On the first floor of her apartment building in Eagan is a small rec-room, and Darla Rainford is hosting eight women and their children for a bi-weekly social.
The women are sitting around a table talking about teething and breast feeding and doulas. The toddlers are busy playing with toys nearby.
Rainford explains what brought them together.
"Just because we're single doesn't take away the urge to be a parent," she said.
Like the other women in the room, Rainford, 41, dated and was in long-term relationships.
She says when she was younger, she had it all planned out -- she wanted to meet her boyfriend in college, get engaged by her late 20s and start having kids by the time she was 30.
"At 27, I started to get worried that I not only wasn't engaged, but I hadn't even met him yet," Rainford said. "And I really wanted to, you know, know him for five years, and so that was a problem."
At that point, Rainford says she got serious about how motherhood would become part of her life.
"So I doubled up on my dating efforts, went out with a whole bunch of people, and none of the guys that I met were the right one," she explained. "By the time I was 30, I decided I was done dating. I tried that it wasn't working. And I was just going to do it, I was just going to have this baby. And I was going to find a way."
After years of looking for Mr. Right, she stopped searching and found another true love -- seven-year-old Caeden and 9-month-old Celton.
Rainford and the other women belong to a club called the Twin Cities Choice Moms. She organizes these social get-togethers as a way for moms to share support and advice, and for kids to get to know there are others out there like them.
“I decided I was done dating. I tried that it wasn't working and I was just going to do it, I was just going to have this baby.”Darla Rainford
The women say they would have preferred to be married, but just never found the right person.
33-year-old Jennifer Reed says she wasn't ready to give up on the idea of being a mother.
"It's certainly not the dream I've had ever since I've been old enough to have kids," Reed said. "But we all make decisions in life that may not be our first choice and in most cases, they work out just fine."
Reed is seven-months pregnant and expecting a girl. She says that after two failed marriages and no children, she's ready to tackle motherhood alone.
"There's a part of me that's relieved that I don't have to share this child with somebody, especially after having gone through two divorces and a child and two divorces as an adult," Reed said. "My child will never have to see her parents arguing. She will never have to go through a divorce, she'll never have to go through playing mom against dad. There are so many things, that in some ways, are going to make it a lot easier."
Like many of the women, Reed used a sperm bank to find a donor. Others, have opted to go through the tedious process of adoption.
It's unclear exactly how many women decide to become single mothers, but the Centers for Disease Control estimates the non-marital birth rate for women in their thirties and early forties has more than double since 1980.
Minneapolis resident Mikki Morrissette is the author of of a book on choosing single motherhood. She estimates nearly 50,000 women each year in the U.S. chose to become single moms.
Morrissette says most choice moms distinguish themselves in many ways from the average single mom.
"A lot of us have been professional women and many of us have post-gradate degrees," Morrissette said. "Many of us have high incomes and we're very accustomed to setting our goals and reaching them and one of the things you can't really control is when you find the right person you want to spend the rest of your life with and raise kids with."
But the idea of single motherhood by choice is not universally accepted.
Kay Hymowitz, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think-tank in New York supports single women adopting children, but Hymowitz says mothers who go through anonymous sperm donation are sending a message to their children that men are not important.
"The problem is, is it says, in effect that fathers don't matter," she said. "Sure, you'd rather have have a father, but you can do without a father."
Furthermore, Hymowitz says there's a danger sending the message to young men that they are not an essential part of family life.
"If we can fit you in, if you're good enough, okay, but other than that, 'We'll just handle it ourselves, thank you very much,' Hymowitz said. "That is a really awful message to send to men and one that I think is ultimately going to hurt women as much as men."
But the idea of becoming moms was something these Twin Cities' women were not willing to give up, even if it has long-term implications on future relationships.
And they all agree, once they have their children, one of the most challenging issues becomes finding a solid support network and addressing the daddy question.
Rainford, the group's organizer, figured the best way to explain it to her 7-year-old was with a story.
"I started out with, 'There was this lady, and she really wanted to be a mommy and she really wanted to have a family, and so she looked all around to find the right man to be the daddy and the husband, but she just couldn't find him,' Rainford said in a storyteller's voice. "So, she decided to have a different kind of a family, a family that just has a mommy and a baby. And one day that baby was born. Do you know who that baby was?' And of course, by the third time, he's like, 'Me, me me!' It's just something that he's grown up with."
All of the women say having a child was the single most important decision in their lives, even if it means finding unconvetional support for themselves and their children.