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A Note to the Childless on Mother’s Day

A single woman's reflection on aging, mourning and holding onto the hope of motherhood

I am a 39-year-old geriatric woman. Apparently My insides are hunched over, cruising in the slow lane at 55 mph and asking for the early bird special.

I’m told I’m likely too old to have an easy, natural birth at my age. A “geriatric pregnancy,” a term for anyone over the age of 35 who is considering conception. It’s dated and ignores the many, many women in their late 30s and 40s who are successfully giving birth nowadays.

I don’t feel elderly. I still wear crop tops and bikinis in the summer. I have an IRA, though I can’t tell you the difference between a Roth and traditional one. I live alone, but my bank account laughs at me when I browse Zillow. Too old to be a new parent. Too young to be applying for AARP. It’s a strange place to be.

And I’m realizing that each year, for some, Mother’s Day is a reminder of what may never be. It’s a day to reflect on the struggle of trying to conceive, a day to mourn the loss of a child through a miscarriage or complications during birth. And for others like me, it’s a large neon blinking sign signaling that you’re closer to changing your own diapers than your child’s.

I want a baby, I want to be a mom. But the truth is I don’t know if that’s destined to be my path. I’m learning I may have to mourn while still physically able and willing to have a baby. It’s lonely here in the in-between. Not a mother, not yet at peace with not being a mother.

I’ve been told plenty of times that I’ll find “the One,” that marriage is obviously something that will happen for me. “Says who?” I ask. It’s not a guarantee. “There are options,” I’m assured.

When you work in media, you go into it because you love chasing a good story, you enjoy the pangs of waiting until your deadline to write a piece, and celebrate every byline because of the blood, sweat, tears, snacks and the OMG-I’m-questioning-my-whole-existence that goes into writing a mere 800 words. We’re a bit dramatic.

You don’t, however, go into it for the money. Last October, I chose to write about infertility treatments in San Diego for our annual Top Docs issue so I could learn about the process. Freezing your eggs costs anywhere from $15,000-$40,000 when all is said and done, I learned. Adoption sits around the same range.

Options. Just not mine.

As far as I know, there aren’t support groups for us in-betweeners. Meetups to talk about how single we still are from week to week. Donut shop runs to discuss how every TV show and commercial in which a baby is born makes us sob uncontrollably. That empty feeling inside is always there, but we don’t get to talk about it.

Each Mother’s Day, I sit and watch as those around the world celebrate the day that they changed their name to Mom. I send my friends messages to honor the work they’ve put into caring for a little life and I thank my own mother for raising me as a single parent.

And then the day ends, and I’m left wondering if next year I’ll be the one receiving a text.

Someone once asked me what was so wrong with my life that I felt I needed a child to validate it. Nothing. At times even, it seems everything is exactly where it should be. I’m happy, for the most part.

I know that wanting a child is not a reflection on whether my life is fulfilling, nor is it some defining moment that solidifies my womanhood. It’s just that one day I want to look down at my own flesh and blood because, well, I don’t really know. It’s just there.

Mother’s Day reminds me of all of this; which I can accept, while also celebrating all the moms out there. And all the women like me who wish they were moms for one reason or another.

I hear being a mother is hard work; that losing a child is one of the most painful experiences in life. But in the in-between, I mourn the idea of motherhood while convincing myself to hold onto hope.

It’s hard, too. And that’s okay to admit.

By Nicolle Monico

Nicolle Monico is an award-winning writer and the managing digital editor for San Diego Magazine with more than 15 years of experience in media including Outside Run, JustLuxe and The San Francisco Chronicle.

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