That was the fertility deadline I gave myself, somewhat arbitrarily, when I was in my 20s. If I was still single when I was 36, I decided, I would freeze my eggs.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, that’s not what happened. When I turned 36, I was single, kind of: I was casually dating an older man who I didn’t want to give up, even though he told me he never saw himself falling in love with me.
I considered going forward with my plan. I bought a book about a woman exploring having a child on her own, but only made it halfway through before giving it to my roommate. I met with a fertility doctor to talk about egg freezing, but sat in a daze as she sketched out the low probability of the process working because of my age and other factors.
Frankly, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t afford to freeze my eggs, and some part of me just felt that I didn’t need to, though I wasn’t quite sure what that meant at the time.
Motherhood was all around me. Many of my friends already had kids, and shortly after my visit, four of my friends made appointments with that same fertility doctor. Some froze their eggs. One friend decided to pursue having a baby on her own.
At the same time, my desires were evolving. I was asking myself, What happened if I let go of the story? What if the rom-com version of love — meet your partner, fall in love, get married, buy a house, have kids, and live happily ever after — wasn’t the version of love I had to pursue, or even the one that would make me happiest? I started to imagine life playing out differently for me. It was uncomfortable, but also liberating.
But when my new employer expanded their fertility benefits last year, when I was 39, I reconsidered. I had never dreamed of my wedding day, but I wanted a family of my own because I had that family growing up — and still do — the one where my parents are happily married after 51 years, and we fly across the country to celebrate the milestone and mundane in-between moments. What if I met someone and we could not conceive because my eggs were too old, and I had chosen to not freeze them when I had the option? Why not keep this door open given we never know what each day is going to bring? I had the opportunity to have a choice and control over my body — and I took it.
After months of an administrative nightmare, I picked up the medicine I needed from the pharmacy, my friend came over and showed me how to mix them together; how to pinch my stomach, and inject myself with hormones. I felt empowered by the process, but disconnected from it, too. I was worried the hormones would throw my body and somewhat delicate psychological state off-kilter even more so as I was a year into the pandemic, and in an intense period at work; however, I was fortunate in that I did not have adverse physical effects from the hormones until after the egg retrieval procedure.
Of course, there have been ups and downs. My young nieces still ask me each time I see them if I’ll get married; my six-year old niece really wants to be a flower girl. I tell them I don’t know and think of a line from a Shel Silverstein poem, “Anything can happen, child, anything can be.” Family and friends still tell me, “Never give up. You’ll meet your person one day.”
One night, before the egg retrieval, my younger sister FaceTimed me and shared she was pregnant with her second child. Happiness washed over me, along with other feelings. As I sat besides my parents, who were visiting, words could not accurately capture my emotions, so I yet again pinched my stomach, gave myself the hormone shots, and then tears started streaming down my face: a mixture of happiness, self-pity, and acceptance running through my body.
My egg freezing process was successful, in that my doctor froze seven eggs. There are seven potential little Lindys in a fertility facility in Northern California. But what I hadn’t expected was that through this process, I would grieve and abandon the notion of carrying a child of my own with a spouse by my side, as well as a certain kind of life.
What happened instead was this: with each perfectly-calibrated hormone shot, I released myself from the pressure and the outcome of what would happen next. I gave myself permission to let myself see other paths of life more clearly, including the independent, self-sufficient, privileged life full of love that was already my own.
For years, I placed so much emphasis on the moment love would enter my life in the form of a romantic partner and then children. And yet, by living without these things, I created space in my life for all the other kinds of love and relationships that are as meaningful, particularly the love for self.
My fertility journey helped me loosen my grip on romantic love. I’ve always been open to adopting children and still am if that is where my life path takes me. There are many ways to build and create family; I had many forms of love and support in my life, and saw all of this love in a different light throughout this process.
I often ask myself what society would look like if we recognised personal growth as much as we did partnership. What if the goal was to date people we care about, and in doing so learn how to articulate our needs and desires and how to love ourselves first — even if it doesn’t result in a ring on the finger? What if deciding to pick up and move across the country for a job was as celebrated as meeting the person you want to be with for the rest of your life?
I’ve decorated my apartment not with gifts from a wedding registry, but with lamps from Brooklyn flea markets, a rug from Sayulita, Mexico, a console I found on the street when I first moved to San Francisco. I travel and go out on my own, read books at bars while making new friends. I run, practice yoga, and attend pottery classes, self-defence trainings, intimacy retreats, and writing workshops.
Each action required a courageous leap of faith and deep intention in creating a life that was true to my values, with or without a partner by my side; with each moment, I’ve welcomed a sense of acceptance for that life and how it is indeed one I’ve chosen.
Sometimes as I find myself lost in San Francisco’s foggy skies, I catch myself thinking about the experiences I’ve had that would not have happened had I chosen a different path: feeling the breezes on my face on the back of a moto ride in Rwanda, climbing to the summit of Mount Kenya, driving down the coast of Highway One and seeing the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash against the Big Sur cliffs, experiencing the magic of fall in New York City’s East Village.
And I think to myself, embracing a complicated type of gratitude tightly to my chest, This is exactly where I am supposed to be.