Author Sarah Elizabeth Richards decided to freeze her eggs in her mid-30s while dating Paul, who wasn’t interested in starting a family. She saw it as her future family insurance policy, but as time passed, Paul’s opinion on babies didn’t change. From her book Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It.
I started playing a little game with myself to see how a baby would fit into our lives. Throughout the day I asked myself, “If we had a baby right now, what would we be doing?” Could I still go swimming? Could we take her to brunch? When I woke up to use the bathroom at 5 a.m., I thought, “If I had to get up right now and couldn’t go back to bed, would I mind?” On Sunday nights when Paul was working at his computer and I had finished watching Big Love, I wished I could help a child get ready for bed: chasing her down the hall after a bath, reading her stories or negotiating which stuffed animals she could have in her crib. I imagined Paul and me sneaking in to check on her while she slept, swelling with pride that we had made such a beautiful child together. The child-free books promised a life of order, but I was starting to choke on all our peace and quiet. I craved noise.
I didn’t want to miss out on everything for fear of sacrificing my freedom or enduring a few sleepless nights. I wanted it all: sullen teenagers, tantrum-throwing toddlers, social studies homework, messy schedules, and babies crushing Cheerios on the floor. I’d been on enough trips. I’d sat through enough long dinners. I’d slept in enough weekends. I knew that even with kids, I’d still be able to do those things sometimes. I knew the years would fly by, and I would have decades left for more child-free living full of convenience, condos, and cheese plates.
Sometimes I felt hurt that Paul couldn’t tolerate the inconvenience of one little baby, even if it meant losing me—that he would rather have none of me than share me with a child. But I realized it had nothing to do with me. Even though Paul would be an amazing father, he didn’t want to be one. Just as I couldn’t argue myself out of a need, I couldn’t convince him of a desire. And I had run out of years to try.
Sometimes I wondered whether I was choosing a baby who did not exist over an actual man who was here now and made me deliriously happy. It felt as if I were choosing which limb to cut off. If I thought about losing Paul, it hurt. If I thought about losing Claire, it hurt. But I knew I didn’t really have a choice. If I stayed with Paul and didn’t honor my desire to have a child, I would grow to resent him. No experience with him could win in that kind of contest, and no requited love could survive unrequited baby hunger; in the end, I’d have neither husband nor child.
And just like that, I made a decision: I wanted a husband and a family. The baby panic rushed back, but this time it wasn’t the old hyperventilating variety. It was the helpful, encouraging kind that said, “If you want this, girlfriend, then you better go get it.”
And so one Sunday evening I told Paul what I had been avoiding for more than three magical years: I needed to go after what I wanted.
Because he loved me, he let me go.
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