In many parts of the world, people do not have choices. The local store carries only one brand of toothpaste. Marriages are arranged. And fertility is finite.
Notions of swiping people’s faces on Tinder and freezing eggs so we can ‘focus on our career’ read like science fiction. We silicon valley dwellers are ADD afflicted bionic mutants frockickling across the “Planet of Eternal Options.”
However, our mirages of endless possibility evaporate as we get older. Our narrowing range of options catapult us out of sci fi land, especially when it comes to family planning. We have to make choices.
Choice #1: Do we freeze our eggs (again)?
About a day after the little oocytes were extracted from my womb and stowed away in an icy drawer, the doctors started ramping up conversation for when the next egg freezing round could start.
“Don’t you want to buy another round to supplement to your insurance plan?” they asked.
The insurance they were referring to was “Plan Backup Baby.” I was a high-risk case of San Francisco’s sweeping epidemic, “Peter Pan Paralysis (PPP™), where everyone thinks they will stay young forever. The worst symptom? Reality. We prance around like 20 somethings, but our bodies are biologically wired to have children now, even if we haven’t found a partner we want to have children with. Once reality sets in, another painful symptom emerges. Fear. Fear that we really cannot have it all.
Whatever the symptoms, another round of Egg Freezing didn’t seem like the right cure and it certainly wasn’t an insurance plan.
For women in their mid to late 30s, egg freezing is a vacant fortune. It didn’t guarantee that I’d magically find someone I’d want to spend the rest of my life with. Nor did it guarantee that any of my little genetic popsicles would be able to fertilize and morph into a baby. In fact, they only had a 20 percent chance of success with perfect sperm from a hypothetical soul mate.
I think egg freezing is a frenzied fad in response to the fear that torment many 30-something women: Time Passing.
Let’s face it, we are not going to live forever and there is a very real chance that it will take too long to both find the right time (career first?) and the right partner (soul mate?) to be able to have children naturally. Regardless if you choose to soothe your anxiety by dosing your eggs with liquid nitrogen, there is still a major decision to be made once you reach a certain age: How long are you going to leave ‘em in the freezer for?
Choice #2: Do you have a baby before you hit 40 (on your own or with a ‘suitable’ partner) OR do you hold out for romantic love?
Option 1: Quickly settle down while your ovaries are still kickin’, either going the solo route or with a ‘suitable’ man.
Option 2: Stop forcing Project Baby (aka frenetic DNA replication) and instead focus on finding someone you want to spend the rest of your life not knowing how long it will take, or if you’ll be able to have children together.
When I was deciding, a good friend asked me a simple question.
“Heidi, what do you want more? A baby? Or love? Let’s assume you cannot have both and need to make a choice. If it’s a baby, go to the bar and get knocked up by a 25 year old. Or marry <enter name of boring person here> and get knocked up by him. He’d be a great dad.
But if you want love…well, stop loading yourself up with hormones, go back to meditation, and keep your heart open for someone new.”
Fueled by our conversation and a bottle of pinot, my imagination painted two stories.
Heidi the Settler
Instead of hoping Mr. Right would gallop down my driveway in the nick of time, I’d take matters into my own hands. It was time to stop believing in my passion chimera and take up a new faith called pragmatism.
I envisioned having children on my own, moving to the mountains, and raising them living off the land. I’d join a female commune and craft an alternative, estrogen-infused lifestyle where women survived without men.
Hm. I did always want to chop my own wood. But this option would definitely end all sexual activity unless I befriended a neighboring lumberjack with questionable hygiene. My imagination shifted to settling.
When you are in your mid 30’s ‘settle’ is another word for ‘becoming mature.’ You see, some of my friends felt I needed to alter what I was looking for. According to them, I was childishly set on a ‘soul mate’, when what I really needed was a ‘mate- mate’, or someone to help me man a ship. Could I throw passion overboard?
For pragmatic inspiration, I revisited the infamous Atlantic article “Marry Him: The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough”.
The author wrote, “My advice is this: Settle!…Don’t worry about passion or intense connection….Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go.”
Hm. Interesting. Could stability over fire work? In many arranged marriages the couple learns to love each other over time, co-creating passion (while hopefully co-combating halitosis).
“To say that one waits a lifetime for his soulmate to come around is a paradox. People eventually get sick of waiting, take a chance on someone, and by the art of commitment become soulmates, which takes a lifetime to perfect.”
Heidi the Romantic
Then, another image emerged. It was a bustier version of myself on the cover of a romance novel with my bodice being torn open by a long haired latin man aboard a pirate ship.
Romance! I threw my biological clock into the sea, letting salt rust its gears.
Yes, my mind was was embarking on a different journey, clinging to my girlish faith in fate…and recollections of ‘true love’ in The Princess Bride, a film I committed to memory at age 13. (Dread Pirate Roberts-you DOOMED me for life).
As I wrote more lines in my burgeoning romance novel, “The Libidinous Buccaneer,” I knew I would embrace risk and hold out. The mere idea of kissing someone I’m wasn’t mad about (or sporting an eye patch) gave me acid reflux. My path was clear-it would be passion or solitude. I just hoped that passion and partnership were not mutually exclusive.
For anyone else in this boat-you face two dangers. One is never meeting anyone that lives up to your heightened fantasy. The second is meeting him too late to have children together. Is the chance of finding true love worth the risk of not finding it? And as you wait for fate to play its hand, how do you bide your time?
Perhaps by reading inspirational quotes…
“…and when one of them meets the other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy and one will not be out of the other’s sight, as I may say, even for a moment…”
SO WHAT WILL WE CHOOSE?
The most important thing isn’t WHAT we choose but THAT we choose.
When we choose-we take action and are no longer victims of PPP™. Some people choose babies, others romance but hopefully we all end up at the same destination which is really just more love. Remember, there are a million ways to have children in your life (hello Guatemala adoption!) and a million paths to fall in love (aka ‘the friend that becomes more’). Bushwhack your own.
Bushwhacking requires a lot of chopping. You have to cut out people and ideas that don’t serve you along your path. First, I decided to forgo babies (for now). Then, I severed all those tangly ambiguous ‘grey relationships’ (and I don’t mean the 50 shades type) so I would be free to sail to other places.
At first, this was scary. I had a lot of vulnerable ‘me time’. My cousin put up a sticky note on my bedroom mirror to remind me of my path:
“My highest intention for you is for you to keep your heart open. Live with purpose and truth. And blast circuits. Blast all that shit open.”
I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant, but I read that damn note every morning.
And then, something very unexpected happened. I became happy with my life as it was. Uncluttered, I was better able to pay attention to the world around me. I spent a lot more time outdoors. I reconnected with friends. Fuck–I was HAPPY. And I didn’t have a baby or a romance. But I didn’t care.
And then, of course, right in the thick of my carefree happiness, a romance emerged. Crazy. With a pirate! (okay, okay not a real pirate…but he does like the high seas).
Of course, anything could happen. Perhaps he’ll tell me to walk the plank. Or maybe we’ll capsize. My eggs in the freezer may get frostbite before I’m ever ready for them. There are no real insurance plans. But three things are certain.
- Making a choice gets you out of limbo.
- Making a choice empowers you to be happy. (It’s the unfocused that are sad!)
- Being happy allows you to better connect with those people, things, and ideas that matter to you.
So, what will you choose?
(For the record the child in the photo is my goddaughter. You see, there are many ways of having children in your life!).