The Many Roads to Motherhood

Saluting the ladies who forge an older — or single — path to being a mommy

Recently Tiffany Haddish revealed that she is taking parenting classes in preparation for adoption. Haddish, 41, told E’s Daily Pop show that she wanted to adopt an older child, age 5 or older. Today, more and more women are choosing motherhood later in life — and choosing to love on older, adopted children as well. There are more options than ever before to help achieve these goals including in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI), surrogacy, and, of course, adoption.

Haddish is not the only celebrity looking into adoption as a pathway to motherhood. Celebrities including Academy Award-winner Viola Davis, singer T-Boz from the ’90s hip-hop group TLC adopted. And Today host Hoda Kotb, at age 52, adopted her first child. Three years later, she adopted again.

Nsenga Burton, 48, adopted her daughter Kai five years ago.

“I was 43 — in my early forties at the time. I didn’t want to deal with childbirth, and I didn’t want to be tied to someone else for the rest of my life,” says Burton. “Adoption was the best option for me.”

The writer and Emory University professor says it wasn’t a hard decision. She had been mothering in some capacity her entire life. She has five nieces and nephews and worked with children during community service events. As a professor, Burton mentors young people all the time. Also, she noted, her grandfather was adopted, and “he turned out great.”

“Adoption was not something that was new to me,” says Burton. “I understood the significant positive influence you could have on someone’s life. There are plenty of Black children who can use emotionally stable, financially secure parents who can give them the lives that Black children deserve to have.”

Like so many women, Burton never thought she’d be doing this by herself. She’d always connected having children with marriage. But, as she points out, “life happens.” After her parents divorced, Burton was in a single-parent home. And she describes her life so far with Kai as great.

“I like being able to bond with my daughter, being able to make decisions with her and for her that are truly in her best interest. I don’t have to consider anybody else,” says Burton. “I knew that I would be okay as a single mother because women do it every day and produce outstanding children.”

It’s true, one of the pros of single motherhood is that you can make all the decisions on your own, says Nikea Brame, but the cons of this choice is that you have to make all the decisions on your own. Like Burton, Brame, 44, of Darnestown, Maryland, had a vision of what a family was supposed to look like, but as she got older, she says, she had to get a new vision.

“There was not going to be a marriage. There was not going to be a husband where we were sharing in this journey of parenthood. I was not going to have a partner,” says Brame. “There’s a bit of a mourning that happens, of that vision that was. I joined Single Mothers By Choice groups to see what that new vision would look like and how beautiful that can be. I just started reimagining my new dream.”

Brame says she also realized that marriage does not equate to security and “people think the two are equal to each other and they are not.” Her long military career gave her a nice retirement, and seeing other single women take on motherhood gave her the courage to know that it was possible to do it by herself.

Brame’s military career was coming to an end after 22 years as an active-duty soldier in the U.S. Army, and another romantic relationship had fizzled out. Plus, she had traveled the world and lived overseas as a soldier. Brame was ready for a more settled life.

“Shortly after my 40th birthday, which is a milestone for a lot of women for different things, at that point I did not see marriage coming in the near future, and I felt like my biological clock was ticking very loudly, and I needed to make some active steps to motherhood if I ever was going to be a mother,” says Brame.

Brame decided to do IVF, and today, her son Nicholas is two years old. She says sitting at the dinner table with her son and seeing him achieve certain milestones brings her joy. And in this challenging year, Nicholas’ smile “just lights up a room. I was missing that.”

“Motherhood could be selfish. I didn’t want to live my life alone,” says Brame. “There are different ways of achieving that. Some people are very complete without children. I didn’t want to look back and regret that I did not try.”

Burton says her favorite thing is hearing the pitter-patter of her daughter’s feet in the morning. Her greatest joy is being Kai’s mother. Her goal is to prepare her daughter to be a productive, thoughtful, and caring person “who will go out and change the world.” Ultimately, she says, her job as a mother is to provide unconditional love and support and make sure her child is happy and whole.

“Adopting Kai is the best thing,” Burton says. “She’s added so much value to my life.”

I write about social justice issues, inequality, women, Black history and pop culture. I like to read, see and hear good storytelling that speaks to the soul.

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