Not By Accident

Not By Accident

United States

A documentary podcast series about choosing to become a single mother and coping with being one. Series launch 31 March 2016. Subscribe, rate, review wherever you listen to podcasts. Go to notbyaccident.net to sign up to my occasional email newsletter, and if you know anyone who might like to listen, please share! (Search terms: single mother by choice, choice mom, pregnant, parent, donor baby, rainbow baby.)

Episodes

Ep 15: Counting Down  

Happy 4th birthday Alex! We have a party in Granny's garden to celebrate. An opportunity to try out my new recording gear. Your donations have gone to good use, thank you. I've caught up with myself. Here's Alex's first birthday! You sit together at the party in a paddling pool full of coloured balls, and you play. He seems so grown up, able to crawl around to whatever takes his interest. You're not mobile yet, but you can sit! It's a whole new perspective on the world. I can't believe I'm taking you away from all of this before your first birthday. The countdown is on. I've stolen moments while you sleep to apply for your passport, for your residency permit, for childcare in Denmark, I've booked our flights, started packing and organized our farewell tour. My stomach churns more with each passing day as I prepare for us to leave behind this peaceful life to begin our new one. But things are falling into place, and you remind me to stop and breathe and to be happy. This production is made by me, Sophie Harper, in partnership with Wondery. I'm supported by generous listeners and the Australian Cultural Fund. Thanks to my family, my friends, and my daughter for allowing me to record and for all your support. Special thanks to Emmett, Max and Caroline, and to Alexandra, Will and Caroline. Thank you for the reviews, messages, and donations! Please consider writing an iTunes review. They really do help the series find more listeners. Wondery would like to know more about you, so it would be great if you could fill in a quick survey at wondery.com/survey Music from freemusicarchive.org - CC NC License: Late Mornings by Dexter Britain, Starting Over and Afghan by Candlegravity; Something Elated by Broke For Free. Ad music from freemusicarchive.org - CC Commercial License: Drop of Water in the Ocean by Broke For Free. US listeners, support the series and eat well! Hello Fresh is my first sponsor. Sign up at www.hellofresh.com and use the promo code 'noaccident' to get $35 off your first delivery. Everybody wins! Go to www.notbyaccident.net to find out more about the series or to get in touch. I'll be back, to get off this plane, in about two weeks.

Ep 14: Long Days, Short Months  

We’re staying at Granny’s this week. She fell and fractured her kneecap. Considering everything she’s done for me during my life, and at the start of yours, taking us in, feeding me, caring for you when I reached my limit, when I got that 24 hour vomiting bug and couldn’t stand up... What would we have done without her? This feels like the least we can do. We’re sleeping in the room you call ‘our bedroom’, falling into some old routines. I struggle to put things in the right places when I unpack the dishwasher, you play in the garden, I throw you in the lovely big bath after a messy accident, I enjoy the solitude as I hang out small clothes to dry in the sun, podcasts playing in my ears. I sit in the chair where I spent so many hours breastfeeding and chat to Granny with you curled up on my lap. I wish I could recapture the same sense of calm I felt in that year. The year where I allowed myself to let go of expectations and responsibilities beyond our small family, and slow my life to a pace where every detail, every sound, smell, smile, touch was magnified by the lack of static. You’re six weeks old. We have daily routines set by your changing rhythms. Sleep, nappy changes, feeding, tummy time. A bath for you, a shower for me, with you in sight, laundry. Lots of laundry. Tiny clothes pegged out with you strapped to my chest. Coffee in the sun, you bare bottomed to help the nappy rash. Back inside, I’m making my way through my mother’s CD collection. You lie on your back and move your body to the music. For this year, I resolve to have low expectations of myself other than caring for you, to rest when I can, to do simple things for me. This is so different to the chaotic work life I’ve left behind in Denmark. I don’t let myself think too much about whether we’ll go back. I’m sure it will become clear with time. This production is made by me, Sophie Harper, in partnership with Wondery. I’m supported by generous listeners and the Australian Cultural Fund. Thanks to my family, my friends, my daughter for allowing me to record and for all your support. Thank you for the reviews, messages, and donations! iTunes reviews help the series find more listeners, so I’d be very grateful if you feel inclined to leave a review. Wondery would like to know more about you, so it would be great if you could fill in a quick survey at wondery.com/survey. It will help us to grow and to find the right sponsors. Again that’s wondery.com/survey”. Music from freemusicarchive.org - CC NC License: Tomie’s Bubbles, Starting Over and Goodmorning by Candlegravity; Blown Out by Broke For Free. Ad music from freemusicarchive.org - CC Commercial License: Drop of Water in the Ocean by Broke For Free. Go to www.notbyaccident.net to find out more about the series or get in touch. US listeners, support the series and eat well! Hello Fresh is my first sponsor. Sign up at www.hellofresh.com and use the promo code 'noaccident' to get $35 off your first delivery. Everybody wins! I’ll be back in about two weeks to start getting ready for another big change. Get well soon Granny.

Ep 13: The Irresponsible Option  

Episode 13: The Irresponsible Option As my health improves and I feel more secure with my baby care skills, we begin to venture out. We meet my sister Charlotte, who looks so relaxed and confident out here in public. I can't even imagine feeling that way again, but I try to let it rub off on me. We sit and I breastfeed to settle you. Thankfully, you attach easily, barely allowing a glimpse, restoring my modesty with your little head, looking like you're sleeping in my arms. I can block out the world and find my centre again. Charlotte is in her last weeks of maternity leave. The thought of being away from you actually hurts and I'm grateful that I won’t have to face this for a long time. I haven't decided if I'll return to Denmark when my year is up . I don’t know what will be best for us. The decisions I'll have to make will be both practical and emotional. You already know we did go back. When you were 10 months old, the two of us moved back to Denmark, to full time work for me and full time childcare for you. In my mind it is an 18 month commitment. I don't want you to be away from your family for any longer than this. When things are good it’s workable, but if you get sick I have no options. I have to stay home and then my students have no teacher. Even when we are both well, I can't put in the hours I did before. I feel I'm not being the teacher or the mother I want to be. I'm always letting somebody down. I don't want to live like this. As we left Denmark a year ago, I could see three paths: to find another ambitious job in Australia, to study again, or to stop searching for outside options and commit. To put paid work and institutional security on hold for creative work. This is the financially irresponsible option. For me, the bravest and riskiest option. It's also the one that allows flexibility so I can be available for you when you needed me, guilt free. This is what I want to try, but I have to fight hard against my instinct to seek security, structure, and the validation that comes with working for a great institution. I start the podcast. The pressure of responsibility has a way of keeping me focused. I'm getting traction. We are on TV, we're on the radio, in print, at home and abroad. It's not always good, but mostly people receive what I'm doing in the spirit in which I'm doing it. There are no geographical boundaries, which is exactly what I'd hoped. People are listening, it's resonating, they're donating money to help me continue. Audio makers reach out, and I'm welcomed in. A network, Wondery! I’m not alone anymore. I'm part of something bigger! And with that, sponsorship! An income! It's modest, but it's an income! I'll be able to service my car, go to the dentist, buy new pants to replace the ones that suddenly only reach the top of your socks. Throw out my maternity bras! I'm on the way to making a living again, but this time working for me. This production is made by me, Sophie Harper, in partnership with Wondery! I'm supported by generous listeners and the Australian Cultural Fund. Music by Dexter Britain, Broke for Free, Chris Zabriskie and Versus Shade Collapse. Thanks to my family, my friends, my daughter, and to Dan Lizette, Lea Thau, Jon Cohen, Michelle Webster, Cathy Gray, Kate Montague, Koren Helbig, Hernan Lopez, and to listeners and friends who believe in what I'm doing and have encouraged and supported me to keep doing it. My new network Wondery would like to know more about you, so it would be great if you could fill in a quick survey at wondery.com/survey. Thank you for the iTunes reviews and for the messages, and donations! I feel very blessed. I'll be back in two weeks to tell you about the gentle and happy routines of early motherhood. Granny's (Diana Lampe's) poppy seed cake recipe for Astrid: http://www.goodfood.com.au/recipes/pearfect-20130408-2hgtd Clips: ABC Double J with Myf Warhurst and Ian Walker The Podcast Digest (episode 95) with Dan Lizette SRSLY podcast, New Statesman #43 with Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz Strangers with Lea Thau (Not By Accident episode) SBS TV The Feed: Sperm Tourism Music by permission from the artist: I'm Going to Die by Versus Shade Collapse. Music from freemusicarchive.org - CC NC License: Candlepower by Chris Zabriskie; Happy Together by Dexter Britain; A Year and The Great by Broke For Free. Ad music from freemusicarchive.org - CC Commercial License: Drop of Water in the Ocean by Broke For Free. Support the series by going to http://www.hellofresh.com and enter the promo code 'noaccident' to save $35!

Episode 12: Father's Day  

Episode 12: Father's Day

It was father's day here in Australia this month. Last year you were too young to be aware, but now, surrounded by talk of fathers at childcare, and in books, and on TV, you’ve started to wonder, and to ask. This was our biggest test of handling the Dad question so far. We've been figuring out how to talk about it since my nephew first asked, three and a half years ago. We're going back there.

You're six days old. I apprehensively pack my things and prepare to be discharged. It’s been a surprisingly idyllic little sanctuary, this hospital room. No demands on me except gentle ones from you, people regularly dropping in to say hello, and I'm so hungry that even hospital food seems ok. That and medication are delivered when I need them; painkillers, iron supplements and laxatives which I feel utterly dependent on thanks to the disturbing haemorrhoids that came with childbirth. I'm not sure I'm ready to leave yet, but we have to start our real life together sooner or later. And we won't be alone, not yet.

My mother arrives to take us home. I carry you and she wheels the suitcase. It feels almost comedic, the weak leading the weak, as we make our way through the hospital to the car waiting just outside. It's your first time outside, breathing fresh air, seeing trees, birds and the sky and I take a deep breath and gaze up, as if it's my first time too. 

Your bassinet is ready, on wheels so you are always near me. I establish breast feeding stations in different parts of the house, equipped with shaped pillows, lanolin for cracked nipples, water, snacks, baby care books and the iPad with an app to time feeds and keep track of which side we're up to. I'm obsessive about this, creating data to back up my unreliable memory. I seem to need something concrete as I figure out what I'm doing and whether I'm doing it right. 

Midwives comes each day for the first week. I really look forward to their visits. They take their time, let me ask questions and talk, and make me feel that I'm doing well. In contrast, when the child health nurse comes she succeeds in making me insecure about your routine, or lack of routine, about my general approach to parenting, and even about how crowded our coffee table is with books. She has such an abrasive manner, that my mother and I both feel like we're back at school and in trouble with the principal. I'm instructed the routine should be: sleep, feed, change, play, sleep, and feel guilty and inadequate that I can't seem to do it. 

My mother is busy all day everyday, from this day, for months, cooking and feeding me, making cups of tea for visitors, fielding phone calls, rocking you to sleep when I've run out of steam. I honestly don't know how I could do this without her.  And to be clear, the food isn't average. She's an amazing cook and a food writer, and right now she's cooking as if our lives depend on it, which, in a way, I guess they do. 

Time is a blur. There's not much to differentiate between night and day other than daylight and my mother’s company. Even though we're often in different parts of the house, not interacting, I'm comforted by knowing she's there. I've lived alone for years and always needed my own space, but I don't want to be all alone with you yet. I'm not strong enough. I feel scared when she goes out. The house seems big and empty and I look around the corners of the room and don't quite know what to do with myself. Actually it's not that I'm afraid to be alone with you. That feels like the most natural and comfortable thing to me, as if there's nothing more I need in my life now that you're in it. But I'm afraid for me. All the strength I have is for you and I can only offer it because my mum is looking after me. 

My nipples are sore, but it's not terrible. Some days I have to brace myself as you latch on to endure the first few seconds of pain, but after that it's ok. I'd had so many fears about breastfeeding, whether we'd be able to do it, whether there's be a problem, whether I'd have enough milk for you. Once again I'm one of the lucky ones.

The letdown is powerful. Your little sounds and cries cause me to fill and leak immediately. A friend tells me for her it's enough just to see something cute! And they don't just drip, they squirt! Fine droplets on the bathroom floor after a shower, across the iPad screen, inside the car door. I wear cotton breastpads to try to avoid visible wet patches. I have to wear a bra all the time, day and night, to soak up the drips. Even so, I often wake up with wet sheets. I'm quite happy I’m single for this bit. 

Friends start to visit as I get stronger. They bring cards and presents, and more arrive in the post, from Sydney, from Stockholm, Chicago and Oslo, from the countryside. I had no idea this is what people do when you have a baby. I just can't get over the kindness, the generosity, the outpouring of love and good will. I

Ep 11: First Hours, First Days  

Episode 11: First Hours, First Days

With you suckling at my chest, the pool of blood gone, and our family here to celebrate your birth, I feel elated, and sure it must be over. But it isn't quite over yet. The family are ushered out for the doctors to begin stitching me up. I lie on my back, feet in stirrups, and try to think more about you than about the four or five people examining the damage. Your tiny fingers are so long and thin, with soft fingernails that curl over at the ends. Your hair is fair and curly, but darker than mine. Or is it the dry blood and amniotic fluid that make it look that way? Your little nose is upturned, like my sister's. It’s the one feature I recognize from the scans. Your eyes are big and blue, the shape of mine and my fathers. You look a bit like my father. All the babies in our family seem to look a bit like my father. Perhaps it's his distinctive features, or perhaps it's his lack of hair and our lack of imagination. 

A female student doctor is supervised as she stitches. It's the same doctor who told me you were well before your first cry. I feel warmth towards her for that. She's the doctor who comes to give me the birth control talk a few days later, and turns bright red when I cut her off. "I'm single and also, I'm a lesbian, so birth control is not going to be an issue for me". I wonder if I could have handled it in a way that didn’t make her feel so silly. I just hadn’t wanted to waste her time. 

Eventually it's over. The remaining family members file back in and Nick has followed the instructions I’d forgotten I’d give him. He’s brought food! With the first bite I realise I’m utterly starving and devour huge quantities, visualizing my strength being restored. My parents, both pale and weak but for different reasons, head home. 

Nick and Charlotte stay late, and decide it's time to leave our little party as I'm helped into a wheelchair and move to the ward, you in my arms. We study each other's faces, stare into each other's eyes. 

We're wheeled down to a ward that is almost deserted, and I have to let go of these midwives and the wonderful care and attention they've given me. We're on our own. I suddenly realise it was a big mistake not to ask someone to stay with me tonight. You go to sleep in a bassinet beside my bed and I can just reach you to carefully lift you in and out through the night, when you cry. I imagine how distressing it must be to no longer hear my heartbeat as you lie alone in the world for the first time. I place you on me and you’re content. I'm afraid to fall asleep like this, terrified that I'll suffocate you, but I do drift off, and when I wake you're still safe. On this first night I find myself wishing there was another parent.

In the morning we are wheeled to the postnatal ward. It's brand new, only recently opened, and the rooms are spacious, light and quiet. I can't quite believe that although I'm a public patient and not paying for this, I have a private room with a bathroom and my own little fridge, perfect for storing my mother's food deliveries, and ice packs to put in my undies, to sooth my wounds. I spend hours gazing out at the view of the mountains, and the most beautiful sunsets. You are never taken from my side, and I love being with you, but I miss you being inside me, almost a part of me. I miss my pregnant belly. I study you, awake and asleep, getting to know all the parts of your face and your body. I recognize the way you move, curl up, stretch out, from how you moved inside me. I look for the things that I recognize from me, and the things I don’t recognize, that must come from him.  

I have no colour in my face. Even my hands and arms have the pallor of a corpse. I'm not getting much stronger. The doctors don’t think I lost enough blood to be in the state I'm in, but decide to test me, and find that I have. They'd weighed the sheets and blood after the birth, but somehow underestimated the amount. A blood transfusion is recommended and I'm given pamphlets laying out the risks and benefits. Apprehensively I decide it is the best thing to do. The blood comes, and I feel very strange as I watch it make its way into my body. Within hours I start to feel stronger, and by the next day I have the strength to leave my room, to explore the ward, discover the toaster, another food supply! 

You are peaceful and perfect, sleeping well, feeding well and making me feel more filled with love than ever before. 

I haven’t decided on a name yet. I've got it down to three, and thought I'd know once you were born, but my head is so foggy that I'm just not sure! I try to ignore opinions and pressures and after the transfusion, I have clarity. Astrid. Your name is Astrid. It takes weeks to feel natural, but we settle into it.

Astrid is definitely who you are.

 

This is an independent production made by me, Sophie Harper. 

Music by Dexter Britain, Brok

Ep 10: Birth  

Episode 10: Birth

It's going to get messy, so if that’s a problem for you, you might want to skip this episode, or you can fairly safely listen to the first 9 and the last 4 minutes.

I'm 6 days overdue. I can't imagine it's possible to be any bigger! I'm so uncomfortable and it's so hot! But I need to get out. I go to the little suburban supermarket near home, and think of my mother. Her waters broke with my brother in this very supermarket 34 years ago. I shop quickly, before history has a chance to repeat!

I have an acupuncture appointment in the afternoon, and the acupuncturist can barely contain her excitement as she does her best to bring on the labor as soon as possible. I have another appointment booked for the next day, but she doesn’t think I’ll be there.

I go home, rest and drink raspberry leaf tea. It's supposed to help too.

Labor might begin at any moment. Then again, it could be another week.

I go to bed, trying to put it all out of my mind. For me, it had been a bit of a dark week, waiting and not knowing when our life together will start.

I wake up during the night and feel a sudden gush. It's my waters, they've broken. There's meconium in them. I know this means it's urgent. 

We race to hospital. Labor happens in a blur, with moments of hyper-sharp focus.

You are born! 

 

This is an independent production made by me, Sophie Harper. 

Thank you to my family, especially this time to Diana Harper, for being there. 

Music by Dexter Britain, Duncan Avoid and Chris Zabriskie.

Thank you so much to the 80 people who have now donated to my fundraising campaign. Your donations will make it possible for me to continue making this series. I have reached 34% of my goal and there is just one week left to contribute. 

https://australianculturalfund.org.au/projects/not-by-accident-podcast/

www.notbyaccident.net 

 

Next time, in two weeks, my first hours and first days of motherhood.

 

Ep 9: This Strange Period  

Episode 9: This Strange Period

My brother's baby is due this week. There have been some false starts and I'm feeling jumpy every time the phone rings. He doesn't have time to talk, so I sit down with my sister Charlotte for a not-so-quiet talk about birth, and the end of my pregnancy.

I'd thought once I was home, I could start to focus on getting everything ready for your birth, but as it turns out, this period is not to be all about you and me. During this strange time, three of us are in hospital within weeks of each other. 

Charlotte's gall stones are a horrible thing to have to deal with, but it is our father who becomes the real worry as 2013 begins. He is suddenly very ill.

I go to meet my midwife, the first of several visits.  My mother comes with me for the first appointment. I'd decided I'd like her to be at the birth, and she agreed. I didn't really want anyone I know to see me in that state, but I certainly didn't want to go through it alone, so this is what we decided. She comes with me to the first birth class too. Walking into the room full of couples is strangely intimidating. 

I turn 39. Cass and I have a joint birthday party. It's great, and makes me feel like I still have a bit of a life. But there is a dark shadow over everything as my Dad's surgery looms. 

I'm not as agile as I tried to convince myself I am. The intense heat is hard to cope with. I look at my legs one afternoon and they've swollen so much they're unrecognizable! It scares me. I decide it's time to go home, slow down and settle into the air-conditioned comfort of my mother's house for the final weeks.

You can come now Astrid, I’m ready!

 

Ep 8: Leaving and Arriving  

After my maternity leave, in 2014, we did move back to Denmark, just for 18 months. I did make it work, mostly, as a single mother with a demanding job, thanks to my incredible friends and colleagues. It was painful when we left them, your second family, but so worth it for you to know your grandparents, aunt and uncle, and your little cousins. There are three of them now. Nick met Nozomi soon after you were born, little Ibuki followed, and any day now, I mean I’m literally expecting the call, a 5th baby cousin will arrive! 

But I'm jumping ahead. It’s December 2012, Denmark. I'm 7 months pregnant. As I eat my nightly 3am pancakes, I research basinets, baby baths, change tables and car capsules. 

Work is busy and I'm not so light on my feet now. The documentary project, my other baby, is underway and I’m trying to manage logistics and offer some guidance to the students before they head off to shoot. Working with these courageous students, over years, seeing them make compelling films, has given me the courage and the drive to make this series. Students of the EFC, I owe you a debt of gratitude. I would not be doing this if it weren’t for everything you taught me.

On the last day of school, in the morning, we have a staff Christmas event with gifts for everyone. I haven't anticipated that this is also a farewell for me. I'm given presents for my baby, and a speech, by the Principal, that is so complimentary and so moving, that I cannot speak to reply.

It's so hard to say goodbye. I don’t know if I'm coming back and so much of my heart is here.

I pack all weekend. I have a lot more stuff than I thought. Steen comes to help. He's someone you can count on to be there when you need him. He cooks dinner for Michael, who you've named Mimi, and me on my last night. It's hard to believe this is the last time, after so many meals together. The three of us are single and have become great friends during our years together here. 

All three of us left the college a year ago, and settled around the world. Michael met Antonia again before we left, his girlfriend from a decade earlier. We've been invited to their wedding in New York! Steen has decided to go. 

I make a decision. We're going to bloody do it too!

As I board the final flight to Sydney,  I am thinking more and more of home, of the new life I'm about to start, and I'm feeling excited now. 

I'm reunited with my family and meet my baby nephew Alexander for the first time. It's a year since I was last home. Life can change so much in a year. Another family Christmas, but this time with a two nephews, and you, so close.

 

This is an independent production made by me, Sophie Harper. 

Thank you to my friends, my family, my former students and colleagues and my daughter for allowing me to record, for your endless support and for believing in me. It means the world.  

Music by Adrianna Krikl, Broke for free, Chris Zabriski and Zhang JW.

Also a big thank you to the generous and talented Liz Tran of Blue Sky Designs, who has built me a beautiful new website, somehow, miraculously, while juggling a baby and a toddler. It'll be live within days.

And to all of you who have left amazing reviews and sent messages, you have brought me to tears multiple times. I am inspired. Please keep them coming!

I have launched a fundraising campaign to help keep the series going strong. You can donate through the Australia Cultural Fund until the end of August. (it’s even tax deductible for Australian taxpayers). 

Go to notbyaccident.net to find out more.

A special thanks to all the generous and kind people who have donated to my fundraising campaign. Kate, Julie, Ana, Madeleine, Norelle, Audiocraft conference, Elizabeth, Cathy, Beth, Annette, Megan, Sher, Dimity, Jess, Ingeborg, Rebecca, Emily, Pearl, Cathy, Kate and Russell. 

Hooray for Lea Thau and Strangers podcast! Not By Accident was featured on the latest episode. If you don’t already subscribe to Strangers, do it now. You won't be sorry.

We are taking a week off to go to the wedding! See you in three weeks!

 

Ep 7: Dinosaurs and Pancakes  

It's September 2012, the day the students arrive. There is a nervous excitement in the building and everybody feels it, from the chefs, to the finance department, and certainly us teachers. 115 students arrive on this Monday afternoon from around the world, about 25 different countries, to start their new life at the European Film College. Most will live on campus like me. They will work harder than probably ever in their lives, make many ambitious films, take creative and personal risks, challenge their preconceptions , find out who they are outside of their own culture, away from their family and friends, as individuals. The 9 months that they are here will feel like a lifetime, but it will go incredibly quickly. Time warps, much like it does in the first year of parenthood. 

I know it feels like this because I did it too, 13 years earlier. It was the first day of the best and most creatively fulfilling year of my life, up until the day you were born. I feel incredibly privileged to be on the other side now, to be a part of the team that is invested in giving these students an experience like mine. It is a great responsibility, and one I have put above all else for the past three years. There is an emotional rhythm to the year, almost a narrative arc, and I understand it well now so I hate to be leaving the story before the end. If there was a way to see it through I would, but there really isn't. I will be the best teacher I can be until Christmas time and then hand everything over. 

My sister Charlotte has a name for her baby, Alexander. He'll be along three months before you.

I don't have time to think much about the future. All my energy goes to surviving the present. But there is great joy in the everyday. I am grateful for the friendships I have here.  I'm alone and away from my family, but I have this community and I can only continue because of them. I begin to feel that, with their support and friendship, it might be possible to come back.

20 weeks, time for the second scan. I'm so nervous and excited to see you again, to hear your heart beat again.

It's November. Charlotte and I check in regularly as her due date approaches. I long to go home. In only a month, I will. And soon after that, you will arrive too.

 

This is an independent production made by me, Sophie Harper. 

Music by Quobe, Silence is Sexy and Chris Zabriskie.

I'll be releasing new episodes every two weeks on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Thank you for your reviews and messages. iTunes reviews also help the series find more listeners so if you like the series, I'd love you to leave a review.

I have launched a fundraising campaign to help keep the series going strong. You can donate through the Australia Cultural Fund until the end of August. (it’s even tax deductible for Australian taxpayers). 

Go to notbyaccident.net to find out more.

Ep 6: Seventeen Calls - Not By Accident  

It’s the end of August in 2012. You have reached a milestone. 13 weeks. The second trimester. For me, it’s a turning point. On Thursday, the day before my first scan, the first time I’ll see you, I put on a baggy shirt and go to meet with my boss, my friend. She is energized after the summer break and excited about the year ahead. Her plans involve me. Of course they do. We’re a team. I realise I have to tell her immediately, not after the scan as I’d intended. I have to destroy her plans, her enthusiasm. I am shaking. I feel like my heart will stop. I think this is my worst ever betrayal.

On Friday I go for the scan. I see you for the first time. Now I don’t have to imagine, I can see! You have all your arms and legs. I am relieved for you, I want you to have as few obstacles in life as possible.

I spend the weekend on the phone. 17 calls, 9 hours. I know because I recorded myself and am re-living it making this episode. I’ve categorized my conversations into themes and can see where my preoccupations lie. One third work, one third our unknown future, and the final third divided again: love, lost and longed for, my changing body, and you, my baby, inside me. I feel sad to see how much anxiety over work and the future dominate.

We went to Sydney this weekend, to see friends and meet new babies. On the train up, with these conversations fresh in my head, the trip became poignant.

I am truly grateful to you, my friends, my family, and my daughter, who accept me when I obsess, when I wallow, when I dominate, and when I’m withdrawn. Who allow me to record, and support me completely. Who share in my sorrows and in my great joys. Who let me share in yours. Welcome to the world little Audrey and Maple.

This is an independent production made by me, Sophie Harper. Music by Chris Zabriskie, Dexter Britain and LJ Kruzer. Story input from Rebecca Mostyn.

I’ll be releasing new episodes every two weeks on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Thank you for your reviews and messages, I find them incredibly moving and inspiring. iTunes reviews also help the series find more listeners so if you like the series, I’d love you to leave a review.

I have launched a fundraising campaign to help keep the series going strong. You can donate through the Australia Cultural Fund until the end of August. (it’s even tax deductible for Australian taxpayers).

Go to notbyaccident.net to find out more.

Ep 5: Travels Through the 1st Trimester - Not By Accident  

This is 'Not By Accident', a documentary podcast series about choosing to become a single mother and coping with being one.

If this is the first time you're listening, I recommend you go back and start at episode 1. 

Episode 5: Travels through the 1st Trimester

My body has seriously never looked better naked. Everything is soft, plump and trim in all the right places. My breasts are growing. I curse the fact that nobody but me will see, but feel fortunate I don't have to negotiate a physical relationship. They hurt so much they wake me up at night! I also have to get up to pee every few hours. I am so tired. I dread brushing my teeth because of the morning sickness. Foods taste different. I can't get enough of pink grapefruit and nectarines. I am put off by the smell of beer. I never thought that could happen. I am vague and forgetful, pregnancy brain I suppose, and happy that holidays have begun so work won't suffer. I expect my usual backpain to worsen, but it disappears! The hormone relaxin has miraculously done the reverse to what I'd been told to expect. No sign of the stretch marks or varicose veins I've been dreading either, but pimples start to appear on my back. Agh. My body won't let me push through exhaustion. I plan to swim and go to the gym, but instead I nap. Often. I stare for hours at the embryo images on my pregnancy tracker app, but make a deal with myself never to jump ahead. I want to know exactly what you're up to and not wish it away. Knowing you're growing in there is the most surreal and profound experience I've ever had.

Summer holidays have begun and nobody is left here but me. I shouldn't be alone. I need to travel to avoid that. 

I pack my wheely suitcase and load my kindle with essential holiday reading: 

What to Expect when you're Expecting; 

Choosing Single Motherhood; 

Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice; 

The Complete Single Mother;

Knock Yourself Up; 

Sperm Donor = Dad; 

and of course: My Miserable Lonely Lesbian Pregnancy.

I have great friends scattered around Europe, I piece together a plan of who to visit and when, culminating in a week in Iceland with my brother. I take off.

It is utterly surreal to be an insignificant figure in these astounding places, and at the same time to be so focused inwards. To be so aware of you there inside me. The captivating wonder of each feels somehow symetrical and profound.

I can see now I need to pave two paths while I figure out which one to take. So many things to try to understand, to arrange. Two possible new lives, one in Denmark and one in Australia. Two cultures, two systems, two midwives, two hospital bookings, two childcare places, one baby. So many choices still to make. 

In the next episode: summertime is over baby. 13 weeks, the second trimester. I return to Denmark, to my first scan, to work and to break the news of my pregnancy. It's going to be a very big week.

Thanks to my family my friends and my daughter for allowing me to record, and for all your support. 

This is an independent production made by me, Sophie Harper. 

Music by Silence is Sexy, Khonnor, Chris Zabriskie, Broke For Free, Dexter Britain and Baby Blue.

Story input from Michelle Webster, Cathy Gray and Diana Lampe.

I am taking a week to manage some business, so the next episode will be out in 3 weeks. 

You can support the series by telling people you know about it, by subscribing and leaving a review in iTunes, and by voting (daily even!) at podcastawards.com.

 

Key words: podcast, pregnant, single mother by choice, smc, travel, Europe, Iceland, Audio Storytelling

Ep 4: My Love Life - Not By Accident  

Episode 4: My Love Life

This is Not By Accident, a documentary podcast series about choosing to become a single mother and coping with being one. If you missed the earlier episodes, I recommend going back and listening to them first.

I had morning sickness and was trying hard to look after myself, now about 5 weeks pregnant, but it was a struggle with the lack of structure in my life over the summer, and all this travel. 

Today though, back to work, just for a week. I was feeling guilty and conflicted about work. This was really the first time in my life that I wasn’t putting work ahead of everything else and it made me very uneasy.

I was lonely and felt very isolated. 

It wasn’t a choice I’d made, to go through life alone. 

After I came out at 30, I ventured out into the Sydney lesbian scene. I felt like a 30 year old teenager. It was exciting and terrifying. I started internet dating. I had some fun. I got my heart broken a couple of times. I fell in love with a woman called Lucy and we had a relationship that was intense, exciting and before long, tumultuous. The fact that I wanted a baby at some point added extra strain. She moved with me to Denmark and things unravelled. 

I found myself living alone in a beautiful big, empty three bedroom apartment, broken hearted again, in rural Denmark with no friends nearby and almost no lesbians in sight. I had my dream job but my personal life was empty and I kept wondering why I was doing this to myself in the last years of my youth. I gave everything I had to my work, which I loved. 

But now, I was exhausted, overwhelmed and feeling very foreign very alone. So much was unknown, and unknowable. It was the first time I really wondered if I could do this. But now I had a long vacation in Europe which I was determined to enjoy.

Six years have passed since Lucy and I broke up, but we’ll always care about each other from a distance, and now it’s clear that the love carries through to the next generation.

 

This is an independent production made by me, Sophie Harper.

Thanks to my family, my friends and my daughter for allowing me to record, and for the practical and moral support.

Music by Broke For Free, Chris Zabriski, Total Reboot and Dexter Britain. 

I’ll be releasing new episodes every two weeks wherever you listen to podcasts.

Please subscribe, rate and review to help the series find more listeners.

(Key search words: Single mother by choice, choice mom, solo mum, Solo mom, donor baby, sperm donor, parent, fertility, insemination, pregnant, coming out, lesbian, gay, internet dating, First Trimester, working mother, maternity leave, podcast, podcasting, audio documentary, LGBTI.)

 

Ep 3: Donor Deliberations - Not By Accident  

Episode 3: Donor Deliberations

This is Not By Accident, a documentary podcast series about choosing to become a single mother and coping with being one. If you missed the earlier episodes, I recommend going back and listening to them first.

One day, soon after I left school, my mother told me that she wanted me to have a baby one day and she didn’t care how I did it, even if I did it alone, as long as I did it. I was a bit taken aback. Of course I’d have a baby one day. I’d always known I would.  I imagined I’d do it the way school girls imagine they’ll do it: I’d fall in love with a man, he’d fall in love with me, and the family would naturally follow.

It took me another decade to come out.

I got cancer and faced my own mortality. My mum almost died too. Things came sharply into focus and I realized as we both went into remission, this was no way to live the rest of my precious life. Very soon after, I made a weekend trip to come out to my parents.

A huge weight lifted. It seems crazy that it took so much for me to be comfortable being who I am, but for some reason it did.

The thing I felt saddest about letting go of was the idea of creating a baby, biologically, with a person I was in love with and for us to be a family. I found it overwhelmingly sad that my baby would biologically be half me and half some guy, and that if I had a partner, she would be the other mother but not biologically related.

I decided the ideal situation for me would be to find a gay man to be my donor. I would find a man who wanted to have a child and otherwise couldn’t. He would not be a father exactly. They could have the fun bits without responsibilities. This could work.

But none seemed to fit. In the end the best option was a sperm bank. After thinking about it for 8 years, it was an easy decision to make. I had years to adjust to the fact I could not biologically make a baby with someone I love. Most single mothers by choice have much less time to come to terms with that sadness. I’ve often thought I’m fortunate for that.

The clinic gave me a list. Checking out their profiles was a lot like internet dating, but of course they didn’t have to choose me back. I narrowed the list down to ten and sent them all to my family. I wanted some input. My mother obliged. It would be my decision, but I was happy not to make it all on my own. They’re such complicated feelings but at the same time it’s just practical. You can’t do it alone. This is what it takes.

My sister called just after my insemination with amazing news. She was pregnant! It made the timing feel perfect when I found out I was too. If all went well these new little cousins would be so close in age! What a change in fortune for my family.

This is an independent production made by me, Sophie Harper.

Thanks to my family, my friends and my daughter for allowing me to record, and for the practical and moral support.

Music by Broke For Free, Cyan341 and Dexter Britain. 

I’ll be releasing new episodes every two weeks wherever you listen to podcasts.

Please subscribe, rate and review to help the series find more listeners.

(Key search words: Single mother by choice, choice mom, solo mum, Solo mom, donor baby, sperm donor, parent, fertility, insemination, pregnant, cancer, coming out, lesbian, gay, podcast, podcasting, audio documentary, LGBTI.)

 

Ep 2: Your Grandparents - Not By Accident  

This is Not By Accident, a documentary podcast series about choosing to become a single mother and coping with being one. If you missed episode 1, I recommend going back and listening to that first. Here’s Episode 2: Your Grandparents.

In 2012 I went home to Australia for Christmas. I had three weeks off from my job teaching documentary filmmaking in Denmark, just enough time to make the trip worthwhile. I wanted to ground myself after a recent break-up and as I came to terms with the fact that really was I was going to try to have a baby on my own, and soon, before it was too late.

A couple of weeks after I returned to Denmark to work, I turned 38. This was the cut-off point I’d set for myself. The day after my birthday I called a clinic and made an appointment to come and talk to them about choosing a donor and getting pregnant.

This courage didn’t come from nowhere. I want to take you back to start unravelling some of the events that led to this point.

As I approached 30, my mother underwent devastating treatment for advanced lymphatic cancer. She had two years of chemo and nobody thought she would survive.

I had a mole on my arm that I’d been worried about for a long time, but a few doctors had told me it was nothing. It wasn’t. It was cancer. Stage two melanoma. My mother had her stem cell transplant days after I had my surgery. I don’t think there’s been a worse week in my family, ever.

Then things turned around. My surgery biopsy results came back clear! Her transplant worked! It took some time to build her strength, but she went into remission! Now she has 4 grandchildren who adore her, who we’d had to accept she’d never get to meet. My perspective changed and things crystalized.

My father and step-mother came to Europe for a holiday just two weeks after my insemination. I hadn’t told them I’d had the first insemination yet so wasn’t totally sure how they’d react to this news. I didn’t feel that they were completely comfortable with my plan, but they weren’t against it either. They were the first people I spoke the words to with certainty: ‘I did the test again. I’m definitely pregnant!’ They were happy.

On our last day together, my step-mother handed me a gift. ‘For your baby’ she said. Tears welled in my eyes. My baby’s first belonging. Just three weeks since your conception Astrid… welcome to our family.

This is an independent production made by me, Sophie Harper.

Thanks to my family, my friends and my daughter for allowing me to record, and for the practical and moral support.

Music by Adrianna Krikl, LJ Kruzer and Dexter Britain. Clips from ABC TV profile of Diana Lampe on Stateline Canberra by journalist Catherine Garrett.

I’ll be releasing new episodes every two weeks wherever you listen to podcasts. Episode 3 will be out on April 28.

Please subscribe, rate and review to help the series find more listeners.

Go to notbyaccident.net to sign up to my occasional email newsletter, tweet at me @byaccidentnot and if you know anyone who might like to listen, please share!

 

(Key search words: Single mother by choice, choice mom, solo mum, donor baby, parent, fertility, insemination, sperm, pregnant, cancer, melanoma, lymphoma, survival, remission, cure, travel, podcast, podcasting, audio documentary.)

Ep 1: Insemination Story - Not By Accident  

Episode 1: Insemination Story.

This is Not By Accident, a documentary podcast series about choosing to become a single mother and coping with being one. 

I was living and working in Denmark when I reached the age of 38, the cut-off I’d settled on to try to have a baby alone before it was too late. I had decided on a donor and the sample was on stand-by. I was incredibly fortunate as Denmark has a thriving fertility tourism industry and maternity benefits that made it possible for me to even consider doing what I was about to try and do. 

One morning in May my ovulation test showed as positive, and it was time to stop thinking about it and actually do it!

Life just happens and we can’t always control the circumstances or events, we just have to deal with what comes our way. Now and then we can make a big choice, and take action and set life on a new course. We don't have to just accept things as they are. We can make life more what we want it to be.

Thanks to my family, my friends and my daughter for allowing me to record, and for the practical and moral support.

Music by Dexter Britain, LJ Kruzer and Chris Zabriskie from the Free Music Archive.

 I’ll be releasing new episodes every two weeks wherever you listen to podcasts. In episode 2 we’ll go back in time to see how I got to here. Out on April 14.

Please subscribe, rate and review to help the series find more listeners.

Go to notbyaccident.net to sign up to my occasional email newsletter, tweet at me @byaccidentnot and if you know anyone who might like to listen, please share!

(Key search words: Single mother by choice, choice mom, donor baby, parent, fertility, insemination, sperm, pregnant, podcast, audio documentary.)

Ep 0 - Not By Accident Trailer  

This is the trailer for Not By Accident, an audio documentary series about choosing to become a single mother and coping with being one, made by me, Sophie Harper. Music by Baby Blue. Episode 1 will be available on the 31st of March 2016. Subscribe, rate, review wherever you listen to podcasts. Go to notbyaccident.net to sign up to my occasional email newsletter, and if you know anyone who might like to listen, please share!

(Search terms: single mother by choice, choice mom, donor baby, rainbow baby.)

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