I don't need a man to have a baby. I don't have to find "The One" and fall in love and get married to procreate. My body doesn't actually care if Cupid has shot my heart straight through with arrows. Love and sentiment technically have nothing to do with the fact that since my menstrual blood began I have been able to have a baby -- whenever I want.
My eggs are sitting inside of me, waiting, waiting, for their chance to engage. They've been here all my life, hundreds of thousands of them, clustered so patiently. They are quiet, tucked away from the outside world in a semblance of security. For most of my life I've barely given them a thought, hidden away as they are in the dark, deep red recesses of body and emotion.
You'd think that such a profound feminine gift would have crossed my mind more, but it hasn't. Sometimes I take for granted what I already own and instead dream of what I desire. While some women know all of their lives that they are meant to be mothers, my youthful ambivalence has been my armor, shielding me from the tougher questions of how we are beholden to one another.
But it feels like a both a blessing and a curse, this gift, as I have woken to the knowledge that my ability to generate life is a choice bound by time. Suddenly, it seems, I am thirty- four and single and my horizon has become a tipping point of fertility. How did I get here so quickly?
Thirty-five is the age that statistics site as the significant beginning of fertility's measured tread towards menopause. It's shocked me to realize that my eggs are in decline. What's shocked me even more, however, is the realization that there is no need for me to wait to act, to wait for love, to wait for a man, if it's children that I want. I am single, yes- but I am not alone.
This isn't how my mother did it. This wasn't a choice that even occurred to her, to be a single mom by design. My mother wanted children and found a husband to have them with. He worked and she took care of the kids. He brought in the money and she brought up the next generation. I was conceived with the values of a 1950s nuclear family practically embedded in my DNA.
Even so, I've never been one for convention. Where people are going has always been more interesting to me than where people have been. In the United States today, traditional nuclear families now constitute a minority, roughly 24% of households compared to about 40% in 1970. There is a rising prevalence of other family arrangements, such as blended families, binuclear families and single parent homes. This shifting landscape demonstrates that what's becoming most important about family has less to do with structural values and more to do with emotional values. Children raised in any of these circumstances need the same thing- positive role models, a sense of belonging, some rules and expectations and someone who loves them unconditionally.
Here I am, faced with choices. I feel lucky to have them, to be a free woman in a free country, with the financial and emotional capacity to provide for a baby. I wonder at this weaving path that embracing love can conceive. For the first time in my life, when people ask me, "Do you want children?", my answer is yes. But I have begun to consider the question: What does family mean to me?