This year’s National Infertility Awareness Campaign theme is “#Flip the Script”. This can mean so many different things. It’s interpretation is as unique as the story of each woman that struggles to conceive. One thing that I always grizzel at is the concept that women over 35 have “waited too long”. In fact, one of the motivations for our upcoming book was to rectify this misbelief. Yes, some people do intentionally wait to have children but for many of us it is simply how life happens. I did not wait to have children, I was ready in my late twenties. However, I was also single then. Despite a decade of dating, I had not met “the one”. It seemed like a bad idea to just get hitched to procreate by a certain age. I finally met my husband when I was 30. We got married three years later. He wanted to wait six months before we started trying for a child which put me at 34 and him at 32. Everything about this time line seemed reasonable. In fact, when we finally went for a fertility evaluation, our doctor said we were young and healthy. No ovarian reserve problems here. Sometimes infertility is illogical. This didn’t seem to stop others from opining about my age (interestingly, no one ever commented on my husband’s age but that’s another topic.)
I have met so many older first -time moms who did not wait. They share similar stories, not meeting someone or spending their twenties in relationships that did not pan out. I have met women with medical crisis that delayed childbearing. I know a woman who got married at 25 and was a widow three months later. I have met women who had a change of heart and decided at the last minute that they did, indeed, want to parent.
I have also met women who had specific professional goals that were time intensive. Professors, doctors, career military women. They had delayed childbearing to complete educational programs or tours of duty. One can argue that they chose work over family. I have a different take on it. I believe children do best with self-actualized parents . I believe adults have the right to wear multiple hats. We all have different life goals. If you want to be a hairdresser, it takes about 18 months. If you want a PhD, that can take a decade. Both are valid and equal life goals. What is important is taking the route that is authentic to you. And here is the thing: If you don’t feel you can handle a PhD program while pregnant, that is ok. If you can’t fathom leaving an infant while you are deployed, that is ok. If you prefer to complete your residency before having a child, you’re not selfish. Some women can have babies while doing these things and I applaud you! I also stand with the women who simply can’t handle it all at the same time. You are ok. Recognizing what you need to do to be the best parent is a testament to how great a parent you will be.
Of course, fertility has an endpoint. Obviously, you need to keep that in mind. My point is that whatever life paths have led you to trying to conceive in your late thirties or beyond is your unique path. If the struggle is harder now because of your age, you are not to blame for biology. You did nothing wrong and campaigns that shame women because they “waited” are misguided at best and cruel at worst. Living life is not waiting.