Putting Off Pregnancy, Facing Reality

Thursday, January 23, 2014

After my miscarriage I felt completely broken. Faulty. I was devastated and covered in a sadness so profound, I didn’t believe that there was a way out of it. I shifted between despair and a seething anger on a daily basis.

Why wasn’t I allowed to have a baby? What was wrong with me? Did I wait too long? Are my eggs spent? My chances ruined?

In the months after the loss, as I worked to rebuild my spirit and consider trying again, I remember being so resentful towards the celebrities moms I saw grinning and glowing on the glossy pages of magazines. For some reason, my bitterness boiled over when I saw that Nicole Richie was expecting her first child.

Why does she get to have a baby? She does drugs. I run. She’s not healthy. I am. She doesn’t deserve a baby. I do.

It was presumptuous and cruel, ugly and unfair. Just wrong, all of it.  But it’s also how I felt about my situation. I felt wronged, cheated.

Thankfully, I moved past the bile and enmity, and even whispered my honest congratulations into the air when Nicole Richie gave birth to a daughter. I worked through my heartbreak and went on to have my own healthy baby. However, I can still feel the sting of it all if I sit and think back for a moment. Seeing those smiling, effortlessly gorgeous and happy, pregnant celebrities parading about really did a number on my psyche. It stirred up these deep, sour ideas soaked in envy and ill will. Why them and not me?

Although your logical brain tells you things like, “Grass is always greener…” and “You don’t know their life,” the emotional, vulnerable side still struggles. It’s one more thing that leaves you feeling inadequate and failed.

I was thinking about my anti-Nicole Richie phase when I read “The ‘Big Lie’ in putting off pregnancy” on CNN.com this week. The post highlights a new book I’m hoping to read by Tanya Selvaratnam called The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism and the Reality of the Biological Clock.”

In the CNN post, Selvaratnam talks about the media’s obsessive coverage of celebrity pregnancies — specifically the over-35 celeb set —  and how it’s actually doing a great disservice to regular Janes out here who may think, “If Halle and Uma waited to have kids, why can’t I?”

Sadly, the answer is: because biology.

One of the reasons I wrote the book was because I was frustrated by the conflicting messages and information out there. We see celebrities having kids seemingly without any problems and we have no idea what they went through. We see the end result, but not the struggle.” – Tanya Selvaratnam

So true. We don’t see the multiple IVF treatments, the failed outcomes, the miscarriages, the pain, the sadness. We see this:

More than the mixed messages from “celebrity life,” it’s the bad information that women are also getting from their own doctors that concerns Selvaratnam. Many women are told by their gynos that they have time, when — #factsonly — they do not.

“The ‘Big Lie’ is that [women] can delay motherhood until they are emotionally and financially ready, secure in their careers and have found that perfect partner and if they have trouble getting pregnant, modern medicine will miraculously give them a child. Even with all the advances in reproductive technology, our eggs have a finite shelf life and the odds of having a child over 40 years old are shockingly slim.”

I asked a few MMM readers what their doctors told them re: their childbearing years, and surprisingly most ladies said that their GYNs have been forthright, gently (for the most part) setting the truth down in their patients’ laps. Basically, get on with it, woman!

One reader said that her primary care physician told her that she should try to have her first baby by the age of 30. She was 27 and newly married at the time. But hearing the stark truth and being able to act on it are two wildly different things.

So many women I know delayed starting a family because, frankly, they weren’t ready for babies when they were practically babies themselves. Think back to you at 23. Yeah … now  add a baby to that.

Exactly!

Who was in the right frame of anything to lock into major milestones like marriage, partnership, and raising a tiny human? Like me, you were probably too busy trying to figure out your career, dating, doing the advanced degree dance, drawing up your dreams, and shaping your goals. There’s no real room in there for diapers, puree sweet peas and breast pumps. (Unless … Hey, look, everyone has their, uh, quirks and fetishes. No judgment.)

Seriously, though, trying to figure out this life is struggle enough. That shit takes work, time, and energy. According to recent studies, this period actually has a name: emerging adulthood. Real talk? For some folks, Emerging Adulthood has stretched into their 30s and early 40s.

What’s the solution, then? Have babies when your body is ready, even if mentally and emotionally you are not even close? Waiting until you’ve properly “emerged” into full-blown adulthood and having a baby at 49? Should women look into freezing their eggs instead? Or just do your thing and not stress about the statistics? Is there even a “right” answer here?

What do YOU think? Did you heed the advice of your doctor about getting pregnant by 30? Do you wish your doctor made your more concerned about the stats? Leave a comment below, and let’s chop it up.

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7 Comments
  • 1
    Meg says:

    I had both my kids before 30 and I have an advanced degree (which I attained when I was 23). I was pregnant at 25 with my first and had my second when I was 28. I wanted to be done by 30. I am a biologist and knew that with my health history, the risks were high to delay. I was also engaged at 21 and married at 23. We moved fast. I didn’t “emerge gently in to adulthood” or party through my 20s. I am a type 1 diabetic and pregnancy meant twice weekly ultrasounds during my 3rd trimester, two miscarrages, blood sugar readings 8 times a day, tight control, scheduled deliveries (1 induction, 1 c-section). A risk of late term miscarriage (like week 39 or 40). High probability of a large baby…one of mine was 10.5 pounds and delivered during the 37th week. I’m one of the youngest moms at my son’s elementary school and was one of the youngest moms in my running group. I haven’t hit 35 yet, but I’m 10 years into my career, my kids are almost both in elementary school, and by 50, I’ll have two adult sons. I think in the long view, I made the right decision for our family. My oldest son has special needs that might mean I need to be more in his life as an adult than some others. I’m happy to know that when he is 40, I will likely still be a healthy, self-sufficient person of 66, rather than close to 80 years old and needing his help.

    • 1.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      Meg, thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing a little of your story!

  • 2
    Arnebya says:

    I had my first at 27, second at 29 (three months shy of 30), and the third (and what my husband refers to as THE LAST ONE, DAMMIT) at 35. Initially, I’d had this idea that 35 was the best cutoff. So, once we had the two and decided to try for a third, girl or boy, didn’t matter, I told him to get it in by a certain date so that I could get it before 36 and more importantly, before September 30 so that it could start school on time when it came around. PRIORITIES.

    Anyway, after a miscarriage between the first two, I experienced the same “why me” thoughts. Selfishly, now, with three healthy children, I still want another and look at women still having babies, still carrying on as though they don’t realize how hurtful it is to me to see them have babies. I harbor resentment to our friends who have five because ALL I WANT IS FOUR. Now, though, at 40, I don’t know that my body would agree. I don’t know that it’d be as easy to get pregnant, stay pregnant, deliver a healthy baby again. Aside from that? 40. Aside from 40? The baby would be sleeping in a drawer, so there’s that as a deterrent. I can’t say whether I’d have waited to have kids so I could finish college or travel. But I’m glad it’s turned out the way it has, even if the longing for one more is still strong and grating.

    • 2.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      Thanks for the comment, Arnebya. Feeling like things turned out the right way for you? Best outcome.

    • 2.2
      enoje says:

      I hear you Arnebya. I have four children, and my cutoff age was 35. I got pregnant four months into my marriage (we sure did NOT wait) and I had my first at 28, second at 31, third at 33, and last (LAST ONE DAMMIT!) at 35. I also had a miscarriage between my first and second, and I was pissed as hell: Why me? I don’t smoke. I never took the pill. I’m healthy. I’m vegetarian. I’m educated and health-conscious. Etc, etc. Sometimes it still hurts. I wanted five. But I can be satisfied with four. And I think it’s worked out. When my last one is officially an adult (21), I’ll be 55 (Freedom!) and still young enough to enjoy life if I keep myself healthy. So, I’m thinking, we can’t always get what we want (singing) but if we try sometimes, we might find, that we get what we need!

  • 3
    Alyssa says:

    I got married 2 years ago at 24 and kids are (hopefully) soon on the horizon. But I think of several of my girlfriends who are 28-35 years old and still single! What are they supposed to do? They know their biological clocks are ticking but they want the whole package: marriage + kids. And that takes time…time that they may not have! Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair because they’ve done everything “right” but science is not on their side! :/

    • 3.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      I hear you on that friends piece, Alyssa. I have friends who getting married later (late 30s/early 40s) and want to have children, but are so unsure about the “biology” behind the choice.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.