At 36 years old, I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I may never have kids. Like many American women, I’ve waited and waited and waited. I go about my day, not even thinking about the inevitable scenarios—that my eggs are getting old, that I only have a couple years left to get pregnant, that my boyfriend has said repeatedly that he doesn’t want another child.
Mostly, I feel happy with the freedom in my life. I exercise when I want, write, cook, read, and have peace from noise and chaos. I like my life how it is.
But on other days, it mows me down like a freight train, and I lay on the sailboat in San Francisco where we live, crying, sulking, and wondering where I went wrong in my life that suddenly my eggs are in their golden years. I wonder if it's my biology screaming at me that it’s now or never, taking control of my mind and emotions. I feel like a crazed Jekyll and Hyde, sometimes wanting a kid so badly I can barely breathe, other times not at all.
I’ve wanted kids my entire life. I always imagined myself in a family of three or four, with my partner and me loving each other and kids who played nicely together. My vision was almost 1950s family-esque, where I’d stay home and care for the kids while my husband would go off to work.
I think, in adulthood, I wanted to mend the broken fabric of my childhood, where I watched parents and stepparents fight and divorce, then divorce again. I wanted to create something peaceful and whole so that I could finally experience my ideal family.
At 22, I planned on working as a journalist for seven or eight years, then quitting my job because I’d be raising kids. But that never happened. I went through the motions, dated the wrong men—men who were nice but never felt quite right. When I broke up with my last boyfriend at 33, I thought there was still a chance to have a kid and settle down.
Then I met Tom.
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He was handsome, with blue eyes, dimples, and a northern Minnesota accent. A guitarist, hiker, sailor, adventurer. A man who thought outside the box. We started hiking in Marin County on weekends and jamming the blues on guitar and drums. We moved out of our apartments and lived “homeless” in a tent and a car to pay off debt and save up an emergency fund. His “dad jokes” made me laugh. I found him beautiful.
Tom had a daughter, a pre-teen, and didn’t want another kid. Slowly, my perspective on motherhood started to change. Instead of envisioning myself as a stay-at-home mom, I started thinking about what my life would look like as an adventurer. Tom was shopping for sailboats, and I pictured us traveling to far-flung places like the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific, the sight of green land making me cry after four weeks of endless ocean blue. We’d hike the islands, swim in lagoons, sit beneath waterfalls, fish with harpoons. I’d write articles and books and read while drinking a cold beer as the boat bobbed near staggeringly beautiful tropical cliffs.
This is one version of how I envision my life.
As I’ve grown in age, I’ve noticed that I’ve become more selfish. I’m used to my life the way it is. I enjoy my quiet moments with Tom, moments that would be few and far between if we had a child. Now, when I’m around small children and babies, a part of me shrivels at the sound of their crying, their endless needs.
I wonder if I can truly handle being a parent after so many years of freedom, quiet, and choice.
But sometimes, when I imagine sailing around the world with Tom, there’s a child onboard. She’s blond, with light eyes like us. We teach her about the environment, diminishing native populations, the death of coral, the plastic in the sea. We take her on adventures, and she doesn’t quell our freedom—she becomes part of the adventure. We carry her on backpacking trips, help her learn to swim in one of those tropical lagoons. She eats fish and breadfruit in Tahiti, walks through ruins in Cambodia, hikes national parks in New Zealand. I homeschool her on the boat, and she grows up with children of the world.
And then I realize I’m in love with this other vision of my life.
But I’m 36 years old, my eggs are aging, and I’m with a man who doesn’t want another kid. Maybe he’ll change his mind. Maybe he won’t. Maybe I’ll end up adopting. Maybe I won’t. I can’t tell what the future will hold.
What I do know is that I want to travel, have adventures, see the world, sail the oceans, and be with Tom. And that is a pretty good deal.