“I want to have 11 kids when I grow up.” This could regularly be heard coming out of my mouth as a child. But then I went to college and law school and somehow lost my conviction. First and foremost, I wanted a partner. I told myself that after I had found the man of my dreams, we would figure out whether we, as a couple, wanted kids.
But the partner never materialized and by the age of 39, I started to realize I needed to decide once and for all if I wanted to have a child. I consulted my OB/GYN, hoping I’d be told it was no big deal to keep waiting. Egg freezing was still experimental at that time and I was now 40, already past the prime age for egg freezing anyways. Instead, my doctor delivered devastating news – I was likely already infertile. “If you want to conceive, you will more than likely need to use donor eggs,” she told me unceremoniously, oblivious that it was some of the most crushing news I had ever received in my life.
'I Almost Gave Up'
I had so many emotions about this news. I felt deceived and mislead. I had assumed that getting pregnant in your forties was no big deal. It was the dot-com boom in the Bay Area and so many women, like myself, were focusing on their careers instead of having kids. It seemed like everyone around me was easily giving birth in their forties. I had naively assumed that IVF and other technology could overcome fertility challenges caused by age.
I almost gave up on motherhood. What was the point of doing it alone via sperm and egg donation? As someone who had been fascinated by the nature vs nurture question my whole life, I worried I would miss something by not having a genetic connection to my child. But, instead of succumbing to my knee jerk reaction, I spent time connecting to why I wanted to be a mother and eventually came to terms with this completely different path.
Now I am the mother of a 3-year old boy and have no regrets. There’s something beautiful, simple, and streamlined about being a single mom. Every day gives me the opportunity to feel like superwoman as I manage my own business, two dogs, tenants, house maintenance... and the list goes on.
The fear that I would not feel connected to my child? Completely gone from my psyche. There’s no doubt that I got exactly the child I was meant to have. I can’t imagine it any other way.
Letting Go of the Fairytale
Luckily, egg freezing is an option for women now so fewer women may end up in my position. And, with egg freezing all over the news after Facebook and others began offering it as a benefit to their employees, is that women seem to be more aware that fertility seriously starts to wane after the age of 35.
For most women, becoming a mother doesn’t fit their fairytale vision. So many of us are forced to rewrite the script in some way. Maybe it happens earlier or later in life than planned, partnerless for any number of reasons, via adoption or other reproductive technology. It rarely changes the outcome. When women are brave enough to open to new possibilities, of motherhood, they experience the same intense, unimaginable love and connection to their child.
My hope is that women, faced with disappointment about how motherhood will come to fruition, find the courage and tenacity to keep going until they find their own unique path.
This essay was written by Sarah Kowalski, author of Motherhood Reimagined: When Becoming A Mother Doesn't Go As Planned and a fertility doula, family-building coach, postpartum doula, and mom of one son.