"I never thought I'd be here." That's what Beth Espy thought of her life about two years ago. She was 40 years old, single and childless.
"Time goes by fast," she says. "I wasn't even this career woman — I had a decent job. But time just got away from me."
It's as if Beth was putting her voice to my thoughts. This past holiday season served as a somber reminder that 2010 ended with my being no closer to becoming a mother than I was the same time a year ago. And my biological clock has become a deafening reminder that if I don't get pregnant in 2011, I may never.
A mutual friend suggested that I give Beth a call because she did what I am considering. She gave up waiting for marriage and had a baby on her own. And later this month, on Jan. 20, little Brynn Elise Espy will turn 1 year old. Beth decided that a sperm donor was her best route to motherhood. And while it wasn't an easy decision, she has no regrets.
Beth and I had never met, but it was like catching up with an old friend when I phoned. We all but finished each other's sentences as we spoke about our failed relationships over the years and our insatiable desires to have children. Also, if Beth and I had it to do all over again, we would not have waited so long for husbands and would have made the choice to become single mothers much earlier in our lives.
Despite our similarities, I have yet to take the same leap Beth did. But I believe that single, young professional black women need to develop a plan for having a baby on their own. While this is not an issue unique to black women, we have to consider the statistics that the media will not let us ignore: Only half of black women marry by the age of 30, compared with 81 percent of white women.
I'm not saying abandon your plans to find a husband. But at the same time, also put some serious effort into mapping out how you would orchestrate single motherhood. For example, go ahead and figure out how you want to become impregnated: have a baby with a friend or casual sexual partner, or use an anonymous donor? Better to have a plan in place than trying to throw one together under the pressure of possibly running out of time.
Beth says that a plan for single motherhood should also include a support system. She relies heavily on her parents, who supported her decision but were disappointed for her that she could not fulfill her wish of marrying before having a child. Beth says that as her father held his granddaughter this Christmas, he told Beth that she'd made the right decision.
I asked Beth if she had considered studies and statistics that point to the overwhelming number of black American children who are born out of wedlock, as well as the difficulties that these children face. She admitted that she had. "At the end of the day," she says, "it's my life."
And as a Christian, how did Beth handle having a baby out of wedlock? Beth believes that God wanted her to have this baby. She says she prayed throughout the process: "God would not have given her to me if she wasn't supposed to be here." Beth admits that she didn't tell her pastor until after she'd given birth. He said that he was happy for her but told her that God wanted her to have a traditional family unit.
Beth still hopes to get married and has been on a few dates. More than a husband, she says, she wants her daughter to have a father.
She finds dating and life in general as a single parent to be challenging. "There is no more just running into the mall or meeting the girls for happy hour or jetting off to Jamaica at the last minute," she says. "Not that life becomes boring. It's just different."
On the tough days, she remembers an encounter with a former college professor of hers who saw her with her baby and said, "Good for you! Where is it written that we have to wait for a man to be who we want to be?"