"Are you sure about this?" Ellen asks. "I mean are you really, really sure?"
"Yes," I say. "I am 100% sure." That's a lie, but I need her to believe me. Because her believing me makes me more sure.
The app that is open on my phone is giving me a little warning box, telling me that as soon as I hit the button my profile on Heartility will be live. And even though I think I'm ready, I'm still nervous. Even though I could always delete my profile, this feels like something that I won't be able to take back.
But it doesn't matter. I am going to do this. I want to baby, and if this is the only way for me to get one, then so be it. Steeling myself, I push the button and watch my picture and the few curated lines about myself go flying into cyberspace.
I don't feel any different. When making big life decisions or having birthdays or crossing some milestone you always think you're going to feel some sort of big change. But I never have. "Well," I say, "that's that."
Ellen puts her arm around my shoulder and hugs me. "Are you going to start swiping now?"
That's a part of the rules. Heartility is basically like Tinder but for men willing to be sperm donors. So for that reason, the women have to message first. It's a neat idea, with all the men having been vetted and background checked so there's nobody on the app looking to prey on women, and the fact that they’re actually fertile and able to complete the mission, so to speak. But let's be real, it's all upside for the men. Free sex and no commitment.
"No," I say. "I think I'm going to need some wine before I do that."
"Well then, let's go get some wine."
I laughed. "That's okay, I've got some here."
Ellen raises an eyebrow. "Are you kicking me out?"
"Of course not." She stares at me until I give in. "Okay, fine. I am pretty tired. I was thinking about taking a nap before the wine."
"I can take the hint," she says, laughing. "But I expect full details if you match with anyone, got it?"
Ellen gives me another hug, grabs her purse, and leaves. I wait until I hear the door closed behind her and hear steps go downstairs before I pick up my phone again. I feel bad lying to my best friend, but this doesn't feel like a game. I'm picking the potential father of my child, and it's not something I can giggle over while drunk.
I wasn't lying about the wine though, or about being tired. I may very well take a nap, and I will definitely be a drinking wine while looking through these profiles. Otherwise, I'll be too anxious to make a decision, or even to say yes to talking. But I don't think it would do me any harm to start looking a little bit right now.
I open the app again and click to the screen where all your potentials are displayed. The first few I say no to easily. I know that this is all about getting pregnant, and that it shouldn't matter so much whether or not I'm attracted to the person. I should be paying attention to their profile and statistics. But if I'm going to be sleeping with this person for any length of time, I have to be attracted to them. I'm making a baby, and I'm not just going to close my eyes and think of England while I do it.
I've done this a few times over the past year, I know how to quickly evaluate a dating profile. But this isn't that. When you're looking for somebody to be the father of her child, it takes a little bit more time. Every swipe I make has more significance, and so each one takes longer.
After swiping a few more times, I find a profile that's intriguing. He doesn't have many pictures, and none of his face. But the pictures of his body are to die for. I scroll down through the pictures to the rest of his profile and start to read. He's has a good education, good test scores, and a healthy medical history.
I'm not sure why there aren't any pictures of his face, but this is the first profile I've seen that checks all the boxes. Taking a deep breath, I swipe yes. I feel more anxious about it than I thought I would. But all I need to remember is that this isn't a sure thing. If I don't like him, I can always say no and find somebody else.
Heartility opens a message between the two of us, and suddenly my mind is blank. What do you say to a man who you're basically asking to fuck you until you get pregnant?
But then again, it's why were both on this app in the first place. So I guess I'll just start with the basics.
Hi, I came across your profile and I liked it. Would you mind talking further?
I can't think of anything else to say, and I know that I'm just going to stare at the screen until he responds, so I put my phone down. I think I'll take that nap after all. I can't be overthinking things when I'm asleep, though I'm sure my brain and subconscious will find a way to prove me wrong.
* * *
When I open my eyes it's darker than I expect. I slowly roll out of bed and open the curtains, surprised that it's fully dark outside. I slept away longer than I intended to. I have no idea what time it is.
Oh well, it's Friday. Doesn't matter that much.
I pull a sweatshirt on over my head and make my way back into the living room. My phone is still sitting face down on the coffee table, and it feels like it takes up all the space in the room. Did mystery man answer while I was sleeping? And why am I so hung up on whether or not he does? There are plenty of men on Heartility ready and willing to give me a baby. I guess there's something about the first one that seems a little magical. Full of possibility.
Following my promise to myself, I go to the kitchen and pour myself a glass of wine. Thank you past me for deciding to buy a bottle of my favorite white earlier this week. I take a sip, savoring the dry flavor. Who knows, it may not be too long before I can't have wine for a long time. That thought is both terrifying and exciting, and it gives me the courage to go back into my living room and pick up my phone.
It's there! There's a notification from Heartility. He responded.
The notification doesn't show me any of his text, and I have to set my wine glass down on the coffee table because I'm shaking. I open the message thread between us and read.
What would you like to know?
I have to think about that for a second. What do I want to know? What kind of questions do you ask a sperm donor? Well, I guess I have at least one.
Why are you on this app?
I don't expect a response right away. But suddenly at the bottom of the screen is a little bubble that shows him typing. I take a big gulp of wine and wait. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I should have had Ellen stay for this. He types for what seems like a very long time, until:
I knew someone who wanted to get pregnant. But her partner wasn't interested, or at least she thought he wasn't. So she decided to do it anyway. I said that I would help her do it safely, and while we were doing research together discovered this app. It occurred to me that I could help other women who were in your position.
Plus, there's the sex.
I freeze. That's shockingly similar to my own story. Suddenly the strange magic of the first match comes back to me again. What are the odds of this? I type back quickly:
Wow. That's very nice of you.
Well, I do get the benefit of sex.
Is there anything that you'd like to know about me?
I think for a second. How much do I want to know about this man? Will it be easier if I know everything about him and then never see him again once I'm pregnant? Or is it better to just have a pleasant and distant memory, some vague and hazy presence. A kind of glowing benefactor in the background.
He must sense my hesitation because he types:
We can go out if you like, maybe get to know each other a little bit more before you make a decision.
I have an immediate thrill that someone would want to go out with me. I haven't had the best luck with that the past, but that's not what this is for, and I don't feel like I'm ready to make that kind of decision right now.
Let me think about it.
I put the phone down again and take a sip of my wine. This suddenly all feels very real. Almost too real, but no, this is what I said I wanted, and I do, so I'm not going back. I'm going to sleep on his suggestion. Tomorrow, after all the shock and excitement has worn off from actually starting this journey, maybe I'll be able to make a decision on whether or not I really want to get to know him. Until then, I guess he can wait.