The clinic had granted her permission, which led to two unsuccessful rounds of treatment. In the end, she had fallen pregnant through home insemination, using donor sperm from a friend.
After she finished talking, the circle of women went quiet. A clock ticked somewhere. Soon the meeting would be over and I wouldn’t have the answers to my questions. How would I do this on my own? Could I do this on my own? I opened my mouth and started speaking. “I just, um, feel like I still want to have a baby with a partner.”
Finally, a woman with an infant curled in her lap said, “You’re not ready yet.”
There was a long pause, in which it felt like the arctic temperature dropped a few notches. Finally, a woman with an infant curled in her lap said, “You’re not ready yet.”
I wasn’t ready yet. The sentence was revelatory. She didn’t mean I wasn’t filled with enough self-love to find a soulmate. She wasn’t suggesting I keep searching for love because – as per that phrase used to torture single people – when you least expect it, you’ll meet someone! I didn’t need to meditate or shed kilos or shoot Botox into my forehead to win my knight. I wasn’t ready, yet, to have a baby without a partner. The word yet held a promise: I was in the process of becoming ready.
After the solo mum’s support meeting, Mara and I wandered out to the street for lunch. A few other women from the meeting joined us. Over eggs in a cosy cafe, I made a confession. “I have this baby hunger,” I said. It was a phrase I’d read online. I’d written it in my journal, but never spoken it aloud.
From Mara’s lap, her six-month-old Rose was staring at me.
“Can I hold her?” I asked.
“Of course, she’s getting heavy.” Mara passed Rose over to me. I took her in my arms and felt my body soften as she lay on my chest.
“I feel like people are always telling me how hard it is to have a baby on my own … Like they disapprove,” I said.
“Anyone who tells you not to have a baby on your own can f— off,” said Mara. We started giggling. Something started to dissolve within me.
“Everyone loves a baby,” Mara said. “You’d have to have a heart of stone not to love a baby once it arrives, no matter how it was made.”
Mara took out her phone and flicked through photos. “That’s my family.” She showed us her screen: her daughter surrounded by blue-eyed cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.
“Does this look like a child who needs more love?” she asked. “This is our village, which is how it should be. That’s how kids should be raised.”
Edited extract from Inconceivable (Hachette) by Alexandra Collier, on sale March 29.
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