Andrea Askowitz long dreamed that her pregnancy would be a nine-month period of extended bliss. Not so, as the title of her new memoir, My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy, suggests.
In the book, ($14.95, Cleis Press) Askowitz gives a touching and humorous take on getting pregnant through artificial insemination and enduring the 40-week gestation without a partner. Recently the writer, a Palmetto Senior High graduate who lives in Coconut Grove, sat down for an interview about her pregnancy and life as the mother of Tashi, who is now 4.
You had wanted a child for a long time, but at nearly 35, you were single and mourning the break-up with your girlfriend. What made you go through with it?
I really thought that if I didn't do it, I might lose the chance forever. It was a five-year buildup. At 30, I was like, 'Oh, I really want a baby.' I fell in love with my nieces, that whole feeling, and thought, I want that, too. Then when I got to 35, it was like this huge momentum I'd already started. I'd done a lot of research. I think I stepped into pregnancy with confidence. The day I got pregnant, that all changed. ... I didn't want to go it alone, but I just felt like I had to.
You had a lot of friends with babies that kept telling you îYou canét do this alone. How do you think that affected how you felt about it?
I wouldn't want to hear that. I just thought, 'Well, what am I going to do? What are my choices, then?' So I was just angry really. I donét really like to hear that something is impossible. ... Tons of women have babies on their own.
New mothers tend to lean on each other, whether ités through websites or through friendships. Was that type of support hard to find for you?
No. There were eight of us in our birth class at the Hollywood Birth Center [in Los Angeles.] About two months after Tashi was born, I called the Hollywood Birth Center. We'd been sitting in class together for the month before the babies were born, and I invited them over and we just started meeting every week. They were my support. I loved these women. Weéd talk about sex. I felt like I was the only woman who wasnét having sex, but I wasnét. No one was having sex. They were just so cool. It was no big deal that one person in the group was a lesbian.
When you run into people you don't know, or even people you do know, do you find that they are curious about how you got pregnant? Do they ask? Do you mind, and what do you say?
I actually want people to ask me how I got pregnant because I think it's sort of strange that they don't. When I was doing my daughter's baby naming, she was 5 months old, I was down here in Miami. We invited 100 people from my past, and not a single person asked me how I got pregnant. Some of these people I hadnét seen since I was a kid. My aunts and uncles probably knew, and some people knew. But a lot of people might not have known. ... To me, the not asking makes an even bigger deal out of the situation. It's sort of like this scary secret.
To combat that, do you just tell everyone how it happened?
Yes, I kind of do. I don't think about it now. So here's my daughter and I don't say 'artificial insemination.' She knows she has a donor. We talk about it, and she's seen his baby picture.
When did you first broach the subject with her?
Really early. I said, 'I want you to know that you have a donor.' I was really careful not to say, 'You donét have a dad.' Though she will say, 'I don't have a dad.' And then I'll say, 'Well, what do you have?' Then she'll say, 'a mom' and she's all proud.
Tashi is now 4. What was harder, the pregnancy, toddler or newborn part?
Pregnancy. As soon as I had the baby, I really felt like the best me. I really did. During the middle of the night crying, I would dance to Come Away With Me, you know that song? We danced to that, me and Tashi, every night for like a month. Every single night at 3 in the morning. Even though the whole world was dark, it didnét matter. I wasn't scared making all the decisions I had to make … do I vaccinate or not? ... It keeps getting easier.
How do you think being a lesbian has shaped your experience as a mother?
It has been a good transference to my daughter because I'm not like the regular people. I know I'm not. I'm accepting of myself that way, and so I'm accepting of her.
What do you mean?
She can wear whatever she wants. I want her to be her own person, and she does have strong opinions and a big personality. She loves to dress up. My stepmom got her a velvet [outfit] … it looks like something youéd wear to Easter, with a really long flowy skirt. She wore that to school. It's not like she wants to wear it and feel like a princess. I support her in doing that.
You have a partner now, but for awhile you were a single mom, and that can be difficult. What were some of the coping strategies that you had?
I lived in L.A. for two years alone. I had a wonderful nanny that became part of our family. I actually think a nanny is more important than a partner, especially in the beginning, in so many ways. Just having someone you trust, so that you can do other things like ride my bike and not have to worry about paying someone back a favor. ... And the circle of friends I pulled around me at that time, [which was called] the nipple ring. The writing about it. And then I moved to Miami when Tashi was 2 because I wanted to be around my family. Now I have my mom and my dad ... I've gotten a lot of help, and I've asked for it.
What advice to you have for other potential single moms like you?
Do it before it's too late. .. Lots of things happened for me that I didn't expect. I didn't know I was going to have a support group. I felt so alone until like the last month, and then even then I didn't feel like these people were going to be my friends until two months later when I decided to reach out to them.
Are you looking to have any more children?
Yeah, I am. I've always had this notion that I wanted a young wife. As soon as I got pregnant, I thought I wanted to find myself a young wife. I bought 10 vials of my donor's sperm. And I did that because I didn't want to have to stress out if I didn't get pregnant on the first try. But I got pregnant on the second try. So I have eight vials left. I hated being pregnant so much. This is the benefit of being a lesbian -- the only way I can have more children is if I have a partner who can have them. And now my young wife who is 40 is trying to get pregnant [with the same sperm.] My young wife who is a little older than me.