My first proper boyfriend dumped me a few weeks before my 18th birthday party. I was heartbroken and thought very seriously about cancelling the party, locking myself in my room and watching Running On Empty on repeat, fantasising that if River Phoenix hadn’t so tragically died he would definitely have come to my rescue and we’d have lived happily ever after.
I’m trying to remember what my ‘happily ever after’ looked like when I was 18. I’m sure it was much simpler than my life has actually been, and I’m sure I didn’t expect to have quite as much fun – or heartache – along the way, but there is something missing from my happily ever after. A relationship and children.
At 35 and single, I realistically have 5 years to make that youthful presumption a reality.
I always admire women who know for sure whether or not they want children. Recently I heard a story about a woman who decided with her partner, when they were 24, that they never wanted to have children. She got sterilised. They are now in their 60’s, still together, blissfully happy and don’t have any regrets about their decision. I also know women for whom having children has been the focus of their entire life and they have been unable to conceive. Although they get on with their lives it must be hard not to feel that something is missing. We don’t always get what we want and there are not always happy endings.
With the opportunities afforded to women nowadays, many of us forget to think about starting a family until it’s too late. After a certain age it seems there are two tribes of women in this world – the ones with children and the ones without. Of course they overlap and are still friends but they will never truly understand each other again. Where do men fit into this equation? They don’t have a time limit on when they can choose to have children and consequently many men I know don’t want to think about having children until their mid-forties – but of course they have to because we do, even though science has made it very likely that my generation will live till they are 100, women’s bodies have not caught up with this evolutionary miracle. We have (very recently!) come up with ways to make the blind see again, but we still cannot find a way for women to have babies later in life easily and safely. If I want to live ‘happily ever after’, I need to make a decision soon before my biological clock strikes twelve.
It is difficult, though not impossible, to make this choice without a partner. Unless you have an overwhelming desire for motherhood, which many women do, it is a real conundrum to know what to do next if you are unsure. Maybe that’s why biology has not yet caught up with us – the arrogance of youth makes you stride into parenthood without wallowing in this mad middle-aged fear of the future.
I’m not gonna go out and find a boyfriend just to get knocked up, that would be mental. But maybe I should open myself to the possibility of falling in love, of settling down, rather than living for the moment. One of the best reasons I’ve heard for having children came from my sister – because they make you laugh. That’s pretty much all we can wish for.
However, I suspect I’m approaching this all too logically, after all life is full of surprises, and I may not be able to have them anyway, who knows? I have never approached any aspect of my life with a plan so I don’t think I’m about to start now but in order to face what’s next, I need to make peace with the fact that I may never have children.
You’ll be pleased to hear I didn’t cancel my 18th birthday party and when I returned from sobbing in the toilets something wonderful happened. The music stopped and a couple of the boys started to click their fingers and walk towards me. Then I heard;
‘You never close your eyes any more when I kiss your lips…’
I found myself surrounded by 8 rugby playing teenagers singing badly, trying to be like Tom Cruise and just trying to make me laugh, which it did. There is always a smile around the corner.
So, in spite of the fear and anxiety about facing what’s next, I don’t think I’ll cancel my plans for a happily ever after. It might just be a different one to the one I pictured with River *sigh*.