On Tuesday, CNN Opinion published "Single, childless and nearing 40, I saw one real option," a personal essay by Sarah Lenti, a political strategist who decided to have children through in vitro fertilization (IVF). She writes: "I am a single mother by choice. Yet I was raised in a Christian, conservative home, where I grew up believing in the traditional family unit. And I was taught that there was an order to achieving it. First, fall in love. Second, marry a man. Third, start a family. Now in my fifth decade, only one has proven true for me -- and it isn't the first."
Lenti's piece was the first of a CNN Opinion series, "What it's like to be me," which explores personal struggles Americans face in a time of social change.
We asked you, CNN's audience, to share your stories of IVF and adoption through text message and WhatsApp -- and you responded with personal experiences that were as various as they were emotionally compelling.
You shared with us stories of your joys and your struggles. You shared family photos -- and some of you even sent us videos about your families' journeys. Here they are.
Yazmil: Bronx, New York
"The article I just read in CNN on a single mom by choice hit home. My daughter just turned 1 and I too began this journey a little less than two years ago. I will be 38 in May and I always wanted a family. I dated someone long-term and when that relationship ended, by the time I finished licking my wounds, I was 36 with no prospects. I went on every online dating site and never met anyone worth my time. I decided to give insemination a try. I conceived relatively quickly. It was the best decision for me. I know another friend who went this route and after sharing my story many more friends are interested in becoming single moms by choice. It's not that I don't want a partner, I just didn't want my opportunity to become a mother to pass me by in the meantime.
"(The article) made me happy to know that more women are not afraid to say how they conceived their babies outside of "traditional relationships." That we are taking control of our lives, our fertility and bringing babies into this world that are wanted and loved before they are even conceived."
Tony and Brian: New Jersey
"Blessed and fortunate to have my own modern family thanks to surrogacy.
"Our dream of having a baby started in 2014, the year we got married. We found a surrogacy agency in an IVF practice in Connecticut. We were matched with our first surrogate in 2015 and she got pregnant right away, but sadly she had a miscarriage at eight-and-a-half weeks. We were devastated and upset, naturally, but we knew we didn't want to give up because we really wanted to have a baby. So we waited and we tried again and were matched with another surrogate in 2016 and she also got pregnant right away, but this time she carried the baby to 38-and-a-half weeks and we had Chelsea.
"We feel really lucky and fortunate to have Chelsea because we know how difficult it can be to have a baby in untraditional ways. Even if you have all the means and resources necessary that doesn't always guarantee a baby. "
Jo Zmood: New York City
"My name is Jo Zmood. I am a single mum of two now. Originally from Australia -- hence "mum" not "mom." I've lived in New York for 10 years, and while there are many books out there that talk about different types of families I couldn't quite find the right book to share with my son to provide him some explanation of my choice to bring him into this world alone. So I wrote my own story for him. The article inspired me to share it.
"He never asked any questions and understands some of his friends have dads and some don't. I wanted to answer his question of why he doesn't, regardless of whether the question is posed. And to let him know the subject was not taboo."
Kim Overton: Austin, Texas
"During the three years I struggled to get pregnant with my second child as a solo parent, people close to me asked if I should consider the failed pregnancies a sign to give up. I was not giving up. The years of navigating fibroid tumors, surgeries and infertility finally came to an end with the birth of my second son, Oliver. He was born with my eggs and the help of my cousin as my surrogate. My journey as a solo parent also ended when I met my husband right before learning my surrogate was pregnant with Oliver. We were both solo parents in our 40s and had never been married before. Our journey to building a family may not have taken a typical path, but what we have today is my dream come true."
Kim Overton writes about her experience on her website.
Every family is different: Share your story of how IVF, adoption or your unique family structure has shaped your life with #ToBeMe or text/WhatsApp us on +1-347-322-0415
Vicki: Duluth, Minnesota
"When I was younger I was told that I didn't have enough estrogen to be able to carry a pregnancy. My ex-husband couldn't have children either so we adopted two babies within three years. The marriage ended a few years later and I remarried the following year. My new husband and I started our married life with two 4-year-olds and a 2-year-old.
"Then the surprises came. I had babies at age 35, 39, and 46 -- -- all conceived the old-fashioned way!"
Elisabeth Szentkereszty de Zagon: Brussels, Belgium
"I am a US-Belgian dual citizen, single mom, living in Brussels After many failed attempts (albeit fun) at a real relationship, I decided to have a child on my own. Having a supportive family, especially my sister living in Belgium, was one of the reasons I did not hesitate to go solo.
"When the adoption agency called me saying that they had received the picture of my daughter, I ran to go see her photo.
"After an exhausting trip, arrived late into the night in Changsha, capital of the Hunan province, we went to the office of child affairs, or something of the sort, and each waited until we were called and they brought the babies out one by one. I looked at her as they were putting her in my arms, the most amazing and unreal feeling possible. She cried right away and I put a pacifier in her mouth and it calmed her right away.
"What I remember most, is putting her on a chair in the hotel room and just staring at this little bundle of baby and saying, I cannot believe she is mine! The wait had not been too long (seven months for China to pair me up with Lynne and from the start of the process of first meeting with the agency to the file being sent was about 12 months, so all in all, about one-and-a-half years -- so not too long)."
"She got attached to me immediately and when we were in the dining hall, I could not even leave her in her buggy to get food, she had to come with me and see me. The nannies had told me that she was always crawling behind one or the other person at the orphanage so she had to be in someone's company at all times.
"She still does not like being alone! She loves being close to me and needs company to be happy, even if now, as a teen, she can spend hours in her room doing who knows what! I call her my little pot of glue.
"Adopting is not easy. I mean being a single mom, making all the decisions, is hard. And having a smart child, ahead of her years for some things, is challenging to say the least. Also, an abandoned child's brain develops differently and this is why sometimes, they rebel against us and make life very hard. They try, albeit unconsciously, to do all they can to push us away. They are repeating the abandonment they felt as a child. But you have to hold fast, hold on and show you are always there. But it's tough when they bite and scratch and break things, kick you etc ... But with the help of family, psychologists and relational therapy, you get it done. And now, although she's a typical teenager, we have a lot of good times.
"What she wants the most is spending time with me, so when we can, we travel. We've been to Burkina Faso, Mexico, China (went back to do some volunteer teaching for 3 months in 2009 near Qingdao), all over Europe, California, New York, Atlanta, South Carolina, Boston, Cuba ... She has a map on her wall with pins of all the places she's been. We'd like to go to Japan next!
"All in all, being a mom is the toughest job. It is also the most rewarding. I do not know how they decide which parent gets which child in China, but I would not have wanted any other. It had to be her, no one else. I love her with all my heart. And I do get the love back. Those few moments when she shows her love with no boundaries are worth all the pain I go through to be her mom. I'd do it all the same if I had to. Would not change a thing!"
Dr Fan Zhou McAllen: Texas
"We have the most beautiful miracle from IVF. Go Science! I'm a Chinese dentist, mom is a Hispanic dietitian. My wife had endometriosis, hence we needed IVF.
"Tuko has been to six countries before he turned 2 -- proud papa!"
Kristen Kane: Cleveland, Ohio
"I am a single parent by choice. I decided at 25 that I wanted to adopt. It was something that was important to me, so I did. Not all of my family and friends were on board, but I knew it's what I was meant to do. The process was faster and smoother than I could have ever imagined. My son was in my arms just four months after my home study was completed. We maintain a relationship with his birth family, which I am very thankful for. Although it hasn't been easy, it has been worth it. He brings so much joy to myself and my family. He's such a wonderful, loving little boy.--Even those that weren't on board with my choice to pursue adoption at such a young age are just simply amazed at how incredibly perfect he is for our family. We love him with every ounce of our being.
"The one aspect of the adoption that I feel I wasn't prepared for was the current environment that I am raising a black son in. I have always tried to be a strong advocate for the AA community and to stay educated, but never really understood what it meant to be black in America until I saw the world through my son's eyes. Although I still don't fully understand, as I myself am shielded with my own privilege, my eyes have been opened. Sometimes painfully so. I worry about him every day. But, he is my world and I would do it again in a heart beat."
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