Recently I was having drinks with a friend, and she asked how things were going with my boyfriend.
I responded truthfully: I am really happy.
Her query turned to well-intended concern, tinged with slight suspicion, when the topic of children came up.
It’s no secret to any of my friends that I want to be a mother; my boyfriend, unfortunately for me, does not want children.
This should be a deal-breaker, I know.
At 41, I don’t have years to hope my partner changes his stance on children. More importantly, I don’t have the wherewithal to attempt to change the mind of a 50-year-old man. We are both strong-willed and fiercely independent people.
Well into the final phase of my fertility, I am faced with a decision: have a baby on my own or stay with a man who has made himself perfectly clear. Yet here we both are, neither of us planning to be in this situation. Both of us unexpectedly together and happily so.
One night, defenses down thanks to a finished bottle of red, we admitted as such. What could have easily been a heated argument, or at the very least, a rather tense conversation, was instead filled with laughter. Smiling, we stared at each other and gushed with how much we just simply like each other.
I didn’t think that, at my age, I would find someone I could stay up all night talking to like a teenager – much less wake the next morning, turn over, and resume the conversation. My boyfriend has been a calming, extremely supportive presence in my life, a nice surprise after spending my 30s relatively single.
Society pressures women to have children, and doing so at a young age can mean we miss out on becoming the women we are meant to be. Sometimes we buck the trend at the expense of our own fertility and panic at the gamble.
I have spent my entire adult life preparing to be a mum. I spent a decade in therapy unraveling the damage instilled by my parents. I progressed my career; advanced my education; traveled and worked across the globe; crawled my way out of debt – all so I would have zero regrets about being a mother and feel as self-actualized as possible before taking on the responsibility of creating and rearing another human.
I wasn’t going to depend on a relationship to become a mother. Many women have come to single motherhood through various means, and I am grateful for the women who have paved the way, often times unwittingly, for this to become an intended option.
I’ve spent the past year undergoing fertility tests and was encouraged to learn that I still – much to the surprise of my doctors – have a relatively high ovarian reserve. I hit the gym to prepare my body for pregnancy, completed required education modules for IVF and sperm donation, and read articles from women who conceived using a donor.
Once I received British citizenship, I knew being a single mother would be more of an option for me, if not the only option. Generally speaking, life in Scotland is less stressful than in the US and there is more government support for would-be mothers. There is maternity leave and maternity cover to guarantee your job, and there are child benefits. Public school starts earlier. None of these advantages completely alleviate the difficulties of parenting, but they provide a better foundation. I couldn’t see myself having a child in the States, through any means.
Scotland also offers more choices for how I could become a parent: adoption is based on a comprehensive assessment of a potential guardian. Single women are not precluded nor is there an upper age limit. In fact, you don’t even have to own your own home, and you legally cannot be charged adoption fees. Government-funded IVF treatment does have criteria, but privately funded IVF treatment is slightly cheaper than in the US. Although adoption through fostering is not readily encouraged, it is not impossible. As soon as I received my citizenship, I felt a slight ease of this biological pressure women who want to be mothers face. I could take a beat and not make a decision motivated by pure panic.
My boyfriend and I are at a crucial phase in our new relationship: dating less than a year and approaching the holidays. It’s usually this time when couples decide if the romance is viable enough to continue.
I don’t take my partner’s decision on children personally or lightly. It has absolutely nothing to do with me, nor does it represent his feelings for me, and I respect that he did not acquiesce to his previous partners. Still, even if he were onboard with having children, I’m not willing to rush a relationship because I’m bound to a biological timeline. Nor am I willing to forgo birth control and “accidentally” fall pregnant. I have seen the effects a “surprise” pregnancy has on a man. My IUD remains intact. Even if I wanted to push him for a biological child, given our age, a pregnancy would take a concerted, no-doubt, medical effort with mutual consent.
I adore this man, and despite his Darcy-like ways, I happily fling myself against his wall of English reserve: smiling at his grumpiness, attracted to his stoicism. I do believe I am seeing him for who he is. He is an extremely generous and kind person. I have watched the eyes of men I’ve dated before glaze over as I spoke of my dreams and goals. My guy, secure in his own education, experience and career, is not only engaged, he comes equipped with ideas and encouragement to move me forward. He’s the type to take a day off work to attend a conference at which I nervously presented; to pay for the repair of a ring, the last gift from my grandparents, so I could wear it to my citizenship ceremony.
He is a sensitive spirit, and I am so grateful to have him in my life, given my pained dating history. Because of this, he is getting the best of me. One night, fresh out of a bath he had drawn for me, belly full from a home cooked meal he had prepared, as he was editing an article I had written, I realized: I am in the relationship I’ve always wanted. He would have to do something particularly cruel for me to not want to see this to its potential.
What’s even more frustrating is that he is naturally great with kids and would make an amazing father. At 41, I have found a man who comes close to everything I’ve realistically wanted. If he were it all, then he would be perfect. And you and I both know perfect doesn’t exist. Given that, it’s actually not that surprising he doesn’t want kids. There had to be something, amirite? The more I fall for him, the more I know my urge to have “a baby” will become a desire to have “his baby”.
But my boyfriend doesn’t want children, and I have to respect that. However, I will not forgo my chances at motherhood to appease him or maintain our relationship. And that is a decision I do hope he chooses to support.