People say that age is just a number, that you’re only as old as you feel. And most of the time I agree with them, joke that sometimes I’m 75 and other times I’m 16, so maybe it all evens out anyway.
But let’s face a hard fact of life: for women, it’s not just a number. If they wish to have families, their time is limited. So, if a woman is fast approaching her 40s, is single and childless, and wishes to have children of her own, she has to look at the options and make some hard decisions.
What are the options? There are three, as I see them (leaving out adoption, which is a wonderful option all its own and one I’ve considered since my teens):
1) A woman can throw hubby/partner hunting in gear, find the husband/boyfriend/partner that she thinks will be good for her and her future children, then get working on the rest of the plan and get herself pregnant before her body decides it’s time to make pregnancy difficult or just not possible.
2) A woman can just go ahead and get herself pregnant via sperm bank/one-night stand/good male friend, then choose to raise that child without the benefit/presence of partner.
3) A woman can decide that she doesn’t like the pre-meditation of finding a guy to railroad into marriage/fatherhood because she’s on a time-table and knows that she cannot handle raising a child alone. And so chooses to remain childless, even though there is a part of her that dies a little when she accepts that as a possible future.
Last year I came to terms with Option 3. Now, all of the above options are valid ones, even #1, which I find a little distasteful, but #1 and #2 just aren’t for me. I know that. It kills me just a bit but there it is. And honestly, I’m usually okay with that.
Thing is, all of this wondering and worrying and navel-gazing may be moot. Because there’s one thing I’ve wondered about myself for a good portion of my thirties.
I don’t know if I could get pregnant, even if I tried.
Back in my late twenties I was involved with the man I call my Ex (though sometimes I’ve referred to him here by his initials FG). I’ve mentioned him before, because he’s the only long-term boyfriend I’ve ever had. Well, when he and I were together, not surprisingly we had sex. A lot. At the time I was kind of stupid about making sure I was taking birth control. I’ve always hated taking pills and I’ve just never been very good at remembering to stay on a schedule. And once we got past the point where we were concerned about diseases, we rarely used condoms.
Yeah, yeah, I know. I told you I was kind of stupid.
I was worried a bit, because I had already proven that I was like my mother in many ways and I’d always wondered if I were as fertile as she was. After all, she had been pregnant seven times. But, if I got pregnant by Ex and we couldn’t keep the baby, I knew there was always the option of giving her or him up for adoption. (Though I’m pro-choice, I know that I could never have an abortion, which I told Ex pretty much right up front.)
Never came up. Never got pregnant. Three and a half years passed, Ex left, and again I didn’t have to worry about it. Because I wasn’t having sex on a regular basis. Those few times I did have sex I made sure condoms and other birth control were involved, though still not pills – I have no desire to throw off the too-delicate balance of my hormones unless I’m gettin’ some more than once or twice a year.
I don’t know what to think about never getting pregnant by Ex. I mean, it is for the best, I’m fully aware of that. I’m not wistful for his child or anything like that. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I end up meeting and marrying a wonderful man before menopause sets in and we decide we want to have our own biological child. What if my uterus decides it doesn’t want to cooperate? There have been a few times over the years where I would have a somewhat unusual period and thought I might have possibly been pregnant, but perhaps lost the zygote within a month or so. So maybe I can’t carry a baby to term. I don’t know. It’s a concern.
Several of my friends say that maybe it’s not me. Maybe it was Ex. Or maybe it was the combination of Ex and myself that just wasn’t so good with the babymaking. It is a possibility. And yes, I know I need to go in for some tests, to make sure everything is okay so I don’t even have to worry about it. That’s on my schedule of thindgs to do in the next month.
Still, with my forties rushing up to meet me and my irrepressible optimism refusing to let go of the possibility of still having a husband and children, it sticks in the back of my mind.
Perhaps I need to start coming to terms with biological betrayal…