14th Feb 2018
A reader writes that her biological clock is ticking very loudly and she’s tempted to make a Babydaddy of her current partner…but what’s best for them as individuals and as a couple, never mind for a future child? To settle or not to settle, that is the question.
I’m 38 and have had one long-term, serious relationship with a guy who completely mangled my heart. I was going out with him for eight years until he ended it about three years ago because he’d met someone else. It took me a good two years to move on and have the confidence to get back out there. After a rake of disastrous ‘dates’ I met a guy who didn’t ghost me, had a bit of chat and seemed to be a good match in the bedroom. We’re ten months in now and although he’s a nice guy – good morals, loyal, dependable – I just don’t love him. He has a low sex drive so never initiates sex and doesn’t really get excited about anything, other than Ireland matches and dogs maybe. The problem is, my ovaries are hopping, I feel like my body is telling me it’s now or never if I want to have a baby. If I was ten years younger, I’d be out of there, no question. The only reason I’m keeping things ticking along is I don’t want to cut off possibly my last chance of having a baby. I’m close to just trying to get pregnant and dealing with the consequences, which would probably mean me single parenting. He seems pretty into ‘us’ and talks about long-term stuff like planning 2019 holidays but the thought gives me chest pains. He’s also a great cook, not sure if that might be relevant but I feel bad now for making him sound so boring. (All my friends think he’s boring). Would it really be that bad if I just borrowed his sperm? Babydaddy Blues, Kilkenny.
I hate the word ‘bad’ because it’s the opposite of ‘good’ and both words can be so reductive but I’m going to answer your question right off the bat: yes, jump-starting your sexless boyfriend to ‘borrow’ his sperm would be bad.
Let’s say you stuck around for a few more cycles, did your best work to wake the beast, close the show with a flourish and sneak in a twenty minute head-stand after each take, then what? You get pregnant, feign surprise (he knows) and you break up? You’ll have the baby you’ve ached for but you’re also likely to leave a complex web of destruction in your wake. This loyal, dependable guy, with whom you have no chemistry, is likely to take his responsibility seriously once it is thrust upon him, even when you give him the option to walk away. He just doesn’t sound like the messer who hears the news and buys a one-way ticket to Uzbekistan. Unlucky for you.
By not telling him, you’re also breeding resentment and colouring your future efforts at co-parenting. And this is all presuming, as above, that you go your separate ways once your 6-day pummel parties pay off. What if you stay together? What if your hormones insist on fluffing up his cosy, dependable nest? A nest where for some time after the birth – when the postman has seen your nipples and you can’t remember your firstborn’s name – you will be nourished with delicious meals, undisturbed by the tap-tap-tap of a lusty man at your back? This guy has quite a lot going for him to be fair.
And what is love anyway? The ancient Greeks categorised seven different types of love from Eros – passionate, sexual love – to Philia – the love we have for our friends. Loud and proud in the mix is Pragma, a kind of practical love founded on shared long-term interests – eg. Children – and possibly inspired by successful arranged marriages at the time. I’m not suggesting you ‘settle’ but I’m asking if your fella’s a slow burner? What if he addressed his low libido with a GP and you reclaimed the physical compatibility you enjoyed early on? Sexual intimacy is the foundation of a loving relationship; if you don’t have that at this early stage, nothing else will be right.
But I digress, this is not about the boy, you say you’re almost done with the boy. This is about a baby. So, be straight. Proposition your boyfriend; ask him if he’d like to try to have a baby with you. Present it almost as a contract between two people who ‘like each other very much.’ Acknowledge your ticking clock and the fact that he would be under no pressure to stay with you if things didn’t work out. No need to be too brutal here re. your true feelings (he’s unlikely to jump at the opportunity anyway) but lay down the basics.
I know this is a Girl Guide response to your dilemma and unlikely to yield true fruit – especially when you could easily exploit the baby-making ingredients so available to you – but at least you’re giving him first refusal and a shot at determining his own future. Then it’s time to walk away.
One of the brilliant things about being a woman in 2018 is that you have other less complicated, admittedly more expensive, options. You have no doubt researched fertility clinics so first up, I would book yourself in for an egg-reserve test. This will establish if your reserves are low and whether or not freezing your eggs is recommended. With that intel on board you can then go shopping for sperm; quite literally. The largest European Sperm bank is Cryos International in Denmark, where three straws of sperm will cost somewhere in the region of €1500.
You can control your first insemination attempts at home and progress through the options available – IUI, IVF, ICSI – if necessary and where affordable. This is by no means the easy option and a successful pregnancy is not guaranteed, with fertility clinics advertising an average 40% pregnancy rate (which doesn’t include live birth stats likely to be lower). Ultimately, however, you could be a sole parent, unencumbered by the legal and emotional rigors of raising your child with an ex.
You could also explore a non-traditional, and far cheaper, route by having a Plan B party, as fictionalised in Jeffrey Eugenides’ stunning short story, Baster for the New Yorker. Read that here https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1996/06/17/baster or listen to it on the New Yorker Fiction podcast.
And if you still need inspo to go it alone, listen to Matthew D Johnson, the author of Great Myths of Intimate Relationships: Dating, Sex and Marriage. He researched decades of studies on the psychological impact of having a child. In terms of relationships, he established that the rate of decline in relationship satisfaction is nearly twice as steep for couples with children, versus couples with no children. However, he also ascertained that most mothers believed that the rewards of watching their children grow up were worth the cost of their romantic relationships. Who needs Eros, right?!
Rhona McAuliffe might not be a trained therapist but she does have very big ears, quite a long nose and a gaping heart. If you have a problem that won’t just go away, she’d love to hear it. Write to Rhona at [email protected]
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