She never wanted kids—until a milestone birthday and a bout with cancer made her rethink her priorities.
I never really wanted kids. I didn't not want them, but motherhood just wasn't something that pulled at me. My friends started having children after college, while I was pursuing this crazy acting career and living hand to mouth. Plus, all my boyfriends were artists struggling to make a living. Having kids didn't make any sense—why would I take on more of a financial burden when I couldn't even afford a dog?

As I got older and had more serious relationships, the topic of children would sometimes come up. But it was always the man's suggestion, and I'd think, "Well, if kids are what he wants, and if that's what you're supposed to do at this point, maybe I should..." Still, none of those relationships lasted.

Then something happened that I hadn't anticipated: I started going on dates and thinking, "Is this the guy who's going to give me kids?" The idea of motherhood began to take on its own life inside me.

I turned 40 in July 2003, and that September I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had eight months of treatment, and in the spring of 2004, when I was given a clean bill of health, I had one of those moments of clarity where all questions and debates just fall away. The direction was clear: I didn't have to wait for the right man, or to be more ready, or to have more money or a bigger apartment. It was time for me to start a family on my own.

I immediately called a New Jersey adoption agency. (I could have given birth through IVF—I was healthy enough after my cancer treatment—but I wasn't interested.) I started filling out the four million pages of paperwork, which normally would have been daunting enough to keep me from following through. This time, though, I sat there and took it one tedious page at a time.

Within a year, I found myself in a room, waiting. I can remember it like it was five seconds ago. A social worker handed me a teensy baby—my son, Anderson—and my parents and I just lost it. He was so beautiful. Last year, I got my daughter, Macy; she's a dream.

Being a single mother was the right thing for me. But I have a tremendous amount of help from my friends. They're in love with my kids, and my kids are in love with them. We're joined in a sort of bizarre communal arrangement: When I go to work or to an event, my kids are with these friends, and we spend evenings, weekends, and holidays with them, too. It's the closest thing to a family I've had since I was a child.

I haven't given up on having a relationship with a man. It's just not the priority it used to be, and I don't feel "less than" without it. My idea of happiness is different now from what it used to be. It's not the jumping-up-and-down kind; it's a contentedness. The overriding feeling is gratitude, and once you have that it builds on itself and creates this whole giant tower that you can't escape—and you're even more grateful. I am in awe of the way things have turned out. Maybe life isn't supposed to be crappy; maybe the good times are where we're supposed to live.

As told to Suzan Colón

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