream in a society where “traditions” govern culture?
Society expects women to be mothers, so in all honesty, I was initially driven by societal norms. Self-actualization comes in stages and at different times in our lives. It is a lifelong journey in my opinion. At 25, the age I had previously set for motherhood (a joke when I think of where I was at in my life); I started to question my reasons for aspiring for marriage and kids and it was only then that I started truly picturing my family life for myself. I was just laughing with my partner recently as I read from an old primary school journal in which I had written about my dreams to marry, “a kind man and have two daughters.” I am currently dating a woman and I have a son.
I do not have a textbook response for why I wanted to be a mother, I just knew I did. I love children and I’d find myself gravitating toward them regardless of the occasion. My twenties were spent taking my nieces, nephews, and friends’ kids on playdates.
I was in and out of heterosexual relationships that never got anywhere and by the age of 28 I found myself panic dating because the clock was ticking, and those aunties that had no business commenting on your family aspirations were quick to remind you that “time waits for no one”. My 30th birthday arrived and I was nowhere near marriage let alone having children! Instead of continuing to panic I took a step back and did some introspection. I didn’t want to step into my thirties with a flourishing career but no sense of what I valued, which is family. It dawned on me then that it was not the husband I was in fact after, I yearned to be a mother. I wanted to bring life into this world.
Like anything in my life; when I set my mind to it I go after it with all that I have. I would rather fail than not try. The second I was serious about wanting a child, I explored all my options, consulted my mother and my gynae and the rest is history.
Q. We recently celebrated ‘Workers Day’. As a working mother can you please share a little bit about your experience in the workforce, how the corporate world and your industry particularly can better support mothers, and how has motherhood impacted your career and definition of success?
I left corporate moons ago. There are a lot of issues in that environment and not providing a conducive environment for women and mothers is at the top of the list. The industry I am in is extremely cutthroat and competitive but I also can’t imagine having to go through pregnancy and post-maternity in the corporate environment. Corporations and my industry can better support mothers by just shutting down. Jokes. On a serious note allowing flexibility and easing up on all the red tape with regards to working hours would be a good start. I don’t believe that productivity and delivery come from timesheets. If the work is done why should they care where or when it was done? If it’s done within reasonable timelines that’s all that should matter. Parents should be allowed to pick up their children from school, attend soccer matches, and take their children to the doctor. Women should be allowed to stay home if they are not feeling well during pregnancy. If men could experience half the intensity of the pregnancy journey, they would offer us leave for the entire duration of our pregnancies.
Thankfully, I am self-employed which has its challenges but I would not trade the stability of my mental health and flexible environment for any paycheck. I was pregnant during the Covid period and that for me was a true blessing in disguise as work was essentially remote. As we all know the pandemic hit small businesses hard and if it had not been for my family’s overwhelming support I would have been stressed throughout my entire pregnancy. I am generally not a fan of the pregnancy journey, I feel it’s way too long and a complete mind f*ck. Women are truly superheroes for their contribution to bringing life into this world. The only thing that truly carried me through the tough moments of my pregnancy was the reality of the beautiful blessing I was carrying inside of me.
Motherhood has essentially placed a flame under my *ss to propel me to levels even I never imagined. It has made me more driven and even more determined to succeed at what I have set out to do in a professional sense. It has reignited my passion for building a legacy for my children. I want them to have a solid foundation that liberates them to follow their passions and build their dreams without the pressures of survival in this land of severe unemployment levels and poverty.
My definition of success has also changed; I am now focused on being happy, raising my amazing beautiful babies, and building a home with the one I love, in the comfort of course!
Q. As a Black queer woman you are already marginalised and maligned within these marginalised communities, why take on another fight?
For me, it’s no longer a fight. I am not fighting for anything, I am simply being myself and living my life in a manner that does not give me sleepless nights but complete peace and contentment. Loving who I want to love and making choices that make me happy. I cannot change my skin colour nor can I change my sexuality, but I can be true to my identity with absolutely no shame. My ultimate favourite book, “Choose Yourself” by James Altecher, speaks to this; I am simply choosing myself in a world that so desperately wants me not to.
Q. As a Black woman in South Africa what gave you the moxie to choose single parenthood?
I was raised by a single woman so it was not a concept or family setup I was unfamiliar with. I feel that we were better off being raised by a happy mother than an unhappy one within a marriage that was not working. So having grown up in a healthy single-parent family setup, I knew it was possible. I however have not closed myself up to the possibility of companionship or even marriage. I just figured that the person will find me having already embarked on this journey and if they truly love me, they will love my child too. I am a better partner for it. No more panic dating. I am intentional about the type of relationship I want and I will not settle for anything less.
Q. What does motherhood mean to you right now and is it one of those definitions that continuously evolve?
I am honestly allowing myself to discover what motherhood means to me and continuously bettering the way I mother by allowing myself to make mistakes and forgive myself. We all have a plan, unfortunately, life does not always pan out the same for everyone. I was so set on how I wanted to parent before I became a mom, and I was humbled from day one when my natural birth plans were shattered and I had an emergency caesar. As I was dealing with that disappointment, I had to face not having breast milk. I tried breast pumps, jungle juice concoctions, sorghum porridge, lactation consultants you name it, but still no milk. All this has taught me to loosen up and allow my baby to lead and teach me. We are continuously learning from each other. I refuse to subject myself to the labour of following manuals about how to “manage” your baby written by people who have no idea about my lived reality and experiences. Also, my baby is not some machine that needs to be managed. The time for values etc will come but for now, I am just letting my baby be a baby.
Q. What led you to the realisation that the traditional route, whatever that is, is not the motherhood route for you?
I wouldn’t say it wasn’t the route for me. The traditional route would have been easier in terms of conception; however, it wasn’t the route meant for me. I considered asking a heterosexual ex to father my child, however, the complications of another family having to be involved in my child’s life and burdening someone with a responsibility they did not intend for concerned me. I didn’t want my child to grow up constantly fighting for the acceptance of a family that honestly did not plan for him, or for him to constantly be fighting for his father’s love knowing very well it was a favour he did for me. After some intense therapy sessions and conversations with family, I concluded that donor insemination made the most sense for me but most importantly would allow for a smoother childhood for my son. After all, children do not choose to be born, we bring them into the world, it was therefore extremely important for me to establish an environment and community that will protect and not cause him harm.
Q. What were some of the things you did to prepare yourself and your community for the journey?
Firstly, I had to prepare myself. I needed to completely understand every single way this decision was going to impact not only my life but the life of the child I was bringing into this world. The fertility clinic referred me to a therapist I still use today who asked all the hard and uncomfortable questions. I also needed to get to a place where I was comfortable in my decision, not necessarily to shout it off the rooftops but to own it and allow no stigma to being attached to it. This was of paramount importance as I never want my child to feel like his existence is abnormal or wrong.
I then prepared my community by having conversations about my decision with my close family and friends. The reactions were diverse as you can expect, mostly I received acceptance, surprisingly even from the oldest generation being my grandparents. The generational conditions were surpassed by their genuine love for me. There were harsh reactions, and judgemental reactions and some even went to the lengths of insinuating I am acquiring a baby because I am unable to secure a husband. It was a painful journey but it was a journey I had to take to prepare the environment for my child. I am unable to control the community at large but I can create a safe space for him where he will be loved and accepted. I know this because I appreciated the safe space I had while making the decision and generally living my truth. The acceptance and love of the community around him will help with his self-love and acceptance of his entire truth and authentic self.
I also had conversations with the children in my immediate community., I did this because I wanted them to stand up for their cousin if at any point anyone were to attack his identity.
Children can be the harshest yet the most understanding. I explained the entire process to them without any birds and bees connotations but in terms and language that were age-appropriate. Kids are truly wiser than adults. I’m a fairly spiritual person and rooted in my faith, so I truly prayed without ceasing and I continue to do so. The journey will never really end. Now I am preparing him for the journey. I want to raise children that are true to themselves and love themselves to no end.
Q. What has motherhood taught you about yourself, and what childhood wounds has it exposed or healed?
I think my entire journey to motherhood and motherhood itself made me realise that I unknowingly resented my father for not playing an active role in my life. I realised that it was more painful knowing that someone brought you into this world, knows of your existence and couldn’t care less about your existence. That they can emotionally detach from a part of themself. I never truly saw it that way until I needed to heal and forgive. It decided to rather have an anonymous donor easier. Carrying a child creates a connection and an indescribable bond; however, parenting is also intentional. We choose to be good mothers to our children, whether they are blood or not. I would rather raise my children with someone that chooses me and my children and is intentional about parenting than be able to identify the face that provided the sperm but has zero connection to the child. That is my view hurts a million times more.
It has further taught me that the selflessness I watched my mother impart, which I inherited from her, was the single most important quality I was ever blessed to have because it is the most vital characteristic in mothering. Giving of self wholeheartedly to someone without taking away from still living a life of your own. It also taught me patience and a deeper level of kindness and empathy. I am less reactive to situations and circumstances and I find that I tend to listen more.
Motherhood has humbled me in so many ways, I value life more.
Q. How has motherhood enlightened your understanding of your mother and her dynamics with your grandmother?
I don’t think it is mothering that did that, I think it is being an adult and knowing my relationship with my mother and approaching my adult relationship with my grandmother similarly and not having the same reception initially. I have an open relationship with my mom to the point that I am comfortable stating my views on any matter and my disagreements or disapproval on any matter. It was initially difficult to not be able to voice my true opinions to my grandmother but I forged on and she got used to it. Now my mother sends me to have the tough conversations with my grandmother which is hilarious in and of itself.
Q. How has motherhood impacted your relationship with your mom?
I say this to her repeatedly, I truly thought I appreciated her as a mother, an exceptional one at that until I became one. I have a different level of respect and appreciation for her raising us and adopting more children, all of this alone as a black woman in South Africa. She is my ultimate hero. Motherhood is a lifetime job, a firm commitment. My mom made so many sacrifices for us to have the life we have today. I remain in awe of her truly.
Q. What advice do you have for women who desire to be mothers but can’t let go of the outdated narratives?
The only advice I have is to truly figure out what it is that you want and not be afraid to take the plunge. Our destinies are not the same. I have advised a few of my friends to freeze their eggs; we all don’t aspire to live the kind of liberal life I live and there is no formula to motherhood. If people want to wait for their husbands, let them wait, however they must be well prepared. I would advise that women look into the options available out there. There are also married women struggling with fertility within solid relationships and exploring fertility issues of both the man and the woman is such a taboo they’d rather struggle in silence. There is so much knowledge at the tip of one’s finger it’s just a matter of freeing yourself from the shackles of societal norms and doing everything possible to make your dreams of motherhood a possibility.
Q. What were all the options that you considered before choosing this route?
I considered trapping a man, truth. I considered asking a man to donate their sperm but as I mentioned earlier donor insemination is what I ended up choosing.
Q. Raising children in this current climate is a fear you hear many women lament about. How do you deal with the pressure of raising a son in a country with such violent men?
That is my second biggest fear. We speak so much about teaching the girl child to protect themself that we forget that the biggest problem stems from the calibre of men. The single most important job is raising a boy in this current environment. I can only trust that the values instilled in myself and my brothers I can continue to instil in my son. I am intentional in raising a well respectable young boy and can only pray that what he learns from home is a foundation strong enough to not be shaken but the demons of the world we live in. Nurture vs Nature, we only hope nurture wins. He is surrounded by well-raised boys and men and I will continue to monitor that community.
Q. What do you enjoy the most about your son and being his mother?
Absolutely everything. He has ignited my heart and improved my energy in general. I am a happier person because of him. I always say God sent him to save my life. If ever I am in a place of sadness or the world feels heavy, his little smile just makes every single breath worth it. I always know even if I failed at everything in this world my greatest achievement is him.
He is the sweetest baby on this planet. His smile lights up my entire world. He has the most contagious, genuine, heartfelt laugh I have ever heard and he has a gorgeous smile, something I wished for myself my entire life. He is super friendly and rarely refuses to be held by anyone (within COVID restrictions of course). He is a gem, a true reflection of God’s love for me.
Q. Raising a confident self-actualised human is something that I know is very important to you. Can you share some of the ways you are doing this with your son and some tips on how to contextualise some of these practices in an age-appropriate way?
He is still a baby, so for now we are working on all self-affirmations. When we go to bed and when we wake up. I say the following to him, “You are beautiful, you are kind, you are loving”.
Finding out who you are and your purpose is by far the most difficult task of one’s life. I am creating a positive, accommodating environment for my child and instead of forcing him to do particular things I am allowing him to explore different things and lean-to whatever he prefers, within reason of course.- Opening cupboards is not exactly freedom of action that is appropriate lol, however even in that instance I avoid shouting and screaming and discourage the action in my calmest voice. Sometimes I raise my voice, I am human but I want to create a generally safe, secure space environment for my child to not inhibit his inquisitive mind and allow him to find himself.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not running a circus, he doesn’t just do whatever he wants. I believe in enforcing authority, there are firm rules but I am trying to create an environment for him to flourish. I feel it’s important for him to know that there is a certain level of dignity and respect one needs to carry themself with but they are also able to develop high self-esteem and self-efficacy by being supportive and accepting.
I am following my gut instinct and allowing my son to learn through his curiosity.
I am a firm believer in self-actualization. I live by it and feel it’s a never-ending process that propels one further and further into their truest purpose and fullest potential.
Q. Would you choose this pathway to motherhood again and if yes, would you change anything about the journey your second time around?
I am planning on doing it in the near future. I would not change a thing, except maybe get a surrogate if that was allowed in South Africa.