Washington - Two years ago, I bought a subscription to a sperm bank. I relish togetherness, and single parenthood was not what I had hoped for. But I was 37, and it seemed to be where I was headed.
As age 40 crept closer, I had a personal reckoning. I remembered the poodle people, and more and more, waiting to have a baby felt like a game of chicken. Perhaps I was impatient; any day could bring a great love. Conversations with my friends who are parents helped crystallize my options.
"Parenthood is not a rational choice," my friend Kathleen said. "You will be poorer, sleepier and more stressed. And yet?" She laughed as her little girl climbed on her like a jungle gym. Some things could not be sorted by thinking. I kept dating but began planning.
I logged on to a sperm bank website to find that, oddly, it felt like a dating site. Rather than get distracted by donors touting their celebrity look-alikes, I looked for the fundamentals: health history, signs of emotional stability and intelligence (mostly math skills to cancel out my inability to calculate a waiter's tip).
Despite its Match.com vibe, the site went deeper than the endless chatter about travel and fitness that fill dating websites. The content was not profound, but it seemed to describe genuine human beings. As I clicked through, I happened upon a math whiz in his 30s whose answers hinted at an entrepreneurial venture that had gone bust.
His life was not unfolding to plan, and I could relate. I recognized myself in our similar ancestries, shared passions and even an abiding affection for the sitcom Friends. His profile revealed that he was an optimist and that he was driven to make a contribution to the world.
Near the end of his profile, I noticed his answer about what he might like to pass on to his children.
Point by point, he championed taking risks, always learning and making art part of everyday life. He extolled the virtues of exercise as passionately as he did the joy of caring about people. He cared as much about healthy eating as he did about finding love after heartbreak. His fervency rose off the screen.
This was a man whose vision of the world focused not just on himself, but other people. I imagined an older version of myself sitting with a 10-year-old, reading this letter and telling the story of how someone had reached across space and time to change my life and make theirs possible.
I called the sperm bank as soon as it opened the next morning and secured enough specimen for several pregnancy attempts.
About six months after I made the decision, a friend set me up with a kind Sri Lankan man who worked in global health, as I had, too.
When we finally parted early the next morning, I looked at my phone to see that our mutual friend had been texting for hours, insatiably curious about how it had gone. My reply was giddy, high from the combined effects of attraction and compatibility. Maybe single parenthood wasn't my future after all. Waves of newly valuable platitudes washed over me: It's always darkest before the dawn. Love comes when you least expect it.
I saw him twice more before he left for a long work trip to Africa, and as we said goodbye that night, he suggested that we take a trip when he got back. But when he returned, he called to say that, while away, he had met another woman. He offered to meet me for coffee, but I declined and rushed him off the phone. A familiar sinking feeling took hold in my chest.
But I felt something unfamiliar, too. I sensed a new invisible presence, a new support. It was the sunny, big-hearted math mind I had been so lucky to find among the profiles six months earlier. He was still there, and soon after, I decided to try for a baby.
But getting pregnant would not be easy for me. I first tried a year ago and am now in the middle of treatment for a fifth pregnancy attempt. Last month, I walked into the fertility clinic for what seemed like the 100th time and had my blood drawn for what felt like the 1 000th. Having been asked for it so often, I recited my sperm donor's ID as effortlessly as I would my Social Security number.
I breezily daydream about what pieces of this guy might show up in a little boy or a little girl along the way. And then I go back to the clinic with a little less heaviness in my step, a little more sunniness in my disposition.