“The One Thing Jennifer Aniston Won’t Eat”.
“How Hailey and Justin Keep Their Marriage Spicy”.
These are the types of headlines I’ve noticed from Vogue as of late. In spite of this disappointing clickbait fodder, now and then they publish interesting and substantial articles. One that caught my attention recently is “This Is 40—And Pregnant“, written by Eviana Hartman and photographed by Bella Newman. As the title suggests, this article explores examples of mothers in their forties, the implications being that you can still enjoy successful, healthy childbirth later in life than was once supposed. And though it’s not the most common, the incidence of mother’s experiencing first time birth in their forties is increasing rapidly.
I don’t pretend to be an expert or know what’s best for any one person, but I was drawn to this article because as I turn 30 this year, a pivotal birthday for many, I realize I’m not even close to being in a situation where I would feel comfortable or prepared to have and raise children. This is just a fact. I’m not judging myself harshly or suggesting that I’m right or wrong because for me, I would like to share this experience with a partner and I just haven’t found one yet. And it’s a huge relief to me to know that women can have successful first time pregnancies later than the oft-dreaded 35th birthday.
Many common impediments to fertility have nothing to do with a woman’s age; some, such as the widely reported decline in sperm counts, have nothing to do with a woman at all. In truth, the cliff isn’t usually 35, or even necessarily 40; it’s probably closer, on average, to 44 or so, though donor eggs can stretch those numbers further, and everyone is different. In fact, the 40-to-44 and 45-to-49 age brackets are the ones in which U.S. birth rates—despite record lows overall—are rising fastest.
A lot can happen in a year. I have a whole decade to go before age 40, but I’m encouraged by the fact that the door doesn’t close for all women at age 35. As women, we are made to think that that is our deadline, and at this point in my personal development, I can’t conceive of settling for someone that I don’t consider my forever partner because I feel I have no other choice. Outside of my romantic status, I still feel like I’m still learning a ton about myself. Establishing a career, building my finances, prioritizing responsibilities, passions, and people are all areas I’ve improved upon in the last few years. In fact, the idea of having a child in my early twenties is laughable and terrifying, as I still felt very much like a child then.
That’s not to say that a woman must become a mother to become whole, or that a come-from-behind victory in the race against Mother Nature warrants special recognition. But regardless of one’s take on parenthood, when one reaches one’s 40s, or at least when I did, the internal narratives constructed around numerical age—the “shoulds”—start to give way to a vivid presence of mind, a relinquishing of a control that was never there in the first place. Sooner or later, kids or no kids, we will realize that we are no longer young, but that, in turn, may leave us more open to becoming something different.
I like the idea of having a little more flexibility in my biological timelines to become a more full person before having children. I don’t presume to know what will be good or necessary, but I don’t know that I feel capable of offering way more to others, let alone a child, than I was able to in the past. I like knowing that I don’t have to rush as much; that I don’t have to succumb to pressures. Women have more options now and are able to go more at their own pace.
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