At the heart of all these questions lies an even deeper one: when motherhood is no longer a requirement for women, why do we choose to have children? Even when we don't necessarily wait to have children for economic reasons , or because we haven't found the right match, some of us are spending a lot of time actually struggling with the question of whether we want a child to be part of our lives?
During this time, I have also continued on my own personala quest to create to the kind of family that's right for me. At times, it has been excruciatingly lonely. At others, downright scary. But sometimes it has also felt absolutely exhilarating. As I began to learn about the new possibilities available, instead of feeling like my life has become more limited as I've gotten older, it feels more expansive.
In the course of my research, I've talked to American women as far afield as Des Moines, Iowa and suburban Texas. And I've talked to women further away still, in places like , India and Italy. This broad perspective has allowed me to see the myriad values women bring to bear as they confront the same challenge of planning their futures and their families. Each story has been like looking into a kaleidoscope and seeing fragments of my own life. My perspective changes at each turn of the dial, with each person's story. The people I have met have moved and instructed me, and helped me explore the most difficult terrain I've encountered in the course of writing this book: my own emotions.
I have encountered values radically different from my own and learned from them. At other times I have experienced intense identification. I have discovered that some women think about family in fundamentally different ways. Some ssee it through the lens of biology and genetics, while others see it through the lens of socially constructed patterns and taboos.
By connecting all these experiences, I have been able to clarifyclarify my own values. As I've worked towards figuring out my own life, I've tried on all sorts of potential scenarios for size. Single motherhood, co-parenting with a friend, adoption – and yes, even, settling for something less than perfect love.. I hope my experiences and my research will project a light for others into how some of these different choices look and feel. But I can offer no general solutions to the dilemmas women face in this challenging new world of ours, because the answers I've found are specific to me, based on my own values and experiences. Other women will come up with different answers. The only thing I can say definitively is that women who want children – or are even on the fence about it – should take the time to think about these issues early on. As women of the post-boomer generation we are used to being in control of our lives, professionally and financially. The fact that we do not have control over our fertility makes it incredibly frightening, something many of us would like to ignore for as long as impossible. But I have learned that no matter how scary the information may be at the time, it's ultimately been incredibly liberating to understand my own body's reproductive possibilities – as well as the impossibilities. We have more options than ever; understanding them can empower us and, perhaps most importantly, turn panic into peace.
From the book "In Her Own Sweet Time," by Rachel Lehmann-Haupt. Excerpted by arrangement with Basic Books (www.basicbooks.com), a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009.