At what point do you tell the guy you’re dating that you are trying to get pregnant as a solo parent? How will he react? And how do you react to his reaction?? Or, maybe, you just avoid the topic altogether and brush off his inquiries on why you’re always tired and you don’t drink at the bar and your boobs are sore AF thankyouverymuch. Fortunately, there are many ways to approach this minefield of a situation, and I attempt to address a few here based on personal experience.
Ever since I began this adventure last year, something inside of me has awoken. It’s hard to describe this raw, deep feeling, like a thirst that can’t be quenched or a hunger that can’t be satiated. I don’t completely understand it, but I know it’s the desire to share my life with someone, my own child; perhaps this is maternal instinct finally kicking in. Suddenly, I find myself bored with traveling to amazing places because I have no one to share the experience with. And after a year of living out of a suitcase, I’m exhausted and desperately want to lay down roots, have a child, and nest with them for a few years before going out into the world again.
So much has changed since I seriously started trying to conceive solo in Turkey. Flexible travel plans have given way to doctor appointments, ovulation dates, and destinations that treat single women; expensive hospital bills wreak havoc on my careful budgeting, putting that much more stress on my need to find a job. On top of that, I’ve never felt lonelier. Because with the exception of my sister and her lukewarm reaction to me telling her about my treatment in Cambodia, I haven’t told anyone about my journey. It’s difficult to be on this roller coaster ride of emotions and challenges alone and I know I should reach out to online communities of people in situations similar to mine…. It’s just not that easy for me. I’m already fiercely independent and stubborn by nature, opting to figure things out my own rather than ask for help, and I don’t yet feel emotionally ready to “join” the single parenthood conversation. I’d feel ready once I’ve found my footing in this process, but will I ever find my footing? What even constitutes “footing”? Everything in my life right now feels so frustratingly fluid and I’m walking on eggshells around my ovaries until something significant happens, not mentioning anything to anyone until I have a better hold on my situation. Which is a sound approach, until you decide to date while trying to get pregnant.
Before I dive into the emotional anguish of dating while trying to get pregnant, let me first mention the lovely issue of side effects from medications. After being artificially inseminated, I was taking progesterone (hormones) twice a day as directed by my doctor. And according to this blog post, “Progesterone – The Phantom Pregnancy,” the medication’s side effects include sore breasts, exhaustion/fatigue, and bloating. Exactly. Pregnancy symptoms. Which opens a Pandora’s box of issues when dating, especially when combined with not drinking. Dating in Spain while undergoing fertility treatments has proven to be exhausting, because people here stay up insanely late and dating means casually grabbing drinks at 10pm, with dinner if you make it to midnight (I never did). Dating, in its miserable glory, becomes an awkward chore of explaining over and over why you can’t drink, or why you can’t go out late, or why you feel so goddamn miserable and bloated and irritated.
To cope with the stress of trying to conceive as a single parent, not to mention in attempt to fill the empty space in my heart, I admit that after a decade of resisting online dating I am now on Tinder. Yes, suddenly I crave the purpose and companionship that comes with being a parent, and whenever I feel impatient and hopeless on this lonely journey I turn to Tinder as a distraction. (Substituting ice cream and cookies for men only takes one so far.) After my disaster in Turkey, I took a break from the app until I got back to Europe because having rented an apartment in Madrid for three months, dating had become possible again: I was in a place longer than a week and it’d be nice to explore the city with someone. That, and I desperately needed a diversion from the stress and loneliness of pursuing single motherhood with only a new city to grab on to.
Like all dating apps, Tinder started off fun and full of promise. I thought to myself that maybe I’d even hit it off with one of these guys enough to consider sharing my life with them. But hey, this is Tinder so I was most excited about relaxing and enjoying someone else’s company after a year of solo traveling, be it relationship material or not. (Hey, I’m entitled to some fun; I’m pursuing motherhood, not sainthood.) I wondered if it was possible for my two selves to co-exist, my carefree and open-to-anything self and my maternal, focused, and independent self. Could I live a normal life and date while also pursuing solo motherhood? I decided that I could, I just had to figure out how.
On my sixth Tinder date, I figured out one way.
He was tall, good-looking, and interesting to talk to. A win, right? A few quirks held me back from totally liking him, but not enough to keep me from going out on a second date with him. And a third date, a breakfast that turned into Saturday motorcycle ride through the country and a passionate make-out session that night. Because after holding on to him tightly all day, scared for my life since this was my first motorcycle ride on the open road, I was completely turned on. Things unexpectedly got intense, so I was thrown off when he asked, “Should I get a condom or are you on the pill?” I didn’t know how to respond so I just said “I don’t know, it doesn’t matter. You don’t need a condom.” Of course this confused him, so he stopped what he was doing to ask again if I was on the pill. I said no, but for some reason I felt like I needed to explain what I meant. Trying to be casual and honest, I told him point-blank that I was not on any birth control because I’m open to getting pregnant, although that’s not why I was with him. After the words came out of my mouth, I knew that after tonight I’d never see this guy again.
After my unexpected and mangled “confession,” there was an awkward pause then we proceeded to continue on to the, ahem, passionate part. Afterwards, he had all sorts of questions, like what did I mean and did I want a father for my child and could I skip my treatment this week if I wanted to? I answered him the best I could, not knowing (or caring) what he was thinking; I surmised this was not an issue we would get past. I made it clear to him that I wasn’t asking him for anything nor was I using him but I still got the feeling he didn’t morally agree with me and therefore looked at me with suspicion. Yet he seemed content to continue peppering me with kisses and compliments, over-the-top affection that started to grate on me because I sensed he was laying it on thick. So I called him out, because I knew this guy and his gratuitous affection would disappear as soon as an opportunity presented itself. Aaaand just as I suspected, after a few stiff texts the next day, I didn’t hear back from him for a week and deleted him from my contacts. Adiós, Mr. Tinder.
Fortunately, I moved on quickly and my next Tinder date more than made up for that guy’s faults. My new date was not only older but adorable, with his shaggy dark hair and pink tennis shoes catching my eye. I met my new guy a few days after treatment and we hit it off immediately, with me eventually giving in to his frisky hands (what is it with touchy Spanish men??). We hung out and enjoyed each other’s company; things were going well. Then one night, we were texting about going out and as much as I wanted to hang out with him, I was exhausted (an unfortunate side effect of the hormone supplements I’m taking). Between me not drinking and feeling tired all the time, he was getting suspicious of my behavior so I decided to lay it out there in our text conversation. I couldn’t judge his reaction based on his text response, but he seemed unfazed and eager to hang out again. Over lunch the next day, he asked me more about everything and seemed genuinely curious. I was nervous explaining something so personal that I forgot to ask what he thought, but he did volunteer that I was doing a beautiful thing. A wave of relief washed over me, not only because I liked him but because I realized dating while trying to get pregnant is possible and even rewarding.
Given my experience so far in dating while pursuing solo parenthood, I’ve learned that toeing the line between honesty and TMI is a delicate task. My approach is to keep quiet on things until I either get intimate with a guy or I get pregnant, and even then it’s difficult to gauge the guy’s reaction. In the meantime, I’m still on Tinder and continue with fertility treatments, unwilling to give either up because both paths hold promise. (As a side note, I continue to amaze myself with how strong I am and how much I really want parenthood. I’m proud of myself for not changing course and stopping treatment because I met a guy.) Tinder started as a distraction and has turned into background noise, with me remembering that facing reality head-on and working towards my goals takes priority over dating.
This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and I don’t expect it to win me any points dating-wise. I’m not dating with the end goal of finding a baby daddy, so if my date reacts negatively if/when I’m honest about my desire to become a mother, I immediately walk away. If they disagree with my willingness to parent solo, that’s okay and I move on because close-minded and cruel people aren’t worth my time. If I’m going to bother dating, I’m going to date men who find my journey real and inspiring and sexy, something it is.
So cheers to the ups and downs and unexpected turns in dating while trying to get pregnant.