I’m quite cozy with Jodie Foster on the oversized couch in the corner of my twin brother’s living room. We’re talking babies. She sits so close to me I can see the weft of her chic gray pants. This isn’t a dream; my brother has parties with famous people. Jodie sits conspiratorially close as she chats with me. I like her instantly because she’s no-nonsense mingled with quiet wisdom. She insists I can have a baby on my own. I suggest that perhaps it is she who can do things differently because she is famous… and rich. She waves her hand dismissively, then scoots over so her fair-haired son can settle in between us with a book he’s brought over. She looks at me and nods toward him, like, “See?”
I nod in agreement, because there is no denying his charm. But I cannot feel good about bringing a child into my current unsure world. I move too much. I don’t have enough money. I don’t like any therapist I meet, so I don’t stick with them. Things aren’t right yet — and I’m starting to wonder if they will ever feel right.
For the next few years, I continue changing jobs, packing boxes and listening to people tell me they’ll need to start penciling my new addresses in. “You’re moving again?” they ask, as if I can’t be serious. It’s not just the people who know me; I also dread that point in interviews when they ask why I’ve had so many jobs. “I’m a complicated person,” I reply. “That, and I get bored easily, which is excellent for you because I will do the job of three.”
No matter where I move or what job I am doing, I am still lonely without children. I long for them. I’m tired of babysitting other people’s children. I want my own. I date off and on, but the act of dating seems very disconnected to my desire to have children. I stop dating. I really don’t want to be with anyone right now.
One day, I’m taking a drive around a neighborhood looking for a rental because my lease is ending and it’s time to move again. I see a little blue house for rent. It’s not gorgeous, but I pull to the side of the road to write down the number. Inexplicably I suddenly hear Jodie Foster’s voice in that way that people say they hear God’s voice: “You can have a child on your own.” I feel a kind of clarity I have never known.
I rent that house and settle in. After a few months, I call my doctor for an appointment to gather the information I need to get myself pregnant. I don’t feel like my life is perfect, but time keeps passing anyway, and I want to start a family.
I also study everything I can about choosing a donor and what it means in America to be a single mother by choice. I gather from my research that while having children may appear scientific, no matter how we choose to have our children, we all end up in the same place as parents who aren’t sure how they got there. I ask a friend to pick out a donor number. We look him up on the cryobank website where the men who have donated sperm are listed by number and physical characteristics. He is tall, with blue eyes and ginger hair. “You’d totally date him,” she announces with a flourish, and high-fives me.
I order the “donation” and have it delivered to my office since delivery requires a signature. It doesn’t occur to me to have it sent to a doctor. It arrives in a 3-foot-tall green nitrogen container. It also doesn’t occur to me that people in my office might ask me what it is. I am a good liar, though, and tell them it’s medicine for a friend. To my relief (and surprise), no one questions this.
Early on, I learn that I can’t share my plans with too many people. I am appalled by how rude and even downright mean they can be, as if somehow I’m a 15-year-old girl looking to trap her boyfriend and ruin her parents’ lives. My parents, in fact, are supportive of my decision. My 95-year-old grandmother even sends me extra money to make sure I can stay home for a while after my baby is born.
I invite another friend over to help me get pregnant using a turkey baster. To be honest, it’s not a real turkey baster. It’s more of a syringe plunger with a thin flexible tube on the end. Just as we are about to start, I announce that she is in no way allowed to look “down there.” She says, “How can I do it then?” I shrug, but I’m not kidding. In an act that would give Lucy and Ethel a run for their money, we accomplish the event, and I hike my hips up on a pillow to wait the suggested 20 minutes. Three weeks later, I learn it hasn’t taken.
After the turkey baster debacle, I decide to get more serious and involve a doctor who can deposit the donation directly into my uterus, which tends to be more successful and doesn’t cost more. After two more unsuccessful tries, the doctor decides to put me on Clomid to stretch out my cycles. One morning after the sixth try, I take a pregnancy test and it reads, in digital glory, “pregnant.” That moment still ranks No. 1 in lifetime joys. Jodie Foster was right; it can be done — even by mere mortals.
I deliver a baby boy seven weeks early. He spends time in the NICU but is healthy once I get him home. When he turns one, I choose to have baby number two. I deliver a baby girl this time, right on schedule and very healthy. Before she is even born, I meet a man who becomes my husband a few years later.
Yet, despite my joy, I don’t become the foremost advocate of single motherhood by choice because I recognize it’s not for everyone. You need to be financially secure. I was. You need to understand that children are 24 hours a day/365 days a year. I did.
You need to know that there is no right time for becoming a parent. It’s one of those experiential learning things.
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