May 25, 2000
Single Mother by Necessity
After she gave birth to Kitty, Jane Modell Rosen would sit by her daughter's crib and cry. Various shades of happiness, sadness, excitement and fear would wash over her exhausted body. While pregnant, "I had not dared express to God what I wanted," she recalls. "But I felt that having a girl would be easier as a single mom."
Now 2 years and 4 months, Kitty, short for Katharine and named after her maternal great-grandmother, has blond hair and sparkling blue eyes and speaks numerous words in her own secret language. She halfheartedly agrees to remain in the vicinity of the dinner table in the Italian restaurant where her mother and I attempt to talk about the joys and hardships of Jewish single parenthood. "Promise me you'll mention what an angel she is," says Jane.
Jane, also blond, blue-eyed and strikingly youthful, adamantly refuses to disclose her age, though it's fair to say that she falls into the category of women who decide to have children later rather than sooner. She wants to meet someone and feels that men unfairly judge women over the age of 25. "I also want people to know that this is a life-shattering decision. For women, there is only so much time, and you should never go through life regretting something you didn't do."Growing up in a traditional Jewish family, Jane took for granted that life inevitably led to marriage and children. "There was no doubt in my mind. I knew I was going to be married and married young," she says.
In her late 20s, Jane met her fiancé. They shared a passion for riding and breeding champion horses. "There's not that many Jewish guys into horses, so when I saw him ... But in my heart, I knew he wasn't right," she recalls. "I just had it in my head that I was at the age where I had to get married."Several days before their 300-guest wedding would commence at the Pierre Hotel, The New York Times called Jane's family with some puzzling news. Readying her wedding announcement for publication, the newspaper's fact checkers discovered that Jane's fiancé had told multiple lies about his background. Two days before the wedding, Jane called it off. "I couldn't marry a liar," she says, recalling the articles that subsequently appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and other publications that found Jane to be compelling material because "in those days, no one canceled their wedding."
Years passed. Jane became an accomplished painter and special education teacher with an emphasis on art education; she continued to ride horses and began breeding championship dogs. She also "dated and dated. I did everything, the Hamptons, Europe, young professional groups, chairing committees, you name it," says Jane. "People thought I was gun-shy, but I wasn't. I just thought that next time, I'm going to really want to get married, not because I feel obligated."
Then came the day of the grand epiph-any. Jane describes it like this: Her doctor had just told her she was healthy and probably had a stomach virus, certainly not the serious illness she had feared. She left the doctor's office thanking God. "I was given another chance. I wasn't sick," she says. Until that day, "I had never thought it was right to have a child without a father. I thought that a child should come from the love of a union between mommy and daddy. But I was given another chance at life, and I didn't have much time."
Jane speaks sparingly of the process of getting pregnant: unknown donor; trying not to feel depressed when spotting pregnant couples; deciding to keep kosher for the sake of her future child; hyphenating her child's last name to Modell-Rosen. "I wanted her to have a sense of unity about where she comes from, even if she has no daddy at this time," she says.
As she prepared to give birth - two female friends attended Lamaze classes with her - Jane had no answers for the many questions lobbed her way. How are you going to afford this? What are you going to say when your child asks you about daddy? "I just said I'd do it. I was constantly fearful. I cried a lot, but if you think too much, you'll never act."
After enduring labor for three and a half days, Jane had an emergency cesarean. For four days, she watched a nurse care for her baby. For four months, she "did everything" before hiring a part-time baby-sitter. "Now I'm trying to enrich my life. But if I go on a blind date, I always bring Kitty and watch the man's reaction," she says. "If he's not interested in her, that's it."
For now, Jane is "a single mother not by choice but by necessity." But when the day arrives that Kitty deigns to ask about daddy, "she's going to have a daddy," promises Jane. "I was blessed with her, and God willing, I'll be blessed with a devoted husband."
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