Hi. My name is Michelle Tea. I turned 40 this year and realized I forgot to have a child. Now I am trying to get pregnant before all my eggs dry up. Do you know what happens to your eggs in your 40s? Google it. Or don't, just come with me as I learn all about 40+ pregnancy as a single queer lady who hardly knows a single sperm-producing man.
When I started telling the people around me that I was going to get myself pregnant, they reacted in variety of ways, and not always as expected.
My two best friends, who I have a very co-defriendent relationship with, were skeptical. "You can’t just go and put the baby in the other room when you want to have sex," Tali said wryly, an apparent comment on my sex-ed up lifestyle. I was uncertain how to respond -- of course I understood that the baby would have to come before my libido, but really, why couldn’t I go and put the baby in the other room when I wanted to have sex? That sounded reasonable.
Tali tried another dissuasive angle: "You like to take off and go to Paris," she said. I was becoming a bit enchanted with my life as seen through my friend’s eyes. Who was this jet-setting tart?
I had gone to Paris a few years ago, when an alignment of good fortune had hooked me up with a posh teaching job, punk-house rent and a writing assignment at Fashion Week. But I hadn’t been to Paris in years, and anyway, wouldn’t I want to take my little bohemian baby traveling abroad? Wouldn’t I want to teach her -- or him -- French by immersion in the cafes of the Bastille?
In fact, maybe I would want to actually give birth in Paris, gifting my bebe with dual citizenship in an elegant, Socialist country and treating myself to a free, Socialist hospital birth!
Tali saw that her warnings were having the opposite affect and sighed with resignation, offering one more deterrent: "But you love your life."
I do love my life. I live by myself in a spacious San Francisco apartment I can miraculously afford with the income I patch together running a literary non-profit, writing books and essays, and reading tarot cards.
Having grown up seriously broke and too overwhelmed to figure out how to go to college, I’ve mastered this existence and published nearly a dozen books all without having gone to school.
My life feels like a fairy tale I wrote myself -- I’ve been to Paris Fashion Week, sipping mineral water backstage with Karl Lagerfeld and Vivienne Westwood; I brought a band of writers across Europe, reading in Austrian squats, eating post-show gelato by a river in Slovenia, singing karaoke in Germany; I spent 10 miserable days on a yacht in the south of France with a wealthy and miserable ex-boyfriend, then hopped a plane to Poland to teach writing to Polish feminists. I’ve been backstage at Coachella hanging out with John Waters and Devo, I’ve spent months in Mexico watching baby turtles be born while helping writers give birth to their novels and memoirs.
I do love my life. Which was exactly why I wanted to bring a little creature into it!
Would it make more sense to have a child if my life was bleak and stressful? From where I stood, deep into my 40th year on earth, my remaining eggs hobbling down my fallopian tubes each month, tennis balls wedged onto their walkers, it seemed like having a kid was the only adventure I hadn’t undertaken.
Tali’s girlfriend, my other best friend Bernadine (I have many best friends, as you shall see) offered no objections, as she belongs to a 12-step program which encourages people not to offer unsolicited advice. She stayed quiet.
My friend Mallory’s face crumbled in despair – "Your work!" she moaned, mourning all the books I would not write. She told me all about the depressing life of her girlfriend’s sister, a single mother. Everyone had stories of miserable single mothers and they all wanted to share them with me.
"Ask so-and-so," Tali pointed me in the direction of a single mom writer teaching at an East Coast University, and so I sent her an awkward email (but not the awkwardest -- wait ‘til I start hitting guys up for sperm).
"DO IT!" was her reply. "It will the best, hardest most amazing thing you have ever done in your life!"
In fact, though my frightened friends offered up story upon story of women whose lives were destroyed by their children, all the moms I knew were totally psyched and encouraging of my steps toward babyville.
My AA Sponsor, deeply in love with her adopted son, urged me on, suggesting I have an affair while traveling (as any AA-attending alcoholic knows, one always does what one’s sponsor says!). Belle got accidentally knocked up by her bi-polar boyfriend while making money selling weed in her 30s and kept the baby; now she has a second kid and lives an inspiring life in Hollywood working on super cool television projects (and the bi-polar boyfriend is long gone).
She wracked her brain for sperm donors, briefly offered up her husband, but then realized she’ll be upset if my baby winds up better than theirs and retracted. Esther, another writer who kept her accidental pregnancy, also thinks it’s a great idea. I remembered sitting backstage with Exene Cervenka at a poetry reading, how she urged me to have a kid someday.
"It makes you more psychic," she promised, a nice perk. My sister, who not only has a three-year-old daughter but knows me better than anyone, my strengths and weaknesses, how I am diligent and how I am a space cadet, begins teaching me how to track my ovulation cycle. My mother, a loveable nervous wreck who is often frightened of my life choices (sex work, walking through the East Village alone past midnight, attending Mayan sweat lodges in the Mexican jungle), surprises me by offering advice on turkey basters.
And finally, even my reticent friends come around. Tali, who supports her writing habit working in a co-op grocery store, relents. "Well," She offers, "I can get you 20 percent off your pre-natal vitamins. And we have really high-quality glass turkey basters."
Come back next week, as I learn that the public health system cares nothing for healthy 40-year-old-women who want to have babies. Plus, pee sticks!