Not By Accident

I became a single mother by choice, not by accident. I’ve been recording our lives for seven years to tell this story, about making choices and taking action to live the life you want. If you’re a parent, want to be a parent, or just love good storytelling, this podcast is for you.


  • Ep 34: Springtime

    Sep 27 2018

    We have a great start to 2018. Fireworks on New Year’s Eve. You and me, and thousands of Canberrans by the lake on a perfect summer’s evening. Life is in control. I have a grant to write a book, Wondery wants the podcast to continue, advertisers are keen, listeners seem keen. I thought I was just about done, but all this has me feeling optimistic. You’re reaching new levels of autonomy, independence, with thoughts, interests and a whole world opening up that has nothing to do with me. You c...more

  • Ep 33: Enough

    Aug 24 2018

    I never thought it was ideal being a two person family. There’s not somebody obvious for you to turn to when I let you down. It’s a lot of pressure, for both of us, forever I suppose. If I keep being single as I age and you grow up, I’m afraid you’ll feel responsible for me. That you have to put off things in your own life to be here for me. I want you to do what you want to do, to live in another city, or country, to make choices for you, to have an interesting life. I don’t want you to be burd...more

  • Ep 32: And the World is!

    Jul 27 2018

    We’re watching Mimi’s bridal waltz, lit by the sunset’s golden glow in a retro-opulent ballroom, filled with love. I have a huge lump in my throat. I can’t quite believe we’re here, for this moment, for Michael and Antonia, young lovers who lost touch for years, then found each other again, and somehow found themselves. They seem as filled with joy as it’s possible to be. And I am too, as I look around the table at our closest friends from Denmark who we left a year ago, reunited, as if geograph...more

  • Ep 31: Taking Off

    Jun 18 2018

    It's May 2016. The podcast is taking off. Astrid's new cousin is due next month! And I can't decide if we should ignore the fact that we are broke and somehow find a way to go to New York for Mimi's wedding, for a reunion with our friends from Denmark one year on, while Astrid still remembers them.Time has turned in on itself. These events of mid 2016 might feel familiar, though context has changed. The series has become a mobius strip. This production is made by Sophie and Astrid Harper, i...more

  • Ep 30: Going Public

    May 18 2018

    I get to work on too many ideas. I’m going to work for myself. That’s decided. I register as a business, open a bank account, brainstorm plans, buy three web domains. There are a lot of things I want to do. I’ll be a freelancer, teaching, video production, maybe other things, but not too much. I can’t be swamped because there’s more. I’ll start an online documentary school. I’ll write some books. I know what I want to write. I’m itching to start. And I have three podcast ideas. Cooking with my m...more

  • Ep 29: For Kids

    Apr 18 2018

    A special episode of Not By Accident for kids! It's a child- appropriate recap of Astrid's story, at her request and with her involvement. The first part is about when she was little. The second part is about life now that she's big. This production is made by Astrid Harper and Sophie Harper, in partnership with Wondery. We’re supported by generous listeners.  Music from freemusicarchive.org - CC NC License:The Time to Run (Finale) by Dexter Britain, Reade...more

  • Ep 28: Consolidation

    Mar 21 2018

    We’re trying to create a home, but I have things to sort out. The detritus of my life is in storage units and suburban garages. The belongings I packed away as one life stage ended and a new one began; they’re spread around. It makes me feel uneasy. Summer is upon us, our Danish shipment has settled into our new apartment, and I feel ready at last to consolidate. Ready to re-contextualise myself, in my own life story. As you try to contextualize yourself, and our little family that looks differe...more

  • Ep 27: Flying Fish

    Feb 20 2018

    It’s August 2015. We’ve just moved back to Australia from Denmark and it’s strange. You’re ultra-sensitive, fearful, clingy, easily brought to tears. I probably am too. It’s been like this for months with all the change and uncertainty. I’ve hardly told anyone we’re coming. Only the family. I don’t know what’s next for us, I don’t feel particularly proud of myself, being newly unemployed, and I’m so full of questions and big emotions that I don’t feel like socializing. I just need quiet. We surr...more

  • Ep 26: Equality

    Jan 22 2018

    It’s September 2017. I’ve been feeling recently that it’s important for you understand more of who I am. You see me as a mother, a daughter, an aunt, a friend, a podcaster, a writer. But I’m also a lesbian. You’ve always known, I’ve always told you that if I fall in love one day it will be with a woman. That you won’t ever have a Dad, but maybe one day, if things work out that way, you’ll have two mums. But it’s been abstract for you until now. You’ve only ever had a single mother. I haven't bee...more

  • Ep 25: Farvel

    Nov 24 2017

    It’s Spring, 2015. Half your life ago. My six years teaching at the European Film College begin the limp to an anti-climactic end. I try to stay focused. But my main focus is you. The upheaval I’m causing. The reasons for doing it. You’re two and a half. I’m taking you home to our family, our culture, but I’m taking you away from the life, the home, the language, the community that make up your world.Once work wraps up we have some quiet weeks left to pack up our lives. I take you to Trine’s eac...more

  • Ep 24: Health

    Oct 06 2017

    I get the feared call from pre-school on the last day of term. You’ve hit your head, badly. I keep a close watch on you for signs of concussion and thankfully, there are none. I feel shattered from the worry and the shock. I give up on work and pamper you for the rest of the day. The hardest thing is when you’re hurt or sick. Or when I’m sick. Or worst of all, we’re both sick. That’s when it’s hardest to be a single parent. The worry that I might miss the signs of something serious. Of seeing yo...more

  • Ep 23: Community

    Aug 31 2017

    The school year is away like a fast-moving train. In the past I’d have lost myself in the momentum. Not so much this year though. This year I have you to force me to go home, to switch off, to be still, to be present. But the school is about 50 metres from our home. We’re both fixtures. You ride your little bike through vast rooms, all over the building and bash away on the student’s drum kit. It’s an extension of home for us, for all the students, and for all the teachers. That’s how I can be e...more

  • Ep 22: Lessons From Zorba

    Jul 31 2017

    The Principal, my boss, has a job offer and decides to take it. The question of leadership opens up. While the Board search for a new Head, somebody will act. Most likely not me, though I’m Vice Principal. We’re living through the worst sleepless nights of the ear infection. I can barely get it together to brush my teeth, let alone to take real responsibility. I want to dig deep, to be as capable and strong as before, to prove something for the sake of all women. But for now I am weak.Your eardr...more

  • Ep 21: My Brother's Wedding

    Jul 14 2017

    Nick called to tell me the news just before New Year’s, only weeks after we got back to Denmark. He proposed, and she said yes. I’m happy for them, of course, really happy. Nick has found the person he wants to share the rest of his life with! Selfishly I’m filled with dread at the thought of the trip, so I hope it will be a long engagement. I try to suppress the niggling feelings that weddings bring up in me. The flashing neon sign I feel lighting up over my head at times like this. “Single! Si...more

  • Season Two Teaser

    Jun 30 2017

    When I reflect on my childhood, I think of things I had that you don’t: two parents, a brother, a sister, a big house and garden, a dog, private schooling, beach and ski holidays, no money worries… and I wonder. I wonder if I’m making the right choices.In season two, we’ll make our way through four years, from one to five, across continents, cultures, careers, seasons, struggles, successes. We’re moving forward, in ten episodes, drawing from the past, cherishing the present, heading toward an op...more

  • Ep 20: The Tunnel

    Mar 05 2017

    Sometimes the grind of life can get you down. That’s where I am as we reach spring 2014. The birds are singing again, the walks between childcare and home become a lovely opportunity to be together. Each day a little brighter than the last. But I’m tired. Always tired. I struggle to find my role again in the shifting landscape at work, and the role of work in the shifting landscape of my life. I have a dull ache in a tooth. Later. I’ll deal with it later. Three years. It’s taken me three years...more

  • Ep 19: Turning One

    Feb 14 2017

    Episode 19: Turning One The shock of being back at work is becoming routine. Even the pre-sunrise race to childcare. I feel sorry for myself, and can't quite believe I made life choices that led us to this, as I force your pram through snow drifts, scarf guarding my face from the elements; you wrapped up like a bundle, bewildered, squinting to protect your eyes from the snow that whips across the landscape. It's ridiculously hard. Comically hard. I start to look at people with cars the same w...more

  • Ep 18: First Day Back

    Jan 27 2017

    I still don't know if I can do this. I start work tomorrow, after a whole year off, with sleep deprivation still affecting my memory and my ability to cope, with my emotions always close to the surface. I don't know if I can be the mother I want to be and do my job well enough that I'm not letting everybody down. I do know it's going to be really hard. I hadn't understood before you arrived how painful it would feel to be away from you. I hadn't understood that I couldn't leave you with just a...more

  • Ep 17: Tomorrow Morning

    Dec 24 2016

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the expectation of an exchange: you help me move house, I’ll buy you pizza and beer; you babysit, I’ll do the same for you another day. I had thought it rare that people do things for others without expecting anything in return. I’ve been wrong. People have done things for me, particularly since I became a parent, when I couldn’t offer anything back but friendship and gratitude. Acts of kindness and generosity have come without judgement, even though I’m judging ...more

  • Ep 16: The Emails

    Dec 14 2016

    Crossing the world from Australia to Thailand to Denmark, ending my maternity leave, ending 2013. A sense of loss, a sense of anticipation and anxiety, a reminder of and reliance on great friendships, and a wonderful holiday. The emails tell the story, starting with this one: > Sent: Monday, 2 December 2013 1:17 AM > To: Diana; David; Charlotte; nicholas; Jennifer; Rebecca > Subject: Hi from Bangkok > > We have made it and everything went more smoothly than I'd dared to hope. No > blowouts, n...more

  • Ep 15: Counting Down

    Nov 24 2016

    Happy 4th birthday Alex! We have a party in Granny's garden to celebrate. An opportunity to try out my new recording gear. Your donations have gone to good use, thank you. I've caught up with myself. Here's Alex's first birthday! You sit together at the party in a paddling pool full of coloured balls, and you play. He seems so grown up, able to crawl around to whatever takes his interest. You're not mobile yet, but you can sit! It's a whole new perspective on the world. I can't believe I'm t...more

  • Ep 14: Long Days, Short Months

    Nov 08 2016

    We’re staying at Granny’s this week. She fell and fractured her kneecap. Considering everything she’s done for me during my life, and at the start of yours, taking us in, feeding me, caring for you when I reached my limit, when I got that 24 hour vomiting bug and couldn’t stand up... What would we have done without her? This feels like the least we can do. We’re sleeping in the room you call ‘our bedroom’, falling into some old routines. I struggle to put things in the right places when I unpa...more

  • Ep 13: The Irresponsible Option

    Oct 18 2016

    As my health improves and I feel more secure with my baby care skills, we begin to venture out. We meet my sister Charlotte, who looks so relaxed and confident out here in public. I can't even imagine feeling that way again, but I try to let it rub off on me. We sit and I breastfeed to settle you. Thankfully, you attach easily, barely allowing a glimpse, restoring my modesty with your little head, looking like you're sleeping in my arms. I can block out the world and find my centre again. Ch...more

  • Ep 12: Father's Day

    Sep 24 2016

    You're six days old. I apprehensively pack my things and prepare to be discharged. It’s been a surprisingly idyllic little sanctuary, this hospital room. I'm not sure I'm ready to leave yet, but we have to start our real life together sooner or later. And we won't be alone, not yet. My mother is busy all day everyday, from this day, for months, cooking and feeding me, making cups of tea for visitors, fielding phone calls, rocking you to sleep when I've run out of steam. I honestly don't know how...more

  • Ep 11: First Hours, First Days

    Sep 12 2016

    With you suckling at my chest and our family here to celebrate your birth, I feel elated, and sure it must be over. But it isn't quite over yet. The family are ushered out for the doctors to begin stitching me up. I’m on my back, feet in stirrups, trying to think more about you than about the four or five people examining the damage. Your tiny fingers are so long and thin, with soft fingernails that curl over at the ends. Your hair is fair and curly, but darker than mine. Or is it the dry blood ...more

  • Ep 10: Birth

    Aug 26 2016

    It's going to get messy, so if that’s a problem for you, you might want to skip this episode, or you can fairly safely listen to the first 9 and the last 4 minutes. I'm 6 days overdue. I can't imagine it's possible to be any bigger! I'm so uncomfortable and it's so hot! But I need to get out. I go to the little suburban supermarket near home, and think of my mother. Her waters broke with my brother in this very supermarket 34 years ago. I shop quickly, before history has a chance to repeat! I ha...more

  • Ep 9: This Strange Period

    Aug 11 2016

    My brother's baby is due this week. I'm feeling jumpy every time the phone rings. I sit down with my sister Charlotte for a not-so-quiet talk about birth, and the end of my pregnancy. I'd thought once I was home, I could start to focus on getting everything ready for your birth, but as it turns out, this period is not to be all about you and me. During this strange period, three of us are in hospital within weeks of each other.  Charlotte's gall stones are a horrible thing to have to deal with, ...more

  • Ep 8: Leaving and Arriving

    Jul 16 2016

    After my maternity leave, in 2014, we did move back to Denmark, just for 18 months. I did make it work, mostly, as a single mother with a demanding job, thanks to my incredible friends and colleagues. It was painful when we left them, your second family, but so worth it for you to know your grandparents, aunt and uncle, and your little cousins. There are three of them now. Nick met Nozomi soon after you were born, little Ibuki followed, and any day now, I mean I’m literally expecting the call, a...more

  • Ep 7: Dinosaurs and Pancakes

    Jul 02 2016

    It's September 2012. There is a nervous excitement in the building and everybody feels it, from the chefs, to the finance department, and certainly us teachers. 115 students arrive on this Monday afternoon from around the world, about 25 different countries, to start their new life at the European Film College. Most will live on campus like me. They will work harder than probably ever in their lives, make many ambitious films, take creative and personal risks, challenge their preconceptions, fin...more

  • Ep 6: Seventeen Calls

    Jun 17 2016

    It’s the end of August in 2012. You have reached a milestone. 13 weeks. The second trimester. For me, it’s a turning point. On Thursday, the day before my first scan, the first time I’ll see you, I put on a baggy shirt and go to meet with my boss, my friend. She is energized after the summer break and excited about the year ahead. Her plans involve me. Of course they do. We’re a team. I realise I have to tell her immediately, not after the scan as I’d intended. I have to destroy her plans, her e...more

  • Ep 5: Travels Through the First Trimester

    May 27 2016

    My body has seriously never looked better naked. Everything is soft, plump and trim in all the right places. My breasts are growing. I curse the fact that nobody but me will see, but feel fortunate I don't have to negotiate a physical relationship. They hurt so much they wake me up at night! I also have to get up to pee every few hours. I am so tired. I dread brushing my teeth because of the morning sickness. Foods taste different. I can't get enough of pink grapefruit and nectarines. I am put o...more

  • Ep 4: My Love Life

    May 12 2016

    I had morning sickness and was trying hard to look after myself, now about 5 weeks pregnant, but it was a struggle with the lack of structure in my life over the summer, and all this travel.  Today though, back to work, just for a week. I was feeling guilty and conflicted about work. This was really the first time in my life that I wasn’t putting work ahead of everything else and it made me very uneasy. I was lonely and felt very isolated. It wasn’t a choice I’d made, to go through life alone.  ...more

  • Ep 3: Donor Deliberations

    Apr 28 2016

    One day, soon after I left school, my mother told me that she wanted me to have a baby one day and she didn’t care how I did it, even if I did it alone, as long as I did it. I was a bit taken aback. Of course I’d have a baby one day. I’d always known I would.  I imagined I’d do it the way school girls imagine they’ll do it: I’d fall in love with a man, he’d fall in love with me, and the family would naturally follow. It took me another decade to come out. I got cancer and faced my own mortality....more

  • Ep 2: Your Grandparents

    Apr 14 2016

    In 2012 I went home to Australia for Christmas. I had three weeks off from my job teaching documentary filmmaking in Denmark, just enough time to make the trip worthwhile. I wanted to ground myself after a recent break-up and as I came to terms with the fact that really was I was going to try to have a baby on my own, and soon, before it was too late. A couple of weeks after I returned to Denmark to work, I turned 38. I called a clinic and made an appointment to come and talk to them about choos...more

  • Ep 1: Insemination Story

    Mar 30 2016

    One morning in May my ovulation test showed as positive, and it was time to stop thinking about it and actually do it! I was living and working in Denmark when I reached the age of 38, the cut-off I’d settled on to try to have a baby alone before it was too late. I had decided on a donor and the sample was on stand-by. I was incredibly fortunate as Denmark has a thriving fertility tourism industry and maternity benefits that made it possible for me to even consider doing what I was about to try ...more

  • Ep 0 - Not By Accident Teaser

    Mar 22 2016

    This is the teaser for Not By Accident, an audio documentary series about choosing to become a single mother and coping with being one, made by me, Sophie Harper. Subscribe, rate, review wherever you listen to podcasts. Go to notbyaccident.net to sign up to my occasional email newsletter, and if you know anyone who might like to listen, please share! Music by permission from the artist: We’re Walking Through by Baby Blue.