Our good friend, colleague, and fellow shameless Bachelor fan, Laurie Sandell, is a successful freelance magazine writer (Marie Claire, New York, In Style), graphic memoirist (The Impostor’s Daughter), nonfiction book author (Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family) and coffee shop dweller (18th Street Coffee Shop in Santa Monica). This past weekend, her wonderful essay “How to Break Up with a Two Year Old” was the “Modern Love” column in the New York Times Styles section this past Sunday — her first Times piece! In it, she tells her story of how falling in love with a man, then falling in love with his little girl, then eventually having to break up with both of them ultimately convinced her that she wanted a baby no matter what, partner or no. Now 15 weeks pregnant, Laurie did us the honor of answering a few of our nosy questions about it all:
WHEN YOU LINKED TO YOUR ARTICLE ON FACEBOOK, you mentioned the “surprise” at the end — was this your coming out party to a lot of friends and acquaintances as a now single pregnant woman thanks to artificial insemination?
Many of my friends had no idea I was pursuing this, and part of the surprise came from the fact that it happened so quickly–on the first try, in fact. It was definitely nerve-wracking to share this news in such a public venue–especially because I first submitted the piece when I was only six weeks pregnant and not yet out of the woods–but it’s been a wonderful experience, all around.
Have you just been bathing in the warm glow of praise and adoration all weekend? And what are people more impressed by: this being your first NY Times piece or this being your first pregnancy?
I have been amazed by the number of people who read the Times. I’ve written hundreds of cover stories for major national magazines over the years, and have never gotten close to this level of response. I think I’ve heard from everyone I’ve ever known, offering kudos, support and maternity clothes. I think my age factors into it, too; I’m 42, so a lot of friends and family assumed that I wasn’t going to have kids. I just wish I’d done this years ago. I first visited a fertility doc at the age of 37, but couldn’t pull the trigger. I felt like I was choosing between a husband OR a baby. Now that I’m pregnant, all the pressure has lifted. I feel just as confident about meeting someone as I did, before, but I don’t have to worry about the biological clock. And so many friends have rallied around me, I haven’t felt lonely for even a minute.
Any nay sayers about going this route?
No one in my own life, but I did stumble across a neo-conservative website having a lively discussion about my piece and single motherhood in general. They tore my character to shreds.
What do you think are the cons of single parenthood?
It’s really hard to tell because my child isn’t here yet. But several of my closest friends are single moms, and they say that the hardest part (aside from the financial pressure and the exhaustion) is not having someone to share the milestones with. But I’ve always been incredibly social with a big group of friends, so it’s hard for me to believe that I’m going to feel that way.
What do you think are the pros?
I have to admit, I love the idea of making the big decisions on my own, at least in the beginning. I’ve always been very independent and I think I would find it hard to negotiate big childcare decisions with another person, especially if our opinions differed. That said, I hope to integrate someone into my life someday, so I want to learn how to do that.
How do you hope this will affect your dating/love life? How do you think it will?
For one thing, I hope this takes the pressure off in general. As soon as you hit 35, you start hearing whispers about how your fertility is going downhill, and men hear those whispers, too. So it can be hard to find a guy to date who wants kids, but doesn’t feel pressured by the fact that you’re going to want them soon. I think it caused me to jump into a few relationships too quickly. Now I feel like I have the luxury of slowing down and really taking my time getting to know someone. I also feel like I’m going to be meet a better quality guy. True commitment-phobes will run for the hills!
In your Modern Love piece, you talk about how breaking up with your boyfriend was doubly painful because of your love for his baby daughter. Can you offer any advice about dating someone with a young child?
Oh, God. I would do EVERYTHING differently. For starters, I met his daughter right away. I would never do that again. The first three months are always a kind of honeymoon period; you don’t really know the person, you just think you do. So I would not allow anyone to meet my child, nor would I want to meet his, until we’d really gotten to know each other and knew that the relationship was serious. Leaving that little girl was absolutely heartbreaking for me, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was hard on her, too, though I was told by several psychologists I consulted that she was young enough that she wouldn’t be affected, and that it would be easier for her if I did not stay in her life.
Do you think it’s different when kids are older?
When kids are older, I think it’s even more important to tread carefully. I have good friends who are single mothers with older kids, and generally, they do not let anyone meet their kids until things get serious. Even then, they’ll sleep in separate bedrooms for more than a year when they’re at each others’ homes. It used to sound very extreme to me, but I totally get it now.
What’s the best/funniest/worst piece of advice (solicited or unsolicited) about parenthood you’ve received so far?
I just interviewed Sofia Vergara for a cover story for a women’s magazine, and she went on and on for about 15 minutes about buying a girdle after I give birth. She said that none of her friends in Columbia have the “pooch” that American women get, because they all run out and buy girdles. She said, “All of your organs fall down, like, ploop! And you have to hold them in.” It was pretty hilarious.
Finally, and most importantly, you do a lot of celebrity profiles which gives you access to a lot of star-studded events, so: what’s Sean from The Bachelor really like?
Ha! I just met him. I was doing a story on Lisa Vanderpump from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and I got to go to the live taping of Dancing With the Stars. Of course, I only had eyes for Sean. He is so not my type–I have never been into blonde jocks–but in person, he is just this dreamy, musclebound manly man who looks like a gymnast. I am willing to make an exception for him and date a blonde jock; I am even willing to forgo sex before marriage, if that’s what it takes. But I’m not exactly the poster child for that in my condition.