Written by Sadie Scotch.
I type the words: Have a baby.
The cursor is blinking at me, looming at the end of the first line of my to-do list, beckoning me to hit delete, delete, delete. This line initiates, or annihilates, all the steps to follow.
I always thought I wanted to have a baby, but now I might not have the choice to conceive. My Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH), which predicts one’s ability to produce eggs, is akin to that of a 50-year-old. I just turned 39. A high AMH test result also forebodes low IVF success rates, which would have allowed me to have a baby in the future. My score is 0.3 whereas the median level for my age group is 1.5, so IVF isn’t an option for me. Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI), a procedure which places sperm directly into the uterus, is now the only assisted reproductive option remaining on my list, but success rates for people in my age cohort are still only around 10%. And the downside is, you are immediately pregnant!
I even bought sperm! I paid $2,000 for a young man of German, English and Cherokee heritage like me (who is a doctor and on the taller side) to deposit his semen into precious vials.
Half a baby. Every six months I pay $600 to a Manhattan reproductive endocrinology clinic to keep those vials on ice – fancy ice, I snark. I might have put that plan into motion a bit too hastily.
If I find all the money and my shoddy odds align, how and where will I even raise the kid? I live in Brooklyn with a roommate and her three pets where boxes of wine accumulate on the floor. And my mom’s dead, so my kid would have but one grandparent, a grandfather who loves the idea of having his first grandchild and a little one to carry on his name, but already told me he wouldn’t be able to help out. ‘Not emotionally,’ he said.
When to commence my 21st-century turkey-basting? I think I should do it in about a year. Maybe less. I don’t know. Too many statistics and apprehensions wake me up in the morning, haunt me while scrolling through dating apps and smack me in the face while pondering the various versions of families that pass me in the streets.
Would IUI work into my 40s if I wanted to wait just a little bit longer? I really want to snap my fingers, fall in love and have a baby that way…but I haven’t been in a relationship in eight years and the one before that was an additional ten years prior, so, I don’t have a lot of luck in that department. The chance of me getting what I “really want” seems the least likely option of all. It didn’t even wind up on the shortlist.
Or could I be happy childless? I think if I hit 45 and there are no children in my life, effectively turning the page on that chapter, I won’t have to drone on and on at a useless job confined to one place. Wake up, go to sleep, and do everything else throughout the day alone. I only see the point of that monotonous existence in “older age” as a means to support a family environment. I made some money working overseas for ten years. I could turn my savings into a private retirement fund instead, travel frugally, and make the most of my final decades. I could meet fascinating people in far-out cities instead of watching Disney shows and eating leftover mac and cheese. I can drink margaritas in Key West with few bills and no dependents to interrupt my joy. It sounds OK. Sort of.
When I tell friends about my dreams of sperm and baby concoctions, some ask why I don’t just go out and have a one-night stand? Sounds easier and cheaper. Or, why not find a gay couple with which to make the baby? It’s better for a kid to know both parents anyways. As if I hadn’t thought through these options already! A one-night stand surprise baby doesn’t line up with my puny egg reserves, for one, and co-parenting with strangers sounds like Russian roulette. Maybe if I could snap my fingers twice, I’d take a rich gay couple that would raise the kid whenever I wanted my freedom and give it back when I felt like being a mother. Please, fertility gods, grant me this choice. All the options are right and wrong at the same time.
With or without a baby, I will continue to pursue real-life romantic relationships. I confidently put a check next to that box. Would a man want to raise my preexisting offspring? Would being saddled with a kid repel someone who might have otherwise loved me with a little bit more ease? That pros and cons list is slanted towards the cons, I note regrettably. Is there even an end date to looking for love? I don’t think so, but would it be better for my mental health to stop trying to find a long-term, committed partner to share my life and parenting responsibilities with? Maybe.
Back at the top of the list, the flickering cursor is like a ticking time bomb of fertility, shame and happiness wrapped into one. I feverishly want to strike all the options from the page, except for the one that’s hiding in plain sight: Be loved.
About the Author
Sadie Scotch grew up in rural Pennsylvania – New Hope to be exact! – and started her international traveling career at age 16 when she became a Rotary International exchange student to Belgium in 11th grade, then to Paris in college and Brussels to work at NATO after college (Lehigh University). She got an MBA from the University of Cape Town after working around the African continent in a sales role and after a two-year backpacking stint in Asia. Her essays have been featured in The Smart Set. You can follow her on Instagram or get in touch at [email protected]!