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L.A. Affairs: Love, marriage and a baby. After 40

Alycea Tinoyan's illustration for Dina Gachman's L.A. Affairs column
(Alycea Tinoyan / For The Times)

I met Jerett on a Jdate at a time when we had both nearly given up on finding love in L.A. I was 39 and he was 41, and we’d both experienced our share of ridiculous dates, failed relationships and nights spent wondering, “Am I really going to die alone in a city of 4 million people?”

Maybe our first few phone conversations felt so effortless because we had no expectations and nothing to lose. Then we met in person, and from the first date it all felt equally natural and easy.

I wasn’t sure where we were headed, but I was all in.

For the first two dates, he drove from Eagle Rock to Venice to pick me up. As a longtime Westsider, I had no clue just how far that was. Then on date three, it was my turn to take the 10 to the 110 to the 5 to the 2. As the miles (slowly) ticked by, I started wondering if this relationship was doomed by distance. (Traffic turned me into a nightmare version of myself.) You know it’s love in Los Angeles if you’re willing to drive across town for a date. It’s the ultimate test.

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I come from a long line of stubborn, learn-the-hard-way women who never fit in, so maybe that’s why I’m not a fan of Mother’s Day.

I pulled up to his Spanish bungalow, shook off the traffic stress, and climbed the 51 steps to his front door, having no idea that in a year this would be my home too, that we’d get married nearby in La Cañada in a beautiful oak forest, and that our “honeymoon phase” would be cut short by forces beyond our control.

On this gorgeous August day, all I knew was that we were going on a hike near Chantry Flats, and that I was wearing brand-new workout pants because I wanted to impress this guy with my casual-yet-seductive hiking ensemble. I had very likely met the only handsome, kind, Jewish-doctor-triathlete-handyman in L.A., if not the universe, so my outfit had to be on point.

On that third date, we had a short and vague conversation about wanting kids one day. I was nearing 40, and I was in deep denial about the fact that most women struggle to conceive past, say, 35. I imagined that if I didn’t die alone in L.A. and if we did get married, I would get pregnant, we would have a baby, and life would be a dream.

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Besides death and misery, the pandemic has brought new habits and unexpected changes. Some are keepers.

Life was a dream, for a while. Before we got married in that beautiful oak forest, we traveled. We spontaneously went out to dinner; we had romance. I wasn’t in total denial about my age, though, so we knew that if we were going to try and conceive the old-fashioned way, we didn’t have the luxury of waiting.

Two months after our wedding, we started trying.

As many couples know, unless you’re very lucky and very fertile, this is when the honeymoon phase tends to come to an abrupt, screeching halt. I had read all the articles about plummeting fertility statistics and geriatric pregnancies, but it was still a devastating realization. We agreed that if we didn’t have a child we would travel and find fulfillment and happiness in our lives, together. But we weren’t ready to give up just yet, and so, like so many other couples, we reluctantly but hopefully waded into the waters of IVF.

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If the worst thing that happens to me during this global pandemic is that I have to buy new pants, I will weep with gratitude.

Few things will throw a wrench into your romantic life like going through IVF and spending all your time talking about injections and bruises and blood tests and progesterone and transfer dates — and let’s not forget the cost. We were lucky to have the opportunity to even try IVF, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

It strained our relationship and left us nostalgic for those early days when everything was so effortless and easy, when we could go on a hike and talk about our future dreams instead of stress about what time we needed to do the next round of shots.

Eventually, I did get pregnant.

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In the early weeks, when every bodily function sent me into a tailspin of fear and panic, I called my sisters constantly. One day, hearing the terror in my voice, my sister Kathryn said, “You worry when you’re pregnant, you’ll worry even more during labor, and you’ll worry even more than that when the baby is born. So try and think of this as a lesson in letting go. You have to let go.”

Eight months later, when Jerett and I walked our newborn son, Cole, up the 51 steps to our house, I remembered that advice. I’ve gone back to it over the last two years when things get stressful or tough, when I think back to the easy days of dating and find myself daydreaming about our short-lived honeymoon phase.

I wouldn’t trade that phase for what we have now, which is changing diapers in our 40s, cutting Saturday night dinners short because of toddler meltdowns, and accepting the fact that our midlife living room is decorated with Paw Patrol trucks and plastic robots instead of cool yet breakable art and antiques.

Five years ago, when we got married in that beautiful California oak forest, we had no idea what was ahead.

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What my sister’s advice about letting go helps me realize now, though, is that we stood under the oak trees on our wedding day, our hands clasped in love and hope, not because the honeymoon phase would last forever, but because it wouldn’t, and for the rest of our lives we would have to learn, together, to let go.

The writer is the author of “Brokenomics” and is on Twitter @TheElf26.

Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary: L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles — and we want to hear your story. You must allow your name to be published, and the story you tell has to be true. We pay $300 for each essay we publish. Email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here.


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