Excerpt: 'In Her Own Sweet Time'

In retrospect, I wasn't ready to commit to building a life with anyone because I had not yet discovered the type of intimate connection I needed for such an important and sustaining relationship. I still had more growing to do on my own to understand what this connection might feel like. While I knew that this relationship was not the right one for me, I didn't end it because I was afraid. I thought that if I let go and had to start all over again, I might fall behind. I worried I might never catch.

Still, that day at the Cloisters, tears streamed down my face because it was he who had made the first move to break up; he who had shattered my fantasy of who people were telling me I should be, and therefore who I believed I should be: a married woman on the path to becoming a mother.

After the break-up, I felt like I was caught in a whirlpool at the edge of a rushing social current. I was confused, spinning in circles, and surrounded by new questions: what kind of relationship was right if this one was wrong? If I just invested one year in a nowhere relationship, then how much time would I need to invest in a relationship that actually went somewhere? I had known all my life that I wanted to be a mother, but it wasn't until the break-up with Alex that I felt biology toe-tapping her toes. Her patience was not inexhaustible.

The same year Alex and I broke up, a book burst onto the scene that caused young women all over the country to panic. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and founder of the liberal Center for Work-Life Policy, published Creating A Life: Professional Women and The Quest for Children. In her polemic about the problems women face in balancing career and family, Ms. Hewlett, a baby boomer, told scary stories about the pioneering feminist women of her own generation who had struggled with conception and infertility because they waited until later in their lives to have children. She wanted to warn the next generation against making the same mistakes. "All of this new status and power has not translated into better choices on the family front," she wrote. "Indeed, when it comes to having children their options seem to be a good deal worse than before. Women can be playwrights, presidential candidates and CEOs, but increasingly they cannot be mothers."

Hewlett argued that women simply had to start earlier. Women should be hunting for husbands in our 20s and having children earlier – long before the age of thirty-five, the dividing line between a regular pregnancy and "high risk" pregnancy. Otherwise, they were likely to end up without a family of their own. Creating A Life provoked a media circus. Stories soon appeared in magazines and newspapers about "the new baby panic" that was infecting single women in their mid to late thirties. Hewlett recited her findings wherever she could -- on 60 Minutes, The Today Show, and in a big spread in Time magazine – constantly reinforcing the message that women were waiting too long to have babies.

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