I have tried to write this post twice and each time Tumblr has deleted it. I am trying one final time.
I am 37 yrs old. Do I want to have a baby or not? This is a question I ask myself time and time again.
I am an artist. I am independent and creative and intelligent and I love making things. It is what moves me and makes me happy. I could do what I do for the rest of my life and be totally happy if…
…every time I saw a baby or small child, I didn’t get horrible pangs in my ovaries.
I adore children and I feel a physical pull toward them. I have a strong, physical need to fulfill my biological imperative. BUT I don’t want to give up being me. I am selfish. I am an artist. In ten years, I’ll probably be ready to settle down, but right now I am not. In ten years, I will not be able to have a baby.
There in is the rub.
My dad sent me a very thick manila envelope filled with stuff about egg freezing that he’d printed off the internet. I know at least a dozen women who have gone this route, but it’s expensive and, in the end, not completely full proof. I am just not sure it’s for me.
Often I wish I was a man. Men seem to be able to have careers and a family. They are able to do it late in life, too. I know a number of men in their fifties with toddlers. This is not an option for me.
Yes, I can adopt - I think about this, too, and I haven’t ruled it out. But the ability to have a biological child is going away fast and soon the choice will be made for me.
It’s a non-choice choice this just waiting to see what will happen - but right now it’s all I’ve got.
What say you, Ladies? You picking up what I’m putting down? I’m curious to see if someone out there, based on their own experiences, can allay my mind and help me get some perspective.
For what it’s worth, it took two web browsers and a full password reset to even get into Tumblr to respond to this. Something funny and karmic, huh?
I’m 33, soon to be 34, and I’m single with no partner prospects. I’m also an artist, and work a union trade where I am well-respected and well-paid for what I do (although I do have to be able-bodied enough to do it in order to be paid, which makes pregnancy and the immediate aftermath somewhat daunting). I live in a beautiful apartment that I am slowly making into the home I want it to be, after (too?) many years of devotional labor making homes for my partners. It has been a bizarre and bracing and necessary reversal to take all that attention I’d poured onto other people, and figure out for myself what I actually want, what I prefer, what I like, and to put my shoulder to the wheel for myself. To be my own wife, as I sometimes say. Even now, approaching two years of that singleness, it feels risky to say all of that. I am so very good at being partnered, and still so very clumsy at being alone.
The question of how and whether and when to have kids is something that comes and goes in intensity for me. I want to have children, but to be honest, alongside that desire comes this yearning to have a partner who also wants to have children, and specifically wants to have children with me. And alongside those desires comes everything else that I’ve worked so hard for in my life and that I live with in a more daily way: earning more than my own survival, becoming elite in my trade, aiming to produce art and stories that excel, having beautiful and meaningful possessions, doing something to make this world a more liberated place, and so on and so on. My desires are kaleidoscopic, and depending on which way I turn, different patterns fall into place.
One pattern is about ambition, and pushing the limits of sleep. I don’t see having a child (or children) as antithetical to great ambition. I’ve wanted many things in my life, and love many things simultaneously, and seek greatness in a few. Having a child now feels of a piece, honestly, with my ambitions as an artist and a tradeswoman and a culture maker and an activist. I refuse a paradigm where the sole role that will be available to me during pregnancy and afterwards is that of “mother” — and some patriarchal Hallmark version of that role, at that. My own mother was always a mother AND an artist, AND an intellectual, AND her own complex, driven, multi-dimensional human being. Mind you, I’m not interested in refusing the role of mother, especially after entering into that dynamic knowingly with another human being who had no other choice. But if there’s one thing I want my kid to know, it’s that I am more than one thing, and so are they. We have options and possibilities and potentialities and commitments and changes of heart and circumstance. I want that multiplicity to be legible to my kid.
But what I am increasingly aware of as I grow older is that while my heart may be infinitely complex and multitudinous (and it is), I am still constrained by time and energy. Much to my chagrinI need to sleep sometime. It’s the certain prospect of that deep, gut-wrenching fatigue that gives me pause, especially as I contemplate the prospect of getting pregnant without a partner. I hear you about the non-choice choice — I went through a period where I was just enraged at people whose fertility stays with them for their entire lives. Why must I be forced into choosing now, with a biological window that will close on me? Why does my chance at contributing to a blood line have to have this time limit? I can make art for the rest of my life — make movies, tell stories, sing harmonies to my beloved friends’ songs and record them through one lens after another — I can, in effect, have a thousand art “babies” and reach to touch forever just like that. And I will. But if I want this piece of forever, of creativity knit in flesh and bone, I have to choose and I have to choose soon.
Because if I choose to move forward with getting pregnant without a partner, there are a lot of ducks to get in a row to make that happen. Not impossible, just complex. (Thanks, science. Thanks, feminism.) But I’m also very skilled at driving complex projects, so it’s not even that complexity I’m worried about. You touch on this briefly on Twitter, Amber, about this feeling of “failure.” I realized that I too had that shadow lurking over me, an implication that I had failed in my previous partnerships, failed to find a partner to have kids with — and in fact, *would* fail because finding someone to partner with and have kids with in this biological timeframe feels completely ludicrous and irrational. And when I finally got that thought articulated and conscious, I knew I had to turn that around somehow. I needed a new way to frame the issue. The best I’ve gotten to so far is contemplating how to rearrange my thinking so that I can see having a kid on my own as an act of love and confidence in myself — and not evidence of my failure (to be loved/to be lovable). I also, frankly, needed to decouple (ha, literally) the question of being single from the question of whether to parent. I just can’t have being single be a determining factor in whether I become a parent — it’s a vault that’s too high to make dating even remotely feasible. I’m far more willing to be a single mom facing the prospect of dating than be a single woman who’s dating to get a partner to get to be a mom, which just feels like hell on wheels when I imagine it.
The whole thing is hard to parse, and the stakes are laughably high. But I guess the other thing I’d want to tell you is that you’re not alone in this. I think these are questions that a lot of folks face, and as other folks have said, there is no one right answer. But I also think taking the time to discern the kindest, bravest, wisest answer for you is the way to go. For me, realizing that these questions sit in the center of a number of my deepest fears (about being too much, wanting too much, being unlovable, etc.) helped me at least to reframe more gently and think very carefully about what’s possible, and check my assumptions and come up with different paths. And ha — we’ll see! I’m definitely still working on it.
Best of luck, and mad respect to you, always.