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Swiping right in the fertility doctor's office: On pursuing romance and single motherhood at once

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29.08.2021

From my OB-GYN's waiting room I browsed through dozens of profiles: car-selfies, men holding wine glasses, or grinning beside their big catches on the decks of motor boats. I swiped right, and evaluated suitors as the nurse called out a name that wasn't mine, "Come on back, honey." A long-legged young woman in denim cutoffs stood, her bump barely there, holding hands with a baseball-capped man who looked about 19. I scoped the scene — three couples and a woman robotically rocking a stroller with a sleeping child strapped to her chest. I was the only one partner-shopping on a dating app right now. The door swung open. "Sophie," the nurse said. I shoved my cell in my purse like it was a dirty magazine and prepared for an up-close visit with my follicles.

It was January, I was 39 and determined to start the year with new life in my belly. I'd selected a specimen from an elite, local Los Angeles sperm bank reputed for accepting fewer applicants than an Ivy League university. All the donors were stellar — spotless medical histories and well-scribed personal narratives about why they wanted to donate — but it didn't eclipse the image of a nuclear family I'd always envisioned for myself.

I figured I'd delete the dating app once my insemination journey started, but it persisted. I wasn't thirstily trying to book dates, but I enjoyed the prospect of romance, far-fetched as a match felt on such sites. In times of boredom, I'd thumb through the way others do news headlines, scrolling until one grabbed me.

A few weeks earlier, a woman in my writing group in her mid-50s declared, "I think it's trashy for pregnant women to use dating apps."

"Aren't they allowed to get laid too?" I snapped back.

But the jab nettled a greater insecurity: that pregnant women shouldn't be single. Or is it that pregnant women shouldn't be horny? Either way, it signaled that unmarried women are supposed to choose between motherhood or romance — not pursue both at once.

Once I was gowned and ready for probing, my OB-GYN pressed a glob-laden wand inside me and determined that the size of my follicles meant go-time was near. After I dressed, the nurse swung the door open, ushering me into a metal chair to have my blood drawn. In the preceding days, I'd peed on ovulation sticks, procured my specimen from the sperm bank and continued my daily routines — meticulously answering students' emails, instructing online college writing classes, and buying fertility-boosting groceries — without excessively examining the decision I'd made to become an unpartnered mother through AI.

It wasn't an easy one. I'd met my former spouse when I was 31, married at 32, started trying for children at 33, then divorced at 34. The sorrow of my marriage ending was softened by the assumption that I'd soon meet another man and plunge toward procreation while conception was still a natural biological option. Post-divorce I dated vastly, even moving to Berlin for a year on the notion that love was more tenable in a foreign setting, or that 30-something Deutsch men made better fathers. Only a month in did I learn that Berlin is known as the "City of........

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