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Video: Women connected by ‘Wishes’ of motherhood

  1. Closed captioning of: Women connected by ‘Wishes’ of motherhood

    >>> this is "today" on nbc .

    >>> for three women , each over the age of 35, the desire to become a mother began to outweigh their professional goals and search for love. but on the journey toward single motherhood , they each ended up with exactly what they wanted , and more. now they are sharing their stories in the new book "three wishes." good morning to all of you. this is really -- you were joking about it. i fine it is an amazing story . you say, it is just our story . but it really is quite something. terry, start with you. you were a professional success but you also say you were a romantic failure. you made a decision , a promise to yourself when you reached the age of 39. what was that?

    >> right. that was the deadline i had set for myself that if i weren't married by then i would become a single mother . i never thought it would happen, but there i was, the clock was ringing. i said, okay, i have to go ahead with it.

    >> you went to a sperm bank and you chose donor 8282, tall, spli slim, well-built blonde man who wanted to be a scientist. that's all you knew. was it daunting to pick a father in that way?

    >> it was completely surreal. it was like all of our mating mechanisms get disabled and all you get is a list of categories about this person.

    >> you go home with eight vials of this person's sperm. right? the plans are you're going to be inseminated. suddenly you meet this guy and you have sort of an unand down relationship. you are inseminated it one of the vials, it doesn't takes and eventually he becomes the father of your first child and your second child . that's where you come in, beth . because you were married , then divorced and trying to rediscover yourself. in the process realized i want a kid.

    >> yeah.

    >> i want a baby.

    >> yeah.

    >> so pam , your friend -- this gets complicated, pam your friend introduces you to carrie , her friend, next thing you've got the vials.

    >> that's exactly what happened.

    >> you're planning to go through with this.

    >> yes.

    >> but then?

    >> then miraculously the same thing that happened to carrie happened to me. i had come out of this unpleasant divorce , my ex-husband had left me and i got these vials from carrie . soon thereafter, i met the man who -- i met phil who became my husband and the father of my child .

    >> again with him, too, were you a little nervous to talk to him about this whole notion of having a baby.

    >> yeah. he was sort of a certified bachelor. it wasn't his intention to have children necessarily at all and i already had that intention. i had already decided i was going to have a child . we had to have these discussions fairly early on because i was already moving in that direction.

    >> eventually he did agree and have you a child now as well.

    >> yes, we do.

    >> which leads us to you, pam . you are the hopeless romantic .

    >> i am. they mock me.

    >> you always thought you'd have the whole package and it just wasn't happening for you as well. so you inherit --

    >> i did.

    >> the seven vials.

    >> i did.

    >> and then you meet mark. it is a little complicated because when you met mark, he was married at the time and you said, no way.

    >> he was.

    >> i'm dating him in this situation. then he leaves his wife, he gets a divorce and you two become an item. but he's also reluctant about everything.

    >> he was. after having been married , he wanted a little time out, time just for us but he realized that i had this deadline and he also wanted children . so pretty quickly we were able to figure things out and knew that we would be together and wanted a family .

    >> did you even come close to using the vials or was it --

    >> by the time i would have taken them officially from beth and they've been in my custody, i was pretty much settled with mark. so we were ready to pass it on again.

    >> this story seems almost too good to be true. is there any exaggerations in any of this?

    >> there's really not. i mean in a way, it would be -- we almost wish there were. but we're three journalists and basically what we are also trained to do is be very straight in the way that we present a story . it is just that unexpected and remarkable thing happened to us.

    >> we actually ended up taking things out. it was simply too much.

    >> beth and i made pam tune down some of it.

    >> basically, figure out what it is you really want and need and go for it. you may find that things change as you do.

    >> we do feel like there was some magic in the moment in which we decided to pursue what we truly desired. for us that was children . for other women it may be other things.

    >> what happened to those seven vials?

    >> those actually went to a friend of mine and she did use them and it turned out that she had some reproductive issues that weren't recognized when she started the process. so she didn't end up having any children .

    >> well, they absolutely worked their magic on the three of you.

    >> and the friendship.

    >> that's also what the book is about, about real friendship.

    >> we were very lucky to have each other to go through all this with.

    >> ladies, thank you so much .

    >>> up next, mark bittman takes

TODAY books
updated 4/20/2010 1:53:49 PM ET 2010-04-20T17:53:49

In “Three Wishes,” three journalists share their stories of wanting families and finding love after disastrous relationships. In this excerpt, Carey Goldberg writes about her decision to become a single mother.

Chapter one: The decision
Carey

“Hello?”

The phone rang just as I happily settled into bed with a thick novel and a box of cereal. Once I freed myself from a day’s deadline pressure, nothing restored me better than eating while I read, or reading while I ate. But the airy bedroom of my Cambridge town house was no real refuge. The New York Times copy desk could still call with urgent questions about an article I had written for the next day’s paper, and I had to be available, always.

“Hello?” I said again. No answer. “Hello?”

Still no reply. Pressing the receiver harder against my ear,

I made out the muffled voice of my boyfriend, a cosmopolitan scientist I’d been seeing for nearly a year.

It had been on and off, with a start so strong that I swore we were in love by the third date, then a crash followed by a long limping. I was usually rational to a fault, but with him I couldn’t seem to let go.

It slowly dawned on me that I was listening to a conversation between my boyfriend and a female friend of his, a doctor I’d met and liked. I deduced that he must have accidentally pressed the Send button on his cell phone, and that it repeated the last number he called: mine. Slideshow: Sleeping beauties

“So what’s up with you romantically?” I heard the doctor say.

“Oh,” he said, “I’m back with Carey, and it’s certainly not issue-free.”

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“Why don’t you see other women, then?” she asked.

“I don’t want to hurt Carey ... I really don’t want to hurt her.”

“Well, what do you think you’re looking for?”

“First of all,” he said, “it would have to be somebody who really attracted me.”

I felt my body start to shake, as it registered the depth of the rejection before my mind could absorb it. I would like to note here, in my own defense, that I am in fact generally considered attractive, and have occasionally even been called beautiful, but I am by no means to everyone’s taste. I am tall and cello-shaped, with high cheekbones, a broad, even smile, and thick dark curls or frizz, depending on the weather. (He ended up marrying a buxom redhead so petite she could wear girls’-department clothes.)

I paged him — his cell phone was busy, obviously — and broke up with him, my limbs shivering so hard that it was difficult to talk.

* * *

There are more where that came from. Rejections of me. Rejections by me. All leading to the moment when, the night before I turned thirty-nine, on assignment in a remote town in northern Maine, I lay alone in an anonymous motel room bed, staring at the ceiling, and faced the biggest decision of my life.

It was biological midnight, at least as I had defined it for myself. I was a professional success, Boston bureau chief of the New York Times, and a romantic failure, dating doggedly into middle age and still incurably single. Now, my self-imposed deadline had struck. If I really wanted to have a baby before it was too late, I would have to do it on my own. It was time to give up on romantic love, and try to become a single mother.

It was a bad, but not all-bad, moment. What had seemed like such a depressing thought, such a failure, for so many years, suddenly started to seem like something that was hearteningly doable, unlike the endless frustrations of trying to make love work. It was a decoupling of the desire for a man and the desire for children, and it carried sudden, surprising relief.

It was also sad, sad, sad to plan to become a single mother. It was standing against the wall at the biggest dance of all. I had not been chosen. I was not desired. Not loved. For nearly seven years, I lived out my long-standing dream of working as a Moscow correspondent, reporting mainly for the Los Angeles Times right through the climactic years when the Soviet Union was collapsing. I could have stayed longer, but when I was thirty-four I came home to work for the New York Times with the very explicit idea of Getting a Life.

I was aware of having an agenda, painfully aware. I knew that some of my failed relationships, if given more time and less pressure, might have turned into love. But there was no time. No time. I had always been a goal-getter. But now, having the goal got in the way of achieving it. I analyzed the problem to death.

“What I want most in life now is to fall in love, marry, and have a family, but that is not the sort of thing you can make happen,” I lamented to my best friend, Liz. “You can’t go to school for it. You can’t get on a waiting list for it. You can’t directly apply. You can try to prepare for it, but what else?”

Time ran out before I could find an answer. My own parents were separated before I was born. Their split was so rancorous that, family lore has it, my mother didn’t want to allow my biological father into the hospital to meet me when I was born. He was a successful physician, professor, and author. He also had a violent temper, a two-pack-a-day habit, and the kind of superiority complex that led him to conclude, from personal experience, “Remember, Carey, a man never hits a woman unless she makes him feel totally powerless.”

My mother, a supremely warm and hilarious woman, moved back into her parents’ house and raised my brother and me on her own until I was two. Then, to our great good fortune, she married Charlie Ritz, the loving, wise, patient man who would become my stepfather — but who was really my dad, my father in every sense of the word except genetics. He always said that he could not possibly have loved us more if we had been his own biological children. When a car accident left my mother in a permanent coma in her midfifties, my dad spent hours with her shell of a body virtually every day for nearly two years, gently watching over her as the hope that she could recover slowly faded. He held her hand as she breathed her last breath. To this day, he wears his wedding ring.

Perhaps I would have my mother’s luck in late-found love.

At least I could think about having a child on my own as skipping the ugly divorce. Two days after my birthday, I told my dad that I had decided to become a single mother.

“No matter what you do, I’ll support you,” he said firmly, sad-eyed. “I’m sure you’ll make a great mother.”

I could see the crumbling of a vision he’d had for me. On the other hand, I thought, my mother met him when she had a one-year-old and a two-year-old, so he couldn’t think this was truly the end of all hope for love, could he? Miracle babies

I went to see the gynecologist at a women’s clinic, the kind of inclusive, groovy place that would be accustomed to helping lesbian couples and single women get pregnant. We sat face to face in a tiny exam room. I wondered if he was single. “Fertility varies tremendously from woman to woman,” he said, “so the consequences of waiting longer in hopes of meeting the right man are hard to predict.” But he had evolved a rule of thumb for cases like mine, he said: “If you think you could well end up heartbroken because you let your chance to have a child go by, you should do it now.”

I went to see a wise older therapist who specialized in fertility issues, a fragile-looking woman revered by her clients. Another office the size of a walk-in closet.

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“It’s the morality of it that’s troubling me,” I said. “How can I knowingly bring a child into a situation that is less than optimal from the very get-go?”

“Well,” she said, “what do you think a child needs?” I had never tried to come up with a list.

“Love,” I said. “A safe and stimulating environment. A circle of people who care, who can help her reach her potential, that kind of thing.”

She was silent, smiling slightly, letting what I had just said sink in. Then she asked me, “Can you provide that?”

My mother, who would have been an ideal grandmother, all twinkle and fun and unconditional acceptance, was dead. But I had my dad, living just a few blocks away in Cambridge. He was in his midseventies, but still healthy, and would make a world-class grandfather. My brother and sister and best friend, Liz, lived in distant cities, but I had some close friends in Boston, a few dating back to my teen years. I had the money to hire excellent childcare, thanks to my late mother, my savings from Moscow, and the stock market. My job was demanding, but I was reaching the end of my stint as Boston bureau chief and was ready to ratchet down my career for the sake of a child. I had been blessed with a certain serenity all my life, and I thought it would morph easily into maternal stability.

“Yes,” I finally said. “I can offer all of that.”

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive

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