This isn’t an existentialist – or biological – question but it is a bit navel-gazing – literally. Because that’s the question that I was asking when I found myself 36, single, sitting at the kitchen table with a syringe in my hand, gazing at my navel, before stabbing my stomach with follicle stimulating hormone. Vignettes like that tend to prompt a little bit of self-questioning…
I’ve never been one of those women who were desperate for kids. In fact as a teenager I always thought I didn’t really want them – I used to joke that they might end up like me and my sister and who’d want that? I don’t think we were particularly difficult kids, but equally, my mum didn’t make it look particularly easy – or fun.
Then at 26, the boyfriend I’d spent six years with said that he wasn’t sure that he did want kids, and I realised – as you do when suddenly a choice looks like it might be taken away from you – that actually, I thought I did. That wasn’t entirely the reason why we split up, but I think having that conversation (alright, me getting drunk, raising the topic and then dissolving into tears roughly every three months for the last year of our relationship) made him realise that whatever he wanted, it wasn’t with me.
For seven years after that I didn’t really think about whether or not I wanted children. It just wasn’t really an option, so it didn’t figure on my horizons at all – if anything I became a bit ambivalent about it. Then, age 33, after lots of dates, a handful of one night stands, a fuck buddy or two, and a few short-term relationships – but nobody I’d introduced to my parents as ‘my boyfriend’ – I met S.
S was the one. Not The One (I don’t believe in The One – but that’s another post entirely). But the one that made me realise that relationships didn’t have to be hard work, they could be straightforward, and there didn’t have to be game-playing, sometimes things just work. He was the one who was going to be the father of my kids. After two years together, we weren’t exactly ‘trying’ (urgh, I hate that phrase) but we weren’t using contraception. Being with S I didn’t have to think about whether I wanted children. I didn’t not want them and I knew that he did want them so I knew if we were together, we’d have (or at least attempt to have) children.
And then we weren’t together. It’s a long story. It wasn’t my decision. I spent a year thinking we’d get back together (despite the fact that we didn’t see or speak to each other for the whole of that time – deluded isn’t the half of it) before realising we really weren’t going to. And when I thought – really thought – about why this upset me so much, I was quite shocked to realise that it wasn’t just the thought of him not being in my life, it was also that, despite the fact that we hadn’t spoken in a year, I still thought that S was my best chance of getting pregnant at the age of 36.