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Turning 40 and Having a Baby on Your Own
Episode 1312th July 2022 • Forty Drinks: The Podcast About Turning 40 • Stephanie McLaughlin
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Turning 40 and Having a Baby on Your Own

As a younger woman, Tara Marsh thought she would be married with two kids by the time she was 30. But she turned 40 and neither of those things were true. She did feel happy most of the time, rich in friendship and surrounded by love. But, she wrote: “the question of having a child is ever present and, whichever path I choose, I want to actively choose it, not have it happen to me because I ran out of time.” Turning 40 as a single woman in Manhattan forced her to reckon with some big questions, biggest of all being the baby question. Listen to the episode to find out what she decided. 

Guest Bio

Tara is a 41 year old, dual British/American citizen who has lived in ten different countries and her accent is a consequent bizarre mix of them all. She has an MA in economics from Oxford University, and an MBA from INSEAD in France. By weekday she is a marketing exec for a consulting firm. By weekend she is a yoga teacher, an occasional wine tasting guide (sometimes yoga and wine together!) and a mermaid. Her hair changes color with the seasons. Right now she's embracing blues and purples!

Before we Get Started: The Aquatic Elephant in the Room

Before we get into our discussion around turning 40, we need to address the fact that Tara is a mermaid. Her Instagram is full of pictures of her in mer-form. The way she explains it to children is that she’s half human and half mermaid, which is why sometimes she has legs and sometimes she has a tail. One of her parents was a mer-person which is why she has a tail when she’s in the water. 

The grown up version of the story is that she has been obsessed with mermaids since she was a child. She’s fascinated by yth, magic, the great epic battles of good versus evil and heroic acts. Yet she struggled with the fact that the female characters weren’t anything she could aspire to. Princesses were generally valued because they were pretty and maybe kind of sweet, but they pretty much always needed rescuing it. They didn't really seem to do anything very useful. 

The Little Mermaid story was the first one that gave Tara a lead character that was different because she saves the prince from drowning at the very beginning. She acknowledges that there are elements of the story that feminists can criticize. She may be going after a man, but it's still her choice and she runs away from home to do it. She also makes an enormous sacrifice for love at the end of the story, which Tara responded to. 

Tara wears a mermaid tail when she’s in the water. Her Instagram feed is full of pictures of her in a tail, which is a monofin that’s sort of like two scuba flippers put together. They have a fluidity to them making the movement in the water quite beautiful. And making Tara quite a fast swimmer. 

Tara calls herself a ‘water baby’ and says her dad was the parent who was of the mindset of throw them in and they'll figure it out. She did figure it out and then swam competitively at school. One thing she doesn’t do, but wishes she could, is freediving. She says she doesn’t have a good long breath hold. 

The mermaid community - and there is a mermaid community - is composed largely of extraordinary athletes and free divers and ocean conservationists - a pretty cool group of people. 

Facing Forty

As she approached 40, Tara was feeling introspective. She says there's not technically any reason why 40 should matter more than 39 or 38, but we do put meaning on these milestone moments. The introspection Tara was feeling at 40 was different from what she’d gone through at 30.

She was stepping back and taking stock, wondering about her life and if it was what she wanted it to be. She wondered whether she was doing things just because that's what the world is telling her to do She wondered about work, friendships, and whether she wanted to have a baby. When she got to that particular item on the list, she realized that's where the 40 milestone is different from 30 or 50; it’s simply a matter of biology. 

At 30, Tara was thinking a lot about financial independence. She wanted to set herself up to afford her life without help. She didn’t want a roommate. She wanted more control of her space. That was her main goal, along with determining where she wanted to live. 

Tara has lived in 10 different countries and even more cities. Moving is exciting and fun, but also exhausting. As she approached 30, Tara found the ‘exhausting’ part of the equation was weighing more than the excitement. She wanted to start making some larger commitments, including where she lives. She’s been in New York City since she was 32 and currently lives in the East Village, though she finds herself reconsidering that, which she feels is more pandemic related than 40-related. 

Biological Milestone

Tara’s last serious relationship was about 10 years ago. That relationship was a part of her turning-30 milestone because he proposed and she decided not to marry him. 

So now she finds herself single at 40 and considering having a baby on her own. She knows that it’s a big question for married people as well, but feels it’s a little more fraught since she’s single and would be doing it on her own. 

Tara finds the prospect of single motherhood daunting, acknowledging that she would be an older mother than she imagined she would be. When she was 20, she assumed she would get married, have kids and have the white picket fence experience. She says that’s one of the nice things about turning 40: she now realizes that it doesn't have to be that way. There are an infinite number of ways to construct a life. She feels more empowered as she’s gotten older to make the choices that work for her. 

Tara says  - only slightly tongue in cheek - that the delight of turning 40 is that “I can date you or your father!” 

Normally she’s got a +/- boundary of about 10 years. She went on a couple of dates with someone who was 28. His dad had him when he was 20, making his dad 48 at the time, which meant his dad was closer to her age than he was. They were on a date and he was showing Tara pictures of his family and she thought, “oh, did I pick the right one?”

The Baby Question

Tara envies the women who have a strong calling to being a mother, those who know having a baby is what they want. She says that if she knew having a baby was what she wanted, she would have pursued it earlier but she didn’t know whether that was what she wanted. 

She acknowledges that her deliberations were a luxury that previous generations may not have had. Women who came before us got married and then followed the prescribed societal path, potentially not considering whether having children was something that she wanted for herself. 

Tara knows it’s an amazing privilege that she can make that decision for herself, but it’s also overwhelming. Sometimes she wanted someone to come and tell her what she should do, because she didn’t know how to make that decision. 

Tara says some of the things we stop caring about when we hit forty are the things that weigh us down, the things that control us. We care less about what other people think and how other people are living their lives. 

At the same time, she started caring about other things more and making decisions more thoughtfully about where she put her energy. This included the friendships she invested in and living her life in a more meaningful way. 

Here’s the big question she struggled with: “Will a baby make my life more meaningful?” Could she do that and still do the other things she wants to do? 

There’s a finite amount of time and energy in the day. Using the energy it would require to be a single mother will ultimately reduce the amount of energy she can apply to other causes or things she cares about. 

The Big Decision

After all of these deliberations, Tara made the decision to have a baby on her own with an anonymous sperm donor. When she was 32, she had the foresight to freeze her eggs. She knew she wanted the option. 

Two things helped her get to that decision:  First, she needed to stop spiraling out the next 20 years. The big questions she was asking herself resulted in decision paralysis. The infinite ‘what if’s’ caused her to freeze because she didn’t know how to answer those questions. She realized, though, that you can’t answer those questions! 

Eventually she brought it back to simpler questions: did I want to be pregnant? Did I want to have a baby? The answer to those simpler questions was yes. 

The second thing that helped her make the decision was the realization that this was part of the human experience that she wanted to have. And yet, she knew it might not happen for her. She had to accept that as well. 

There are things about the decision that still scare her: lack of sleep is top of the list. 

Happiness Studies

Tara mentioned the studies that prove that people who have children report lower levels of happiness than people that don't have children. Longitudinal research exists where people are asked at regular intervals, how happy are you? The results drop when they have kids and go back up when the kids leave home. 

Tara was intrigued by the research. She was interested to find that parents tend to deny it, not because they’re trying to deceive, but that it’s something that can’t be fixed. It just is. So if this is the life you’ve chosen then it is what it is.  

She thinks the happiness question misses the point. Life isn't just about how happy you are. Happy is too simple a concept. She thinks if those same parents were asked, how meaningful do you find your life?, that becomes a different conversation.

Tara also comprehends what the research is saying and thinks it makes sense. People are going to be sleep deprived. They’re less in control of their destiny. The child takes priority. And if you can't just do what you want on Sunday morning, she recognizes how that could reduce happiness at a very basic, hedonistic level. 

The commitments of raising a child could reduce happiness at a hedonistic level, but other things become more important. Happiness is different from fulfillment. 

Planning for Baby

Tara feels fortunate that her parents are supportive of her decision. However, since they live in Hong Kong, they won’t be very helpful on a day-to-day, can-you-watch-the-baby basis. That means Tara will need more help that she’ll have to pay for - a financial reality she’s aware of. 

Choosing the donor was, according to Tara, “like online dating on steroids,” and a bit of a team effort. She got the donors down to a short list, created a spreadsheet and shared it with her parents, her brother and some of her closest friends. She was sure to manage expectations, letting people know the choice was ultimately up to her. 

The cryo-banks create personas for the donors and the one she picked was “definitely a cat guy.” She says she loves cat guys with dog energy. There were a variety of quantitative boxes this donor checked as well, but Tara liked the energy and the story associated with him, too. 

Tara wants to make sure that anyone who’s envying her clarity knows that her stomach was turning occasionally as we spoke. The more she talks about it, the more real it feels for her, which is good. But sometimes that ‘real’ shows up more as ‘oh, God; it’s real’ with the kind of stomach flip you’d get on a roller coaster. 

She’s approaching this as her greatest adventure yet. “The greatest adventures are not smooth sailing.

They're adventures because they're hard. Life is meaningful because it's hard. So yes, I am ready for the next adventure.”

The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications

Tara’s Instagram

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Transcripts

Stephanie: Hi, Tara. Welcome to the Forty Drinks podcast.

Tara: Hi Stephanie,

Stephanie: Thank you so much for joining me today. I am very, very excited for this conversation.

Tara: Yes, likewise. I am glad that you found me.

Stephanie: I did. I that's exactly what I did. I found you on Instagram one evening when I was doing a search around hashtags about turning 40, #turning40soon, things like that. And I found some posts that you made last year that completely intrigued me. And so when we started the podcast, I said, I have to talk to this woman. But before we get into that, there's an elephant in the room that I need to talk about. And that is that you are legitimately a mermaid.

Tara: Yes.

Stephanie: Tell me about being a mermaid!

Tara: Well, I could tell it to you the way that I tell it to the kids, which is that I am of course, half mermaid, half human, which is why sometimes they see me with legs and sometimes they see me with the tail. And when I go into the water, I have the tail and, you know, I guess one of my parents was a Mer-folk, person. The, the grown-up version of the story is that I have been kind of obsessed with mermaids since I was quite young. And in fact, I think my birthday cake, most three or four was an Ariel cake. And a lot of this has to do with a fascination with myth and magic and, , the great epic battles of good versus evil and heroic acts, this type of thing. I loved it.

Tara: And what I always struggled with was that the female characters were not anything I could aspire to. They were generally princesses that were valued because they were pretty and maybe kind of sweet, but they pretty much always needed rescuing it. They didn't really seem to do anything very useful. And I found that the little mermaid story was the first one that gave me a lead character that was a bit different because she saves the prince from drowning at the very beginning. And I know there are plenty of things that feminists can criticize The Little Mermaid for. You know, she's going after a man, but it's still something that she chooses. She's going after what she wants, and running away from home to do it.

Tara: And in the original story, spoiler alert, when she actually dies at the end, she makes this enormous sacrifice for love. I think that's beautiful. So, anyway, sorry, that was a longer answer than you asked, but that was when it started.

Stephanie: Wonderful. So, that was actually one of the more magnificent things that I see in your Instagram feed is that you love water and are always wearing a mermaid tail. Tell me how many mermaid tails you have?

Tara: Five.

Stephanie: And can you actually swim in them?

Tara: Yes, very much so. Yeah. It's like. Uh, I'm on offense. I think about what people wear for scuba diving, and then there's the flippers. If they were attached together and you put your feet into one big plastic thing, it's one giant flipper. And the ones that I have are bigger than if you put two normal scuba flippers together. And they have a sort of a fluidity to them, the sort of plastic that they're made from moves. So, um, so it looks actually beautiful, the movement in the water, but I can swim fast with this on.

Stephanie: Wow. That is spectacular. , Have you always been drawn to water?

Tara: Yeah, I have, yeah. I grew up a water baby. My dad was one of the parents that was of the mindset of, throw them in and they'll figure it out. So I did figure it out, used to swim competitively at school. One thing I don't do, and I wish I could say I did is freediving. I don't have a good long breath hold. The mermaid community, and there is a mermaid community, is comprised largely actually of extraordinary athletes and free divers and ocean conservationists. So it's actually a pretty cool group of people.

Stephanie: Wow. And do you know them, meet them in person, or is it just an online thing? You do!

Tara: I have met them in person from online. So yeah. I might make friends with people online because of our shared passion for this.

Tara: And then some of them I've actually been able to meet with. Won't surprised you that lots of them live in Florida and not so many live in New York. But yes, I'm in New York. Yeah. Yup. So I'm, uh, I'm in, land- not quite land-locked, cold weather mermaid.

Stephanie: And being even further north from you in New Hampshire. Yeah. I know what it's cold. Yeah. Cold water mermaid.

Stephanie: Well that is, one of the most unique and interesting things I have heard in a very long time, and visually just stunning. But let's talk a little bit about turning 40, which you did about a year ago.

Stephanie: And when you were posting your thoughts about turning 40, you were feeling introspective. Tell me a little bit about your thoughts and feelings.

Tara: Yes. So I have had these types of moments of introspection at regular intervals in my life. At those moments that we do typically think of as milestones.

Tara: And there's not really, technically, any reason why 40 should matter more than 39 or 38, but we do put meaning on these milestone moments. 30 was certainly one for me. People will do the things like, 30 things to do before you turn 30, all of this type of stuff. So it wasn't a first for me, but maybe the nature of the introspection that I was starting to go through at 40 was a little bit different from what I'd gone through at 30.

Tara: And a lot of it is about stepping back and taking stock of, where is my life right now? Is it what I actually want it to be? Have I slipped into doing things just because that's what the world tells me to do? That's what everyone does. Is it actually what I want to be doing in work, in the friendships that I have in my life, uh, and in whether or not I want to have family, have a baby. And that's where the 40 milestone specifically, is a little different from 30 or 50, because, well, because that's just the biology of it.

Stephanie: Right. That's magnificent. I did a lot of that same introspection around 40, almost accidentally. When I was doing my 40 drinks project, I started it as sort of something ridiculous and outlandish to celebrate my birthday and extend it for an entire year.

Stephanie: And, it came around and kicked me in the butt. Some things happened during the year where , I was shaking in my boots and thinking about some of the larger things in life. And like you were saying the "shoulds," am I doing things just because I should, or somebody told me, or that's what's expected.

Stephanie: Um, so I, I really relate to, to your thought process. Tell me a little bit about 30. What, what kinds of things were you thinking about at 30 that were different at 40.

Tara: Interesting question. A lot of it was about financial independence actually. Was I setting myself up the right way to live my own life that didn't rely on help from my parents. I mean, you think you'd figured that out sooner than 30 that's for sure. And I think I had figured it out by 30, but I had also decided to myself by 30, I don't want to roommate anymore. So that was something that I was looking at. I felt like I wanted to have control of my space in a different way.

Tara: So that was a little bit of a milestone I was working towards, which I did hit at 30. And a question as to where I actually wanted to live, which continues to be a big question for me. I've lived in 10 different countries and more than that cities. So the question of where I want to live is kind of constant and I have jumped around and jumped around and each time I'm putting down new roots and meeting new people, And it's exhausting. And it's a lot of fun.

Tara: And around the age of 30, I was starting to find the exhausting bit was tipping heavier than the fun bit. And I did want to start to, I guess, make some commitments to some things that I was doing, including where I lived.

Stephanie: And so New York is where you've settled then.

Tara: Yeah. So I settled here when I was, it was actually when I was 32, I've been here since I was 32, but I lived here for a year when I was 29.

Tara: So I came back and decided, this is where I wanted to be. .

Stephanie: And are you in the city or?

Tara: I am I'm in Manhattan.

Stephanie: Wow. Okay. All right. So not only did you commit, you committed all the way.

Tara: Yes.

Stephanie: You picked the city that never sleeps.

Tara: Yeah. Although of course I am now reconsidering all of that as well. And that's more pandemic related than 40 related, I think. Although the two probably conflate a little bit.

Stephanie: So then flash forward to 40 and let's dig into some of the milestones. Some of the reflections you're doing about 40, you talked about a biological one that was very different.

Tara: Oh yes it is. And my goodness, I know I am not alone in, in facing this. Although sometimes it can feel a little bit lonely. I'm single. And I think single, quite a long time. That doesn't mean I haven't dated, I date quite actively actually in, so yes. Have there been moments with different people? Yes, but I haven't had a really, really serious relationship for probably 10 years.

Tara: My last serious relationship was with someone who I lived with for five years and he proposed, and that was actually probably part of that 30 milestone also because I didn't marry him. And, and that means that that having a child question, which I'm sure that people face when they're married also, but obviously there's some weight to it because it's doing it on your own, if you're going to do it. And the prospect of single motherhood is daunting and I would already be an older mother having a child at this age than I had imagined I would be. When I was 20, I just sort of assumed I would go down this path of marrying someone and white picket fence and do kids.

Tara: And that's how it would all go. This is one of the nice things about turning 40 and realizing, oh, hold on. It doesn't have to be that way. There's all these different ways that people could live their lives. Uh, I think you feel a little bit more empowered maybe as you get older to make the choices for yourself. There were a lot of different things that were going through my mind on this.

Stephanie: Yeah. I can relate so much to that. You know, I come from not one, but two enormous families. My dad is one of 10 and my mom is one of six and most of them. Yeah, I've got more first cousins than almost anybody I know, minus a couple of Italian friends.

Tara: How many first cousins.

Stephanie: There's a 16 on one side and 14 on the other. So yeah, there's a lot of us. And so in my twenties, I always just assumed that I would get married and have kids because that's what I saw. That's what I knew. That's what, um, that's what I assumed. And the same as you, that, that sort of like, you know, with someone and the white picket fence and the, and the picture that was sort of out of a picture book and not necessarily out of your own heart.

Stephanie: And then in my thirties, very much the same. I, I dated some men. Some not nice men, and sorta got to the point where, that biological thing I was facing it as well, and thinking, you know, am I going to do this? And I sort of came around to, if it was really that important to me, wouldn't I have done it already or wouldn't, I have made different choices, prioritize different things? Um, I was never brave enough, to, to think about doing it by myself. Um, and then I actually met my now husband the year I turned 40. So, um, I always talk about Patrick as, he is my reward for never settling.

Tara: That's amazing. I love that.

Stephanie: Yeah. And he's actually several years younger than me too. He had asked me when we first started dating, or, or soon after we got serious, he said, you know, can you just leave the door open for me? And I, I said, yep. I can leave the door open. Cause I had pretty much decided by that point that I don't think this is for me. And he asked me to leave the door open and I said, I would.

Stephanie: And then he didn't hustle. And you know, we weren't moving forward that quickly. And, and it was like, you know, we got, we didn't get married for five more years. So the door sort of closed out of, biology and different priorities. And so, so I can relate so much to what you're saying and what you're going through.

Tara: There's a few things you've just said different things. I'd love to pick up on. One, one, which is just actually a little bit of a joke, which I actually posted on Instagram recently that I thought of when you mentioned that Patrick is younger than you. I am now at that sweet spot age, the delight of turning 40, where I can date you or your father.

Tara: And they just do that. And I do say that like, slightly tongue in cheek, but only slightly, because I actually had an experience of this. When I went on a few dates with someone who's 28 years old, which is a little younger than I would normally go. But let's say I normally have a plus or minus 10 years boundary, 30 to 50 dating age range, and he was 28 and, uh. And his dad had him when he was quite young.

Tara: His dad had him when he was 20, his dad was 48. So his dad was closer to my age than he was. And there was a moment when we were on a date and he was showing me some pictures of his family and I was like, oh, did I pick the right one.

Stephanie: And you kind of don't want to say. Your dad's hot. Meantime, You might be thinking it.

Tara: I mean, that didn't last for so many other reasons, nothing to do with this guy, but it, um, when you were saying about Patrick being younger, I do think that that's something that inevitably ends up happening. Your age range, widens, as you get older. There's just more room. When you're 80 years old, of course you can't date plus, or minus 10, but when you're 40 years old, you can, and that's actually quite interesting.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Tara: The other thing I wanted to talk about when you were saying about having a child and thinking that surely you would have done something about that sooner or at some point. That also was much on my mind. I actually really envy those women and I don't know how many of them there are that feel a very strong, compelling to do it, a calling to it. They know, they know it's what they want. Right. And have that clarity of mind of what you want. Oh, I wished I had it because if I knew that that was what I wanted. Okay. I would've just gone after it. But all of the deliberations were, I don't know if this is what I want.

Tara: And I actually think it's both a the burden and a luxury, right? Like so many people, especially in previous generations, you get married, say you're 25, you get married. And that's when you're just doing the thing that society tells you to do. You marry and you have your kids. And you don't actually really take a moment to step back and say, do I want it?

Tara: And it's an amazing privilege that I am able to do that, but it is also so overwhelming. I just want someone to come and tell me what I should do, because I don't know how to decide, or at least that's where I was a year ago.

Stephanie: I am so with you. So this for me, sorta dovetails into an even larger conversation around, I have for many years been trying to figure out, what is my purpose? What am I here to do? And, I've got a great life and I own a marketing business and I, I love doing it. I've created it, you know, to be just the thing that I want it to be. Um, you know, that I usually call my baby. We own our own home.

Stephanie: Like, there's so many things, but, but even if I'm sort of throw myself back, 10 years or, or, or less it's, that is one of my questions is, you know, what's my purpose. What am I here for? And I, and I'm with you. I, so envy people who are just so clear on it, whether it's having a baby or, you know, or any of the other things, it's so much easier to make decisions when that is clear for you, because the decision is always binary.

Stephanie: Does it get me closer or does it get me further away? When that purpose is clear, you always can make your decisions by choosing the answer that gets you closer. And when it's more sort of a vague or a, you know, something you're still looking for, it feels like you're always exploring, and trying things. For me, there was trying on,, relationships and trying on jobs and trying on, you know, things that turned out, you know, most of them didn't fit.

Tara: Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting. I think. People say that you stop caring about a lot of things when you reach your forties.

Tara: And I actually think that's part of what we just talked about. Some of the things that we stop caring about are the things that weighed us down. The things that controlled us, the caring so much about what other people think and how other people are living their lives. But at the same time, You start caring, or I started caring about other things more, or maybe not caring, more, paying more attention to them, making decisions more thoughtfully and mindfully about where I put my energy, which friendships did I invest in and how I lived my life in a way that felt meaningful.

Tara: That, I mean, that ultimate question, right? What's the point? What gives my life meaning. And is a baby going to do that? For so many people it absolutely does. Can I do that and still do the other things? Like I used to have some, some political ambitions, certainly as a, I never did. I never actually went into it at all, but, um, but as a child, I was absolutely intent I would be president of the United States one day. Um, zero desire to go anywhere near that. But why did I have that ambition? It was because I was like, I can, I've got good ideas and I can help people. And I want to help people. And if so much of my energy ends up being taken by being a single mother, which of course would require a huge amount of my attention.

Tara: It absolutely changes what I can give to other causes that I care about.

Stephanie: Yeah. It changes the math.

Tara: Yes. There's a finite amount of time in the day. That just is what it is.

Stephanie: Yup. Yup. And energy. Forget even the time, because a lot of times the energy runs out before the time does.

Tara: Yeah. Oh yeah. I mean, I wonder if I should get to the, there's the punchline of where I'm at now, a few weeks off of 41 after all of these different deliberations.

Tara: And by the way, I did take one action when I was 32, that it sounds like you didn't do. I froze my eggs when I was 32 years old. And, and that was because I've always been someone that liked to optionality. So I didn't do it because I was social or I wanted to, I did it because I wanted to keep options open as long as I could, but I had those there they're still there.

Tara: And I also had a friend, a gay friend who really wanted to have a child. And he was very interested in doing this together. And that really sent me in the last couple of years down a path of exploration with him. And where I have got to is actually that I'm not going to do it with him, although he will no doubt be very involved and very close in my life on this.

[INTERMISSION]

Tara: I am doing it. I'm doing it with an anonymous sperm donor. And, what got me there, there were two things that, that got me to this decision. One was to stop spiraling out the next 20 years. That was causing me decision paralysis, because the decision of should I have a baby on my own, inevitably led me to, where should I live?

Tara: What happens in five years? What happens in 10 years? What happens in 20 years? What if this happens, what if this happens, the infinite scenarios and, and I would freeze and then, and then put it away, hide it somewhere, couldn't think about it anymore, because I just didn't know how to answer those questions.

Tara: And then I finally realized, thanks to a little bit of therapy, that I, I couldn't answer those questions. And who knew meant like 99 out of a hundred of those things that I was thinking about weren't going to happen. So.

Stephanie: Well, and beyond that, you could play that same game without a baby in the equation. Right? We can, we can paralyze ourselves by what if'ing out. I had a boyfriend in my, early 30s who used to come to me and say, well, you know what, if we did this, or what if I got a job here? What if we moved there? He would drop that in my lap.

Stephanie: And I was, oh God, no. And then I'd start making plans for whatever that eventuality was and it didn't come to pass. And I finally started calling them "what if bombs." It's like, don't, you know, tell me when you've got something real to talk about. I'm not going to, what if this out with you, you know?

Stephanie: Your decision, any major life decision and be paralyzed by going down that path, because frankly anything could happen any time. Yes. And it would change all of our wonderful plans.

Tara: Exactly, exactly. And so I, I eventually brought it back to simpler questions. Did I want to be pregnant? Did I want to have a baby? Not, did I want to have a three-year-old or a ten-year-old like, let's just bring this a little bit closer in, and that's not to negate the need to have maybe some consideration for it, but that I needed to, I needed to narrow things a little bit.

Tara: And, and the answer was yes . And that's the second piece of it. I realized that this was part of the human experience that I wanted to have. And by the way, I'm saying that I'm not pregnant yet. I don't know if it will work. It might not happen for me. And so I have to hold onto this possibility at the same time, as, as accepting that it might not happen, which is quite, it's quite a, that's quite a challenging place to be as well.

Tara: Although I think I'm managing to straddle that balance okay, so far. And we'll see what happens, but I am excited about it.

Stephanie: It sounds like you're in one of those Chinese finger puzzles where like the harder you pull, the tighter it gets and all you have to do is relax and just see what's going to happen. Cause you're right, you've made the decision to try, but that doesn't mean that it'll necessarily happen the way you think it will.

Tara: I feel like we can guarantee it's not going to happen the way that I think it will. I just thought of another thing that did relax me into it. I was, I was dating someone during the pandemic, my pandemic lover, wonderful man, and younger than me also.

Tara: And he knew what about my, my thinking around this. And one of the questions that I would pose to him was, how would you feel about dating me when I'm pregnant? How would you feel about dating me if I have a child? And he was just like, oh, it's cool Tara. I don't care. You'll be a great mom. And not, everyone's going to say that, I know that. But it, it caught me in one of my other spirals, which was no will ever date me again. And I've just realized how much that's not true.

Stephanie: It's so not true.

Tara: Yeah.

Stephanie: And that's part of the evolution too, right? Yeah. It's going to be different men.

Tara: Yes.

Stephanie: It's not going to be the party boys who want to go out drinking and clubbing. And they are fabulous. They are so much fun, but you grow out of that phase and all of a sudden those things that are important to you, there are people around who see those things as important as well.

Tara: Yeah.

Stephanie: Versus the people who are like, oh God, I could never. Well, of course you could never, you're 27, you know, you're 32.

Tara: . I am under no illusion that it will be easy if that happens. That is for sure. And that is scary. Lack of sleep terrifies me. There are studies out there that make it quite clear that people that have children report lower levels of happiness than people that don't have children.

Tara: And this is based on longitudinal research where people are asked, you know, at regular intervals. I don't know if it's monthly or weekly or what, but kind of just, how are you feeling? How happy are you? And it drops when they have kids and it goes back up when the kids leave home. So I, I saw that and was like, well, that's interesting.

Tara: And the other interesting thing is if you ask someone, they kind of deny it. Not because they not. Cause there there's no like intent to deceive or anything, but you can't fix it. So you can't really accept that and still really be happy with your life. This is a choice. If, is the life that you have, it is what it is.

Tara: I think what that misses, however, happiness question, is that life isn't just about how happy you are. Happy is too simple concept. And this is where we come back to the question of meaning. And if they were being asked, how meaningful do you find your life? Well, I think that starts to become a different conversation.

Tara: So, I mean, I could just be naively convincing myself of this, but I did want to go into it with all eyes open and I saw that and I was like, yeah, this makes sense. People are going to be sleep deprived. Less in control of their destiny and no, they can't sleep in and yes, they have to ferry the kid to swimming or whatever it is.

Tara: And can't just do what they want on Sunday morning. So I could see how that reduces happiness at a very basic kind of hedonistic level.

Stephanie: Absolutely, you were talking about meaning, and I was thinking as well of fulfillment.

Tara: Yes.

Stephanie: You know, happiness is, is different than fulfillment and you could be, miserable because you haven't slept in three months, but so full to bursting at being fulfilled by what you've chosen.

Stephanie: It's very interesting that you say that happiness is too simple a concept to really encapsulate what you're trying to do and the decision you're trying to make.

Tara: Yeah.

Stephanie: Ooh. This is big stuff. Do you have plans for how you're going to approach this? Have you gotten that far?

Tara: Yes. Yes I have. Um, so I am really fortunate to have parents that are very supportive, at least supportive emotionally of this decision. The way in which they can not be as supportive is that they don't live in the same country as me. They live in Hong Kong. So they are quite, far away. That is a reality that I will need to contend with.

Tara: I also know that I'm just going to need more help now that I might have to pay for. So there is absolutely a financial aspect to this. Although I also know that my parents will do everything they can to be here, at least in key moments. That's not the same as having them down the road for they all baby sitting.

Tara: And that's something that I envy of my sister-in-law who has that, but I know that they will be there to help somewhat anyway. And I have an amazing, very close knit friend group that I think will also be part of part of the family in some ways. So some of it's that some of it is figuring out where do I live?

Tara: I think probably still in New York, but not in the same apartment that I'm in now. I need a little bit more space. So I'm starting to think through that, also. One of the bits that was actually the most interesting on this was choosing the donor and that is like online dating on steroids.

Stephanie: Did they give you a catalog?

Tara: Pretty much, pretty much. And, and it was a bit of a team effort. I got down to a shortlist and had a spreadsheet of them and shared that with my brother and my parents and some of my closest friends, collected perspectives and input. And I had to manage it, especially with my parents to say, look, I might end up picking one that wasn't your top. Just so you know, you gotta be okay with that. That's not part of the planning for actually when it happens, but that's been part of the more recent journey.

Stephanie: Have you given them like names and personas? I would make up stories.

Tara: I do. Absolutely. They actually get them in at least one of the cryo banks. They have personas of sorts. And the one that I have picked is called "definitely a cat guy."

Stephanie: I love him.

Tara: And that, that just, that actually was already, I love cat guys. I love cat guys with dog energy and that, which they often have actually. And often, dog guys have cat energy. It's really interesting.

Stephanie: I think you just described my husband. I've never thought of it that way. Uh, he, I think he's a cat guy, but he's so got dog energy.

Tara: Yeah.

Stephanie: Oh my goodness. So again, part of these like evolutions of who you thought you were. I always thought I was a dog person, mostly because my parents hated cats. I grew up hearing, like, I hate cats. I hate cats. So I was, I think, I dunno, my mid thirties.

Stephanie: My brother had just gotten divorced and was living at home. He called me one night and he goes, oh, there's this cat here. He got stuck in a tree and I pulled them out of the tree and, fed him some tuna. And now, he won't go away. And like a couple of days later, I was like, is that cat still there?

Stephanie: He was like, yeah. And I was like, I think I'm going to come take a look at it. And I went to the house and this cat, this tiny little black baby girl cat just basically told me she was coming home with me. And so she's totally adopted me. Um, I became a cat person instantaneously, and so when my husband came along, he was like, you know, I don't really like cats.

Stephanie: I'm like, it's okay, neither do I, but, but Tuna is, different. So, uh, she was just the sweetest little thing. She was, first of all, she was tiny. She was about six or seven pounds. Um, snugly, demure, just delightful, kind of a little bit like a dog. Like we had our routine, she followed me around.

Stephanie: We lost her last year, last summer. It was heartbreaking. Thank you. So, flash forward a couple of months, I think we lost her in like July or August. And, um, I decided that I had this four legged hole in my heart and I needed to fill it. Last Halloween, we adopted a little black boy Kitten.

Stephanie: And now my husband is over the moon about him, because Tuna was always mine. Right. And we had our relationship and our routines before he came along. Well, now he's been around since, Quinn is his name, since, the day we brought Quinn home. So he's like, this is my first pet and he's like, I love this little cat.

Stephanie: So just as a side note, I'm not sure what I did in a previous life to deserve Quinn because he is the opposite of Tuna in every way. First of all, he's a boy. He's got very boy energy. I never had a kitten before. Um, and he's, he's just a brute. he's 13 pounds and terrorizes us and our house. He's huge.

Stephanie: He's unbelievable. I came up with this recently. I said to Patrick, you know, I had this four leg and hole in my heart that needed filling. And I ended up with a four legged pain in my ass.

Tara: Wow.

Stephanie: But Patrick is this big, sweet, just this wonderful man.

Stephanie: And, uh, just the way you said that a cat guy with dog energy. My jaw dropped because I was like.

Tara: I think I read that on Tik TOK somewhere. Oh, I think they saw someone say something like that. I can't claim that I made it up. I definitely read it somewhere at some point. And it also landed really well. I was like, Yes. I've seen that.

Stephanie: I'm crediting you with it, so wherever you found it is fine. Okay. So "definitely a cat guy." I liked him.

Tara: And it wasn't that it was the story in the end that, I mean, there were various boxes. I was checking on like quantitative specific stuff, but for the most part it came down to what was my story around this person, because I needed to feel good about it. Yeah.

Stephanie: Wow. Wow. That's amazing.

Tara: You know, it's funny telling you about all of this. It does still, in case anyone thinks that and envies me for what seems like clarity of decision. My stomach is turning occasionally, as we're talking, just, just talking about this, talking about it. It's the more I talk about it and that's partly why I do talk about it is, is to make it real and.

Tara: And the more I talk about it, the more real it is, but then sometimes I have sort of waves of, oh God, it's real.

Stephanie: Yeah. We'll call that motion sickness, right? Oh God. Um, well this is going to be, I think your greatest adventure yet.

Tara: Yes. And that is actually how I think about it. The greatest adventures are not smooth sailing.

Tara: They're adventures because they're hard. Life is meaningful because it's hard. So yes, I am ready for the next adventure.

Stephanie: This is amazing Tara. I just feel so honored that you came and shared your story with me. Um, I also, probably three or four times during our conversation. Had Will Ferrell pop up in my head. Um, from that, uh, what was the movie stepbrothers? And I just looked at you and I was like, "did we just become best friends?"

Tara: And I have to say you're in New Hampshire, but if you're ever in the city, I would love to have a drink.

Stephanie: Okay. We're going to make that happen. Patrick went to college at Fordham, so he has lots of college friends still in Manhattan and around Manhattan. I'm, I'm gonna make this happen because, I would love to meet you IRL.

Tara: I would as well. And who knows, if I have a baby at that point, um, well then I'd hope it would happen before. You can believe it's going to be dressed up in a little mermaid or Merman or mer outfit. Mer doesn't have a gender, a mer something.

Stephanie: That's amazing.

Stephanie: I'm totally putting you on the spot, but when I come to New York and we have a drink together, what should our drink be? Are there mer- tails? Are there mer cocktails?

Tara: Oh, how is there not a mer tail cocktail? Yeah, they're really a good coining.

Tara: If there are, honestly, I feel like they wouldn't be good. Any kind of blue color cocktail is just going to be too sweet. So unfortunately I do know that I've got a good theme there. One thing I could suggest is, you must have had this so many times but, champagne. And the reason for champagne is that my family has a bit of a tradition of sabrage, which is where you saber a bottle of champagne with a sword.

Tara: I have my own saber. I have probably sabered 100, 200 bottles of champagne in my life. And it's just a good show. So we could do that.

Stephanie: I accept.

Tara: Excellent.

Stephanie: That sounds fabulous. Tara. Thank you so much for joining us today. Um, uh, let me just say for anybody, who's looking to catch up with you. You're on Instagram as,

Tara: StarraTales. And that's S T A R R A, two R's, tales, T A L E S, like fairytales, not like mermaid tails. What are the tales that I want to tell? What are the adventures? What are all the stories? And the mermaid is one of them, but there's so many tales in our lives.

Stephanie: Wonderful. Brava. Brava. I've so enjoyed this conversation.

Tara: Me, too. Thank you.

Stephanie: I look forward to catching up with you in New York sometime soon. Wonderful. Have a lovely weekend.

Tara: Thanks you too.

Stephanie: Bye.

Stephanie: Thank you so much for listening. If you liked what you heard today, please subscribe wherever you listen and share with your friends. If you or someone you know has a great story about either a midlife personal evolution or specifically about turning 40. I want to hear it, and I probably want to invite that person to join me on the podcast.

Stephanie: Go to 40 drinks.com/contact to submit a name.

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