When you’re 32, have no serious romantic prospects besides the one(s) in your head, most of your close friends are getting married or having babies, and the only thing you’re sure of is that you’d like to have a baby someday too, you spend a lot of time thinking about how that’s going to happen. I am not proud of being a chick flick stereotype, believe me, but I looked in the mirror this morning and that’s what I saw and, well, time to face facts.
I want to have a baby. I want to have a baby ideally in the next three to five years, although considering I said that exact same thing three, four, and five years ago, I know I can’t be married to that timeline. I’ll take one tomorrow or 10 years from now. The former is not altogether impossible — I did have sex, albeit with protection, a week or so ago — but unlikely, and the latter would depend on how much of a dip my fertility takes at 35 and 40. In general, I feel in charge of my own life — I make good money, I have a job I perform well and enjoy, etc. — so having something this important to me feel out of my control is kind of disconcerting. I don’t love the unknown. I’m not worried I’m barren or something, I just would like to know that there are ways for me to cover all my bases where procreation is concerned. Sometimes that means I talk about it, play through the various scenarios with people with whom I feel close. Girlfriends, family, mentors, etc. And basically everyone, I’ve been interested to discover, has strong feelings about what a woman like myself should do when it comes to having a baby. A few examples!
Last week, I had a drink with an old friend, about a decade older than me, who had conceived via in vitro fertilization. Sadly, Sara* lost the baby in the first trimester. This prompted a discussion about my own desire to have a kid or kids, but specifically my hope to do so, at least once, biologically. (Adoption is something I am absolutely open to, but am going to forgo discussing in this piece.) She described how amazing pregnancy felt to her even in those sadly brief early weeks. I told her how I can’t stop ogling my pregnant friends, asking them about how everything feels. “What does kicking feel like?” “Can you tell where the head is versus the butt?” “When did your belly button pop?” “Do you already just love him/her?” The answers to those questions are across the board and I lap them up knowing my own will be just as unique to my experience someday. Hopefully.
“Maybe you should put some eggs on ice just incase you need them someday,” Sara suggested.
This wasn’t a shocking proposal, by any means, and it’s something I had considered doing at some point. But now? The next time I drop by the gyno? Sara and I discussed it in more detail and it became clear that, were she in my shoes, it’s what she would do. I knew she wasn’t trying to scare me at all; she was just trying to support my desire to have a kid biologically by encouraging me to take smart proactive steps towards that goal. I, for the most part, truly appreciated her enthusiasm. It was refreshing, actually. We then chatted about the pros and cons of having a sperm donor you know (I’m pretty sure I could badger John DeVore into donating to my cause if it came down to it) versus someone anonymous (who looks like Ryan Gosling and has a Ph.D). You know, the kind of conversation you don’t want a hot, single dude overhearing.
“Talk to your doctor,” Sara said as she hugged me goodbye. “It could be a really good idea.” She waved and hopped in a cab. I thought about our conversation well into the night.
A couple nights later, I was hanging out with a couple of my closest friends, two of which have children under the age of 2, and one of whom is about to pop out her first. Nursing my, oh, third glass of wine (a perk of being childless!), I announced, “So, I’m thinking about talking to my doctor about freezing my eggs.”
“What?! WHY?! You’re going to be fine! You’re only 32!”
“Shut up. You do not need to do that.”
“Don’t be crazy. You’re too young. Stop worrying so much.”
“Amelia, seriously? You need to just let these things happen naturally. You are totally going to meet someone awesome and have kids. Don’t freak.”
I love, love, love my friends, truly. They are wonderful people and great mothers. I appreciate the fact that they think my ovaries are young and vital and teeming with baby-making potential. (Right now, I think they probably are!) I am humbled that they think I am a magnificent catch who will find Mr. Right any second now and I should not even be bothering with an alternative plan of action. I know I am going to be fine. I am fine. I understand that everyone has their own personal belief system when it comes to “playing God” or undergoing invasive procedures as a precaution rather than a necessity. Truthfully, I haven’t even formed my own opinions on such matters; that’s why I was planning on talking to my doctor, not just hoisting my legs up into the stirrups and directing her to excavate.
I was caught off-guard by how vehement their reactions were. Such firm opposition! I couldn’t understand why. It’s not that any of them necessarily had an easy road towards procreation, but when they decided they wanted kids, they all had one thing rarin’ to go — someone to have them with. I don’t and there isn’t one on the horizon. I like to believe someday there will be someone, but who knows how old I’ll be when he arrives. It’s cool. I’m letting that part of my life coast a bit, but is there something wrong with taking a little bit of charge of my reproductive dreams ahead of time? Will I jinx myself? Is it somehow “crazy” behavior for a 32-year-old single woman to want a little extra assurance when it comes to something this important to her?
Like I said, I haven’t made any decisions. It’s my body. I certainly don’t want to take such a drastic step out of fear or insecurity. But I do want to be practical. Motherhood is not something I can count on, but it is something I want to feel empowered to pursue on my own if need be. I know I would be good at it. It feels like the primary purpose in my life. I have not at all given up on it “just happening” through a “natural” chain of events. Considering freezing my eggs is not my way of saying, “I get the message, Universe! I’m going to be alone forever! My eggs will be rotten soon enough, but not before I have a baby of my own that loves me!”
No, considering it, even just thinking and talking about the various options, feels empowering, like I’m acknowledging something I know to be true about myself. “Amelia, you would be a good mother. You have a lot of love to give. A child would be lucky to have you as their parent. There are ways — both in your hands and out of your hands, working in tandem — to make that a reality.” If I have a kid, I imagine it won’t matter how we got there, only that we arrived safe and sound and have each other. And it won’t matter then, just as it doesn’t matter now, what anyone else thinks.
* Name has been changed.