Editor’s Note: The author is a writer and teacher in Los Angeles. She is at work on a young adult novel and is on Twitter @LLcoolquinn.
Nobody warns you about turning 35.
Turning 30, you hear all about: It’s the end of your youth! First gray hairs! The whole year I was 29, I felt 30 approaching like a pair of headlights on a semi. When 30 actually arrived, though, I felt better than ever.
Finding a partner felt possible, probable. It would happen when I least expected it, everyone told me.
But again and again, I found myself dating someone who couldn’t or wouldn’t commit.
Even though I longed for true partnership and a family, something about the yearning and distance of unavailable men kept drawing me in. With them, I didn’t have to risk the real intimacy I desperately craved.
Then 35 crept up like a mountain lion: a rustling in the grass, a flash of fur, a vague sense of foreboding I couldn’t quite pin down. Even strangers felt the need to weigh in with warnings.
“These are critical years,” a seatmate on a Southwest flight told me after we got to talking. “I had a friend who spent years dating a guy who wouldn’t commit. All of a sudden she was 42 and it was too late.” She had newscaster hair, a Tiffany’s tennis bracelet and her own failing marriage. “I’ll pray for you,” she told me as she hugged me at the Burbank luggage carousel.
Her words echoed. A few weeks later, I broke it off with the latest guy.
Which left me 35 and single. I could feel that mountain lion circling. Call it my biological clock or the death of my youthful optimism. Call it whatever you want, but it was poised to pounce.
Things got bleak. I tried practicing acceptance. Maybe this is it, I thought — living in my studio, teaching high school, going on hikes with friends. Perhaps I could live a fulfilling, contented life that didn’t include a family. I could volunteer. I could get a cat.
Embracing this lonely vision of my future felt less painful than holding out hope for something more.
In my heart though there remained a longing that all the heartbreaks hadn’t stamped out. I wanted love, a family, a baby.
That’s when the decision came to me. It started with an Instagram post written by someone who also had found herself single at 35 and having a child on her own. She hadn’t waited for some guy to give her what she wanted. She’d gone out and gotten the life she wanted.
Soon after, I caught my fingers Googling, “Having a baby on your own.” And then I was reading accounts of women who had become single mothers by choice. “I have the rest of my life to work on my intimacy issues,” one woman said. “I have a couple years to have a kid.”
It was like a bell ringing. Someplace deep inside me, deeper than the disappointment and expectation and hurt, recognized myself in those words.
Becoming a single mom by choice seemed insane though. I was a public schoolteacher, not a lawyer. I didn’t even have paid maternity leave. How could I afford day care, diapers and doctors’ appointments?
I expected people to think I was crazy, but they were supportive. “It’s so inspiring,” my eyebrow waxer said. “You’re gonna be a good mom,” my nieces said. “I wish I’d done what you’re doing,” a childless mentor, 15 years my senior, said.
My dad was among the most supportive. “I saw so many women of my generation throw their lives away on loser guys because they didn’t think they could do it on their own.” He and my mom came into a modest sum of money and decided to give it to me. “There’s nothing we’d rather use this money for than helping you have a baby.”
My brother wanted me to move home to the Bay Area, where he and my retired parents could help. He and his wife had recently sold their house in San Francisco and moved into a more spacious one in Oakland. “You can stay with us,” they said.
An acquaintance who had recently conceived through a sperm donor began messaging tips. Friends reviewed baby photos of sperm donors with me. One performed fertility reiki on me (hey, it’s still L.A.).
Everywhere I turned, people were rising up to help me.
There was more love in my life than I’d ever realized. I had been like Dorothy, searching for something that had been with me the whole time. It may not have been the romantic love I craved for so long, but it was love, make no mistake.
I gave myself a year to save and strategize. In that time, what the hell, I’d keep going on dates. I was done holding out hope. I just wanted to put on a pretty dress, eat good food and smooch while I still could.
When the topic of children came up on these dates, I was straightforward about my plans. Having given up on finding romantic love, I no longer had any use for dating rules about playing it cool. The men responded with encouragement and questions but never called for a second date. Fair enough.
So I expected the same thing from Vishaal, a botanical consultant I met on Bumble. We had our first date at Joy in Highland Park. I felt it only fair to inform him as well: “I’m planning on having a baby by myself.”
After dinner, we exchanged a brief but tender kiss outside the restaurant. And then I drove home.
I was surprised to receive a text later that evening. He said he’d had a great time and wanted to see me again.
Btw when you were driving, I noticed you have a taillight out.
Lol it’s been out forever! I responded.
Three days later, he showed up at my apartment with a new taillight. He installed it on the curb outside, admitting he’d YouTubed the process for my make and model, just to be sure he had all the right parts. I watched in bemused disbelief as it took him five minutes to fix something I’d lived with for so long I’d forgotten it was even broken.
Earlier this year our baby girl, Asha Plum, was born.
Today we’re getting married in a socially distant micro-ceremony on a bluff in Santa Barbara. Our daughter and parents will be present, and about 200 friends and relatives will be watching on Zoom.
It’s the final step in consecrating a love and a life I’d given up on finding — and that somehow, amazingly, have become mine.