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The Lucky Sperm

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We were three single women approaching 40. We had great careers, plenty of short-lived relationships, but no enduring romantic prospects and no children. Just as it seemed least likely that we'd ever be parents, one by one, we got lucky.

When Carey hit the biological midnight of her 39th birthday, she bought eight vials of anonymous donor sperm and prepared to become a single mother. The day the vials arrived in her clinic's freezer, she met the man who became the father of her two children and eventually her husband.

Like any good post-millennial girlfriend, she offered the vials to Beth, who was single after a nasty divorce. She accepted the offer and promptly met the man who became the father of her child and her husband.

Carey and Beth gave the vials to Pam. Voila. Pam met the man she's marrying in June. He's the father of her two daughters.

So here we are in 2011, nearly a decade later: No longer spontaneous, single, and juggling successful careers and blind dates, we're now in committed relationships juggling child rearing and work. Fairly conventional lives achieved unconventionally, and our lives certainly aren't what they used to be. We were lucky. But -- like so many other career-oriented mothers -- we've also learned that "having it all" means having to let some things go. Or not having it all at the same time.

Carey has a great job at a public radio station, but that came after being laid off from a daily newspaper when they swept out their part-timers. Beth hides out at the library to get her writing done away from the distraction of marathon Lego sessions. Pam is teaching and getting married in June. But instead of waving a registry price wand at Pottery Barn, she's washing baby bottles, making preschool lunches, and grading student papers in her bathroom.

Motherhood for us came with plenty of cliches -- serendipity, romance, chance encounters in snowy cabins and under the stars. But our stories also included the downsides of love found later in life: miscarriages, fertility issues, the difficulty of giving up identities we'd had for decades, and being a lot more tired than we'd have been in our 20's or 30's. We're not alone. According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, the median age for brides and grooms in the United States is higher than it's ever been, and there's a significant increase in first-time mothers over age 40.

As journalists, we had the confidence to make snap decisions, keep ourselves safe, and to mostly know what we were doing. We reported on the fall of the Soviet Union and the passage of civil unions. We taught in blighted schools and interviewed celebrities. We could pack a bag and travel with an hour's notice. We had deadlines, we had editors, and we had sleep.

This life is different, though there are still plenty of expectations and demands. There's no editor to correct our errors or redirect our focus. Remaining balanced is difficult, being spontaneous often impossible. Sometimes the frustration gets to us. It's ironic that when we're working we sometimes yearn for our kids, and other times when we're with our kids, we'd rather be working.

We're bracing ourselves for the inevitable challenges of puberty and adolescence, and wonder how our kids will eventually feel about marriage and children (and if we'll still be around to find out). While we can't write our children's futures, we're hopeful about what lies ahead for them and for ourselves. Mostly, though, we're grateful for the opportunity to wonder at all.

Pamela Ferdinand co-wrote this post.