When I was 36 and very single, I was hit by the narrowing of the time window to have my biological children.
My first thought was I am a woman living in a modern time. I could logically separate being single and being a mother. I decided to become a single mother. I charted my basal body temperature daily for a couple of months. I took folic acid my girlfriend recommended when I remembered. I reviewed numerous profiles at a reputable donor bank in New England and got the sperms I needed. I had an IUI once, which failed. It is not necessarily an easy path for couples who try to get pregnant together. Doing it alone and failing felt devastating. I realized that I did not want to go down this path alone. So my journey to single motherhood ended abruptly and quickly.
During this time, I found Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids. The writers in this book talk about how there isn't one way to life. There were different scenarios for women not to have their kids. Some had decided not to have kids; some didn’t because time had passed, and some gave away babies. “We,” the childless women, were thought of as selfish.
Now, at forty-something, I am content without my biological kids. This peace comes from a few factors. For one, I’m glad I had a chance to do something about it even though I failed. Another good reason is my brain doesn’t react well to high stress. I would pass on the gene of schizophrenia. Then there is the time and cost of raising a child alone.
Reflecting on my single life, the desire to have a small family and care for someone is replaced with a profound realization of having a life that may be better suited for me, and the time for this quest has passed. I’ve long moved on.
I’m not noble like others who decide not to contribute to the global overpopulation problem. However, I’m where they are. When I see my married friends with children, my life can feel selfish or self-centered though no friends or family has told me that. I live my life, for the most part, for myself. A Taiwanese saying describes this well: feeding one stomach feeds the whole family. This is, in a way, a privilege.
With this privilege, I’ve channeled my energy toward my writing and community. I want to not be selfish through these other means while I lead a different life from that of a wife or mother.
A side note, unlike fertility, dating has no biological timeline. If I wanted to, I could date until I was 90. I could still have children, just not biological. I’m neither expecting nor avoiding it, but simply not worrying about it until the situation presents itself.
On another side note, a girlfriend recently told me that wanting a child might be the most selfish decision she had ever made. It was what she, as a woman, wanted in her life. She had decided to bring a baby into this world and made that the purpose of her life. I had never thought of it that way.
That’s just it. Life accepts all kinds of decisions and paths. Like the shitty first draft when I start a writing project, I can only write down what my inspiration takes me. No assumptions. Like driving at night in the dark, even though I can only see as far as the headlight, I will make it to my destination.
For this peaceful mind, I’m grateful to live my life every day with gratitude.