The clock that won’t stop

By Sarah Barden

International Women's Initiative News Writer

When my boyfriend walked out on me just a few days short of my 35th birthday, my heart slumped and my head span. Any reader who has ever had their heart broken will know the symptoms. The pain, the sickness, the disappointment, the, “I don’t want to get up in the mornings anymore”.

This, mixed in with my present age, the biological clock, geographical displacement and job/future career sustainability gave this ending an extra bitter twist. Flashback to promises and plans initiated by him and hung on to by me.

Did it hurt harder than past loves lost or did that egg timer I can visualize each time I try to switch off at night make this one that bit worse?

It was not great. Some might argue that with age comes wisdom. With age and experience come the coping mechanisms that equip us with the skills to dust ourselves off, and move on to the next chapter more rapidly. Practice makes perfect. Only perhaps not so where affairs of the heart are concerned.

Losing the person I thought I was building a future with was a tremendous blow. I was also equally saddened by what this might mean for my chances of having a family, which I thought I was poised to create. I no longer recognized the person I had spent an important chapter of my life with, so trust would not sprout back fast, nor could I put a timescale on how long it would take for my heart to mend or for my eyes to desire another person.

What a cliché this is. I’ll allow myself to indulge here because I think the bit that stung most of all was the thought of all my female friends, in different locations across the world, all desiring the same thing and none of them finding it. They each have boundless beauty, brains and individuality and, they each are haunted by all of the things I have just described; loneliness, impotence and insecurity.

I would like to think that we have evolved beyond the “feminism” label, and I won’t dare to describe this new troubling era. An era where friendship, communication and commitment are rare. So many women do not find what they are looking for. It is hard to dim down the hormonal impulses or to silence the associated dreams and desires.

“Le rêve et le désir sont immortels,” or “dreams and desires are immortal,” said the late French sculptor Auguste Rodin. How right he was. Impulses and emotions transcend generations and time zones. 

I have read too many articles about how women are putting off having children because they are placing their careers first. The theme of this note is not unique, I repeat. While I believe and know of women who are indeed putting off motherhood because their professional lives are all-engrossing, I also know women who do not want to have children. I recognize that science and technology give my generation many opportunities not previously accessible. I know there are sperm donors, I know about surrogacy, and I strongly see myself, and always have, as wanting to adopt.

I know I am not a vintage species yet and I know my friends and I, be we in our thirties or forties, do still have a chance to conceive and fulfill this part of our lives.  

Still, I want to put this mark out there as a reminder of how hard it is for all of us who are single and struggling with it. Life, riddled as it is with flaws that floor us – does deliver some big hurdles to overcome all at once.

It is ever so hard to witness the swollen social media interpretations of parenthood posted by so many as if to taunt and remind those that don’t have or won’t have for whatever reason. I am happy for my friends. I am proud to have been named a godparent twice by some extra special people I love a lot.

What though, about regaining control of what we want? What of the less ambitious of us out there? Those of us for whom being employed is an essential component, but not a defining element of how we wish to complete ourselves.

As Natalie Portman graces the cover of Vanity Fair America showing off her baby bump à la Demi Moore of the 1990s, and Beyoncé does something similar having announced she is having twins – I wonder, where are the real men? What has happened to community? Why are we so isolated? And, what of the concept of family, partnership and, “a worry shared is a worry halved?” Is there simply no such thing?

Is it true that these things were more readily available during our parents’ or grandparents’ generations or did they just sit tight and stay silent when things were not quite right instead of striving for change and a better fit as we do?

The show must go on, and the dream catcher must be reactivated after a small stock-take of the many blessings that I, we have.

Back for a final reflection on the beautiful Portman and the images shot by Annie Leibovitz, which are alleged to have become synonymous with modern maternity. After viewing all of these pictures, and hearing the multiple wondrous stories of miraculous births and sharing the joys of others, could we also perhaps fit in a thought for those of us who hit a point, a figure, a stage, feeling ready and just not having any if not all of the ducks in a row? Surely, this too is a legitimate grief?