When she hadn’t met Mr Right by her own cut-off age of 35, Lisa Rudman from Centurion became a single mom by choice – and she’s never looked back, she tells Joey Kok
WHEN ACCOUNTANT LISA RUDMAN
and her longtime boyfriend broke up she was heartbroken, but quickly realised what she really wanted was not a man but a baby. And so she decided to have one, without a partner.
She started researching her options and decided to try to fall pregnant with sperm from a donor and become a single mom by choice (SMC) or “choice mom” – a category of parent that has sure gained publicity in recent years.
“You can picture her: she’s in her mid-to-late 30s, smart and professionally successful, but she just never met the right guy at the right time, and her biological clock is ticking,” write Sarah Hayford and Karen Benjamin Guzzo in a 2015 piece in the sociological journal Contexts.
“She’s the epitome of the modern independent woman who wants to have it all, career and family – taking her future into her hands, acting decisively, and doing what it takes to achieve her goal of motherhood, with no need for a man.”
Lisa fits the description to a tee, but becoming a choice mom was not a decision she took lightly. “Just to confirm, I was completely sober when I made the decision to become a SMC,” she writes on Raising Luca, a blog she started to document her journey.
She read whatever she could – books, blogs, websites, and Facebook pages – and listened to SMC podcasts. “It gave me a realistic idea of how it can be, but also scared me,” she says.
She found a Facebook page of anonymous-donor children who think their mothers were selfish for having them and questioned her own decision.
“Aren’t all parents then selfish? Will my baby one day hate me for not knowing who his or her biological father is? I couldn’t sleep for a few nights.”
Just thinking about it changed Lisa’s outlook forever. “I’m a black-and-white kind of person; there are no grey areas,” she writes. “This makes me perfect for my job as an accountant but not very flexible in my personal life.
“But deciding to do this changed my way of thinking. I was open for colours (and grey) in my life… My baby will be loved, and I will remind her every day that she was wanted!”
FIT, PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY
She consulted with gynaecologist Dr J van Schouwenburg at the Medfem Clinic in Bryanston. “They specialise in infertility. I went to a specialist from the get-go to get the best results,” she says. “The staff work with women struggling to fall pregnant on a daily basis, so everyone was very friendly and supportive.”
Once the decision was made, she was sent for blood tests and to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist “was happy to report that I am not depressed or crazy and would make an amazing mom,” she writes. “Not sure how he knew this, but it made me happy. I felt a bit annoyed that I had to prove my mental wellness when there are a lot of depressed crazies having babies by the dozen.” CHOOSING THE DONOR The hardest part was to choose the donor. She had to choose two options from the 10 the sperm bank provided, and would then be given the full profiles of the shortlist.
“I studied them meticulously for weeks,” she writes. “I wasn’t sure what my criteria were. It felt weird that this decision would determine how the baby would look and how their personality would be based on a baby picture and some info. When couples have a baby, they don’t have to worry about this stuff.”
She looked at the profiles and tried to imagine how the donors would look right now and if they were rich, successful or smart.
“Then I started thinking about how unfair it is to already have an expectation of what my child would be like.”
The baby would obviously have some of the donor’s characteristics. “But I’m going to play a more important part in her life by raising her: nature vs nurture. Are we influenced by our genes or our environment? I think it’s both.”
Lisa managed to fall pregnant without much of a hassle, but unsurprisingly the whole process of insemination felt “a bit clinical” with a good dose of humour and her tongue firmly in her cheek.
“I had to collect my sperm and wait for it to defrost. I wanted to bring a candle for ambiance, but apparently that is frowned upon. While waiting for the doctor to come, I took a photo and immediately regretted it. What if the flash killed all the little sperm? I was too embarrassed to ask if I had destroyed my very expensive little swimmers.” PREGNANCY AND BIRTH Being “home alone” while pregnant has its pros and its cons, Lisa says. She remembers how she took a long bath at 32 weeks, but she just couldn’t get herself out of the tub. “I wondered how long it would take people to notice I’m not at work. I finally managed to crawl out on hands and knees!”
But then again she welcomed the space in the bed when it came to sleeping during the last trimester.
Lisa’s goal was never to do this completely solo, and her support network – including her mom, twin sister Ilanie, and a friend who was also pregnant at the same time – was incredible during pregnancy. Ilanie was her birthing partner – she came up all the way from East London. And Mom Magriet came to the antenatal classes.
“But I did feel alone sometimes, even if I had all this support,” she says. “When she kicked, I so badly wanted someone to just feel or watch my belly moving. I was terrified that it would feel like that after the birth as well, but fortunately it’s been anything but.”
Baby Luca Isabella was born in BRINGING UP BABY On the one hand, it’s liberating to raise your baby yourself and not have to take anyone else’s opinion into consideration. Her family have left her to make her own decisions. “And of course she only has eyes for her mama, and we’re each other’s everything,” Lisa says. “But sometimes the decisions are big ones, and it’s in these moments that I wish someone could be there to decide with me. But I don’t think it’s been harder because I’m a single mom. For the first few months, a baby just wants mom, especially if you breastfeed. I also don’t feel like I’ve been short-changed – this was my choice, and it’s my normal.”
Lisa didn’t need to formally ask anyone to be part of her support network – most of her family and friends were immediately ready to be part of Luca’s life. And her parents were wonderful, Lisa admits, even though she suspects they might not have wanted this for her.
Her dad fetches Luca if she needs to stay late at the office. “Although he was a bit nervous the first time, he enjoys the time with her,” she says.
Luca also gets to spend time with her uncles and Lisa’s male friends. It’s something Lisa considers important. “When she’s older I’ll be even more conscious about making men part of her life.”
Lisa is part of international support groups for choice moms, but there’s not really much in SA. “There’s a big difference between single moms by choice and other single moms where the dad is just absent. We consciously made the decision, so our outlook differs completely. It’s important to have a support group specifically for us.” YB October 2017 and weighed in at 3.88kg. “She was perfect, and she was mine!”
Lisa Rudman from Centurion is a “choice mom”. Baby Luca was conceived from a donor, and Lisa is raising her single-handedly.