Mel Johnson is a solo mom to 3-year-old daughter Daisy, who was born through IVF and donor sperm at Manchester Fertility Clinic. At that point, she became a solo motherhood coach, as she wanted to support other women who are considering the same path.
Mel founded ‘The Stork and I’ when she was pregnant with Daisy. The mission is to empower single women who are considering becoming a parent on their route to parenthood. She speaks openly about her own experience, she’s very passionate about creating a community and providing support for people at every stage of the journey from considering to trying to be a mum. Mel is also focused on changing the narrative around relationships and paths to parenthood.
In her presentation, Mel also addressed social infertility and some available and current trends. She also discussed a model of the six stages of embracing solo motherhood and how to manage as a solo mum.
The truth is that some people love social infertility, and some people hate it. Some people say that they love it because it explains their situation. Other people hate it, somehow it makes them feel like being a failure socially. Mel explored some current trends on this and presented some statistics from the UK.
In 2017, 2279 women underwent treatment without a partner or a male partner and in 2018, that went up to 2368. In 2019, again, the statistics show that it went up to 2497. It’s slowly increasing, there are more and more people finding themselves in this position, so the number of single people is steadily increasing while marriage rates are steadily declining. The majority of the marriage decline is between the ages of 20 to 34, which is the exact age that women are most fertile. More and more single women don’t have a partner in their most fertile years.
This area is one of Mel’s interests, and she’s done quite a lot of research into why this is the case. Some findings show three key reasons why more and more people are finding themselves in this position. Mel has emphasized that everybody’s different, and there are people to whom this does not apply. However, the people that she’s coached and the people she’s surveyed in ‘The Stork and I Mum Tribe’, a lot of them feel like this does apply to them.
It seems that the expectations are much higher now than they were in the past, looking for a partner brings all of these different things like a passionate lover, a travel buddy, a best friend, and somebody to share our hobbies with. If you look way back in history, people were just looking for a nice person to spend their life with. Expectations increased choice, we were used to meeting somebody at the local dance or in the community centre, on the street, now you can meet anybody worldwide, any time, any place at the touch of a button. Research shows that the more choices people have, the less likely they are to make a choice.
The last thing is resources, back in history, a woman needed to get married to be able to leave her family home, whereas now women have their own careers, and own houses and women became more independent. They no longer need to get married, meeting a partner has to be a positive addition, but it’s not essential. Those are the three key reasons why more and more women are finding themselves single at an age where perhaps potentially they’re starting to look at wanting to have children.
Options you can pursue
The first option is to do nothing, however, that doesn’t feel like a great position to be in. The second thing is relentlessly pursuing a relationship. If you want to do this in a relationship, you need to invest in meeting someone, and use all options out there, such as dating websites, etc. You can also look at alternative routes to parenthood. You could consider fostering, adopting, becoming a step-parent later on if you meet people with children etc. Another option is simply accepting a life without children. There are lots of people who are inspiring, they help with coming to terms with a life without children and defining what your life will look like instead.
Finally, there is motherhood and using donor conception. Sometimes, just seeing those choices in front of you clearly, makes it a bit easier to think about. You can look at this and think about which ones are not for you and which ones you think you could consider.
‘ I am not advocating solo motherhood, I am advocating empowering women with information about all their options’
One of the aspects that are discussed in Mel’s coaching course is the six stages of embracing motherhood
- denial, believing that you’re bound to meet someone
- despair, when time after time you don’t meet that person and you feel like time is running out, your biological clock is ticking
- detachment, where you’re feeling helpless and that you’re going to miss out on this
- dialogue, where you start thinking and accepting this situation and seeking options, getting more information
- the decision, whether that be solo motherhood or something different
- ownership, feeling that this is the path for you, being excited to tell people this is what you’re doing
Mel mentioned that we all still grew up with the fairy tale, meeting a partner, getting married and having children. We were told that it’s the only way to find happiness, therefore that’s gone into our subconscious and created what we call life scripts.
‘Life scripts are an unconscious pathway created in childhood, reinforced by our parents and strengthen with evidence sought throughout life ensuring our beliefs are justified’
Mel also added that many people she coached have a life script where they just believed that they would meet someone, get married, and have children. One of the things that you have to work through is changing this life script.
Many films portray happily ever after, it’s about meeting the partner and going on to have children, it’s no wonder that that’s what most people think should happen and what they’re looking for. Mel also surveyed the people in ‘The Stork and I Mum Tribe’ community, and 95% of them said that they presumed that they would have a baby with a partner. Only 5% said that they would choose donor conception from the beginning. Some people never saw themselves with a partner, but the vast majority thought they would do this with a partner.
Comparison is the biggest element of solo motherhood
Some main things people tend to compare themselves to are people with partners or with someone further ahead on the journey. We hear all the time that people say or think, this couple or person seems so happy, they worry and wish they could be as happy as that person or couple. Pregnancy news is a key trigger to comparing yourself to people who’ve already got children when you haven’t, or who’ve got two children if you’ve only got one.
One of the most common ones is comparing yourself with your fantasy life. In one of the groups that Mel is a part of, she noticed that women often tend to say to each other that if we had a partner, this would be easier, this would be better, but then, everyone realizes that’s probably an absolute lie or fantasy. Possibly some things would be better, but maybe some other things would be harder, we don’t know that because it’s a fantasy. Nothing good comes out of spending loads of time compared to what anyone else is doing.
Also, remember that you only see a snippet of other people’s reality, and often it’s a positive snippet because it’s what they want to share with you or show you. There’s so much work anyone can do in trying to stop the comparison and embrace doing this solo and all the benefits and the amazing things that come with that.
If you have a bucket of energy, all of your energy you want to put on moving forward, making your life as amazing as it can be and any energy that leaks out of that bucket is worrying about other people and comparing yourself to other people or what ‘might have been’. All of this takes you back or keeps you where you are, it doesn’t make you progress forward.
Mel encourages trying to focus on what’s important and put all of your energy into getting where you want rather than worrying about what other people are doing.
‘Just because things could have been different doesn’t mean that they would be better’
Mel also mentioned that very often people first presume things would be, and they struggle to let go of that. We don’t know how it would be, we didn’t live that version, all we can do is embrace the version that we’re living now and make it the best it can be and not worry about what would have happened.
Solo Motherhood Using Donor Conception