I always wanted to be a mother, but I didn’t want to have a child out of wedlock. My parents and grandparents are married. That’s what I wanted: the happily-ever-after fantasy of marriage and kids. But you know, life happens. I went back to school, changed careers from actress to business consultant, and ended an eight-year relationship with a man who didn’t want children. One day I woke up and I was 39, single and childless.

I’d often thought about adoption. But then I had a medical scare that sent me to an ob-gyn. During the exam, she asked if I ever wanted to have a biological child. I told her of course, when I met the right person. She pointed out that I was going to be 40 in a few months and said, “If you want to have a baby, you need to make a choice now.” Her words jolted me. I realized this might be my last chance to have my baby.

I actually had two ex-boyfriends who offered to father my child. But they each already had children they were involved with. I had to be honest and recognize that there might be times when I’d resent their relationship with their other children. On the other hand, if they tried to parent my child or told me they didn’t like something I was doing, I’d resent that too. The situation could get very messy, and I knew the one who’d be most affected would be my child. So I decided to use an anonymous donor.

One of the problems with sperm banks is that there aren’t many African-American donors. And I wanted someone who was college-educated and from the South because I think southern people are fighters. I also did photo matching. That’s where they take a photo of you and rate how similar your features are to a potential donor. This increases the odds your child will look like you. It turned out my first-choice donor looked nothing like me, so he got bumped to last place. After trying three times, I failed to get pregnant with my second-choice donor, so I moved to my third choice, who was biracial. He was a good photo match, he was from the South, and he’d started a painting company in college, which told me he had an entrepreneurial spirit. I got pregnant with his sperm the first time I tried.

When I told some of my family and friends the news, their reaction wasn’t as positive as I’d hoped. If I got sick and asked for help, their response was, “Well, you chose to get pregnant.” It was a very lonely time. A lot of people didn’t support my decision to go to a sperm bank or become a single mother. One of my best childhood friends said she thought my daughter would be deformed because of how she was conceived. But I also had some great responses. One friend who’s about my age said my choosing to be a mother gave her hope that she could do it too.

My daughter is now 4 years old. At preschool she sees all these fathers and has started asking questions. I’ve told her that she has a donor father, but she doesn’t have a daddy. I’m very matter-of-fact about it. I’m not ashamed of the decision I made, but I’ve already felt the slings and arrows other people throw at our relationship. Strangers see me with my daughter and assume she was an accident. They figure I’m just another woman knocked up by some Black man who left me. I get it constantly: Where’s her daddy? Why isn’t he here? They ask me this in front of my child. I tell them that it’s just the two of us, and we’re very happy to be a family.

I know there are good Black men out there, and I haven’t given up on finding one, but for now my little girl and I are creating our own happily-ever-after fantasy. I wanted a child conceived in love, and my daughter was conceived in love-my love. Making this choice wasn’t easy, but I’m thankful I did. Each day I hold my child in my arms, and she is amazing.

 Did you have an unorthodox road to motherhood like Michelle? Share your story below.

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