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Turning 40 While Single and Childless

I was 28 years old the first time someone called me “barren.” At a book club hosted by one of my friends, I met a 22-year-old graduate student who had just moved to the city. After our group discussion, she and I ended up in the kitchen talking about food, life, and expectations. As I shared with her the story of my recent broken engagement, I confessed, “I thought I’d be married by now.”

Later that week, she emailed to say she enjoyed our conversation and that she, too, thought she’d be “married by now.” Then she said I reminded her of “the barren woman” from the Hebrew Scriptures, of whom it is said in Isaiah,

“Sing, O barren one, for the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married” (Isa. 54:1).

Did she just call me “barren”?

Thankfully, some girlfriends came over for dinner that night. All single. All gorgeous. All in their late 20s. I read the email to them, and we laughed. I wasn’t alone. I was like most women in Manhattan—single and successful, and with plenty of time to get married and have kids.

But perhaps that young woman was prophetic. Four weeks shy of turning 40, I’m still single and childless. “Barren”—a description that was laughable to my 28-year-old self—may turn out to be true.

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