Two days before I left South Dakota, Rex and I sat talking beneath an open hatchback. In the distance, a lightning storm moved toward us over the open expanse of the Great Plains, casting a murky purple sky.
He raved about lithium batteries.
The more he talked, the more he and I seemed to have nothing in common. I consider myself someone who can become interested in almost anything, especially when I’m attracted to the person speaking. But now I ask myself: Do I care about the battery?
He and I are volunteers on the Pine Ridge Preserve, building and repairing infrastructure. He was the first to greet me when I reached the end of the long dirt road. When he climbs out of the cab of a backhoe, and I see his face, my body warms up.
In this lyrical version of what happened as the storm approached, we would stop talking and value the pleasure of our bodies. But my desire to have children made my dating in my late 30s feel less like a poem and more like a math problem. There’s a lot to queue up, and what I’m looking for now is different from what I envisioned when I was young.
I’m not interested in dating someone for a certain amount of time before we have kids, fall in love, or get married. I want to like my child’s biological father, be able to admire him. That’s about it. I hit this set of criteria because the alternatives seemed emotional and impractical, especially given the husband-to-be wish list many of us championed in the years we were ready and can have children.
With the help of a meditation practice, I’ve found that the more I worry about pregnancy, the less aware I am of love, an effect I fear will increase as I get older. How can I trust my judgment under pressure? Won’t many men start to smell like fathers?
I decided the safest way to protect myself from romantic fantasies was to separate the two stories at the outset: I could be trying to find a life partner or become a mother, but not at the same time. Since biological constraints make it easier for me to figure out which is more urgent, I decided to have children out of the love context.
My solo trip to South Dakota was conceived as an experience of my future self, a shoulder of a dependent who will one day thank me for it. When I returned home, I planned to get pregnant using an unnamed donor’s sperm.
On my last evening with Rex, kissing in his tent, I realized there were so many things about him that I didn’t know – who was in his life, where he worked, his last name. he.
Before I crawled out of his tent, he asked for my phone number. He went home to Michigan, and I went to California. I told him that I think we should leave things as they are, which seems perfect to me.
“What, are you crazy?” he said, and he gave me his number.
Back home, I pored over donor questionnaires at the local sperm bank, trying to figure out who liked video games and who liked playing pool, but it all mixed up. bland for me.
However, the phone conversations with Rex were strange and memorable. He has inherited his father’s sayings such as “Son of a cookie!” and “Jeez O’Pete’s!” Dotting the hens laying in his backyard, he often calls himself “the chicken mother.” He’s the only 30-year-old adult I know who has flown exactly once, a domestic round-trip for a former job.
We don’t talk much about the parts of our lives that exist beyond the present. He says his relationship with a woman in Michigan is fracturing. All he knew about my motherhood was that I wanted a baby.
When my search for a donor stalled because of a lack of warm feelings about any of them, friends offered to sift through records with me the night before my 40th birthday. Two donors had consent from my friends, so I put myself on a waiting list to collect their sperm, although I still felt conflicted.
When I finally told Rex about my stalled plans to become a mother, he said, “I can help you with that.”
I was silent. Then I said, “Don’t say something without thinking about it.”
He has no interest in being a father or co-parent, so the scenarios we discuss assume that by the time I give birth, he and I will no longer be romantically involved.
Soon after, he visited me in California and had his first experience with a stranger soaking in hot springs naked, his first contact with thousand-year-old redwoods (he cried). ). He delivers precise, non-clumsy strokes; His hands were full of life. We are still working on our sponsor arrangements. We also fell in love.
I went to stay with him in Michigan, where he taught me how to use a chainsaw and care for chickens. Finally, he followed me back to California, driving all the way towing a homemade trailer full of tools.
During this time, we’re trying to live two separate stories: the one that we’ve been trying to conceive for months, and the one where we’re still getting to know each other. But the more we enjoyed ourselves, the more confusing our situation became. If I get pregnant, will he quit? If I am not pregnant, will I switch to another donor?
About a year after he offered to be my sponsor, we started having difficult conversations. And between them, I became pregnant.
It’s his generosity that he really vibrates with me. Inwardly, however, he began to retreat. He still doesn’t want to be a father or co-parent; The thought of either brings back old wounds from his childhood. Every day due to his indecision I tried to convince him to stay. Most days, I’m sane enough to realize that doing this would harm both of us.
On the day he left for California, he took a picture of me looking haunted. Then he got in his car and drove east. It’s Father’s Day.
After he left, I jumped into action, interviewing midwives, scouring the internet for used baby supplies and trying to explain to my unborn baby why I cried so much: “I’m sorry mom. I’m fine, just sad.”
Then, weeks later, without warning, a message arrived: “I made a terrible mistake.”
It was then that I realized he wasn’t the only one.
When love and a baby coincide with me, I still believe that I can separate the two and remain essentially unchanged. It wasn’t until Rex and I suffered that I could see that the pure reality I envisioned never existed between us. It evaporated as soon as he greeted me at the end of the dirt road, and my body responded with warmth.
Buddhism is founded on the fact that suffering is caused by desire, which at first glance can make both suffering and desire sound obviously bad. But the beauty of suffering is that it offers the opportunity to have a curious and tender relationship with desire, to listen to it rather than try to dismiss it. Often what I hear beneath the surface noise of desire isn’t the problem, it’s just the people: the vulnerability of having a messy life with other people.
In Rex’s absence, I remember that looking after a lover or child is dirty work, in the healthiest sense. We do not fall in love or have children to assert our views and preferences. We do it, at least a little, to soften our single, solitary clinging to reality and invite the unexpected, the unexpected, and the unexplainable.
This – call it clutter, or riches, or energizing hands – is what is beautiful and natural about being an animal whose palate is beyond our comprehension. Being faithful in the deepest sense to a lover or baby is saying yes to something strange and memorable before you know you want or welcome it.
Rex has come to this in his own way. He told me that since he left California, he had been listening to fatherhood podcasts and looking at my photo he took the day he left. He also cried. And he wants to come back.
“With the baby?” I said. “Or with me?”
“Both,” he said.
And he did. He sold his heaviest tools, repainted the walls, and put his home in Michigan for sale. And two months later, he was back in California just in time to hold our son in his arms.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/style/modern-love-seeking-a-father-for-my-child-relationship-optional.html Looking for a Father for My Child (Relationship Options)