I ran into a fellow swimmer at the Santa Monica YMCA Annual Healthy Kids Day, a celebratory event held in their basketball gym, complete with bouncy houses, arts and crafts, giveaways, handouts, and vegetables. Events like these are schedule fillers for parents who are trying to fill up their weekends with activities designed to fatigue children. Healthy Kids Day from 11am to 1pm Saturday – check!
So I had my 5-year old boys and 5-month old infant in tow, and my swimmer friend had her 4-year old girl. The daughter bore a striking resemblance to Mom, who is a strikingly attractive and newly single doctor Mom. I know her, although not well since she swims in the next (slowest) lane over from me during Master’s swim workouts. There can be upwards of 80 swimmers in the pool during any one workout, so there isn’t much time for chitchat, especially if you don’t share a lane (lanes are arranged by swimming speed capabilities.)
We were having the most extensive, least superficial conversation of our relationship right there on the floor of the gym. She was impressed as she watched me handle my three boys, and confided in me that she desperately wanted another child. Since she currently has no man in her life, it would have to be via IVF with an anonymous sperm donor. The tears started to flow as she went on to say that she’s had to keep all of this on the down low because she feels judged by everyone when she tries to share her exciting plans.
“Isn’t your daughter enough for you?”
“Why do you need another child?”
“Aren’t you afraid of having a stranger’s sperm inside you?”
I was in a similar situation almost a decade ago (except for the stranger’s sperm part) when I decided to adopt a newborn as a single guy. For every supportive friend was another one who wondered why I would ruin my perfectly comfortable beach living and triathlon and running career, and probably derail any future chance for romantic love. Who would start dating a guy with an infant?
Although devastating at the time, it turned out to be a stroke of luck when the birthmother of my 2-day old son came back to collect her I-suddenly-realized-I-cannot-live-without-him-but-thanks-for-all-the-financial-support son who I had already named Ryan and spent 24 hours with in my home. Soon after that debacle I met the future love of my life, and three sons later the rest is history. However, knowing my husband, I don’t think that an infant would have been a deal breaker, considering just how strong our connection was (and continues to be.)
So I give this swimmer Mom the only advice I have ever followed myself: go with your gut, and if your gut tells you that you want another child, then listen carefully to it. When I started to talk up about child #3, many people were negative:
“Why stir the pot?”
“Three kids with two hands are difficult to control!”
“Think what else you could do with the money!”
“What if something’s wrong with this one?”
“Back to diapers? Are you sure?”
But just as many or more were very supportive and happy about our decision. I lost no sleep once we made our choice (until he was born of course.) While this Mom wants the anonymous sperm donor to sign a contract stipulating that her future son or daughter can meet him on their 18th birthday, I just wanted to grab the DNA and RUN. And while she wonders if she will have enough energy now that she is about to hit the advanced age of 40, I was sure I haven’t even reached my peak at 50.
I say follow your heart, and enjoy the unique path that takes you to parenthood. I’ve enjoyed mine so far. We’re not even sure if we’ve made it down the entire path or if we still have more to go. Only time (and the size of our house) will tell.