Ever since she was a little girl, Rachel pictured herself as a mother. One of four children herself and with a gaggle of cousins, she knew she wanted a tight-knit family of her own.
But as the Gold Coast woman reached her mid 30s, she realised it wasn’t going to happen in the way she expected.
“I’d come out of a 10-year relationship, where I really wanted kids and he was a bit half-hearted about it, which probably contributed to the breakup. Then I hit 35, I was single and I still really wanted kids, so I started looking at other options,” the 40-year-old told Mamamia.
“I did a lot of reading about it and did a lot of research about the statistics showing that relationships fail anyway. So I thought I’d do it on my own, and see how I went.”
Now 40, Rachel is solo parent to two “delightful, curious, quirky” young children – a son, aged three-and-a-half, and a nine-month-old daughter – conceived via artificial insemination.
Their father is an American donor, selected after Rachel had genetic compatibility issues with her Australian pick. Ultimately, she said, it turned out to be the favourable option.
“In Australia you get very limited information from the clinics; just height, weight, a bit of a description of ethnicity and their job, and that’s pretty much all you get, plus a little bit of a health history,” she said. “With an American donor I got heaps of information. I’ve actually got a letter he’d written to any children born from his sperm, I’ve got a photo of him as a child, a photo of him as an adult, lots of information about his brothers and sisters and parents – information about what they do, health histories.”
Ensuring her children know about their father is important to Rachel; she wants them to have a solid grasp on their identity, to be able to have questions answered, if and when they’re ready to ask them, and even to meet him if they wish.
For now though, she simply tells them their story. She hopes being open will help them feel proud of their unique family and equip them to combat prejudice they will likely encounter as they get older.
“My strategy is to be really upfront with them about where they come from and who they are,” she said. “I actually wrote a book for them, with photos, explaining how they came to be and took that to their childcare centre, so everyone knows their history. It’s a difficult thing for little ones to get their head around, so we’re starting at a very basic level, and as they get older I’ll modify the story.”
LISTEN: Do we need to have an honest conversation about age and fertility? (Post continues below.)
While there’s no comprehensive data available on the number of women choosing to become single mothers in Australia, fertility experts report that numbers have increased dramatically over the last decade and are continuing to climb.