Should I knock myself up?

The right guy hasn't come along, but I'm ready to have a kid

Published September 13, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I feel like my life is at a crossroads, and either direction I take is going to have major consequences.  I am 33 years old, almost 34, and I just ended my umpteenth relationship. There was nothing wrong with the guy -- we just were taking different paths.  I consider myself to be ultra-capable.  Right now, I am working for a political organization while teaching a college course and finishing my dissertation and taking on freelance work on the side.  I volunteer, I exercise, I have family and friends I love.  The only thing I have felt is missing in my life is a child.  

Like any woman at my age and in my situation, I always figured I would meet a man, fall in love, and have children. But, as I went out and lived my life, living overseas for a while, working in public life, extending my studies as far as they could go, it just never seemed to happen. I've dated (and dated and dated) since college, and none of them really "'clicked" with me.  I have been accused of having a "strong personality" and I like to lead -- many friends think I will probably hold office one day -- and the men I tend to associate with are just uncomfortable with that in a partner.  But I'm not writing for relationship advice.  I think I will likely meet someone someday, or maybe not, but I can't force it.

What I am thinking, though, is that I will likely be in the same situation at 39 that I am at 33-almost-4.  I know for sure that if I am still single at 39, I will have a child by donor.  So if I know that for sure, I have begun to think, why not do it now?  My situation is nearly perfect for artificial insemination.  I have the money to do the procedure, I have healthy parents who live nearby and are willing to help out, and I myself am certainly in better health than I will be at 39.  I have read dozens of studies and stories of how fertility starts to go downhill at my age and the heartbreak women near 40 experience trying again and again to conceive.  What if I wait until my late 30s and then can't get pregnant? What if my family is no longer able to help? I think I would regret it forever if I knew I could have taken this chance and didn't.

But a strong part of me is finding it very hard to let go of what "should have" happened -- that maybe if I just wait, the father of my child could be right around the corner.  I know it's important for children to have fathers, and I know I'm risking a lot in denying a child that chance.  Plus, I am also thinking of the possibilities I would be shutting the door on if I did have a baby on my own -- maybe I could run for Congress!  Or write a book! Or ...

So what should I do, Cary?  Am I worrying too much about "should"?  Is having a baby earlier than later a good idea? Or is my clock clicking too loudly and I should just break it?

Contemplating the Turkey Baster

Dear Contemplating the Turkey Baster,

There comes a time to act.  It sounds like that time is now.

Don't let your difficulty in letting go of what "should have been" prevent you from taking action.

It is often said that "a child needs a father." Ask a lesbian parent if this is so.

A child needs what a child needs. If the child's needs are met, what does it matter the gender of the person who meets those needs -- or how many people meet those needs, for that matter? Does it matter what gender cradles the child, whose laugh the child hears, who sings the child a lullaby?

This is a big life choice but you have thought it through and conditions are right.

I think you should do it. If you meet the right man later, you can have more kids with him.

I don't have any prejudices in this matter that I can discern, but I will tell you this: I grew up in a two-parent household, and I needed my dad to teach me how to throw a baseball because my mom couldn't throw worth a damn. She was also a terrible pitcher. But she taught me about architecture.

Don't worry about caregivers' gender or number. Worry about love.

By Cary Tennis

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