In the midst of my 35th year, I contracted a bad case of baby fever. It happened all at once like an abrupt wall of brake lights on the Hollywood freeway. Until then, I thought the biological clock was a myth created by women dissatisfied with their careers or trying to mend wayward marriages. But this was no myth. After years of systematically thwarting pregnancy, I was out of my mind, crazed to become pregnant. But, I was in a dead-end relationship living in a city that seemed to foster dead-end relationships.
Several years earlier, I had finished graduate school at USC and decided real life was supposed to begin. I didn’t know what that looked like, but it did not entail being alone. After years of failed real-life dating, I caved to the lure of online dating and posted a noncommittal profile. Meanwhile my single girlfriends and I commiserated that Los Angeles was the worst place for relationships. We blamed it on the narcissism endemic of the Hollywood industry where romance takes a backseat to career. Singles were more likely to attend a networking event than go to a meetup where they might find a mate.
One day, I agreed to go out with a guy on an online dating site. We met at a café near his apartment on Abbot Kinney on a typical summer evening when it’s so warm you can wear a sundress at night. He was quick and clever and good at telling stories. We got each other’s literary references. We discussed our favorite films. He understood writing as a craft, not a hobby or dream. It didn’t matter when he shared that he didn’t see himself ever getting married or having kids. “Me neither,” I beamed.
Three years later, he was more interested in using his wit for dialogue than making me laugh. It became clear his career was his number one priority. I guess there’s something to be said about a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s when the baby fever struck.
One isn’t quite herself when suffering from a fever. Reality seems less solid, more pliable, even morally slippery. I became determined to mold the going-nowhere relationship into one that met the needs of my biological clock. I knew nothing had really changed. He wasn’t interested in having a family. I just didn’t particularly see that as a hindrance to my predicament. I didn’t need him to marry me, I rationalized. I didn’t even need him to be a father. I just needed his sperm.
I discovered there were other women with my problem, through a national organization with meetings all over Los Angeles. I chose a gathering in Marina del Rey. With the top down on my Jeep, I headed toward the beach. I drew in the sea air and merged on the 90, my heart pounding with the anticipation of finding my tribe. As soon as I stepped into the room, I felt like an impostor among women with infants tugging at their breasts and juice-spilling toddlers running amok. The ones with kids were talking to the ones without (me) about everything from the horrors of fertility hormone injections to adoption woes. Most had waited until they were in their 40s to try to get pregnant and here I was in my mid-30s with a boyfriend. Man, did I have a nerve.
At this juncture, the relationship with the boyfriend devolved from one of steady monogamy to friends with benefits. Somehow, I hoped, those benefits might include pregnancy. He insisted on protection. I admit it: I considered subterfuge. But a fertility doctor quickly disabused me of any turkey baster schemes. The doctor informed me it was perfectly acceptable to purchase the needed material from a donor at a sperm bank. (The idea was so foreign to me it had never entered my mind.) This was the eureka! moment that cured me of insanity, lifted the fever and led me to officially break off the futureless relationship. I still wanted a baby; I just wasn’t willing to commit larceny for one.
I didn’t need a man after all, and I never had.
Choosing a donor, I soon discovered, was as daunting as dating in LA.
This one’s got hazel eyes, but his idea of a good time is playing Mortal Kombat. This one plays piano, but he’s a foot too short. This one reads Tolstoy but wrote in his personal essay that his genes were too perfect not to share with the world...
Some women reported getting so overwhelmed with the hundreds of variables, they made a spreadsheet.
It was easier for me because as soon as I chose “Mexican” in place of “white,” I only had to contend with six possible donors.
Two months later, I had knocked myself up.
When my son turned 1, I met someone who not only didn’t mind I had already started a family but was delighted when the chubby brown baby began calling him “Dada.”
Eventually we married, and to this day, I’ll look at my husband with our son and remember how convinced I was that I didn’t need a man.
That was absolutely true.
Turns out, all that time, all I needed was love.
The author is currently taking a break from Los Angeles in the south of France where she writes as a cultural critic and can be found on Twitter @sheanaochoa
L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
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