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How I've Learned to Live With My Desire For a Family As a Single Woman

My all-consuming baby fever was making me miserable.


Art Credit: Lucy Taylor

I don’t recall the exact moment it hit me, but I think it happened somewhere between the 30 year mark and Super Single--the longest point I have ever been without getting to Date 2. At first it came on slow, but then every baby I came across made me do a double take. Each one was the cutest, most precious thing I’d ever seen. Babies on the street, babies in commercials, babies on Facebook.

Before I knew it, every baby I saw stirred this inner desire I’d never tapped into before. I want that! I thought.

But, that wasn’t a reality for me, and it was hard to see when it would be. In Super-Single Land, I was barely making it past the first date, let alone pondering when I could bring a child into this world. Still, I found myself settling into a tunnel-visioned desire for motherhood that made me miserable.

Sure, thanks to modern science, I could bypass the whole “baby daddy” thing and satisfy my desire for a bundle of joy on my own time. But part of me wondered if I viewed this baby with the same entitlement as puppies and luxury vacations.

When I confided this newfound obsession with a married friend of mine, I learned I was not alone. But more than that, I learned that–like it or not–wanting it badly enough didn’t guarantee I would get it.

My friend and her husband had been trying to conceive for years. Nothing worked. They timed sexual encounters around ovulation, sat through countless anxious doctor’s visits, considered all range of fertility treatments, all driven of the desire to experience the great joy of parenthood.

Call it a timing problem, a cosmic glitch, or obstinate biology, the truth is, fertility is a fickle thing. It happens for many woman almost effortlessly and may never happen for others. For Type-A personalities like me, this was tough to digest. Hard work and dedication are the credos for success for goal-oriented people, but this was out of my control and I hated it.

Could this desire for something beautiful like a baby consume me? Could it take on some uglier form of resentment, entitlement, or envy of others who have what I don’t? Almost like keeping up with the Joneses, reproductively speaking.

But ultimately, I’ve come to this conclusion. I must live my life now, and find contentment; whether I’m single, married, with a family or not. Perhaps this hunger always goes unsatisfied, but I know that miserably pining after something I might never have won’t make me feel whole either.

And so I cope by counting my blessings, even if it seems forced. For now I can use my maternal instincts to nurture people in ways other than pregnancy. I will still hope one day to have a family, filled with the giggles of children and the chaos of holidays. But if it doesn’t happen, I’ll walk a different path with no less peace or purpose.