This is the personal essay that I worked on for the last couple of years. The last time I edited it was in March of this year when I submitted it in a writing class I was taking. It’s a bit long, but hopefully you stick it through. Some of my thoughts have shifted since then, so in my next post I’ll fill you in on where I currently stand.
34…single…female…The age keeps changing, but the relationship status does not. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve been in a long term relationship. While I desire a partner in life, a best friend to spend my days with, what I yearn for even more is motherhood. It’s not just a yearning from the heart, but I feel it from my ovaries…from the center of my being.
Throughout college and adult life, I have gone back and forth on what type of career I want to have and whether I even want to have a career at all. The one constant has always been that I want to have children. I want to bear at least one child and then possibly adopt. A mother is what I feel I was meant to be above all else.
I’ve watched my friends and my cousins and even one of my younger siblings go through pregnancies, infants, toddlers and now mini adults.
At some point in my mid to late 20’s I decided that if I hadn’t met the right person when I turned 30, then I would just go ahead and have a baby by myself. But then I turned 30 and didn’t feel ready, so I pushed it back to 35. In a way, I didn’t want to “give up” yet on finding the right guy and building a traditional family unit. Over the last three to four years I’ve gone over and over in my head whether I want to wait until 35, whether I want to freeze my eggs and keep waiting for him to show up, or whether the fact that I haven’t met the right person means that I wasn’t meant to be a mother after all.
I have watched time and time again people around me having trouble getting pregnant. As a teenager it seems like it could happen by just laying naked next to a guy. You become sexually active and then are anxious the weeks between your period fearing the worst, even though you took every precaution. The reality is that it is hard to get pregnant and now I am afraid that when I’d ready my body won’t be. This is where freezing my eggs come in, which I have been thinking about before the E! reality shows dedicated episodes to it. It seems simple in concept, but it’s like preparing for IVF…injections, hormones, etc. These are all things I’d rather go through with a partner, but then ironically I’m going through it because I don’t have one.
The part of me that just wants to go ahead with insemination and have the baby on my own is having an internal debate on whether this is selfish. Yes, I want to be a mother and I feel strongly that even alone I would be able to raise a great kid. But, is it selfish to the child? I actually never thought about it that way until I was out with a friend and we were talking about it.
She pretty much blurted out, “That’s kind of selfish, don’t you think?” I stared at her blankly while she continued, “Just because you really want something, doesn’t mean you should do it without thinking of how it could affect this kid who had no choice in the matter.”
While at first I angrily brushed it off, later I couldn’t get it out of my head? Is it selfish of me to decide for the child that she will not have a father? To make the decision for the her that I won’t be as available? In my mind, if I were married and we could afford it, I
￼would spend my children’s early years at home, at least part time. I would be there for all those early moments. I would also be there for all the school meetings, after school activities, etc. Even if I was working full time, having a partner in parenthood would mean that we could take turns attending the school plays or parent teacher conferences while still keeping up with our careers. However, deciding to go at it alone would mean that I wouldn’t be able to be 100% dedicated to being a parent and to my career. I couldn’t have it all, as I was led to believe throughout my years at Smith.
So is it selfish for me to bring the child into the world because I want to be a mother so badly, but then not be able to be the type of mother I want to be? I know that there are thousands of single mothers out there who do a fantastic job, but the majority of them didn’t go into motherhood knowing that they would be single; that they would have to do this alone. They do it because that’s how the cards were dealt, but I would knowingly be choosing to go at it alone.
This is the argument I ended up having with a friend who was in the middle of a divorce with three kids, one of which she had pre-marriage. She thought I was being ridiculous to even question whether it was selfish. She was appalled I would even bring it up next to our other friend who was trying to get pregnant with her husband and had zero intention on putting the brakes on her career. I could see where she was coming from. The thing is that we are all different. No two women are alike in the way they feel or think or in what they want out of life. Neither of my friends planned for pregnancy without a husband. While one of them did get pregnant at 17 without a husband, she didn’t plan it. It happened and she dealt with it raising a son who is now a teenager himself. Most single mothers happen into single motherhood. They didn’t dream of that growing up.
Other women who choose to balance motherhood with a full speed ahead career want this life. They don’t want to compromise either and that is the right choice for them. There are those who don’t have the choice and have to balance both. If I went into this alone, I would fall into the latter category. While that’s a fine choice, it would not have been my ideal choice and I’d be compromising the time I’d want to spend with my child…seeing her for a short morning ritual and then not again until dinner and bath time trying to squeeze all fun bonding activities plus errands into the weekend.
I would also be somewhat deciding that my child would be an only child. Not only would she not have a father, but also it be just the two of us. Going at it alone would be hard enough financially and mentally, so thinking about a second on my own is probably not in the cards. Some of my best memories growing up involve my brothers: chasing after each other, inventing a game called the Wedgie Game which my younger brother somehow didn’t realize was a prank, and having a buffer or distraction when we were stuck with our parents for too long in a confined car (without DVD’s) on road trips. As adults we’ve bonded in a completely different way and I can’t imagine not having these relationships in my life. Who am I to knowingly deprive my child of that experience?
I also live in a community where this isn’t the norm. Perhaps if I lived in another state or even country it would be a different story, but I live in a very close minded Latin Jewish community in South Florida. That’s obviously a huge generalization, but the reality is that the majority get married by their mid-20’s, most of the women don’t work full time, and gossip circulates like crazy. If you are getting divorced, which at this point is pretty normal, within 24 hours everyone is talking about what happened, who cheated, and how they saw it coming. The truth is that anyone who doesn’t live their life in a traditional sense has moved away; it’s just easier that way I guess.
In all honesty I don’t care about what they think of me and my decisions. I know they already think I’m a lesbian because I am not married and went to Smith. What other reason would there be for not having a revolving door of boyfriends or a husband by now?! Little do they know, that if I was gay, I would be with a woman and wouldn’t care.
So I am not too concerned for myself and what they would all say if I show up to shul for Rosh Hashana pregnant and single, but I am more concerned for my family. I know it would hurt my mom to have all these people talking about me and I know that in the end it would be hard for my child growing up as the fatherless child in this community.
But if I throw all of that out the window, why shouldn’t I be a mother? So what if I knowingly choose single motherhood? The one thing I’ve seen from family and friends is that you can attempt to plan out how you expect to raise your children, but then having them is a completely different story. Nothing goes exactly how you planned. I could go at this alone and make it work for me…for my family unit. It wouldn’t be easy and I would need the support of my family, but I could do it and do it well.
The last part of me thinks in the traditional sense. I am not a very religious person, but this part of me contemplates the whole idea that if G-d wanted me to have children, then it would be when I am married and the “natural” order of things occurs. Should I be taking this into my own hands and going ahead with insemination or freezing my eggs? Or should I just wait and see if I meet that right guy and hopefully get pregnant? Maybe at the end of the day I am not meant to have my own kids. Maybe I am meant to be the awesome aunt and take care of other people’s kids. Everyone has a purpose and perhaps mine is not motherhood in the sense I’ve always thought.
Whatever my path is, I still don’t know. I hate that as a woman I have to make a decision fairly soon and can’t let too much time pass to see what happens. I tend to overanalyze many decisions, but the best ones, the ones that have significantly impacted my course in life, have been more gut reactions. I think I’ll patiently await to see where life takes me between now and 35 and then I might just go with my gut.