I’ve always wanted to have children, always wanted to mother. I’ve been an au pair to other families, spent time with all of the kids of friends and family. I hoped and assumed, of course, that I would have a family of my own when the time came.
I suppose that’s the tricky part – that time thing. Like many, I’ve been in a series of long relationships that have not withstood the tests of time. A long medical training that I started when I was twenty-eight ended ten years later. And there I was, at thirty-eight, for the first time seriously thinking of having a child on my own.
So many questions came to mind – how could I do it? How could I make it work in time and money and love? And most importantly, would it be, could it be fair to bring in child into the world who would not know his or her biological father? These are tough questions, and every SMC I know has struggled with them. But at the time, now almost nine years ago, I was just plain sad that I did not have a partner to undertake this endeavor. What I had always imagined – love, marriage, baby – hadn’t happened for me yet, and there was a melancholy quality to my view of single motherhood. I knew that a heavy heart could not care for a infant or child, could not offer the kind of life I would want to give to my child. So I waited. Threw more baby showers. Held more babies. More time went by, another relationship developed and sadly faltered around the issue of having children.
Single again and now pretty secure in my career as a psychiatrist, I asked those tough questions again, and decided to move. It took about a year from the time of my decision to try to have a child to pregnancy. A long, scary year filled with the statistics I knew about, somewhere in the back of my brain (after all, I was in medicine) but had really avoided. After some tough sessions with a wonderful reproductive endocrine group, I decided to jump right in and try IVF. The chances of having a healthy baby using my own, 43 year-old eggs, they told me, were about 7% (who knows where that number came from, but I swear that’s what I remember).
There is much I could say about the decision to proceed given the tremendous cost IVF and low odds of success, about the process of two rounds of IVF; these can be tough, tough times for women and couples. But there was a meaningfulness in it for me, because I was finally doing something that I had wanted for so long.
Pregnancy was easy, and that was just plain good fortune – those hormones were just right for me! I received warm and enthusiastic support from friends, family and professional colleagues. My daughter was almost born on the Bay Bridge, because, the obstetrician announced admiringly, I had the uterus of a twenty-year old.
I have the warmest memories of pregnancy and delivery, which is probably both a statement about dumb luck and the distortion inherent to memory. My daughter is now two and a half years old, and my only regret is that I waited so long. Life is very, very full.
There is much I could say about the experience of parenting, and parenting without a partner. I am incredibly fortunate to be so supported in my professional life as well as my personal world. My professional life is very, very busy: days and nights seem to fly by. But every parent of babies and toddlers struggles to fit everything in. I had years in which time was spent on myself – this very different time is filled with a joy and a wonder that all the night life, swell San Francisco cuisine and great culture couldn’t really bring me.
To do it all again – I’d still prefer to have had a partner, I struggle with how my daughter and I will discuss and understand her biological father (an anonymous sperm donor). But this is absolutely the sweetest time of my life. And this little girl – her own kind of miracle.