WHY WE LOVE HER: Christine’s honest writing about her unplanned pregnancy, her son’s absentee father and now, her thyroid cancer, has helped and inspired hundreds of readers.
“Are you a fucking idiot?”
Christine Coppa’s brother Carlo has been an incredibly supportive uncle to her son Jack, now 7, but when she told him she was pregnant at 26 by the guy she’d been dating for 3 months, his initial reaction was the same as, well, her own was. As she writes in Rattled!, her single-motherhood memoir, “Having sex with [my boyfriend] without a condom was like getting on a roller coaster at Six Flags and not buckling my seatbelt. You don’t do it.”
And yet she’d done it, and the nausea she felt wasn’t the flu as she hoped. She was pregnant. At the time, Christine was a women’s magazine editor whose life was very Sex and the City: Evenings out with her friends, dressed in heels and a sparkly top, carrying a cute designer handbag.
“The single mom Carrie Bradshaw”
Not too long after that positive pregnancy test, her boyfriend – the one that seemed to have “kind eyes” – took off. (Eight years later, he still isn’t in touch with their son.) Christine moved back to the New Jersey suburbs, close to her incredibly tight-knit family, and then became the face of single motherhood to thousands of readers through her blog, Storked!, at Glamour.com. Storked! paved the way for Rattled!, which the New York Times called “a warm, frank, big-hearted book.” Christine was dubbed a pregnant-turned-single-mom Carrie Bradshaw, but the effect of Christine’s high-profile blog was way deeper than Carrie’s column. As Christine could see from the mail and email and messages, she was breaking down stigmas and changing women’s lives.
“Prevailing” through parenting…and cancer
Christine went on to write for Parenting.com, Babble.com, Yahoo! Parents and now, Singlewith. Hundreds of loyal fans have gotten to watch Jack Domenic – and Chrissy – grow up. She’s shared the beautiful moments – Jack’s birthdays and accomplishments – and the hard ones, like the year her beloved dad, an attorney, went to prison. So when she was diagnosed last summer with thyroid cancer, she shared that with readers, too, hoping to raise awareness, spreading the hashtag #checkyourneck. Christine’s honesty and openness has been inspiring. One of her most-used words is prevail. She has, and she’s helped many others do it, too.
As Chrissy’s 7th Mother’s Day approached, we emailed her some questions about her writing and her life.
Singlewith: You got pregnant by accident and your boyfriend bailed. Why did you start writing about it?
Christine Coppa: First off, I never consider getting pregnant an accident. It was unplanned. One of my favorite quotes on the subject is from the actress Patricia Heaton: “A woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy also deserves to experience unplanned joy.”
Writing came organically. I was working full-time as a magazine editor and freelancing for Glamour. I mentioned to my editor that I was pregnant and my boyfriend split and she asked me to write a personal essay about it. But that was replaced with a personal blog on glamour.com called “Storked!”
Honestly, at first, my motivation for writing the blog was to align myself with Glamour. It’s such a strong, girl-power title. But a few posts in, I realized people were actually reading my virtual diary and liking it. It got a lot of attention – good and snarky and mean – from blogs and other news outlets. I definitely didn’t expect to be a poster child for single motherhood or branded as a pregnant Carrie Bradshaw looking for love, but it happened.
The attention was exciting and terrifying. Eight years later it’s amazing to look back on that blog and read how I was really feeling when I was a week away from giving birth. A lot of my feelings towards my son’s father (who has yet to surface) have changed and I’ve worked through a lot of anger, guilt and sadness — but it’s still remarkable to own that on this day in 2007 I was beat up and afraid. I’m hardly that woman today.
Being recognized in New York City or a Target store in New Jersey was strange, but it made me feel like real live people not just bubbles23 on the Internet were reading and resonating with my blog. It was an honor and privilege to share my experiences on glamour.com. I’ll always hold Cindi Leive and all the editors that championed me in the highest regard. That blog gave me a career.
SW: What do you feel the impact of your Glamour blog and your book has been?
CC: I still get mail from single moms and dads 8 years later. A colleague of mine is expecting to become a single mom any day now and she texted to tell me she reread my book, Rattled!, and felt less alone and scared. I think my blog and book are evergreen. There’s always going to be an unplanned pregnancy and a scared woman. I’m not an expert and was merely sharing what I was feeling, but I’m glad all my single mom writing is accessible on the web via a simple Google search.
Just the other day a single mom Facebooked me to ask how she should answer her kid’s questions about her absent father. I sent her a link to an article I wrote for Parenting in 2011 titled “Single Parenting Advice” I interviewed experts and used my own knowledge on the topic to craft that piece. I have to say, it’s nice to be a resource.
SW: You’re being very open about your thyroid cancer treatment. Has that been different than writing about being a mom?
CC: Writing about thyroid cancer and treatment wasn’t much different than writing about single motherhood. I took the same approach – tell the truth and raise awareness. And again, women have contacted me, thanking me for my candid essays and photos of myself post-op with a fresh scar – it’s not so glamorous. But, hopefully, that fresh scar picture encouraged a woman to #checkherneck for lumps. Thyroid cancer is highly treatable if caught early.
SW: What are the best and worst things about being a single mom?
CC: Best thing: Easy, having Jack all to myself and running our circus. Hardest: I get easily overwhelmed and would love a partner in crime for pillow talk. Having a husband or partner or even a dad around is not the same as other help. I am solely responsible for Jack. It’s a wonderful job. That can scare the shit out of me sometimes.
SW: How do you talk to Jack about his father?
CC: Jack has seen his dad’s picture and pictures of his family. He has half-siblings. We are in contact with other members of his father’s family and they are the sweetest. Jack’s father was a high school, college and career track star. Jack is very fast and it’s not from me. We run the track at the local high school and I’ve started having conversations about his father with him as we jog along. It seems like a good place. Running has been extremely symbolic to me from the beginning of my pregnancy.
SW: Are there things you won’t write about? Has that changed as Jack has gotten older?
CC: Jack is almost 8 and I’m getting less and less personal for three reasons. First, Jack deserves privacy. Secondly, life isn’t so exciting. I’m a working single mom. Jack goes to school, loves books, Derek Jeter and playing baseball. I had a story worth serializing in 2007 – people were counting down to my kid’s birth – but these days are pretty routine. Lastly, I credit myself as a reporter and writer, not just a mommy blogger. Some of my most important work was published this year on Yahoo! Parenting. I got an exclusive interview with Zoey Mendoza, the New Jersey mom whose husband murdered their kids. Her story inspired a segment on Dr. Oz. I also interviewed a mom whose child survived the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and I’ve written heartbreaking stories about bullying.
SW: Loved your post on the sexist assumptions of your son’s team, saying that Jack’s dad or a male relative needed to volunteer.
CC: I was an indoor soccer coach, yet never played soccer in my life, so I would stay up at night and Google how to teach kids to play soccer. We had a blast. I was also bench mom for Jack’s T-Ball league for three years. It was great being in the dugout with the kids and helping them with clunky helmets, shoe tying, calling for kids to get on deck. I organized the snacks. This year is a whole new ballgame. Jack is off the T and I was booted from the dugout. I sit in the stands every game and cheer my son on. We play catch and go to the batting cages. We’ll take in a few Yankees games this summer.
Growing up, I didn’t play sports – my brothers did. That’s not to say girls don’t rock at sports. They do. But, me? I took ballet and cheered on the high school football team. I liked art and writing. Now I have this little boy who is such a superstar baseball player that people call him “Jackie Jeter.” I just had to … get in the game. I went to Sports Authority and bypassed the cute workout clothes I often buy and asked a salesman to fit me for a glove. No, I didn’t get a pink one and yes, he tried to sell me one. Lame.
I play catch in the yard with my kid and we practice regularly at his school’s dusty field, joking it’s just like The Sandlot (our fav movie!) We also love watching Rookie of the Year because it’s about a single mom raising a little boy who isn’t such a great ballplayer until a freak accident. My favorite line in that movie is when Henry says, “Mom I knew he left when you were pregnant with me.” I tear up, because Jack knows the same thing. But we’re not a sad story. We’re the opposite.
I never thought I’d love sports as much as I do. I’m actually a pretty good pitcher. We watch the Yankees on TV together and have a blast at the games. I don’t think I would have cared to go to the Derek Jeter ceremony and game last Fall if it wasn’t for Jack, who is the ultimate Jeter fan. I did it for my kid, but I really had the best time. I never thought the magazine-editor, brunching gal in me would have grass stains from sliding into home, but I do and it’s so cool. The funny thing is, Jack’s father is an athlete. He’s the sports star, not me. But I figured it out on my own.
SW: Your family seems amazingly supportive.
CC: My family is not perfect. I was very vocal about when my father was in prison for seven-months in 2013 after pleading guilty to a white collar crime. I think a lot goes on behind those pretty picket fences, but I’m not scared or ashamed to share my struggles because I’ve learned that exposing the truth can always help someone else. But, yeah, I mean, I’m best friends with my brothers who do everything a dad should do for their son. My father loves Jack more than anything in the world. Jack calls my mom his best friend. We’re always their for each other. Corny: It takes a village for sure.
SW: Unapologetic single moms sometimes get pegged as anti-fatherhood. Is supporting and empowering single mothers related to devaluing fatherhood? Do moms rule and dads drool?
CC: No way! I’m a Daddy’s girl. I think it’s very important for Jack to be around men. I hope one day his father comes around and I hope one day I find a partner who will be there for Jack.
SW: How do you talk to Jack about fatherhood? About him possibly being a dad someday?
CC: Jack wants to be a teacher, a doctor, the president of the United States and a dad. He told me I can live with him forever. When we talk about him being a dad – which isn’t often – I often refer to things my brothers do with him. Dads take their kids fishing and cook food for them and make sure they are safe and happy. When I was going through my cancer surgeries and treatments both of my brothers stood in for me and made sure Jack was taken care of. I hope Jack grows up to be responsible like them. However, moms do all that stuff too. Parenting comes down to being present and involved.
SW: What’s your daily routine with Jack? What do you do on weekends?
CC: Jack’s in first grade. He wakes me up. We take our golden retriever, Lucia, out. Coffee, breakfast, cartoons. I get him on the bus and then either work from home or in NYC. Depending on my workday, Jack might attend the after-care program at school or have his babysitter pick him up. We cook, we order in and we admittedly like to eat out. Nighttime is all about baseball practice/game, dinner, homework, reading, sporadic dance parities and walking our dog for miles and miles calling out clouds that look like a chicken leg.
We live for weekends. I don’t really like to schedule play dates for him on the weekends because I want to eat him up. We love to park hop in the warmer weather. I pack sandwiches, snacks and lemonade. A lot of the parks near us have adjacent dog parks so Lucy is always with us. We love going to museums, farms, hiking and exploring. My family has a condo a block from the ocean in Bradley Beach, New Jersey, so we are lucky to spend summers at the Jersey Shore.
SW: How are you doing now, after your thyroid cancer treatment? What’s next?
CC: I’m feeling great, My cancer is in remission and my life-long meds are suppressing the TSH hormone that could encourage cancer cells to grow back. I’m a lucky lady. I’m healthy, happy and doing what I love for a living: writing. I’m working on a children’s book series inspired by Jack and his puppy Lucy. As for Jack, that kid just amazes me everyday. So he’ll continue to be a master of the universe.
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