Becoming A Single Mom To A Newborn At Age 49 Was The Best Choice I’ve Ever Made
I am a 51-year-old single mom who lives at home with my parents –and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
But it wasn’t always this way.
I spent most of my adult life working as a broadcast journalist. After graduating from Baylor, I moved a lot and often far from home– anchoring in Waco, Las Vegas, and St. Louis, then eventually in Atlanta.
I had a dream career: I worked at CNN’s Headline News for seven years.
I was an Emmy award-winning journalist, and my work often focused on women and children. I interviewed a number of women who had overcome major challenges, including Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson, Misty Copeland and one of Afghanistan’s most prominent politicians Fauzia Koofi. In 2016, I relocated my life to Doha, Qatar to be a presenter on Al Jazeera English.
From the outside looking in, my life probably looked amazing. Doha was incredible. I did what looked like, and often felt like, glamorous work and international travel–frequent trips to Dubai, Seychelles, Bali, Addis Ababa and Venice. If you judge success in life by distance traveled and miles accrued, I suppose you could say I was winning.
The reality, as always, was more complex. For all my travels and adventures, I was often alone. Sometimes this was by choice, but other times I found myself longing for a partner with whom I could share those experiences.
But the farther you go, the harder it can be to find a companion who can keep up. To talk about my failed relationships would take too long, and they were never the true focus of my life or my story. Still, that solitude occasionally crept into loneliness, and I could feel time starting to slip away.
When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I didn't think much about starting a family. I was focused on my career, and I assumed my domestic bliss would just work itself out. In my younger years, I already had a dream job working in Atlanta, a mecca for successful Black professionals. Surely I would meet a great guy, have a picture-perfect destination wedding, and start a family. That didn't happen.
While I was waiting to get married to start a family, I could sense my biological clock ticking.
I remember hoping that feeling would go away and also being envious of my friends who knew they didn’t want children. But that wasn’t me; the desire to be a mom never faded. I realized I kept putting off motherhood by waiting on some imaginary person.
In my 30s, a friend of mine worked for one of the most prominent fertility clinics in the country; she suggested I consider freezing my eggs. I didn't know much about the process other than it was expensive!
I had a well-paying job but spending up to $50,000 for something I didn't know I needed or wasn’t guaranteed to work, was a major financial commitment. So I put it off for a few more years while still looking for love.
At 43, scared my fertility window would close while I was waiting on a partner, I realized I needed to stop giving other people power over how and when I created my family. It was time to freeze my eggs.
Most studies suggest that women who freeze their eggs before age 35 have a better chance of a successful pregnancy. Because I had put it off for so long, the doctor was only able to retrieve five eggs, but at least I had those for when the right man came along. Over the next three years, the right man did not come along. I also considered having a baby with a male friend but then nixed that idea, because … boundaries. Time was ticking.
At 46, I finally grew tired of waiting and decided it was time to use the eggs. That meant going through a sperm bank. My friends helped me pick the right donor.
It was a surreal experience, but I was very realistic that the chances of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) working were slim, so when it didn’t work, I was disappointed, but not devastated. I considered trying again but decided it wasn’t worth the cost or the risk. It was time to pivot on my path to motherhood.
The next step was adoption, so I started researching options. At the time I was living in Doha, which presented a few hurdles. First, I had to hire and foot the bill for a social worker.
If I was living in the United States, I could have more easily found a social worker to conduct the home study—a comprehensive screening of prospective adoptive parents that has to occur prior to approval for adoption. I found one who was based in Germany, but I had to fly him to Doha to complete the inspection.
Another challenge was finding a U.S. agency that would work with me despite the fact that I lived abroad. Miraculously, I was able to get on the waiting list with an agency in Texas—and was approved to become an adoptive parent in late 2018.
Richelle Carey and Avery
Courtesy of Richelle Carey
After a couple picked a different family over me, probably because I lived too far away, I started previewing the disappointment in my head and thinking about how striking out at adoption would crush me much more than my struggles with IVF did. Maybe because it felt more final, or because I was relying on the judgments of others.
Still, I remained hopeful. I kept telling myself that the right baby would find me no matter where I was, but I could improve my odds if I was more focused on my journey. So, I left my dream job.
Leaving a career is always tough, especially when you don’t know how things will work out, where you’ll be, or when you’ll work again. But I knew it was time. I had little left to prove to myself professionally. So I quit my job as a news anchor more than two years ago and moved home to Houston.
I fully acknowledge that my choices come from a place of privilege. I was successful enough in my career to save money, quit without having another job lined up, and move to my parents' fully furnished studio apartment above the garage.
I was still a bit uneasy about it, and at times even scared. I was staring down the barrel at 50, and if you told me that at that age, I would be single and living in my parents’ guest house, I would’ve thought that I had screwed up my life. I certainly never aspired to it.
I think we intellectually know life can happen for us in a variety of ways but find it hard to accept the non-traditional path might be the one we end up taking. Even if we do and receive everything we want, it feels wrong until it feels right.
Matching with my son was a years-long process. Then finally in March 2021 in the depths of pandemic isolation and global despair, I received a call from the adoption agency, saying a birth mother who had a six-week-old baby was interested in meeting me. The very next day, I drove three hours to Dallas to meet them.
As soon as I saw that beautiful baby boy, I knew at once he was the baby I’d been waiting and trying for all this time. The next morning, I told the agency I wanted to adopt him. Four days later, Avery was home with me.
My life now has transformed from globetrotting to potty-training and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Everything you hear about parenting being exhausting is true. What is also true is seeing your child happy makes all that exhaustion worth it. The absolute best sound in the world is a child laughing, which my little comedian Avery does often.
In my work, I often focused my coverage on women and children. In many ways, my motherhood journey is a continuation of that work.
I hope people learn from my story that your path to motherhood doesn’t need to look a certain way or happen in a specific order. I hope my journey encourages women to embrace a variety of paths to motherhood.
You may have your heart set on having a child that is biologically yours, but if that doesn’t happen for you, be open to other options such as egg donors or adoption. Some companies offer insurance options for egg freezing and IVF or can also help with adoption costs. You can even consider becoming a foster parent, which can lead to adoption later on.
Being a single mom over 50 wasn’t how I thought I would end up. I dreamed of something way more straightforward and dare I say it, conventional. I think I knew the road ahead wasn’t going to be comfortable, but it has been more rewarding than I could’ve ever imagined.
And, that road is still just beginning.
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
2023 has become the year of celebrity breakups with headlines breaking left and right about celebs filing for divorce or ending high-profile relationships. The latest couple to announce their dissolution? British actress Jodie Turner-Smith. TMZ reported that Jodie has filed for a divorce from her husband, Dawson Creek alum Joshua Jackson.
As far as her reason for calling it quits, Jodie cited "irreconcilable differences," according to TMZ, and has requested joint custody of the couple's daughter, Juno Rose Diana Jackson. Late last year there were rumblings of there being "trouble in paradise" for the couple after the media realized they were no longer following each other on Instagram.
Those rumors were more than laid to rest when Jodie and Joshua went to the 2023 Oscars together earlier this year, and even more recently, when they celebrated her birthday together last month during the September unveiling of the Lotus Emeya.
Jodie Turner-Smith celebrates her birthday with husband Joshua Jackson at the unveiling of the new fully-electric Lotus Emeya on September 07, 2023 in New York City.
Brian Ach/Getty Images for Lotus
Despite seeming particularly happy and in love, perhaps the writing was already written on the wall even then. In the past, Jodie has been very celebratory publicly about her love for her estranged husband, even boldly recounting their love story for the books in a 2021 interview with Seth Meyers.
When Jodie and Joshua met, it was while at his birthday party in 2018. Their relationship was hot and heavy from the start, with Jodie openly noting that they began as a "one-night stand." During her 2021 interview with Seth Meyers, she jokingly referred to their love story as a "three-year one-night stand." She shared:
"First of all, I saw him before he saw me and when I saw him, I was like, 'I want that.' And then when he saw me, I just pretended like I didn't see him. He had to yell across the room to me, and I was wearing this T-shirt from a movie called Sorry to Bother You and [actress] Tessa Thompson plays a character called Detroit, and she has this T-shirt that says, 'The Future Is Female Ejaculation.'
"And so, he shouts across the room, 'Detroit!' He comes over and… does this really cute, charming thing that he does and just all night -- he just basically followed me around the party."
The couple were together from that moment forth, and even made things "Instagram official" less than two weeks later while on a dinner date. Joshua would later clarify to Insider that the night they met in 2018 was not a 'one-night stand' or a 'three-year one-night stand' like his then-wife joked but instead, it was "technically a three-night stand."
"It was sealed with a kiss that night and then we didn't leave each other's sides for, well, three years now," Joshua continued at the time.
In a July 2021 interview with Jimmy Fallon, Joshua dropped more details about the why behind getting married. He revealed that he didn't know he wanted to get married to Jodie until "the moment she asked me."
"She asked me on New Year's Eve. We were in Nicaragua. It was very beautiful, incredibly romantic, we were walking down the beach and she asked me to marry her."
He added, "I did not know [she would propose], but she was quite adamant and she was right. This is the best choice I ever made."
Joshua Jackson Reveals Jodie Turner-Smith Proposed To Him
Jodie received quite a bit of flack for proposing to Joshua because it goes against tradition and what society sees as acceptable for a woman to do to a man, and proposing isn't one of them. No matter how much time has passed, the viewpoints around who should do the proposing and who should be proposed to are still very traditional.
After being on the receiving end of such backlash, Joshua would later clarify to the media in a separate interview that it wasn't just Jodie's proposal to him that sealed the deal of them getting married, he proposed to her too. She might have initiated it, but Joshua followed through.
"I accidentally threw my wife under the bus because that story was told quickly and it didn't give the full context and holy Jesus, the internet is racist and misogynist," he explained to Refinery29 that same year. "We were in Nicaragua on a beautiful moonlit night, it could not possibly have been more romantic."
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
He continued, "And yes, my wife did propose to me and yes, I did say yes, but what I didn't say in that interview was there was a caveat, which is that I'm still old school enough that I said, 'This is a yes, but you have to give me the opportunity [to do it too].'"
"She has a biological father and a stepdad, who's the man who raised her. [I said], 'You have to give me the opportunity to ask both of those men for your hand in marriage.' And then, 'I would like the opportunity to re-propose to you and do it the old-fashioned way down on bended knee.' So, that's actually how the story ended up."
Joshua and Jodie would eventually marry in December 2019. Shortly thereafter, Jodie gave birth to the couple's first child, Janie, in 2020.
In a recent interview with Elle UK, Jodie shared the ways becoming a mother to Juno helped to heal her of her wounds from colorism she experienced in the past. "It's interesting because I had a lot of resistance to becoming a mother and, throughout my life, I always said if I were to have children, I wanted to have Black, Black babies so that I could affirm them as children with the love that I felt I needed to have been affirmed with by the outside world," Jodie shared with the outlet.
She continued, "Then I fell in love with my husband and we talked about having kids. I did have this mini pause, where I was like, 'She's going to be walking through the world not only having an experience that I did not have, but looking like people that, in a way, I'd always felt a little bit tormented by.' Now that I've got this little, tiny, light-skinned boss, I feel like it’s the universe teaching me lessons. I've been given a daughter who looks this way to heal my own conversations around colorism."
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Featured image by Amy Sussman/Getty Images