At the time that my mother was divorced and a single parent within a conservative and judgmental Jewish community, I got used to the stares and the whispered comments of "those poor children," and "it must be the mother's fault, who would allow their husband to leave the house?" I was made to feel less-than, defective in a world where a "normal" child had two parents in the same house.
Skip forward to the 21st century, I have been living in Israel for the last 16 years because I needed to strike out on my own, find my fullest potential away from my family. My brother from the first marriage and I have barely spoken in over 25 years, and he is still very busy being angry at G-d, the Universe and the family. He recently divorced his first wife and left their three children to marry his long-time pregnant mistress.
For me, the remnants of my experience as a child made me distrustful of men and the institute of family. At the age of 37, with many long-term relationships and a broken engagement in my history, I started looking into the idea of becoming a single mother by choice, because I did not want to miss out on the experience of pregnancy and motherhood. At the age of 39 I began fertility treatments and one year later, gave birth to the most amazing daughter; a being of joy and light who has changed my life and my perspective on love forever.
When my single friends ask me what it's like, I freely admit that it can be difficult emotionally and financially, and that perhaps I have made it all that much harder for myself by being 6000 miles away from my extended family. Thankfully, while I did not have the support of my parents for a good part of this journey, society in Israel represents a more open and accepting society, one in which all sorts of families exist and are considered valid. In all that I have achieved in my life, I feel that it was worth nothing if I had not become the mother of this child.
And yet, I wait for the day that my daughter comes home from school crying, because some kid in her class taunted her and said, "You don't have a Daddy!" I will remind her that she was conceived in my heart long before she was born, that I have loved her from the moment she started to grow inside me. As well, every family has their issues, and it doesn't make her existence any less special or important.
If anything, I can hope and pray that her identity is one of a person who is loved by many, a woman who will be able to change the world on the strength of what I have given her and shown her in my own life.