On the best days of my life, and the cruelest hours of the night, I have always had an inner-meditation: I am excited about the future. However, this summer, when I turned 37, while licking the wounds of yet another rough breakup, my mantra didn’t seem to be working. I suddenly felt a lot less poised about the one thing that had always mattered most: motherhood. Nothing could change the fact that I would never be a young mom like my own — one of the million things I worshipped about her and had hoped to emulate; but, much more disturbing, as I took a relationship inventory I realized that as my longing for motherhood had grown over the years, my taste in men had apparently gone way off-script. None of my boyfriends had ever wanted children, or wanted children with me; they were often children themselves, or did not safely belong anywhere near innocence.
With the men I love and those who love me back — the artists, the exotic, the electric, guys my girlfriend refers to as “men with a high degree of difficulty” — any passive-aggressive, poorly communicated suggestion that we shift from “pull-and-pray” to “stay-and-pray” has only caused fighting and hysteria … even years into the relationships, even when I was engaged. Ultimately, my looming desire for motherhood factored into all the bad breakups, and I always regretted pushing so hard.
In between relationships, I developed a lot of baby shame. I convinced myself that wanting kids continually ruined everything; that I was luring these men in with promises of romance and recklessness, then sucker punching them with some whiny wannabe-housewife whom they didn’t recognize and couldn’t wait to shed. I hated her; she scared them all away. Although, I never figured out why — in their eyes — I wasn’t allowed to have sensuality, joie de vivre, AND ovaries and a biological clock. But it seemed like I had to choose: Be the girl who fucks or be the girl who breeds.
Obviously, none of these guys were meant to be, for reasons beyond baby-making. But wanting kids so damn badly also felt like a violation of cool-girl code. Smart, sexual, self-sufficient women aren’t supposed to have anxiety about these things! I mean, is there anything less Gloria Steinem than losing your shit over the ticking clock? Modern women are supposed to have well-hung lovers, exasperating girlfriends, and Saarinen tulip chairs (check, check, check); we’re not supposed to pray that our fibroids shrink, take prenatal vitamins like Valium, and work our Ovia app like a Carrie Mathison mission.
And yet: I can’t change who I am. I want to create life. I want to be someone’s mom. But which road do I take, at 37.5, with a history of falling for the sweet and vicious, to get there?
The logical answer is to date my pants off. But here’s the problem with that … it’s really hard to date in an organic way when you’re secretly just hoping he has good genes and hates condoms. In fact, I have a theory that it’s actually impossible to date in a healthy way when you’re getting older and dying to have kids. Hear me out: Either we date for passion and lust (yesss! But that leads to threesomes, not onesies), OR we hunt down stable men exclusively for marriage and procreation (terrible! I can’t do it!). OR we stay calm, we wait a little longer, and we trust that there is someone out there whom we will love and desire, who is sprinkled in baby dust and ready for a family. I like that, and as a friend, a sister, and an advocate of the single woman, I know that’s the healthiest mentality. But the thing is, I am ready. I am so very ready. And I don’t want to wait anymore.
Now, besides watching all my darling man-child lovers run for the hills, what do we do with that information? Surround oneself with like-minded women, for one. Last month, I attended an event called the New Fertility, with a panel of ladies eager to share their experiences in egg-freezing, donor sperm, surrogacy … and, oh yeah, getting preggers by a big, hard penis. Until then, I’d been pretty secretive about how badly I want kids (outside of the bedroom), but in that safe, womblike atmosphere I started talking to a bubbly Barnard-type and spontaneously blurted: “I want to have a baby on my own!” Whoa. I want to have a baby on my own, I said, for the first time ever, to her, to me, to you, to everyone. “I’m freezing my eggs and getting f’ed by insurance,” she sighed. And suddenly, a special bond was formed and we both felt better about being single, older, and a little bit scared.
Am I really going to have a baby on my own? I can’t say for sure yet. A lot will depend on my body, my fertility, and fate. But after that night, I started practicing saying it aloud — “I want to have a baby on my own.” First to strangers at Starbucks, then to female colleagues I admire, then eventually to friends and family. It felt right. It felt WAY more right than the alternative: I need to find a man to have a baby with. Because … Do I really? It’s an extremely difficult and emotionally complicated decision (I have no delusions of grandeur here), but it might be what’s best for me. And, bottom line, we are all lucky to be able to choose what’s best for us.
As for men, I have always dated out of pleasure, and that’s exactly what I’ll continue to do, but I’m done with the drama. I want to have a baby, and I need to have love and lust, but I’m just not sure they’re going to crisscross this time around. Ironically, in the last few days, a cute actor, an Italian architect, and a scruffy single dad asked me out — and they all know exactly where my eggs and I stand. (Shop is closing!) Life is so strange. I worried forever that chasing motherhood would scare men away — I’ve fought it, repressed it, resented every follicle of my female insides. And now that I’m completely comfortable with my biological clock, staring it straight in the face, good men are everywhere. I’m not sure if it proves my theory right or wrong, and I don’t really care, but guys are definitely turned on by a woman who knows what she wants, and welcomes it with grace.
Since the summer, I’ve slowly been letting my baby shame go, and it’s been the most liberating experience of my life. Confronting fertility, childlessness, and personal choices from every angle has opened so many extraordinary conversations with so many cool people. When I told my parents — who live in my building — that I’m contemplating becoming a Single Mother by Choice, they jumped for joy. They bought me a turkey baster at T.J. Maxx and we fell over with tears of laughter. We are excited about the future.