When I was younger, I couldn’t picture myself as a parent. It was a foregone conclusion, but not one I felt strongly for. I suspected that I’d eventually feel obligated to propagate and then *wham* I’d be raising some kids. But somewhere between my first “real” relationship and the start of college, the tide changed. I became the friend that everyone assumed would settle down and start pushing out babies. I mean, I even had it planned out: married within a few years of graduating college, then have a kid at 25, 27, and 29. Done by 30. Fool-proof, right?
Reality was me, unmarried, and a mother by 23. Not the worst, but it stilted my plans a bit. I adapted, and adjusted my plans to include a new baby after a few years, when the timing and circumstances were right. The funny thing was that circumstances were never right. Instead, I hit my stride in motherhood and really started to enjoy it. The thought of another kid just didn’t seem as urgent when I was marveling at each new development of COM. I still planned, very abstractly, to have more, though. I assumed that circumstances would be such that COM would be a big sister by 5 or 6. As a product of a decade gap between siblings, I knew I wanted my kids closer in age. Now that she’s knocking at 8’s door, I’ve had to seriously reconsider my expectations and intentions.
As I’ve aged, more of my friends, family, and colleagues have joined the ranks of parenthood, and it’s interesting to consider how age and fertility play a part. I have the acquaintance who by all accounts is fertile, and seemed get pregnant with all 3 kids past 35 with no effort. And another who had one in her early 20s and then easily conceived another after 30. But then there’s the friend who had to get IVF for her first and she’s barely over 25. And another who had one in her early 20s, but hasn’t had success conceiving another after 30. That leaves me squarely in the middle, wondering where I might fall on the fertility continuum, should I ever find myself in the business of trying to conceive.
Knowing that I was able to have a child isn’t of as much solace to me as it should be, considering the number of women who cannot bear a child at all. But the truth is that my ability to have another child is a complete crap shoot, and there’s little I can do to impact it one way or the other. Science says that every year I age, my fertility drops, and by 35, it will have done so drastically. The ship could already have sailed, and I’d be none the wiser. So as I enjoy my near-perfect birth control, I do so with a certain amount of guilt about my attempt to exert control over my uterus and resignation toward what the future might hold.
Thus, my new normal is uncertainty about my declining fertility. I grasp — all too well — that with every month that passes, I’m one step further from (re)motherhood. Most days, I’m extremely self-aware and know that I’m not in a position where I’d want to have another. But the fear that I’m letting my last remaining (maybe) childbearing years slip away from me is real and near-constant. More days than not I find myself daydreaming not about how elated I would be to have another child, but how devastated I’d be if I don’t get that opportunity. Something akin to “I don’t want it yet, but I’ll be damned if you’ll tell me I can’t have it once I do want it.” And as I watch my friends and colleagues grow their families, I can’t help but wonder “by the time I’m ‘ready’ to have another, will it already be too late?”
Usually I’m able to synthesize my thoughts and find some witty quip to bring it all together. But I don’t have this now. Just a bit of a crisis that I can’t let pinball around solely in my head anymore.