“There is a sharp decline in a woman’s ability to achieve pregnancy over age forty. The fertility rate per month is only about 5% and even with in Vitro Fertilization (IVF), the most successful infertility treatment available, the pregnancy rate is only about 10% per try. This is due to the greatly reduced number of normal eggs remaining in the ovaries of a woman over forty… Estimates from embryo biopsy reveal that at least 90% of a woman’s eggs are genetically abnormal when a woman is over 40. This is explains the increased pregnancy risk over 40. The miscarriage rate is 33% at age 40. Genetically abnormal pregnancies are more common as well with an incidence of 1/38 at age 40… As women get older the risks of medical conditions complicating pregnancy increase. Complications of pregnancy that increase with age include elevated blood pressure, gestational diabetes, premature labor and bleeding disorders such as placental abruption.”
—A Woman’s Age and Fertility
I never had a strong desire to have children. In fact, I mostly had a desire not to have children and I figured that parenting was so challenging that it should really only be undertaken by those who really and truly wanted kids. Which isn’t to say I didn’t see how being a parent would be awesome. People always say that kids are rewarding and bring meaning to life more than anything else in this world and with my niece, I can see glimpses of that. I can see how satisfying, comforting, and life-fulfilling a family could be when everything falls into place. And I have wanted that feeling of family — of belonging. But I never felt that sense of family had to include children for me.
When I was married, my husband didn’t want kids either, so early into our marriage, he had a vasectomy and I thought that was the end of that. Never again would I have to think about birth control. Only then we got divorced and if I ever planned to have sex again, I figured I’d better start thinking about it. I considered Essure, a permanent sterilization method, but I was only 30 when I got divorced and didn’t want to exclude the possibility of finding someone to spend the rest of my life with who did want kids. Because while I didn’t have a strong pull towards them, if I met the right person who I would love forever and he wanted a family, I would consider having that with him. So after taking birth control pills for a while, I went with the Mirena IUD. Fewer hormones than the pill and I wouldn’t have to think about it again for five years.
I started to really understand the panic of the biological clock. You always hear it mocked, but it’s such a core issue to our lives. Some women truly and completely want to be mothers. Being a mom is something that means more to their lives than where they work or how much money they make. We are so obsessed with the working part of our lives and understand completely overachievers who work extra hours for that promotion. But what about those who also have non-career aspirations for their lives? Those who want to have satisfying personal lives, to have families, to get to the end of their days and look back on a life beyond work?
And if you’re a woman in your mid-thirties, those options start fading away. Sure, you can always get a better job and if you are single, you likely will one day find someone to spend your life with. But you might not be able to build a family with someone you love. And while I didn’t feel the ticking of starting a family, I could see that it was becoming less of a viable option. In your 20s, you can always change your mind someday. By the time you’re 40, you likely can’t. And the fading option of having a family also brought a fear of being alone. Maybe I would never find someone to spend my life with because anyone I would meet would want a family and I would be too old to give that to him.
I talked to a friend who chose not to have kids and who is now too old to consider it. She said that she and her husband haven’t regretted not having children, but as they get older, they do sometimes feel a bit wistful and alone with no family of their own.
When my doctor told me that I was of “advanced maternal age”, I felt a little of the ticking clock panic, but part of me also felt relieved. If I did meet someone and he did want kids, how would I really feel about that?
After a couple of years, I started to have problems and my doctor thought the IUD might be contributing. So she took it out. And she wants me to avoid introducing any hormones into my system. So.
I’m nearly 37. I’m not in a relationship. I could probably get pregnant right now, but what about in 3 years when I’m 40? Sure, it would be possible, but it could be very difficult and risky. And even if I were to meet Prince Charming today and we lived happily ever after, it would unlikely we’d be at a stage to consider children until then.
So, I think I’m going to go ahead with Essure.
It feels a little melancholy to know for certain that I’ll never experience pregnancy and motherhood and babies a little girl in pigtails and someone I love gazing at my belly and telling me I’m beautiful and feeling that sense of a family of my own. And it’s a little scary. But mostly it’s scary because I’ve kept the option of motherhood open so I could be what someone else might want me to be.
But I can’t live my life that way, anyway.