Meet the MomentPosted: June 10, 2011
Meet The Moment
It takes a miracle to bring any baby into the world. Factor in the decision to conceive and give birth as a single mother and even the greatest skeptic might believe in magic. The birth of Catherine Kira Kearn*, who arrived April 11, 2011, is proof.
Eight weeks later, her mother, Dianna Kearn*, has emerged from the postpartum blur and is facing the reality of her situation. She is a mother. She has a daughter, and a sweet dog Cash. They are a family and she is their life-line, their everything.
And she is doing this alone. At 40. Statistics aside, this is remarkable. Log the sleep deprivation, the 1000 calorie burning days (from breastfeeding), the constant running on adrenaline and you’d think my friend is a professional Eco Challenge athlete. The comparison is not outrageous. A few years before Dianna chose the ultimate challenge of motherhood, she started to train for marathons. She traveled around the world solo. She moved from her comfort zone in LA to start a new job and a new life in Northern California. She wanted to challenge herself and change the focus of her life.
In the summer of 2009, one year before she turned 40, Dianna started to think about becoming a mother, though she told no one of her plan. “I knew 40 was a big birthday but it didn’t freak me out. It just made me take stock. I didn’t feel behind,” she said this week on a rare call between two hour feedings with baby Catherine. “But I knew it was time — even though the media tells us we can get pregnant at 57 these days. They’re not telling us that we’ll be spending tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments.”
While Dianna held an established career in the film industry, she wasn’t in the position to wait any longer. She wasn’t dating at the time or waiting for Mr. Right. Using IUI – Intrauterine Insemination was the most viable option for her when she moved forward with the plan to get pregnant in 2010.
“I was unbelievably grateful to have turned 40 in 2010 and be living in California where there are so many acceptable versions of what it means to be a family,” she said, even though the picture of her becoming a mother wasn’t exactly what she envisioned. “Is the way I wanted to do it? No. But I never imagined not becoming a mother.”
Anyone who knows Dianna knows motherhood is wired in her DNA. She made all her friend’s children the envy of each other – each vying to have ‘Dianna’ as their exclusive special friend, a role she created to nurture these children as they grew up. She even created a long-distance book club with her Goddaughter Molly on the East Coast.
She had no doubt she would find a supportive West Coast community; however, she was uncertain as to how her family would react. Her parents lived in South Carolina and came from very traditional East Coast roots. “There are born again Christians, Catholics and Conservative Republicans in my family. I was the outlier,” she said, “Living in LA and working in the film industry. It made me really empathize with my gay friends who came out because I had to say to my own family, look, this is who I am and I hope you are okay with it.”
Her family was the first to surprise her with their support. Her employer was second. Both wanted to help Dianna make this happen. She didn’t need to convince anyone that if there was a woman in the world who would make an outstanding mother it was her.
More proof of that: Dianna’s the only person I know who was given four baby showers – two on the East Coast and two on the West Coast. Her film industry colleagues put together a book called Eat Love Poop, the result of a friendly conspiracy where her friends contributed motherhood wisdom and photos with their own babies, in response to Dianna’s many questions that kept her awake at night during her pregnancy.
So how did this all happen? First Dianna, as usual, vetted the best fertility specialists. Her choices came down to Stanford and the Fertility Specialists of Northern California. She chose the later for their warm bedside manner and genuine, heartfelt interest in her story: why she wanted to become a mother, at 40, on her own. They listened fully and supported her.
Once she felt safe with the fertility specialists, she searched for a sperm donor. I won’t go into details here because it’s a separate story, too precious to share in public. But I will say when I heard about the match, I cried. It was so perfect, to the point you get chills thinking maybe there is more to all of this. Maybe, just maybe women like Dianna are not alone when thoughtful men help them realize their dream.
She waited until the spring of 2010 to get started, seeing no chance of a pregnancy during her sister’s upcoming wedding and her 40th birthday in July. She would either get lucky on the first try in May, or wait until later. But after the first IUI didn’t work, she realized how badly she wanted to have a baby. “I was desperate,” she recalls.
Panicked, she immediately scheduled another appointment with the fertility specialist the next week, begging for fertility drugs, anything that would make the pregnancy happen. The doctor gently advised against taking the fertility drugs, which increase the chance of multiples by 10 percent. “She told me, ‘You have to consider the reality of what multiples would mean, even for a couple. And it’s only you. That’s a lot of work.”
In the meanwhile, she was referred to group counseling for women also facing fertility issues. She went to three classes and quit. “It was too stressful. I couldn’t stay in a room and listen to all the reasons why it wasn’t going to work. I wouldn’t let my mind go there.”
Dianna had tested well for FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and tried again in July, without fertility drugs. It was a Saturday. She had a work conference Sunday in LA. She returned for three more days then flew back to LA for her sister’s wedding the next weekend. “After I talked myself off a ledge, I went the opposite way. I was certain it didn’t happen,” she said, but the day after her sister’s wedding, it was time to check.
She was insistent on buying a home pregnancy test that said pregnant or not pregnant. She didn’t want to decipher lines. She peed on the stick and called her sister from the hotel they were all staying at in Malibu. Her sister’s phone didn’t pick up. She called some friends on the East Coast. They didn’t pick up. She called her sister’s husband, Tucker*, who answered. She asked to speak with Michelle*. “Are you going to kill me because I left my cell phone in your room and it went off at 6 a.m.?”
Dianna said, “No. I’m pregnant.”
Magic and miracles continued for the nine months that followed – even though she was holding her breath until she reached six months. “I had a ridiculously easy pregnancy,” Dianna recalls, having suffered only the expected morning sickness and fatigue. She worked the whole way through her pregnancy up until the last month and fully pregnant, packed up and moved back to LA with the help of friends and family.
On Monday, April 11, three days prior to her due date, Dianna wrote an email to her friends telling us her baby had a time-line of its own. She had seen her doctor late that morning who assured her there was zero dilation. Six hours later she was timing five minutes between contractions, thinking they were Braxton Hicks. She called a good friend in Texas, who happened to be an OBGYN, who told her to take a bath and that while it was possible she was in labor, highly unlikely.
Less than two hours later, she was calling another friend in LA. “It’s time,” she said. “Get over here!” By 7:45 she was in a car, headed to Cedar’s Sinai hospital, hardly able to see the pain was so acute with three minutes between contractions. She wasn’t worried they wouldn’t make it to the hospital — it took 45 minutes to get across town; she was terrified she wouldn’t survive the contractions until she got an epidural.
By the time they arrived at the hospital, she was astounded to learn she had to re-register and answer questions such as, “What is your highest level of education?” She had already filled in the information required for admission weeks ago. She had no birth plan. “My birth plan was this: you went to medical school, I didn’t. Give me drugs.”
But there was no time for drugs. No sooner could she offer her name, she blurted out, “I have to push!” to which every nurse within earshot said, “Oh, no you don’t.” Sorry folks. They haven’t worked with Dianna who even without a baby torpedoing from her body is and will always be a force to reckon with. You don’t tell Dianna ‘no’ when she needs you to say ‘yes.’ Her baby was coming and she needed everyone to act.
The next thing she knew, she was in a birthing room with about fourteen wide-eyed staff people and a strapping young doctor who, according to her sister, looked like Doogie Howser between her legs. “You’re going to have this baby now,” he said, and she did at 8:22 p.m., less than 45 minutes after she arrived at the hospital. Remarkable? Miraculous? Without a doubt, magical.
Dianna Kearn met the moment she became a mother with as much grace and courage as anyone I’ve ever known. “I was suddenly so calm holding Catherine for the first time. It was the most peaceful I’d ever felt in my life. She was so alert. She had such bright eyes and I swear she was staring right into my soul.”
For eights weeks, she rode the postpartum waves, day by day, meeting herself and her baby moment to moment, fully present, not always happy, not always rested but without a doubt enriched, evolving and more resolved than ever this was the right choice.
The night we spoke, Monday June 6, was a significant day for Dianna. I will share an excerpt of the letter she sent to friends as testimony, that thanks to modern science and the support of steadfast friends and family, single women can choose motherhood:
Today was the start of a whole new chapter – we are on our own. As I mentioned today was a really good day and if you asked me what happened I wouldn’t tell you anything significant. Catherine slept for two 4 hour chunks of time last night and she maintained her every three hour eating schedule. We figured out the Ergo baby carrier and took Cash on two really good walks while Charlotte slept against my chest. I managed to do laundry and eat all three meals. I made a phone call or two and wrote two complete thank you notes. Yes, these are all major accomplishments in this new life of mine. However, what made the day really good is that we were completely on our own for over 24 hours without any visitors/helpers on the horizon. And for the first time, in my core, I am confident that we can do this. I am confident that I can do this. We felt like a team. We felt like a family – Catherine, Cash and me.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of my friend.