Photo: Courtesy of Flare
When you Google “single and pregnant” the results are predominately based around survival, and for good reason; the solo-and-pregnant struggle is real. Though the single-parent-by-choice movement is growing bigger all the time, it’s still not an intentional decision for the majority of the population. As a result, most articles seem to focus on how to get through the next nine months with some shred of sanity, and stress the importance of asking for help. I’m not saying these narratives aren’t important—pregnancy is hard with any relationship status, and “getting through it” is so often the verbiage used regardless of whether a woman is in a relationship. Growing a human is a strange, uncomfortable, foreign endeavour even at the best of times.
But when I decided to get pregnant on my own—a route that made me feel more in control than relying on finding a partner that could potentially not stick around—I was determined to challenge the norm, to ask unexpected questions, like “Forget survival, what about fun?” If Miranda in Sex and the City (a pregnant icon in my books) could hit the club with her girlfriends and carry on having single sex with eligible bachelors, what was to stop me? Maybe that’s why, like going to spin class or eating sushi, I never thought twice about dating through my pregnancy. In my (perhaps naive) opinion, fear is the worst enemy of a healthy mom (and healthy baby).
Back in January, I was spending my New Year’s Eve in Palm Springs at a mid-century dream home with a group of kickass women. I’d made the decision a few weeks earlier that once back from vacation, I’d start actively pursuing my plan to get pregnant on my own via donor, and I was feeling pretty excited about the future. One evening, the pack of us ended up splitting pitchers of margaritas and plates of nachos at a local Mexican spot, and on our way out I overheard a heated conversation among a group of women at the table next to us. “If you have a kid and someone shows any interest in you, you better lock that down no matter what, because it’s probably your only shot!” one woman said, her friends all nodding in agreement. Though their conversation was anything but personal, I felt attacked.
This sentiment seems to be echoed almost everywhere I turned. When I wrote my first essay for FLARE, about my decision to become a single mom by choice, someone commented on the Facebook post that I “could have found someone…”, and a large number of my DMs and emails have centered around the question, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll be alone forever?” I definitely get where people are coming from with the it-will-be-so-much-harder-to-meet-someone-now stance—in a lot of ways, they’re right. It definitely won’t be easy, but, on the contrary, I think making this decision has changed my dating life for the better.
Though it wasn’t intentional, I find myself with newly shifted standards that mirror my new life path. I still find the same sort of fuckboi types attractive, of course—you know the ones: man bun-sporting, skateboarding thirty-somethings that spend their entire income on tattoos and craft beer, swear they’re “feminist,” and just can’t seem to decide what they want in life, never mind in a relationship. But now, in the rare case when I’m on Bumble and can’t help but swipe right on that motorcycle-riding (spoiler—the motorcycle is usually not really his) band guy who still lives with his parents, the most miraculous thing happens: That type of guy is no longer into pursuing me. Thanks to my ever-expanding bump, I can completely avoid the type of partnership that would most likely have ended in a lot of wasted time—and wasted tears. Now that I’m six months into my pregnancy and undoubtedly showing, I can’t hide how serious I am about my plans for the future, and why should I?
By making the choice to power ahead with what I know is right for me, I have created an accidental filter that blocks the non-serious and non-committal. Yes, being pregnant on my own cuts down the population of people interested in dating me, but is that such a bad thing? Men who want nothing to do with children steer clear, and with my intense love of kids and desire to be a mom they wouldn’t have fit into my life plan anyway—pregnant or not. Men who want to date but aren’t interested in committing come clean with their intentions right away, saving me potential months of agonizing over why my new suitor won’t let me meet any of his friends or answer my texts in a timely fashion. And then there are the totally clueless, confused men who ask questions like “Um, are you even allowed to have sex while pregnant?” or “So what, do you not get a period now?” I don’t think I need to explain why I’m happy to avoid those ones.
Once I noticed the shift I wanted to test this whole theory out on a more measurable scale, so I settled upon a research strategy. I made three online dating accounts on three platforms—Bumble, Tinder and Hinge—because, science. On both Tinder and Bumble I laid everything out upfront with a profile that read, “Single and pregnant via sperm donor. I was ready to be a mom and hadn’t found the right guy, so I went ahead without him. If that doesn’t scare you, let’s chat!” Hinge made matters a bit more complicated, providing no space to write any sort of custom bio or information, so with suitors there I would actually have to tell my matches after they had already decided they were into me. For a hot minute I thought about swiping right on everyone I came across to gather data on a wide sample of the population, but in the end I decided it would be more effective to follow my usual swiping tendencies and study how different the experience actually was while pregnant. Had I committed to a lonely sad life, destined to “lock down” anyone who so much as looked my way?
The results, in the end, weren’t strikingly different than my past single-and-looking endeavours. I had tons of matches on all three platforms and, just like always, some were terrible at conversation, ghosted for no reason or seemed great but avoided plans to actually meet. Tinder yielded lots of somewhat creepy offers to come over and give me massages/feed my cravings/take care of me, and a few “wish I could have been your donor” comments. I dropped that app fairly quickly—being a pregnancy fetish to cross off a stranger’s bucket list felt a bit too sleezy, even for the purposes of my experiment. Plus I already had a couple safe, respectful, trustworthy hookup guys in my back pocket for those particularly horny pregnant woman moments.
Hinge in the end was also a no-go, as it’s a pre-set profile with images and trivia-style questions that can’t be tailored with a specific written bio. With no way to accurately explain I had a baby on the way until after matching—I felt nervous someone with a bad temper would go off on me for misleading him or “lying,” and though that never happened, a few guys did apologize, explain they just weren’t into it and unmatch. It was more than my delicate pregnant ego could take.
And then there’s Bumble, my ride-or-die in the dating app world. I’ve been using the cute little yellow hive for years and have had multiple successful relationships come about from it. I started to work directly with the brand on my Instagram, and I even spoke on a panel about sex and relationships they hosted this past year—so, yeah, I’m a fan. I’ve always said Bumble feels like the best place to find more feminist, educated guys, because the app is so clearly branded as female-created and gives all the power to the girls, with women starting the conversation once a match is made—it was time to truly put that idea to the test. Plus, having made the decision to take the reins on everything else in my life, it only made sense that I’d fare best on an app that gives me full control. Some women find the first “Hello” challenging, but I think it’s empowering, especially in my current, somewhat vulnerable state.
The first trimester of my pregnancy was almost identical to that cheesy JLo movie The Backup Plan. I was dabbling with Bumble while trying to conceive, but at that stage I didn’t feel like it was something I needed to share so I kept it out of my profile and first-date conversation. I ended up meeting a guy I liked a lot—our first date was at a cool craft brewery at the very start of summer: we watched a spectacular sunset, and kissed till our mouths were sore. For simplicity and anonymity, let’s call this suitor R. A couple months later at my ultrasound, I realized that I had unknowingly conceived the day before our first date.
I met a few other people, still unaware I was in the very first stages of pregnancy, but I didn’t click with any of them like I had with R. After that first date, we saw each other multiple times, and R told me he hadn’t felt this way about anyone in ages. Then he went to travel around Greece for a month, and shortly after I got a positive pregnancy test.
I reasoned it was wrong to tell him I was pregnant by a sperm donor via text message, so I avoided the subject in the lengthy conversations we had while he was away. As the weeks went on and he didn’t show any signs of going anywhere—even sending me a bouquet of my favourite coral charm peonies when he heard my senior pup had gone into surgery—I started to panic. I convinced myself that he simply wasn’t going to stick around—who would, right? We hadn’t even slept together yet and I was pregnant! I had all those voices in my head repeating “Aren’t you afraid to be alone forever?” and suddenly I was.
R returned from Greece almost exactly a month into my pregnancy and I was next-level nervous to see him. We had two dates in two days that stretched from an aura reading, to a sail boat ride, to an outdoor movie, and in all those moments I couldn’t find the words to tell him it wasn’t just the two of us on our dates, and never had been. Walking home from a screening of Rushmore, I finally took the plunge—I stopped him in the middle of the sidewalk and just said, “I didn’t sleep with anyone else, and I really like you, but I’m pregnant.” The next couple minutes were a blur of confusion, hugging and questions, but in the end he said something like “This is really scary, but the idea of losing you is somehow scarier.”
We immediately became exclusive, he bought the pregnancy book I was reading and shared his notes without being too imposing on me and my plans, and our dates continued to be as cute as always, just with a few fewer cocktails on my end. Everything was going great, until his friends got involved. Turned out his ex still shared his Kindle account and saw the pregnancy book we were both reading, which lead to a group text amongst his friends that I happened to be meeting that night. My refusal to accept a drink (I brought my own kombucha, because I’m classy like that) only furthered their suspicions, and the next weekend at a wedding R was ambushed. As soon as it was clarified that he had not in fact gotten me pregnant, his friends were even more confused, insisting he could do better. He repeated all of this information back to me on a date a few days later and we both had a laugh, but the following weekend he sent me a text message to abruptly end things. (What 36-year-old does that?!) He said he had realized I “just wasn’t his soulmate.”
I’m still not sure whether his friends got to him, or he tapped into how much I had been pulling away—as I got to know R I realized there was a lot about him that just didn’t fit, and had been acting accordingly. He was almost constantly drinking and still enjoyed recreational chemical drugs from time to time, two things I didn’t really want in my life generally, but especially with a baby on the way. He freely admitted he had been a party guy in the past and, though he wanted to change, I was realizing more with each passing day that I didn’t have the bandwidth to help a guy grow up while also growing a human.
In the end, I had two really great takeaways from the whole experience. One: that things with R likely wouldn’t have worked out in any situation, but my pregnancy accelerated the process of elimination, making his flaws more clear more quickly. My “condition” saved me from a potentially long, drawn-out, frustrating experience with someone that just wasn’t on the same page as me. And two: I am not any less loveable because I took control of becoming a mother on my own terms. This guy didn’t instantly flee, because he liked me too much to be scared off by my quest for motherhood, and those are the kind of connections I want in my life. What good are all the dates with all the pretty boys in Toronto if they don’t lead to anything I actually want?
My swiping experiences since have been positive, but no other sparks just yet. I did learn the unfortunate lesson of just how many guys swipe purely based on photos without reading profiles, but now that Bumble includes your profile info immediately after your first photo, I’ve had far less accidental “TBH I didn’t read your profile” responses. They also added little badges, including one where people can say if they’re into kids or already have kids, which makes swiping a whole lot easier on my end. As my bump gets bigger, my number of matches has definitely decreased, but I’m also becoming more and more selective about who I’ll consider in the first place as my due date creeps nearer. By protecting this baby, I’ve automatically become better at protecting myself, too.
To those concerned I’ll be alone forever, I say this: Have you ever come into contact with anyone who has genuinely been alone forever? We all find love, regardless of what our families look like or the fact that our baggage might come in an adorable kid-shaped package. Being a single mom doesn’t make me less worthy, it makes me worthy of a better type of person who isn’t afraid to commit and care outside of what “normal dating” might look like. Contrary to the beliefs of those women at the table next to me in Palm Springs, I don’t think having a baby is a dating death sentence—it’s a new lease on my lacklustre dating life.
A dear friend of mine recently met me for tea at a local brunch hotspot and midway through our conversation she made a comment that instantly brought me to tears. “Isn’t it so special that the man that falls in love with you will be lucky enough to meet your child at the same time and fall in love with you both?” It seems far-fetched, but it’s the kind of love I’ve been looking for all my life. And she’s right: If being a mother makes me the best version of myself, then the best person for me—for us—is right around the corner.