We recently talked about making the choice at an early age to never have kids — here’s a post about the opposite.
When I was little, my rendition of “house” always included pretending I was a single mother struggling to make ends meet. I’m not sure if my eight-year-old self could foresee the future, or if I was just making do with the fact that I didn’t ever have a boy to play my “husband.” I dabbled in dating as a teenager. By “dabble” I mean my relationships never lasted more than three months and most were more like a few days. I just never had much interest in men (or women, for that matter), sexually speaking.
Now, if I ever have to explain my sexuality, I consider myself asexual. For me, life seems much more simple by myself, and sex isn’t great enough to make it worth the effort. A psychologist would probably delve into explanations of past trauma, but I am perfectly happy feeling the way that I do. I don’t think I have ever lost my eight-year-old vision of single motherhood. As much as I have never seen myself in a long-term relationship, I have never seen myself not having children. I had never seriously thought about how it would happen, I just knew it would.
During those years of dabbling, I also started to develop some symptoms of endometriosis. It started out as pain with periods, but by the time I reached 19, I was having pain all day every day. The pain came in waves of intensity, but at the height of it, I would sometimes even pass out.
I must have tried 20 different birth control pills. If anything helped, it only did so for short periods of time. Every time I would visit my gynecologist, I would beg her to do a hysterectomy. She would laugh and we would joke, but there was always an underlying seriousness to it. There came a time when she sat down and said, “Amy, I’m not quite sure what else I can try for you.” She alluded to the fact that the only real solution actually was a hysterectomy.
Jokes aside, this really scared me and I didn’t want it… but this was no way to live a life. So I asked her about pregnancy. She told me that my pain would go away during my pregnancy, and probably for the whole time I breastfed. My mom had endometriosis when she was younger, and hers disappeared completely after her first pregnancy. I was skeptical that this would be the case, but hopeful.
I sat on it awhile. This was a huge decision. I was 20 years old and a senior in college. Very few people make the conscious choice to get pregnant at this age. I wanted to go to graduate school. I was nervous about money. I moved back in with my mom so I could start stockpiling cash just in case.
I waited almost another year. I finished my undergraduate degree and I started a two-year master’s program. As the episodes of passing out grew closer and the reality of the danger came to the foreground, I made a plan. I would get pregnant in September so that I could have the baby in the beginning of the summer, be able to stay home with her/him until school began again. At that point, I would only go to school and not work any longer. I had quit my part-time job and gotten a full-time social work position while attending school full-time as well to save up money. I was as ready as I could be.
I had to pick a sperm donor. It is the strangest thing to look through lists of prospective fathers and try to pick them based on height and hair color and career choice. I cannot put into words how weird it is to know that if you choose one donor over the next, you will have a totally different child than you would have otherwise. As much as you’d like to think you aren’t, you are essentially creating a designer baby.
After fertilization after fertilization failed, I decided I was going to do IVF. Amazingly, my insurance company covered a lot of the cost due to my medical problems. When I got the news by telephone that my blood test had come back positive, I jumped up and down so many times that I thought I the baby would fall right out. I have to admit, there was definitely an “Oh shit. What did I do?” moment. But more than anything, I was ecstatic.
It’s funny how plans work. I had planned to get pregnant in a timely manner so that I could have the baby in the summer. Instead, she was due in the middle of the semester. I had worked out plans with my teachers and the site supervisor at the guidance office that I would be doing my internship at so that I could take a few weeks off after the baby was born. But plans never work out and the health of this baby was top priority, of course. So I took up daytime television, bought Rosetta Stone, and spent the next two months in bed.
There have been times when a partner would have been nice — like when the crying wouldn’t stop for hours and I thought I would go insane. When her temperature closed in on 104 and I was terrified. When I wish I could buy nonessential things and still be able to feed us on our savings that now has to last twice as long. But mostly I appreciate the fact that I get to make all of the parenting decisions. Every time I hear someone complain about how their husband wouldn’t do this that or the other, I’m silently thankful that I have no expectations. I assume that all responsibility lies with me.
I know that I am the one who needs to get up with her every time, without exception. I have no one to be angry and resentful towards because they don’t live up to whatever expectations I have put in place for them. I’ll never worry about a custody battle or if her dad will let her get a tattoo after I say no. Doing everything yourself is immeasurably easier when you know that is the case from the start. Sure, there are great partners out there and resentment is not always the case — I just prefer the ease of not worrying about maintaining a relationship along with my other responsibilities. A personal choice, for sure, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Six months after my daughter’s birth, I had my uterus, cervix, and one ovary removed. I’m still storing my frozen embryos and paying annually. Maybe I’ll use a surrogate one day, maybe not. But I like to keep my options open.
(This post was originally published on Offbeat Families in January 2012.)