I need to tell you an IMPORTANT THING about me.
I'm 36, and am currently single for the first time in about 14 years. For more than 23 years, I have suffered from disordered eating. When I turned 31 or so, I began to get serious about recovery, and now I can count myself as fairly advanced in my recovery, if not fully recovered (but yes, I do believe in that).
But none of these things are the IMPORTANT THING, they are merely the supporting cast of facts and things in my life.
The IMPORTANT THING is that I want to have a baby.
Yup, baby fever, I gots it.
Funny thing: I never really wanted to have a baby. Growing up, "have a baby" was never part of my life fantasy: I valued things like living in a big city and being a famous writer-artist more. Even when I was married, I was very much on the fence about having a baby. But when I was 31 or so, things changed. Following the dissolution of my marriage, I got into another relationship fairly quickly. This relationship was pretty important in many ways, but for the purposes of this article, for two reasons. It: A) made me realize it was time to get better and B) made me realize that I really value, desire, and want to have a family.
I want to have a baby that I can dress up like a little cupcake or unicorn (regardless of gender). I want a little kid who will likely terrorize my life by crying and doing baby stuff first and kid stuff later and teenage stuff even later.
But, you know, I could also love that currently nonexistent kid and teach him or her how to draw and how to bake cookies and share the beauty of the world that I see and shit. Maybe if I got another book deal I could dedicate the book to my kid. My mom dedicated a book to me when I was young and it was basically the best thing that ever happened to me. You know...joyful stuff.
I'm sure I have no idea of what it would really be like. People always say that nothing prepares you, right? But don't I deserve to find that out for myself?
I haven't actually said any of this out loud, publicly, so I feel vulnerable and a little misty just having written it.
Having a baby is on my mind right now, for a few reasons in particular.
First, the Lack of Baby was a Big Cause of my recent breakup. Disagreements about when, how, if. After several years of such disagreements with no actual resolution in sight, I realized that the hard thing (extricating myself from the relationship) was also the right thing for me. But fuck, it's hard being single, especially after about 14 years in two back to back monogamous relationships. Which leads to #2...
Second, as it turns out, guys are kind of jerks. Maybe I've just been lucky that I haven't been in relationships with jerks before? Or maybe in the last 16 years that I've been spoken for men just all turned into jerks? Or perhaps it's just that they can sense my desperation, the fact that "please love me and tell me you want to have a baby with me right now" is just on the tip of my tongue at all times? Which ties into #3...
Third, I am 36 and while I know that women have babies way later than me (Janet Jackson at 50, for instance, yes I have googled the crap out of this) I can't help but feel like I can actually feel my eggs drying up inside of me and soon my chance will pass. Not to get TMI, but I was starting to develop a more regular menstrual cycle, but since aforementioned breakup, the cycles have gone back to my anorexic rate: that is to say, nonexistent for the most part, with an occasional brief hello every few months.
Which leads to the fourth thing...being able to get pregnant. Honestly, I am not opposed to having a baby alone. I don't necessarily relish the idea of going to a sperm bank and not having a partner, but I'd rather do that than not have a baby. However, the lack of regular menstruation/ovulation scares me and makes me wonder if even with a willingness to go it alone...what if that isn't actually scientifically feasible?
So, with the sum of these four big things going on in my brain related to the IMPORTANT THING, I'm in a little bit of turmoil. I'm not happy to say this, but it has affected my eating disorder recovery. How?
In a nutshell...
Life feels out of control. I don't like feeling like life is out of control, so I turn to the structure of food (or lack thereof). I have been very strict about mealtimes and I have been counting calories in the past few weeks or so. This feels like a huge letdown because upon moving, I was doing so well. Of course, that feeling of inadequacy only keeps the restriction and hyper-structure going.
I feel not good enough. Recently, I had beautiful moment where a cute guy hit on me when I was on a trip. He was super sweet and I gave him my number. We texted a bit but then he went silent on me. I jokingly (like a cool girl, I thought? obviously not) asked him if I had scared him off and he said "out of sight, out of mind, I guess". Seriously? Fuck you, asshole. I am incredible. And yet...and yet. The not-good-enough-feeling began to poke through. That nasty little seed of doubt.
FEAR. I feel like it's not going to happen for me. I'm scared. I'm scared that even if I go to the sperm bank my ED past will prevent me from actually successfully conceiving. I haven't made the appointment yet because honestly? I don't want to know right at this moment. The only thing scarier than not knowing is the idea of knowing that it's not going to happen for me.
So what should I do? Well, I know what I *should* do.
I should sit down, be quiet, and be thankful for all that I have. I mean. I have written books. I have an incredible career that is unlike any other that allows me to have adventures and draw unicorns. I was able, based on the earnings of this highly unlikely career, to buy a house in a major city. I am talented and smart and interesting.
But then there's that voice. That little yet LOUD voice that says..."But I still want it".
In spite of all that I have (and I have a lot), it's hard to not focus on the thing that I don't have: a family. The ache is staggering at times. It has caused me to cross the street when I see a pregnant woman or a baby in a stroller because it hurts to much to be close to it. It has caused me to go drive around in my car and scream and cry after friends tell me they are pregnant (this is after I held it together enough to be happy for them of course). Even in the darkest moments of my disordered eating, I never felt too small. Ever. But now, for the first time in my life, I feel too small. I don't want to be thin if it means living without this.
At this exact moment, I don't know how to feel totally fulfilled. I know how to feel happy and I have many moments of it--don't get me wrong. But I don't know how to feel totally fulfilled without a partner and without a family. It sucks, dude.
To be completely honest, my heart feels like it is breaking approximately 72 times a day. I feel alternately like a strong woman, like a loser, like a success story, and then like a sad, wrinkled old sack. It's complicated to feel these things and also believe in magic, unicorns, and true delight, but somehow I am able to. We're all complex beings, what can I say.
Anyhow. I don't know if I necessarily had a big take-away or life lesson to offer with this post. Itwas more that I wanted to be crystal clear honest and share the fact that in spite of so much beauty and goodness in a life, there can still be pain, doubt, and insecurity.
Maybe the takeaway is that yes, we should be happy with what we have, but sometimes it may be important to acknowledge what we want, rather than stifle it and keep it quiet in hopes that it will go away?
So, yeah, I want to have a baby. I don't know if or how it will happen, and this kind of kills me inside. As it turns out, there's a name for this sensation. As I learned from this article (which is completely worthy of a read), it's called "disenfranchised grief" which is defined as
"the grief you don't feel allowed to mourn, because your loss isn't clear or understood. You didn't lose a sibling or a spouse or a parent. But losses that others don't recognize can be as powerful as the kind that is socially acceptable."
I hope that I don't have to mourn. I hope that I can have a baby. I also hope that I can accept it and not sink into depression and "thin is the only answer" if it doesn't happen. But for now, my hope is that by sharing it here, I can shed light on some of the shame and sadness I feel around it, so that I can at least begin to remedy the disordered-eating setbacks that have come along with the whole situation.
I love you all so much for reading!