How Solo Motherhood By Choice Thanks to a Sperm Donor Has Empowered Me and Helped Me Transform My Definition of Family 1

By Rachel Russo

People say that becoming a mother changes everything. I now believe that not only is that true, but that solo motherhood is one of the most transformative experiences a woman can have.

At least that was my experience. 

When I was single with a ticking clock, I wholeheartedly wanted to become a mom. So, I did what any sensible, modern-day woman who refused to give up on her baby dream would do: I went to the sperm bank – California Cryobank, to be exact – and realized I could do it all on my own.  

I started considering solo motherhood by choice when I was turning 35 and my boyfriend decided he didn’t want to have more children. I decided I’d rather use a sperm donor than wade back into the dating pool. It took me about six months to solidify my decision and make a plan to start with unmedicated intrauterine insemination (IUI).  

For me, finding a donor was surprisingly the easy part! After filtering through donors who were a genetic fit and met my criteria, I heard the voice of my donor through his interview, and I just knew he was the perfect match for me. All the work that goes into the IUIs was a real commitment. I did three of them with no luck. Afterward, I decided to take a break and then switch clinics to try IVF several months later.

My baby-making journey took a little over a year and included finding a way to make the money to pay for IVF, doing everything under the sun to improve my egg quality, and giving myself every needle during a global pandemic. In November of 2020, I had my one and only egg retrieval with fifteen eggs retrieved. The day after, though, my mother became very ill with Covid. So, I decided to wait another four months to do an embryo transfer. 

It was a very stressful time, but I am happy to say that IVF worked on the first try.  I learned I was pregnant in March of 2021 and nine months later, my healthy baby girl was born.

My sperm donor gave me the two greatest gifts: my amazing daughter and the confidence to genuinely believe that, for me, having a romantic or parenting partner is just a bonus.

It might be hard for some to believe this is true for me, especially considering my career professionally matching people with their romantic partner, but it is.

I dreamed of getting married and having babies since I was a young girl. My career has been based on the traditional happily-ever-after scenario, as I have been a professional matchmaker and dating coach for nearly two decades. Heck, I even published an article for pregnantish on how becoming a solo mom by choice could be good for a woman’s love life. As I shared in that piece, “With a child on board, single moms won’t have the time or energy to obsess about why some guy hasn’t texted back in hours and what his last text really means. I believe with the focus on parenting and less time spent on analyzing the stages of dating, those with even the most anxious attachment style will soon become more secure.”

Feeling empowered as a single mom by choice doesn’t mean I’ve given up on the idea of finding the love of my life to marry! And if it never happens? I’ve got my daughter, and we’d be alright. 

As soon as I had my baby my heart was full, my priorities changed, and I had less desire to be married to anyone or anything—including my career. I realized the latter as my three-month maternity leave was ending. I was figuring out how to balance work with solo motherhood by choice. I knew I needed to make money – hello, sole breadwinner here – but I was nowhere near ready to leave my baby with anyone else. 

I chose to continue running my matchmaking business rather than try something new, and I could do it with part-time childcare from my mother. I’ve sacrificed financially to spend more time with my daughter during these precious early years and, of course, even to have her in the first place.  I had anticipated working full-time, as I’ve always had a big career, but I wanted to prioritize motherhood. 

Like other working moms, I answer emails at unorthodox hours while my little one sleeps peacefully next to me. I regularly get creative and push myself out of my comfort zone to find solutions to make money and make it all work.

Since becoming a mother in this unique way, I have transformed myself as a person. Everything is different, from the way I spend my time and money to the way I think of myself, of the world, and of the definition of “family.”  

Now, I focus more on what matters and get rid of what doesn’t. Material things matter way less. I don’t entertain people and activities that fail to inspire me, and I have no room left for negative energy. I have more empathy in general and particularly for other peoples’ children—even when they are having tantrums in public spaces. I feel I’m a better person, as my heart has expanded, and I put my own preferences aside for the well-being of my daughter. I fiercely protect and love her—and myself. Also, I have more confidence in most areas of my life, as a result of pulling off SuperMom stunts on a daily basis.

I know that showing my daughter that I’m a strong, independent woman can be a positive message for her to receive.

While she may still be too young to understand my life choices, we both love and learn from our time together. Like many solo moms by choice and their kiddos, we have a super close bond. There’s nothing like solo motherhood by choice to help me stay laser-focused in love and life.

Sometimes I wonder about the man who helped me make her. We won’t find out his identity until my daughter is 18 because with California Cryobank, I chose to have an ‘open’ donation and allow my daughter the opportunity to potentially connect with him. Whether or not she decides to meet or connect with him, I’m well aware that he is extraordinary. I picked that up from listening to him speak for just a few minutes in his audio interview. I knew California Cryobank had a reputation of being one of the very best, but I didn’t know I hit the jackpot until my daughter was about one-and-a-half years old. 

My really cute, sweet, affectionate, and sassy girl has proved to be super-smart, too. Her language ability, comprehension, and memory developed dramatically, and I am told that she is advanced for her age.

This was confirmed for me as we developed a bond with our donor family. We had the pleasure of meeting a few of her half-siblings, as we all signed up for California Cryobank’s Sibling Registry. Their parents – whom I’ve gotten to know through our private family Facebook group – said the same thing: their kids are very bright, and a lot of their intelligence must have come from our donor. We all feel that we chose well. 

We also feel lucky that we have this extended, growing, modern family. I plan to keep in touch and have annual get-togethers with my daughter’s half siblings. We even did a holiday gift exchange with her donor siblings – what we like to call “diblings”.  

Who knows where these relationships will take them in life? I couldn’t be happier with my donor choice and the lovely people whose lives are now intertwined with mine because of it.   I love that in 2024, we can celebrate all the ways people create families today with the help of science, technology, and in some cases like mine, the help of generous donors. 

I’m also super-excited to share that I’ve donated some of my frozen embryos to another solo mother by choice. She recently gave birth to a beautiful little girl—my daughter’s full sibling! We have an open (embryo) adoption and will see them twice a year. Wow – something I would have never imagined I’d do in this lifetime. Rather than destroy my embryos, I wanted to see what was possible. 

And maybe that’s what solo motherhood by choice is all about: being open to the possibilities. 

And when you are a strong and empowered woman who can choose the biological father of her child with the help of a sperm bank and choose to raise her solo, anything seems possible. 

About Rachel Russo:

Rachel Russo is a professional matchmaker, dating & relationship coach, former marriage & family therapist, and proud solo mom by choice. She is the founder of Rachel Russo Relationships, the author of two books, and a love industry veteran with eighteen years of experience. She lives, loves, and plays in Northern New Jersey with her two-year-old daughter. 

How Solo Motherhood By Choice Thanks to a Sperm Donor Has Empowered Me and Helped Me Transform My Definition of Family 3

This piece was written in paid partnership with pregnantish.