I was still in my mid-twenties when I was first told that I would probably never have children on my own. Diagnosed with Stage IV endometriosis, doctors said my case was too aggressive and that if I ever hoped to conceive at all, I needed to attempt IVF right away.
There was a lot of back and forth that went into that decision for me. I was still very, very single, and had always believed I would have a partner by my side when I decided to build a family. But I also knew that building a family was something I absolutely wanted to do, and I had to admit that I really wanted the experience of being pregnant. I wanted to be able to carry my children beneath my heart. I wanted to be the one caring for and nurturing them from conception. And I wanted to watch as my body grew and changed with that new life I was protecting.
I wanted to be a mother. And I wanted the chance to be pregnant. So, I decided to give it a try.
Of course, there was fear in that decision as well. I knew how much my life was going to change. I knew all I was about to give up. And in the back of my head, I feared that one of the biggest sacrifices I would be making was to my love life.
I was pretty convinced that embarking upon single motherhood, by choice, was going to be the end of dating for me. I was never going to have sex again.
And then … I met a guy. In between failed IVF cycles One and Two, I met someone who actually dated me while I was trying to conceive.
I did have sex again.
Unfortunately, my IVF cycles failed epically and I didn’t get pregnant. But there was still sex. There was still romance.
When things didn’t work out with him, I went through a period of worrying that I was done anyway. That even though I hadn’t gotten pregnant, I was still a woman who now never would. Any man I ever considered anything long-term with would have to know I couldn’t give him babies. And I feared that would be the ultimate deal breaker.
Once more, I convinced myself I would never have sex again.
And then … I met another guy. A guy who knew my story and wanted me anyway. There was still sex. There was still romance.
And so my fears dissipated, and I relaxed.
A few years (and failed relationships) later, I decided that I had a home to fill and love to give. I realized I didn’t need to give birth to be a mother, and my heart completely opened up to the idea of adopting from foster care. I suddenly saw myself adopting pre-teen and teen girls. The kids who had been in the system long enough to have given up hope.
I wanted to be the one to renew it for them.
But life had other plans, and just a week before I completed my foster care certification, a chance encounter led to a woman I had never met asking if I would take her baby — a baby that was due to be born in just a week.
I went from infertility to motherhood in just seven days.
That week held a lot of fears for me. A lot of, “Holy crap, what am I doing?!” moments. It was one thing to talk abstractly about becoming a single mother, and to make small steps towards that goal. But it was another thing entirely to be thrust so unexpectedly into that role.
One night in particular, just a few days before my daughter was born, I woke in a panic and thought to myself, “This is it. I’m about to have a newborn, and all the responsibilities that go along with that. There will be no more time for dating. No more time for love. I’m really never going to have sex again.”
And then … my daughter was born. And I didn’t care. Because I had never been as in love with anyone as I suddenly was with her.
Of course, that love consumed me. There were times in her earliest months where I found myself thinking, “I have no idea how married couples do this. I have no energy for anyone but her.” And it was true. I couldn’t fathom having someone else to cater to. Someone else to support or navigate around. She was the only person I had anything left to give to.
Over time, that intensity diminished. She started sleeping through the night, and I did too — a shift that made a huge difference in my ability to interact with other human beings. But one thing didn’t change: she was still my greatest priority. The most important aspect of my world.
And I still feared I would never have sex again.
Today, my daughter is 3-and-a-half-years-old. And my dating life is … well, non-existent. There are so many factors that go into that, though. I’m a single mom by choice, which means I don’t have an ex taking her every other week. I’m a mom 24/7. So dating involves lining up babysitters and planning far in advance. Something that’s made all the more difficult by the fact that I live thousands of miles away from family, and my closest friends all have young children and jobs and busy lives of their own to navigate.
Getting a night away is no easy feat.
Then there’s the fact that I share this home with my daughter, making me all the more cautious about inviting any man into it. Before her, I wouldn’t have hesitated to ask a man I liked over for dinner or a movie in. Now? I have to really know someone before I feel comfortable bringing them into our home.
And what single mom of a preschooler has the time to really get to know anyone, anyway?
Plus, I’ve been out of the dating world so long now, I no longer even know how to interact with men I’m attracted to. Sexual frustration has left me awkward and bizarre in situations I used to thrive in. I don’t even know what I would do if a man kissed me right now. I’d probably melt into a puddle of hormones at his feet.
But more and more lately, I’m convinced that my earlier fear might actually be true: This time, I might never have sex again. Because here I am, only growing older by the minute, missing out on my prime dating years while everyone around me is making finding the one a priority.
And I can’t … because I already have a bigger priority to focus on.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve come to realize in the last few years that if I had to choose between romantic love and the love I have for my daughter, it wouldn’t even be a contest. I would choose her. Every time.
I guess I just never really thought I would have to choose. I never really thought it would be motherhood or love. I always assumed, in the back of my mind, that somehow, some way, it would all work out.
I’m not so sure anymore, mostly because I can’t wrap my head around how I would ever facilitate the time necessary to fall in love. Let alone the time spent committed to trying to find that guy worth falling in love with.
And since casual sex is out (again, mostly due to my tiny roommate and my unwillingness to allow anything casual into our home), I’m kind of screwed.
Except … I’m not! Which, I suppose, is the root of the problem.More On