Yesterday, I met up with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a couple of months, even though we both live close to each other in Park Slope. I lead the life of a workaholic New Yorker and she’s a single mom. It’s amazing that we can ever find time to spend together.
We’ve been friends for fifteen years and had some fun times in our twenties, living in the East Village, and staying up until all hours dancing at Don Hill’s and other little holes-in-the-wall, back when dancing in bars was still legal without a cabaret license in NYC. Then she moved away to New England to study photography, fell in love, got married, had a gorgeous kid, and then got divorced. Now she’s a single mom, who’s re-starting her career and life in NYC after being away for almost a decade. It hasn’t been easy for her, being a single mom – finding a place to live in a good school zone, finding a job, staying sane. As I watch my friend struggle through all of this without a partner, I start thinking about how I’m not getting any younger, how I’ve been dating but not finding the person I want to settle down with, and the option of having a child on my own. It scares the living bejesus out of me.
I’ve always wanted to have children (although now I’m thinking it’s more like one instead of two – at least, not both coming out of my uterus). In fact, I always thought I would be married with two kids by the time I was in my late twenties. This was highly optimistic thinking on my part since I knew I was lesbian at age 17 and gay marriage wasn’t anywhere close to being legal yet, and I live in New York City where it seems that something in the water leads us to getting hitched and having kids in our thirties and forties.
Life just doesn’t go as planned. I’m 37 years old, single with a circle of friends I love, a caring but dysfunctional family in Queens, an interesting and challenging career, and ticking ovaries. I generally like myself and my crazy life, but when did I become that girl, the one who is looking to get hitched because she needs to have kids before her eggs shrivel up? I bet somewhere in TV land, someone is cooking up the idea of a Sex in the City for lesbians (yes, yes, there was The L Word, but it was based in LA and it ended like Melrose Place).
Over the past few years, I’ve watched friends, both gay and straight, go through the process of trying to conceive as they get older. I’ve watched the frustration of constantly trying, with fresh sperm, with frozen sperm, bodies pumped up on hormones and the every day process of tracking and listening for any signs that point to potential success. There are false starts and miscarriages. There are eggs that aren’t viable or sperm that just doesn’t move fast enough. There are countless visits to doctors and fertility clinics. I’m happy to report that most of my friends have been successful. There are newborns, toddlers and kids everywhere I turn in my life – those I know and the dozens I don’t as I sit in playgrounds with my friends, catching up and marveling at how they have changed, grown and become more selfless as they’ve had children. I watch their kids as I imagine I’d watch my own. (To be honest, I’m partial to the kids that are of the walking and talking age. Babies still frighten me, or maybe I just don’t like changing diapers.)
So I date, but instead of the light-hearted hopping-into-bed and flaming infatuation that most of my dating life has consisted of, my mind turns to finding a life partner. Is this person a good match for me? Do they have similar values? Are they marriage material? Do they want to have kids sooner rather than later? It’s a lot of pressure to put on somebody. Now I’m thinking it might be a good idea to get my eggs checked out and frozen for later use, so I don’t drive myself and the women I date insane, based on the desire to spawn. Technology has made it possible. The last time I checked, it costs about $10,000 for the procedure and a place to keep my eggs frozen.
My single mom friend and her son and I ended up at Prospect Park to catch Dan Zanes and the Brooklyn Youth Orchestra – a Celebrate Brooklyn concert for kids in the afternoon. We tossed a Nerf football around. I introduced him to onion rings. I spun the kid around in the air until he shrieked and begged me to put him down, only to have him beg me to spin him around again two seconds later.
Hi. I’m Deb and this is the beginning of my journey with learning how to date without freaking people out and exploring the multitude of options for having kids in my late 30s. I need all the support I can get.