Ep 224: Being a Solo Mom By Choice with Julia Karol

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Sometimes, you realize that your Plan B was your Plan A all along. When Julia chose to become a solo mom, there were a lot of decisions to be made. She meditated, traveled, journaled, and more.

This path of independent maternity felt right to her so she set out to learn as much about alternative families as she could. She decided to do this by having conversations with real people which inspired her podcast Stork’d. She’s on a mission to share through personal experience, both hers and others’, what it looks like to create your own happiness.

In this Episode, You’ll Learn About:

  • Why Julia opted to be a solo mom
  • What made her select insemination over adoption
  • How her friends and family responded to her choice to be an independent parent
  • How she found the confidence to stand firm in her decision to be a solo mother
  • Which factors she took into consideration when choosing a sperm donor
  • What the donor selection process was like
  • What it was like to navigate prenatal care as a solo parent
  • What the positives and negatives were of living with her parents postpartum

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Transcript

Dr. Nicole (00:00): In this episode, I'm chatting with Julia Carroll about being a solo mom by choice. Welcome to the All about Pregnancy and birth podcast. I'm Dr. Nicole Callaway, Rankins, a board certified OBGYN, who's been in practice for nearly 15 years. I've had the privilege of helping over 1000 babies into this world, and I'm here to help you be calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Quick note, this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Check out the full disclaimer at drnicolerankins.com/disclaimer. Now, let's get to it.

(00:52): Hello there. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 224. Whether this is your first time tuning in or you've been here before, I'm so grateful you're spending some of your time with me today. In today's episode, we have Julia Carroll. Julia is a mom, creative leader, warm friend, animal lover, and champion of alternative families. She is a solo mom by choice and the host of Stork, a podcast celebrating all families and paths to building a family when she's not hosting Stork. Julia runs a private investment firm. She lives in Boston with her toddler and dog. Julie and I have a great conversation about what made her decide to be a solo mom by choice, what type of support she had around making that choice her thought process behind choosing a sperm donor versus going with adoption. We talk about the sperm donor industry, the good, the bad, the ugly.

(01:57): We talk about the expenses, whether or not insurance covered it. Just a really great informative and interesting conversation that I know you are going to enjoy. Now, before we get into the episode, I have a favorite to ask of you. Can you share this podcast with a friend? Sharing is caring and it helps me to reach and serve more pregnant folks. I'm on a mission to reach and serve millions of pregnant people in this country to help them have this great, great information that you love in the podcast, and I would so appreciate your help in doing that. So share it with your community, share it with your friends, share it on your social media. Always tag me. I'm happy to be tagged and reshare things on my own social media. And my favorite platform is Instagram. I'm there at Dr. Nicole Rankins, so I appreciate your help with that. All right, let's get into the conversation with Julia. Thank you so much, Julia, for agreeing to come onto the podcast. I'm glad we are getting to chat despite our stupid technical difficulties first.

Julia Karol (03:07): Me too. I'm very excited to connect with you today.

Dr. Nicole (03:10): Yes. So why don't you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your work and your family.

Julia Karol (03:15): Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for asking about that in that way, asking about family in the same context, the same breath as who you are as a person, because that's what I do in my spare time. So I work in finance professionally, but on the side, my passion is to talk about all the different ways that we think about our family lives, structure, our family lives, and create our family lives. And in particular, really trying to display all the different styles and structures of family. So trying to champion alternative families. And the way that came to be is that I'm a solo mom by choice, and in the process of trying to figure out what I wanted for my family life, I was newly single and really just knew I wanted to have kids in my life in one way or another, but not sure how to go about it.

(04:09): I started talking to people exactly like you are, and just asking with curiosity, what is it like to adopt and what is it like to become a solo mom, and what is it like to choose not to have kids? And I was dating divorced men at the time who had kids, and I said, what is a stepmom experience? How do you blend a family? And from that, oh God, the answers were so good. So it turned into a podcast called Stalked, and now I just passionately get to talk about all this good stuff as much as I can. Yeah,

Dr. Nicole (04:42): I love that. A lot of times people or you hear, well, I assume that you still like your finance job. Maybe I'm not projecting, but a lot of times people think you have to follow your passion, and it necessarily may be the thing that's your work, and maybe you're working towards that. I am not sure, but I think it's lovely how you took this and made it into something bigger to share with other people. I just think that's really wonderful.

Julia Karol (05:07): Yeah, I think as humans, we evolve quite a bit. Our family lives evolve, our identities evolve. And so for right now, they are separate. Finance and the podcast are separate, but I'm lucky that I get to do both in my spare time. Who knows? Maybe they'll converge. Maybe one will take over, maybe one will take a break. Who knows? They you

Dr. Nicole (05:26): To stay open to the possibilities. Totally. Yeah. So what made you decide to be a single mom by choice? And then I guess also a lot of people think about things, but they don't necessarily start a podcast about it. So what made you decide to take that route?

Julia Karol (05:43): Well, I'll answer the second one first, which is I got to talk to if you and I knew one another, or even if somebody knew you and said, oh, you got to talk to Dr. Nicole, I would call you and be like, oh my God, tell me everything about your family life. And it started very targeted. I want to know what the solo parent experience is. I want to know what the blending family part is like. But then once you start getting deep and personal with people, you're at cocktails and the guy next to you at the bar is talking about something, you're like, oh, tell me about what your divorce was like. Okay. So what's amazing about humans is that we're so nuanced and so complex, and everyone has a family of some kind. Whether you talk to your family or don't, whether you're in love with the way your family life is currently structured or not, people have families and they're willing to share their families. And in learning about your family life, you learn about the deepest parts of someone's soul, what they want, their identity, their hopes, their desires, their disappointments. So I had those conversations and they were just too good not to share.

Dr. Nicole (06:48): Okay. Okay. Love it, love it, love it. So then what made you decide to be a solo mom by choice?

Julia Karol (06:54): Yeah. I always say it was my plan B in many ways, which isn't really fair, but it was like that thing in the back of your head that you're like, okay, if life doesn't work out the way I expect, I guess I could always do this. Here's another example. If raising kids in the US gets way too expensive, I have this dream of maybe I moved to Europe and magically have this glorious European life. The reality of that is probably negligible. It's probably not going to happen. But sometimes you think about it and you think about it, and then you start looking up trips and you start thinking about, okay, which location is better for expats? And the next thing you know, you're booked your flight and you're on your way and you're doing it. That was my soul parenting journey. It was like, okay, well backup plan. I'll do this on my own. And then the more I thought about it and the more I explored it, and the more I explored my hopes and dreams, the more I was like, okay, this is it. This isn't plan B. This is plan A. Okay.

Dr. Nicole (07:54): Okay. And then what made you decide you could have adopted? What made you decide to do adoption versus getting a sperm donor?

Julia Karol (08:04): It's interesting because with family building, it's never an either or always, right? You're kind of pursue things simultaneously. Things can be sequential. So I'll say I haven't ruled out adoption in its entirety at this stage of my life.

Dr. Nicole (08:19): Gotcha, gotcha.

Julia Karol (08:20): Nor have I ruled out fostering, which is another thing that's niggling in the back of my mind is maybe something I'll do one day. But just before going on the solo parenting journey, I have members of my family who are adopted, and one in particular is a favorite cousin who was adopted from Columbia. And this cousin's dad said to me, you know what? Four, a senior project, we're going down to Columbia. We're going to visit the orphanage, and that's going to be written into a whole part of a senior project. Would you like to come? And this is my favorite uncle or one of my, I've got a lot of great aunts and uncles, so one of my favorite uncles. And I don't know, did he know I was thinking about having a family on my own? Did he know I was thinking about adoption? Did he know that that was in my heart and soul? I don't think so. I think it was just this fortuitous, come explore this with us. So while there, I got to sit down with this incredible woman who's been running this orphanage adoption agency, child services agency in Bogota for 40 years.

Dr. Nicole (09:28): Wow.

Julia Karol (09:28): I know. And we talked about how the adoption world has changed, how the way in which they think about adoption has changed. One of the major changes that has happened in both countries, the US and Columbia, is where possible you want to keep families together. So if we can, instead of taking a child out of a home, provide resources, training, education, support, community love, that's better for everyone. So one of the takeaways I had from that conversation was that adoption is totally possible for me, but it's a little harder as a solo parent, whether you're in the US doing it domestically or doing it abroad, it's a little harder. So I didn't rule it out. I just was exploring that emotionally while simultaneously going through a fertility journey.

Dr. Nicole (10:12): Gotcha. Gotcha, gotcha. So do you feel like you had support around you from your family, from your friends when you're like, I'm going to be a single or solo parent by choice, or were they like, what the hell are you doing? Oh my

Julia Karol (10:26): Gosh, yes and no. Okay, so one thing that really surprised me is I thought my parents' generation would be really anti this. You can't do this alone.

Dr. Nicole (10:35): It's too hard. I'm older than you, but I am guessing my parents are in their eighties now, but even 67, they might be like, what is the world? This is not.

Julia Karol (10:45): And so I was totally worried that that would be a difficult conversation with my parents or that they would have a hard time telling their friends. I was so wrong about that. I had people come up to me who never got to have kids or who had lost children, who had had an infant loss or miscarriages, and they said, look or divorce early on. And they said, my life didn't turn out the way I wanted it to because this was not a choice I got to make when I was your age. Can you imagine I didn't get to have this. They were cheering me on.

Dr. Nicole (11:19): I love

Julia Karol (11:19): It. I know they're such an amazing part of the community. So that was ridiculously supportive. And in fact, my mom threw herself a baby shower. It was ostensibly for me, but it was really all her friends. And I was like, look, I get to have a grandkid. She has other grandkids, but she threw herself a baby shower, and her friends were so supportive. Now, my friends were initially started to tell a couple people, and I got some pushback. You're too young. I was 36 or 37 when I started talking about this. So I wasn't too young by any means that, no, you don't need to do this, this crazy. You'll find somebody just keep waiting. And so for me, I learned very quickly to only share this with certain friends, those people that are going to have your back no matter what. Right? If you're like, I'm boarding a plane and come with me, or I'm lighting a torch to my life and I'm doing something totally different, I'm like, awesome girl.

(12:14): Get it right. And those people are few and far between, but there are some people like that in my life. So those are the people I told. And then the way I describe it, for people who are thinking about this and want to protect their heart in the processes, start with that core, and then the more certain you become, the more you can open up to the concentric circle. Until now, I'm the person who will tell strangers, oh yeah, that kid was donor conceived and I'm a solo parent. There's no shame. There's no doubt. There's no uncertainty. If they look at me funny, I look at them funny back like, no big deal. But I wasn't like that at first. I had to.

Dr. Nicole (12:50): So what helped you get there?

Julia Karol (12:54): A couple things. I did a couple things that I had to spend money on and a couple things that were totally free. So when I tell people to do the reflection about what you want your family to look like, the thing that was expensive for me was I invested in coaching. And if that's within your financial purview, if that's available to you, I highly recommend it. People who love you and are paid to love you, weird can ask great questions, and they can hold you accountable for the answers. And if you can't afford coaching, pick a friend who's really good at asking the hard questions. The other thing I did that I invested in myself around was I took a big trip and did a lot of meditation on that trip. And sometimes getting out of your physical environment and the people you see day to day is healthy. But the free things I did were journaling incessantly, like pages and pages and pages and pages of journals. In fact, a friend was at my house helping me reorganize my closet and found all my journals and was like, why are you holding onto me? This is how I became who I became. Right. So yeah, those are the two things I think

Dr. Nicole (14:00): That helped you to get there. Okay. What about therapy? Did you think about therapy at all?

Julia Karol (14:04): Yeah. I had done therapy when I was younger, and I think it's a wonderful tool and resource. The therapy I did at the time was really to get comfortable with a different part of who I was and work through some stuff for my childhood. And so I felt like I was sort of at that part. But becoming a solo parent or making a decision around what kind of family you want is all about your identity, it's all about what your hopes, your dreams are, where you want to go with your life. And then it's also about getting rid of the voice in your head that says you can't getting rid of whatever society's telling you getting. So it does require work. You can't say, okay, I've just ingested 35 years of information from what society tells me is acceptable and normal and go in a different direction without having done some kind of work around it. Sure. Absolutely.

Dr. Nicole (14:55): Yeah, absolutely.

Julia Karol (14:56): Absolutely. I'm sure you've done some of these things yourself

Dr. Nicole (14:58): Too. I 100% coaching therapy journal, all of the things. Yes. All of things. Yes. Yes. Yeah. So you decide that you are going to get a sperm donor. Yeah. What was it like choosing a sperm, a donor? You mentioned there's good, there's bad and there's ugly.

Julia Karol (15:14): Oh my God, yes. Well, the first thing is I have interviewed a number of people on my podcast, and I always ask them that question, how did you choose yours? Whether it's a sperm donor, an egg donor, embryo donor, or whatever. I have never once heard the same answer to that question. It's like a fingerprint. Everyone has a different thing they're looking for. So I was looking for intelligence, which is impossible to measure and kindness, which is impossible to measure. And then just general, did this kid look like somebody that I would want to the D n A that I would want to carry on? And when I made the decision to do this, by the time I was at the point of sperm donor, what's that? There's a statement about when you're dating somebody and you feel uncertainty or conflict or stress, that's usually a sign that they're not into you or that there's tension.

(16:08): And then when you feel calm and certainty and ease, that's when you know that things are kind of vibing. When I knew that I was on the right path, this is solo parenting and that I would pick the right sperm donor, both cases, I felt that settling in your body. Got it. Yeah, this is it. But I did call on my friends and I had heard of people having these big parties where you open up the sperm book, or in this case it's a website, it's almost like a dating app, and you get drunk and you talk about all the different guys together. And I thought I was like, that's going to be the way I do it. No, no. I decided it's felt too vulnerable to do that in that context. So it's very much online shopping. I went through, I did my whole was looking for G P A, I was looking for certain things, and I reviewed all the hundreds of guys that they had on there and then put the top contenders in a basket. I put a little next to them, and then I gave three very close friends my login, and I said, look at the ones I've liked and tell me what I might be missing. And one guy who seemed amazing, my friends were like, oh my God, I'm reading Egotist Narcissist crazy person. I was like, I didn't see that. And then everyone sort of just said, this is the guy. And it was the one I had been leaning towards. So that was like, yeah.

Dr. Nicole (17:31): Okay. Well, that's good. That's good. Did you have a lot of options to choose from?

Julia Karol (17:35): Yes, because it was just at the beginning of the pandemic. As I understand it, the sperm banks have limited options now because there've been a lot more people who have in the pandemic needed sperm for various reasons. And it's been harder to get sperm. Like anything, there's a supply chain problem. One of the areas which is really challenging for the sperm banks is getting people of color. So I am lucky in that I am blonde, and pretty much anyone who looks remotely like me would suffice, although I was pretty flexible. The question of race comes up quite a bit if you're parenting a child that doesn't look exactly like how does that feel and comes up in adoption, as you all know. But my options were more and more available just by nature of my ethnic background. And unfortunately, it's very hard for them to get sperm donors of color. And we need that, right? We need to enable families of all backgrounds to have children that look like them if that's what they want. Yeah.

Dr. Nicole (18:36): Yeah. I've heard, someone sent me an article once, I mean, it's almost like you have to grab somebody immediately or else it's like the option is gone for people of color and for black women. So definitely something that I hadn't been aware of until fairly recently.

Julia Karol (18:52): It's such an unfair disparity. Everything in life, there are things that are just unfair and we really should try and correct them. One of the other things, I will encourage anyone who's considering a sperm donor, and that may be a so apparent, it may be somebody whose male partner is experiencing infertility, which is, by the way, 50% of infertility is male factor. And maybe gay and lesbian women, maybe a trans couple who knows. One thing I would encourage you to think about is the donor anonymous, and I sort of wrote that off. The donor I picked has chosen to be anonymous, which means technically and legally, neither my son nor I can go find him in this day and age. That's tricky to enforce with ancestry.com. But later, after having him talked to a number of donor conceived people, I have come to understand that there is a lot of emotional nuances around having the ability to access one half of your identity, one half of your D N A, whether it's for medical records or just to know who they are as a human.

(20:01): And so that's become a very hot touchpoint in the donor conceived world where people are looking at creating legislation like they have in the UK to make it so that anonymous donors are not an option to make it that the sperm banks are legally responsible to go get updated medical information. You're a doctor, and having medical history can be a game changer when it comes to certain diseases. So there's a lot that I credit the sperm donor and the donor conception industry for making my dreams come true. And I think it's so amazing that we can create families in this way, but there's a lot that could evolve to make it a little more equitable for everyone and a little bit more fair for the donor conceived. Yeah,

Dr. Nicole (20:47): Yeah, absolutely. So was this whole process expensive? And did your insurance cover anything? Oh

Julia Karol (20:54): My God, it was so expensive.

Dr. Nicole (20:55): Okay. You're like, yeah, girl, it was pricey.

Julia Karol (20:58): Oh my God. And let's talk about that because some of the things that I just identified, recruiting more donors, making sure that they're not anonymous, making sure that we get access to their medical history. And one more, which is putting donor limits in place. Right now

(21:14): In Europe, you can only have a certain number of offspring that, so if you donate, you can only have a couple. I think that limit is like 10. In the US there are guidelines, but no legal limits. So my kid could have 10, 20, 60 siblings. That's scary. Very. I have interviewed somebody who accidentally dated her brother. I mean, it is a very scary thing, but it's also scary for the kid. How are they going to emotionally navigate 60 relationships? Many of the sperm banks are trying to work on this. There is attempts at legislating it, but all the things I just said that are good for people who are building families and good for the donor conceived people also in a supply demand equation, make it so that there are fewer donors or they can donate less frequently. And what does that do? It increases the price. It makes it less accessible financially. So it's this push pull. Do you keep it affordable and accessible and then you have all these other problems, or do you fix those other problems? And the price point changes and neither it's like one of those catch 20. It's not good either way. Yeah.

Dr. Nicole (22:21): Yeah. That's tough. That's tough. Yeah. I saw some crazy story. I think it was in Europe, and this man had a hundred something children. They finally had to ban him from stop it. Yeah. It's crazy. It's

Julia Karol (22:37): Crazy. And in Europe, they will, they'll say no more, or they'll find the sperm banks or whatever. But here

Dr. Nicole (22:45): It's just sort of like, yeah, okay.

Julia Karol (22:47): It's frowned upon.

Dr. Nicole (22:48): Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. So did you have any trouble getting pregnant?

Julia Karol (22:55): Luckily, I mean, trouble's an interesting word. Luckily, I think the amount of time it took me was within the normal band of somebody my age with my hormone levels. I think if I were trying at home with a partner, the rule of them is approximately three to six tries.

Dr. Nicole (23:13): I mean, actually, we don't even say infertility technically until a year of time. That's

Julia Karol (23:17): Right. That's right. So I did two at-home inseminations that were unmedicated. It was the pandemic, the fertility clinics were closed. It was like, let's just try this. And then I did three I UIs, which is when we use a catheter to do, insert it into your cervix, pass your cervix into your uterus. And it was the third, the third I I, the second medicated i U I. That was ultimately successful. So I think that's within the band. Yeah,

Dr. Nicole (23:43): I think so. I think so. Was it stressful for you, or how did you feel during the time?

Julia Karol (23:49): That's an excellent question. I think it wasn't so stressful. I think I sort of had a lot of faith that now looking back I realize was probably unrealistic. Oh yeah, this will just happen. And now that I know more about the stats, I realize it was probably a little too optimistic. There was one day that I remember feeling like the world was ending, my life was over. I was never going to be okay again. And I called a friend, like absolutely bawling, and they gently suggested, might it be the hormones you're on,

Speaker 3 (24:28): Maybe.

Julia Karol (24:31): So you forget. You're combining disappointment and heartbreak with hormones, and that is

Dr. Nicole (24:39): Brutal. That's a rough combination. All right. So what was, in general, your pregnancy and your prenatal care? Did you ever feel judged or how did you navigate saying, I'm a solo parent?

Julia Karol (24:57): Yeah, so my ultimate prenatal care was tremendous. However, before I was even trying to conceive, I had a couple of incidents with doctors and or medical professionals that were so enraging, one of which was when I froze my eggs, I used a different clinic. And when I would get to the clinic to do what they do, and they do blood work, and they do, oh yeah, give me the ultrasound, the uterine ultrasound, and they're doing this at different times to figure out how your eggs are progressing and then all that stuff, all this. There would be times when I'd walk in, the nurse would say, where's your partner? Or is your husband here? Which makes so many assumptions. And there was one time where I had to go somewhere else for imaging. I think I had a cyst which had ruptured or something like that. And the tech that was doing the ultrasound, I was naive and bubbly and walked in and I was like, I'm just getting my levels checked and I'm maybe eventually going to go ahead and use these eggs or whatever. And she goes, well, what's wrong with your husband? What's wrong with your husband that you might need a sperm donor? And I said, what do you mean? I mean, to me, I was enraged because

Dr. Nicole (26:20): It's like, it's none of your business.

Julia Karol (26:21): It's none of your business. It assumes I have a husband, it assumes I want a husband. It assumes I'm straight.

Dr. Nicole (26:27): All of the things,

Julia Karol (26:28): And let's just play out the scenarios. Best case scenario, you've insulted somebody who is solo parenting or gay by assuming that they would have a male partner. Worst case scenario is I do have a male partner, and he is in fact very sick. And you've just said, what's wrong with your husband? Right, right. So I do hope that we're training our medical professionals a little bit more sensitivity.

Dr. Nicole (26:53): Sure, yeah. Yeah. That's completely unacceptable and unnecessary. It always baffles me how people will think they have this sort of right to go there. And it's like you don't

Julia Karol (27:04): Actually,

Dr. Nicole (27:06): But you said you felt like your prenatal care was

Julia Karol (27:09): Fine. My prenatal care was great. I benefit from having a best friend who is also an OB, G Y N. Oh, that

Dr. Nicole (27:13): Helps.

Julia Karol (27:14): So, okay. Yeah. Whether or not I was getting the information from my doctor is almost irrelevant. I was calling her every day. Right,

Dr. Nicole (27:20): Right. And

Julia Karol (27:23): We have these neighbors, we all live in the same neighborhood. We have these neighbors who are teenagers. And I remember three days before I gave birth, I was sitting on the stoop, very anxious about the delivery process. And for me, one of the things society had told me by showing me pictures and images and advertisements or whatever about the birthing experience was that your husband rushes you to the hospital just in time to deliver, which is

Dr. Nicole (27:48): Completely not true. Right.

Julia Karol (27:52): I had developed this intense anxiety that I wasn't going to get to the hospital because I didn't have a husband who's going to take me. So I had backup plan upon backup plan so much. That anxiety was so strong that I almost was like, I can't become a solo parent. I don't have a husband to drive me to the hospital.

Dr. Nicole (28:10): Oh, see how your brain does that to you sometimes?

Julia Karol (28:14): It was just crazy. So she sat me on the stoops and our high school neighbor was sitting there next to me and she walked me through, you're going to walk in this door. You're going to tell this person, you're in labor. They're going to know they're going to take you to this place. You wait until your contractions are this level, then you're going to be wheeled in here. Then you ask for the epidural, literally minute by minute. And if it goes wrong, this is what happens. And this poor 15 year old is going, what

Dr. Nicole (28:39): Happened? What? I'm not ready for this. That is funny. That is funny.

Julia Karol (28:45): And coincidentally, that friend happened to be on the floor at the time I was delivering. I was like, can I stay and watch? And so we had a party. She was there. My OB, G Y N was there, my mom was there, and then two female nurses and people would walk into the room and be like, whoa, this is really fun.

Dr. Nicole (29:03): Yeah, that's a nice energy to have surrounding birth. Yeah. So then your mom was your primary support person? Yeah.

Julia Karol (29:10): And I did have a doula case. My mom needed some extra support, but my mom got to cut the cord, which she still talks about.

Dr. Nicole (29:18): I love it. I love it. And do you feel like having a doula was helpful?

Julia Karol (29:21): I do. I think having gone through the experience I did with just surrounded by female energy and being told, wow, this is different by doctors or whomever would walk in texts, I feel like we're missing that female comradery birth party that other cultures may

Dr. Nicole (29:38): Have. I agree. Yeah,

Julia Karol (29:41): I agree. Who's usually in the room when you are there delivering? Is

Dr. Nicole (29:44): It it's dad, a nurse, maybe a doula? Usually two nurses, dad and maybe a doula. Yeah.

Julia Karol (29:52): And I think that's nice for the other parent, the non birthing parent, but I kind of miss everyone come in, let's party. Right.

Dr. Nicole (30:00): And sometimes there are more people, there may be the grandparents or that kind of thing. So definitely in general, I think the energy of the room makes a difference for all involved. So I can totally see how a nice party atmosphere would be fun. Yeah. So then what was your support postpartum?

Julia Karol (30:19): Postpartum was great. I actually moved in with my parents for a couple of months. Oh,

Dr. Nicole (30:23): Okay. So do they live near you?

Julia Karol (30:25): They don't live near me four months out of the year. So when they're here, they're incredible at watching him for a couple of hours, but when they're not, I really feel like, oh my gosh, I'm missing something. But I moved in with them for a couple months and that was, it's hard to be in somebody else's space when you're bloated and leaking and not feeling like your best self. And I didn't love my dad watching me breastfeed around the clock, but I had to get over that. I don't know that he'll ever recover from that. Yeah,

Dr. Nicole (31:02): I'm just laughing because my dad wouldn't even go once we were teenagers, he wouldn't even go down the hallway where our rooms were because it's like, I'm not involved in any of that, so I can totally see how your dad might be like, this is a lot for me.

Julia Karol (31:16): It was a lot for him. He's a trooper, but you've got a screaming kid, I'm crying. Everything's leaking, and this just has to happen. So overt your eyes things. But I was really lucky. I was really lucky in that. Yeah. I mean, just to have somebody else there and not be alone alone, I think that was my biggest fear. And I think it's one of the misnomers, many solo parents are alone, but solo doesn't always mean alone. It doesn't mean that you don't have friends who stop in or other people who love you. Yeah,

Dr. Nicole (31:49): Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And it sounds like you had, did you have a decent leave policy from your job?

Julia Karol (31:57): Yeah, I did. I didn't want to go back as soon as I did. I took a couple months off and then had a really hard time coming back and sort of negotiated, can I take one more month? And I don't actually recommend that because part-time didn't mean, these are the hours I'm working, these are the hours I'm not working. It meant all of a sudden I'm working and holding a screaming child simultaneously. And it was horrible for the people I work with. It was horrible for the baby. It was horrible for me. That was not good.

Dr. Nicole (32:32): And part-time probably is almost full-time, but exactly. You know what I mean? You think? Yeah. Yeah. So it's not exactly really full. Exactly.

Julia Karol (32:42): Yeah, exactly. And I was lucky that I was able to breastfeed. I had some hard parts of my journey, but I was able to do it in the end. And then when I stopped breastfeeding, all of a sudden I felt like I had so much free time because I'm not rushing to go pump several times a day. And I was pumping at 11:00 PM at night to get that extra few ounces. And so to be able to go to bed and not be strapped to a machine, I mean it was going from full-time to part-time, except that worked the same number of hours.

Dr. Nicole (33:15): I always called breastfeeding a labor of love because your whole world revolves around it for a while. When is the next time I can pump? When is, so it's definitely an investment of your time and energy. So then what are two or three things that you have learned that are different about parenting, donor conceived child? Things that come to mind for me are asking about the other parent or filling out forms or things like that. I mean, that's sort of simplistic, but what are some things that you've noticed that are different?

Julia Karol (33:47): It is simplistic and it's not because that's what your day-to-day is made up of communicating with your child and then dealing with the logistics of parenting. So little things like I don't feel any shame about my choice, but I was at the post office trying to get him a passport. Again, optimistic we haven't used it, but I had to go back three or four times. And partly because I had missed incomplete forms that were my fault, partly it was their fault. But a couple of times I got so much crap from somebody who said, well, I need the other partner here in order, where's the other parent? We can't sign these forms without the other parent. And I would have to point out the point in the birth certificate, and then they'd call over a supervisor and be like, is this okay? Yeah, it's okay. On the birth certificate, there is no other parent, so I don't need somebody else's approval to get a passport. That was really frustrating and

Dr. Nicole (34:38): Hard, I'm sure.

Julia Karol (34:39): And it would've been harder if I felt guilt or shame about it. I didn't. I was just like, come on guys, pull it together. Be better than this. You're absolutely right that the conversations around where is your dad are going to be hard. At one point, a babysitter said to me, this was early on, three months, four months in, oh, why doesn't this child have a dad? And she made up an excuse and lied about it. I said, you should not lie. There's nothing to be ashamed of. So yeah, it's making sure that everyone around him is having good conversations. He has a cousin who started making fun of him at one point for not having a dad. And luckily, her mom, her parents are very well informed on this. And in fact, her dad grew up in the same way that my child is growing up.

(35:28): So yeah, I think it's not just educating yourself about how to communicate with your child, it's educating the people that they come into contact with. Sure. Making sure that the teachers are aware, making sure that family members know what to say. My mom, for instance, was reading books and in books they have dads, and so she was skipping over the page that had a dad or changing it to somebody else. No, it's okay. He can know that dads exist. And then it's really informing yourself about the issues that donor conceived people might face as they grow up. And I expect there's going to be a lot of parenting around that.

Dr. Nicole (36:03): Okay. That makes sense. So then as we wrap up, what would you say the most frustrating part of being a solo mom by choice has been?

Julia Karol (36:15): I love that I get him full time. I love that I don't have to share him, that all these amazing moments are mine. Every once in a while you want somebody to tap in. He's woken up five times tonight. Can somebody else just

Dr. Nicole (36:29): Walk

Julia Karol (36:29): Him to sleep?

Dr. Nicole (36:30): Yeah, yeah, exactly. I can totally see

Julia Karol (36:35): That. He just looked me in the face and smacked me across the face. And I'm frustrated and I don't know that I can be a great parent in this moment. Can somebody else participate? But no. Yeah.

Dr. Nicole (36:45): Yeah, I can totally see that. Totally. See that. And then on the flip side, what has been the best or most rewarding part of being a single mom? By choice, I

Julia Karol (36:53): Mean, he's just the best. Every little moment with him is so joyful, and we as parents who work, don't get a lot of time with our kids. I was really surprised by that. I was like, oh, you spent time with your kids? No, our work life is not structured for the hours that kids are awake. So those moments are precious, even if they're really, really, really hard. And I'm surprised too by how many people are saying, oh, you're going down this path. May I ask you about it? I might want to do it too. I think it's becoming more of a thing than it used to be. And that's great. It's not for everyone. Some people ask me about it, I say, maybe you don't want to go down this path. It's not my choice to say that for you, but just because good for one person doesn't mean it's good for everyone. And I'm excited that more and more people are exploring it.

Dr. Nicole (37:43): Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I wonder if that comes along with people more and more women exploring egg freezing, things like that. That conversation is kind of growing.

Julia Karol (37:54): And I'd be curious about your opinion. I think if you can afford it, you should absolutely freeze your

Dr. Nicole (37:59): Eggs a hundred percent. Yeah, a hundred percent. And the younger you can do it, the more eggs you'll get. So if you can, yeah, for sure. If you have a job that gives you that benefit, definitely take advantage of it. It's much better to do it and then not need it than get to a situation where you don't have it. So yeah, I agree.

Julia Karol (38:20): And it's not a guarantee. I mean, you could do it, have them and it not work anyway, but it's a little bit nicer. It definitely

Dr. Nicole (38:26): Gives you more options.

Julia Karol (38:27): Yeah. Somebody said to me in an email today, they said either our moms raised the girls and that they choose these bold moves like becoming solo parents or we raised our boys wrong that there's terrible partnership opportunities

Dr. Nicole (38:43): There.

(38:48): Which one?

Julia Karol (38:48): Yes. Either culture's changing and it's becoming more acceptable, or our men are just failing.

Dr. Nicole (38:55): So then last question. What is your favorite piece of advice that you would give to someone who is thinking about whether or not they want to be a single or solo parent rather by choice?

Julia Karol (39:06): I think what's in your heart, and if this is your path, don't let anything anyone get in your way. But if you're not convinced that this is your path, it's not an easy path to walk, for sure.

Dr. Nicole (39:23): Yeah. And I guess do communities exist like Facebook groups or those kinds of things to help people?

Julia Karol (39:28): Thank you for asking about that. There's a really robust Facebook group, and there's solo parents by choice. There's solo moms by choice, solo dads by choice, solo parents in whatever community, solo parents and dating. I mean, you name it. I think it's the reason I'm still on Facebook is

(39:44): These communities are great and you can ask anything. And the other thing I would recommend as a new parent, whether or not you're solo, is if there's a new mom's community in your area. And there was one for me where they put everyone together and now we have a text chain of all the new moms that have kids that were three weeks apart from one another in the area. It's a game changer because you're like, this weird thing is happening today, and the other person's like that happened to me yesterday. It just normalizes some of the stuff you go

Dr. Nicole (40:14): Through. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So where can people find you and your podcast?

Julia Karol (40:19): Thank you. So the podcast is called Stork, S T O R k, apostrophe D, and it can be found anywhere you listen to podcasts. There's also stor podcast.com, which is the website, and on that website is an option to sign up for the newsletter. I really like the newsletter. If you don't like listening to things or you don't always have time, the newsletters a great digestible piece and Instagram stork podcast. Okay.

Dr. Nicole (40:45): All right. Well, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story. This has been really insightful and informative, and I know folks are going to find it useful.

Julia Karol (40:52): Oh, it's so fun to chat with you. Thank you so much for having me

Dr. Nicole (41:03): Now. Wasn't that a great episode? I learned a lot and I hope that you did too. Now, after every episode when I have a guest on, I do something called Dr. Nicole's notes where I talk about my top takeaways from the conversation. And here are my Dr. Nicole's notes from my conversation with Julia. Number one, community is important. Julia is lucky, fortunate that she had a lot of help and support in her choice. To be a solo mom by choice and support is so important. Whether you're a solo mom or not by choice or by circumstance or whatever the case may be, whether there's two parents in the household, all of us need some support. One of the places where you can find support that I think can be really helpful as long as you get the right type of support, is virtual communities. And that's the community I've created with my Inner Circle Facebook group.

(41:56): It's an open community. You can come, you can join, you can ask questions, you can connect with other people, an example of how these type of connections and things can help. Recently someone posted about how they were moving to a new area and they needed to find a new OB, G Y N. And because of asking in the group, they were able to get hooked up with somebody who was more of a referral. They didn't have to do a lot of that legwork to look for people. They were able to get connected with someone. And there are just lots of connections like that inside of the group. So head to Facebook and search for Dr. Nicole Rankins and her circle community and it will pop up right there. We'd love to have you join. Okay, next thing I want to talk for just a couple minutes about actually is egg freezing and clear up some of the misconceptions or talk about some of the realities of egg freezing because I think a lot of people don't know exactly what those numbers and things are.

(42:53): So egg freezing of course, is when you freeze your eggs. And success rates for egg freezing depend on a lot of factors, including the age the woman is when her eggs are frozen, the quality of the eggs, and then how the eggs were frozen. So according to one large study, the overall chance of a live birth from frozen eggs is 39%, 39%. However, the chances increased to 51% for women who were younger than 38 when they froze their eggs younger than 38 when they froze their eggs. And then the chances increase to 70% if the woman was younger than 38 and also thawed 20 or more eggs. Alright, so your chances are higher if you are younger and if you have more eggs. And then another thing was the freezing method. So the survival rate of eggs after thawing depends on how they were frozen.

(44:12): Eggs frozen using the flash freezing or vitrification technique. And I don't know all the specifics and details of this. This is not something that I do a lot into or get into a lot, so I'm just telling you what the names are. They have an average survival rate of 90 to 95%. So the flash freezing technique, 90 to 95% of the eggs will survive after thawing. In comparison with the slow frozen eggs, they have an average survival rate of 61%. So if you are thinking about freezing your eggs, then definitely consider your age and definitely consider how they are frozen. And then you also want to be prepared for the cost of egg freezing. It can be pretty substantial. Each egg retrieval cycle can cost on the order of $10,000. All right? And the number of eggs you get is really going to vary. And the only way to have a lot of eggs afterwards may be that you have to do multiple cycles.

(45:16): So that can get quite expensive. And then it's going to cost another potentially five to $7,000 to thaw and then fertilize the eggs, grow the embryos in the lab, and then transfer them back into your uterus. So that's another five to $7,000. Also, if you want to have them tested for any chromosome problems, that can add an additional cost, that's going to be another potentially $3,000. And then the last potential cost, which is also pretty hefty, is storing the eggs. Storing frozen eggs can cost up to a thousand dollars a year. So you pay 10, $20,000 upfront and then you can anticipate to be paying a thousand dollars a year in order to store the eggs. So potentially significant cost there. Now, I know some companies, just a sprinkle of companies do offer some financial assistance with egg freezing. Big companies like Google, for instance, may help pay for freezing the eggs.

(46:16): I don't know if they pay for the storage cost, but just know that it can be a very, very expensive endeavor and it's not guaranteed to work. Okay. All right. And then the last thing I want to say is that let's all just make an effort. Let's all be sure that we just mind our own business. You know what I mean? People asking about people's family choices, whether someone is a solo mom, sperm donors, things like that. It is natural to have a curiosity about people's lives, and if people are willing and express an interest in talking about something, sure that's different, but don't go asking about other people's business. Let's just mind our own business and support people in ways that don't interfere with trying to get into their personal lives. So let's just make an effort all together. We are all going to be supportive, but also let's mind our own business.

(47:15): Okay? All right. So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Again, do me a solid share with a friend. I'd love your help to reach and serve more people. Do subscribe to the podcast wherever you're listening to me right now. Leave me a review on Apple Podcast or send me a DM on Instagram. I love to hear from you. I also love to get pictures. I love to see pictures, not just of babies. Of course, I love to see pictures of babies, but I'd like to see pictures of you too, with the babies. So send me pictures, DMM me on Instagram. Let me know that the podcast has helped you or what you think about the show or any podcast topics at @DrNicoleRankins. My dms are open. So that's it for this episode. Do come on back next week and remember that you deserve a beautiful pregnancy and birth.