What We’ve Learned from Unexpected Infertility

bride and groom embracing

When Steve and I got married six months ago, we immediately hopped on the baby-making bandwagon. At forty (him) and thirty-one (me), we were feeling a little crunched for time, especially because our “plan” involved two or three little ones. With a congenital endocrine disorder, I knew that our chances of avoiding trouble-free conception and pregnancy experiences were slim anyway. We both love kids and we both wanted to be parents. Badly. So we threw away the birth control two weeks before our wedding and dove in headfirst. We called it “not avoiding,” but who were we kidding? We wanted to make a baby.

The idea of creating life made our intimate moments deeper (and interestingly, hotter). We were baby-making machines and it excited us both in new ways.

Then something happened. We didn’t get pregnant.

Six months of planning, and expecting and hoping and timing and charting cycles, and nothing happened. I was in the midst of my final semester of graduate school and Steve was feeling professionally stuck. I’m sure my body was raging with cortisol, which made it a hostile environment for any fertilized egg that dared enter my uterus. I had gained more weight than I care to discuss, and I knew deep down that getting pregnant at this time was unhealthy for me and very unhealthy for any baby.

I came home one day, took a (negative) pregnancy test, and a few hours later started my period. Steve arrived home from work soon afterward to find me curled up in bed, bawling my eyes out and punishing myself emotionally with episodes of Brothers & Sisters on Netflix. The process of hoping and trying had become more stressful than joyful and we knew it was time for a change.

So we sat down and talked. Really talked. Before the wedding we had agreed that there was no such thing as a perfect time to have a baby. There would always be a reason to wait.

But what if there was such a thing as a terrible time to have a baby? And what if that time was right now?

We agreed on two important truths:

  1. 1. We would be awesome parents someday (“someday” being the key word). But if we were to start that journey now, in the midst of personal and financial and health stressors that were testing both of us, were we really starting off awesome-ly? Or were we putting our biological clocks ahead of common sense? Ahead of love for the child(ren) we hope to parent in future?
  2. 2. If for some reason we never got to be awesome parents, that was okay too. This was a surprising realization for both of us, I think. Even though we had fought against WIC while we planned our wedding, even though we considered ourselves progressive, outside-the-box, creative, smart people, we had somehow bought into the cultural expectation that we must have ALL THE THINGS that come with marriage. All the things, including babies. But when we looked at each other and we asked ourselves, “Will we be okay if it ends up being just the two of us?” we realized the answer was a resounding “Hell yes!”

Do we want to create life, to nurture tiny humans, to watch them grow and flourish and take care of us someday? That’s another “Hell yes!”

But do we need to get pregnant because that’s just what you do after you get married? Do we need babies to somehow complete our partnership?

I think our team is complete on its own. We hope the team expands in the future. But for now, we’re looking inward at each other and finding ways to strengthen and grow as individuals and as a couple.

It will make us better people. And someday, I hope, better parents.

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  • Sarah

    Beautiful post. I loved this:
    ““Will we be okay if it ends up being just the two of us?” we realized the answer was a resounding “Hell yes!”” <- bottom line. that's what matters.
    Yes, sometimes, the time is Not Right, and sometimes that means waiting, even indefinitely. This kind of flies in the face of Every. Single. Family Member. who tells you that "there's never a right time!" cheerfully attempting to shame you into trying to procreate right this second. There's never a perfect time, sure, but there is nothing wrong with waiting for a "better time" (if it comes.)
    Thanks for sharing!

    • I think this has been the most surprising thing to me (3 weeks out from the actual marriage starting). We both come from very, very traditional families, and have always ASSUMED that we will have kids…but the more we talk about it (yay pre-marriage discussions) the more we are unsure sure of why we want to have them (besides the fact that we are expected to.)

      It’s strange – I’m not sure if the clock hasn’t started ticking yet, or even if we’ll be able to have them…but the fact that we have the Power to choose Not to have kids is somewhat revolutionary in our (mostly) middle class and (very) religious backgrounds.

      Thank you for sharing!

      • Ashley

        I can’t get my words together this morning but I just want to say that I so get you on this…
        ” but the fact that we have the Power to choose Not to have kids is somewhat revolutionary in our (mostly) middle class and (very) religious backgrounds”

        When I met my partner and we decided to not have kids and I realized that I in fact could choose, it was a really powerful realization for me. I never even realized how much I was letting expectations dictate my life until I stopped letting them.

      • “the more we talk about it (yay pre-marriage discussions) the more we are unsure sure of why we want to have them (besides the fact that we are expected to.)”

        I’m the oldest of 5 kids. My mom is one of 7, and I have 24 first cousins. In my family, we have babies and we have lots of them! I was chatting with my cousin (who has 2 kids) right before I got engaged, and she asked me if the mister and I had discussed children. She asked if we wanted to have kids at all, and I can honestly say that I had never considered that to be an option before that conversation.

        • Right – exactly. It’s as if pre-wedding you can’t have a “wedding” unless it’s Big & White, and afterwards you can’t be “married” unless you have at least 2 kids and a pet.

      • Rachel T.

        THIS! I always assumed we would have kids. But six months out from getting married later than some of our friends and finding ourselves in the “next check-in point” of adulthood, where a lot of people around us are having children or talking about having children, I found myself wondering for the first time in my life if I wanted kids. I come from two parents who, despite their love and support, I’m quite sure never truly considered IF they wanted children and then who didn’t really discuss what that would look like. My father wanted one, so here I am, but I don’t know that the discussion of what kind parents they wanted to be ever came up, let alone if they wanted to be parents. I always sort of felt, as a child, like I was just along for the ride. I’m not the kind of person that would put my children before everything (we’ve had this conversation), but I do want to be sure I want children, want to truly think about how they will fit into my life as an individual and as part of a couple, and what kind of parent I would want to be, provided I want to be one. There’s a lot to process with this, but I feel like this community and these conversations have really helped me THINK about what I want instead of moving to each check point in the race to the end (which is death by the way… at least in my head… do Americans always forget that in our constant running? I feel like we always do, at least in America. Why are we running so fast toward not being here anymore?! But that’s a whole other conversation.) So yes, THIS, thank you.

        • Yes, yes – enough with the “along for the ride” parenting. I feel like bring a new human into this world should be a thought-out, considered decision (and yet, it was only recently myself that I examined it).

    • meg

      OH GOD. I hate the “There’s never a right time!” line *so damn much.* I’d actually sort of blacked out on it, I hate it so.

    • meg

      Also, I forgot I used to respond to this, when we got it a lot, by saying “Yeah, but there is a WRONG time.” Which seemed to really piss people off ;)

      • Sarah

        I LOVE this. I’m definitely using it in the future.

      • SeptCaBride

        Oh yes, there are absolutely *many* WRONG times.

        And while you may “never be financially ready to have kids” (one of my other *favorite* arguments), there is not much wisdom is actively TTC while dealing with horrendous debt, job loss, or living paycheck-to-paycheck with no end in sight.

        • Sarah

          This might sound silly, but it’s like being lectured about choosing to rent a home instead of buy. Everyone wants to tell you that a mortgage can be on par with rent (and ZOMG equity!!!), until you point out if your basement floods? You’re not the one on the hook. And who is to say you’ll be living in the same city in two years?
          Sometimes I think these “helpful” individuals are just hard core projecting.

        • meg

          DUDE. People used to say this to us when David was (horribly, sadly, depressingly) unemployed and I had a job I hated. I just wanted to punch them in the face. (Also, hello, none of your business, but thanks for the free advice.)

          I mean, sure, if we’d gotten knocked up and decided to keep it, I’m sure we would have made it work. We’re resourceful. But that’s not the same as telling us to TRY for it. Jesus.

          • Class of 1980

            One of the best skills to acquire in life, is ignoring people who give unhelpful advice that doesn’t apply to you. ;)

          • Chris B

            A bit of unsolicited advice about how to handle unsolicited advice, from someone who absolutely hates unsolicited advice and has thrown fits about receiving it since I was three years old:

            Much as it makes me cringe/rage, I have started trying to thank the adviser for their advice. Seriously. Sometimes (even if I don’t want to hear it) advice is well-intentioned or even helpful, and then they deserve it. Most often, it’s neither helpful nor especially well-intentioned, but being thanked will usually get them to back off.

          • People love to give unsolicited advice, don’t they? And it gets worse once you do have kids, then EVERYONE has an opinion on how you should be raising them. Signed: exhausted mother of twins who has started replying “come live at home and then we’ll talk”;)

          • Rachel S

            Ugh, I feel the need to chime in with another Worst Thing: When I say that my fiance and I (we are 24 and 25, by the way) say that we won’t be having kids for a few years, everyone and their mom likes to give the smart-assy reply: “That’s what YOU think! Sometimes kids just happen! Tee hee!!”

            My blood is boiling just thinking about it. First off, it’s condescending and ALWAYS said with an air of “stupid kids just don’t understand how life works” (I should add here that it is usually older people with children who say it). Um, I understand how human biology works, thanks. I also understand that the pills I take religiously are over 99% effective and when taken like I take them, “less than 1” woman gets pregnant per year.

            Second, it’s presumptuous. I know not everyone reading will agree with this and I respect that, but it’s our personal decision that should we ever be that tiny fraction of a percent while still young and broke and not ready, I will have an abortion. So no, kids won’t “just happen” to me, thank.

            Has anyone else heard that one?

      • Caroline

        I find “There’s never a right time” very comforting. Because it makes me feel like, hey, our plan to have kids right after I finish school even though we have no idea what we’ll be doing then is totally fine. We’ll be ok, and rock parenting. There are definitely worse times (such as now, when I’m in school. I wouldn’t be a very good parent or student if I tried to combine the two.) That said, I feel like the concept of “there’s never a right time” to me also embodies “it’s always tough, and waiting until you have ALL THE THINGS (like a house and two high paying jobs) isn’t necessary.” For me, I find it comforting. Oh yeah, maybe we likely won’t be able to buy a house for another decade or so, but you don’t have to have a house and a dog to have babies.

    • I think that question: “Will we be okay if it ends up being just the two of us?” is incredibly important to me when thinking about growing our family. I need to know that whatever happens, we can continue to do this thing on our own, and be happy with that if things don’t work out as we imagine them to work out.

    • Jaime

      It bothers me how when people want you to have children, but if you don’t or you aren’t ready, then there is “never a right time” and “you’ll change your mind later”. However if they don’t want you to have kids then there suddenly IS a “right time” and correct way of going about it.

  • love this times a million.

  • Erin

    My husband and I are struggling with this. We haven’t started trying yet (we were just married a handful of months ago), but I’m ready – he’s not sure he is.

    I’m 31 and have been working full time for 5 years. He’s 25 and just graduated from college and has yet to find a job. I grew up around a lot of kids and spent most of my teen years babysitting. I feel comfortable around kids. He still finds them part mystery, part annoyance.

    But a piece of me is terrified that I’ll never get to have the children I want (and he wants too– just not NOW) if we don’t start soon. Decreasing fertility, pregnancy complications, etc, etc.

    I really hate it because the issue isn’t that I want a baby NOW – I’d rather have a few years for us, by ourselves, especially after four years of long distance dating. But I’m scared that my body isn’t going to cooperate. And of course family constantly telling you that the time to have kids is when you’re young and have the energy to keep up with them doesn’t help one bit.

    Biological clocks suck.

    • Lynn

      This is us. I’m about to be 36. Three years ago, my GYN, after several rounds of hormone therapy because I was so far out of whack, told me that if I wanted to be pregnant, it had to happen sooner rather than later. Three years after that is definitely later. *sigh*

      The PA wants to be pregnant now. He’s ready. Told just about everyone at our wedding a week and a half ago that he was throwing away the condoms. And while I want to be pregnant, I’m terrified now is a terrible time for it. I work in crazy-town; he’s going to school this summer to be a teacher (and I’m stressed about finding the extra $2000 in our budget to pay for all of that). We’re both overweight (it’s a sign when the bed breaks).

      But if we’re not trying now…it may never happen. And that thought kills me. But being as unprepared as we are now also kills me.

      • I agree with Meg in that being ready, feeling ready to be a parent is very important, and that it’s better to wait regardless of biology until you do. Because being a parent may be hard, and I believe one needs to enter parenthood with appreciation of what life may bring.
        I was almost 32 when I got pregnant. We thought we were going to try for a while and that I was going to continue working after the child was born, then have a second one after 3 years. But I got pregnant on the first try, with twins, full bedrest included …and thereby said goodbye to work (we had just moved to a new country when I got pregnant, so I didn’t have well established working relationships by then to make it easy to search for a job, nor did we have family to help while I did). It has been 4 years since then and I still haven’t been able to go back to work (currently my children are in need of several therapies due to speech delay). Do I regret being a mother? Not at all. I love my children with all my heart and wouldn’t change a second of the past 4 years for anything in the world. But I honestly don’t know if I would be saying the same if I hadn’t been so crazy willing to have babies when we started trying.

        • Class of 1980

          Very good point.

          You never know if you’re going to be put on total bed rest during pregnancy, have complications at birth, or end up with a special-needs child that necessitates someone being home.

          We forget that childbirth used to be the most dangerous thing a woman could do before modern medicine. Medicine has come a long way, but the unexpected can still happen. Good to have an alternate workable plan IF at all possible.

      • Marbella

        Someone was trying to freak me out about this recently. I’m 27. Having just watched my step-mother have a baby at 41 after 9 years of unexplained infertility (and a few rounds of treatment which caused her massive stress and health issues) she finally got surprise pregnant after having given up hope a couple of years ago. 6 years ago I watched my mother have a baby two weeks before she turned 47. Again, she had some fertility treatments that didn’t work, tried for 5 years and gave up.
        These experiences have solidified in my mind that when your body is ready and less stressed, it will happen. I don’t need people telling me that if I don’t hurry up and get pregnant now I’ll be too old. FFS!

        • Jamie

          I’m 28, and I’ve been engaged to my fiance for almost 7 months. I don’t mind the joking talk about babies from my mom and his family, I get it. I have no idea whether I’m ready for kids (he wants 2), but I know if it’s meant to happen it will. 2 things have irked me recently: 1) people commenting on my age saying “you don’t have many fertile years left” in so many words and 2) the COMPLETE STRANGER WHO DID MY TAXES looking at my ring and saying “are you married? Oh, engaged? How old are you!? (I look about 5-10 years younger than I actually am depending on who you talk to) 28!? You better have babies right away if you’re not getting married until next year!”

          People are often rude, or oblivious. If engaged or married couples are happy with each other and what life presents to them, let them be I say.

    • meg

      You know, it kind of makes me angry that we do this to women. I mean, I’m not going to lie to you and say your fertile forever, but also, I’ve looked at the charts. At 31 YOU STILL HAVE TIME (pending other health problems of course). I think being forced to rush into things because of biology is the worst. If you need some time lady, maybe consider taking some time. Your body will be happier if you wait till you’re really ready anyway.

      • Yes and no. You might have time. A lot of factors go into women being able to have children later in life – women who had kids earlier or who were on birth control that prevented ovulation have more of an egg stash later in life than those of us who didn’t.

        If you’re in your early 30s and REALLY want kids, it makes sense to have your FSH levels checked to make sure you’re all set on the egg front. If you’re in a good range, awesome, wait and get it checked regularly. At 36 I’m definitely working with limited eggs, and I actually really think it’s a disservice to women to imagine that we’re all fertile to 40 (and beyond.)

        • Sarah

          Although I responded that I agree with Meg, I also agree with being realistic about fertility. However, 31 is not 40. There is some time left at 31 to decide if you are ready.
          And really, I know it may sound crazy, but I believe women should think first about their readiness/needs/wants/expectations before having children and second about their biology. I can’t see myself, at least, taking the plunge with biology in mind first and my own needs emotionally/financially/relationship wise/etc in second place.

          • Yes, obviously. But you can be empowered with knowledge about your own body and not biologically forced to have a child before you’re ready.

            Women are NOT encouraged to go seek out this knowledge or have these tests, and it’s often too late when they do. Knowing where you’re at with your fertility and having the power to factor that into your decisions is important.

          • Jess

            I think they key here is to realize that your body is not an ‘average”. Scientifically, saying “you have time” or “youre running out of time” is meaningless because while the AVERAGE woman’s fertility starts to decline at 25 and drops signinifcantly at 35… You aren’t an average. You’re you, with your own health complications and unique biology. I see some women at our clinic who are livid when they discover that without hardcore tests, there is truly no comfort to be found in averages or likely to’s. Personally, I find it comforting, but if biological children is an ABSOLUTE MUST and you don’t have the funds for invasive tests, then current age, age of menstrual onset, and menstrual regularity the only predictors you can work with. If you’ve got flexibility, then that’s different. But yeah, I think it’s as harmful to say “you have time” to someone as “you don’t”… Because really, you don’t know about their body at all.

          • meg

            While I agree with Jess in a big way (none of us are average, and more knowledge is power, and trust me, I live with a body that’s REALLY not average so I’m hyper aware or that.). BUT. I stand by the fact that the push for women who hit thirty to have kids right away, ready or not, is actually damaging, and… on average (which no one is, but still has weight… on… cough… average) is a little bit bullshit.

        • Erin

          Thanks for this advice – I’ll bring it up with my doctor next physical. It’s silly, but I’d never even thought of it.

          To be clear, the issue isn’t that I’m worried about having the first kid – it’s when you want two or three and you start looking at timelines that the pressure starts to mount at 31.

          It’s complicated by the fact that my family has always had kids young – my parents at 23, my grandparents at 20. So there’s a sort of environmental pressure in terms of expectations.

          And to be further clear, I’m ready for kids, and have been for years – I feel quite in the center of the emotionally good spot. But of course, I’m not in this alone, and his emotionally good spot is as important as my own. The age difference and differences in being around kids as we grew up has come out in interesting ways.

          For now, I’ve decided that we aren’t thinking about it for the first year of marriage (though I think I will talk to my doctor so we know where we are and can expect to be in the future), so we don’t have pressure while we’re figuring out /us/ as a /marriage/. And hanging out with my adorable nephew as much as possible. I figure exposure can’t hurt, right? ;)

        • meg

          Agreed. Going in and talking to a smart OB, and getting the tests you need is SMART. Also, the thing is, you still don’t have to let biology rule the day, but knowledge is power. You can look at your tests and be like, “You know what? The tests tell me to try RIGHT NOW, and I’m not ready. So, I’m going to start thinking about adoption or surrogacy.” Having some time to think about, research, and process your options can make things less painful later, because it’s not a surprise.

          • Kay

            To chime in on some of the above discussion (I could no longer reply to the precise comments): I think the hardest part is that you can get all the tests in the world and they still can’t tell you how easily (or not) you will conceive (or not). You can “ace” all your tests and have completely regular cycles and still not get pregnant. And the only way to know for sure if you will have trouble or if it will happen quickly (or within the average timeframe) is to start trying. At 32, I also wasn’t worried about the first one, but wanted to start because we wanted more than one. Now I am worried whether we’ll even be able to have one. Yes, I realize that “32 is young!” and I have “lots of time!” But, what if it doesn’t happen? When do I want to try IVF? When should we get the adoption ball rolling? I think it is awesome that women are having babies in their 40s but, frankly, we don’t exactly want to have a 5- or 6-year-old when we are 50.

          • meg

            While that’s true Kay, I still think that if you are not ready, you DON’T NEED TO START TRYING. Though you should, clearly, think about your options.

          • LBD

            I’m replying to Kay, total yes on the 5-or-6-year-old when 50 comment. I’d say for me not wanting to have small children when I’m in my 40’s is the biggest motivator for me to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later. A puppy at 30 has been exhausting for me, how much more exhausting would a 5-year-old be at 40? There may be others with more energy than I, but I know that that is not right for me.

            Another factor for me in the sooner-rather-than-later camp is that I have a good friend whose parents had her late (she’s an only child). And here she and her partner are, in their 30’s, having to deal with caring for and making decisions on behalf of her aging parents with health issues, making it even more impossible to figure out when they will have the time and resources (particularly emotional resources) to have their own children. I’ve also watched my parents and parent-in-laws deal with the strain of their aging parents, and man, I can’t imagine if I was having to deal with that now, just as I’m struggling to get my own life underway. I can’t guarantee to my children either that I’ll live to a ripe old age and die in my sleep or that I’ll be totally financially secure, though I will of course do my darndest.

            So yeah. For me it’s more than just CAN I have kids once I hit my 40’s, it’s also about what being an older parent means for me, my partner, and any kid or kids. Neither my partner or I are ready to have kids yet (we’re 30), but I’m feeling the pressure to figure it out soon, for sure. For us, that means if we don’t feel ready or aren’t successful before we hit our 40’s, we’re going to do without.

        • Class of 1980

          Just chiming in to agree that fertility and everything connected to it really can vary widely between women.

          I was only on the pill for less than four years in my twenties, so you’d think my stash of eggs would have been depleted earlier. I was looking forward to turning 51 because that is the average age of menopause. Turns out, the average age had nothing to do with me. I am STILL not there yet, even though I will be 54 this year. What a surprise.

          The fertility thing is so much harder for women now than ever before. People stay in school longer and longer, and attempt to get careers established. And all this happens in your most fertile years.

          In my mother’s generation, few women had to deal with infertility because they had babies so young.

          I know one thing though … life itself is too complicated for anyone to tell anyone what they should do. I chose not to have children. It’s only been since my late forties up till now that I felt something change within – that I felt I had something to give to a child.

          That does NOT mean I regret having children though. My decisions then were right for me. It only means that at some point in my life, I may look for an outlet to help children in some capacity.

          • Senorita

            Fostering can be a beautiful option for those who are past an age where they want to have their own children.
            Also, there are alot of kids looking to be adopted who are older (like 17-21) who are just trying to find someone to serve as an anchor as they enter college / adulthood.
            I’m definitely not saying it’s necesarily the right option for you, but in case anyone else is reading this in a similar situtation… Like Meg says, it’s always best to know your options.

        • This is also a good excuse to do some digging into your family’s medical history, especially as it relates to fertility and children. That can be a big piece of the puzzle.

        • As someone who has gone to hell and still hasn’t come back over this whole conception thing at age 25 no more and without any previous signs/ conditions…. I pretty much believe that if you a) want biological kids and b) it’s not the WRONG time… go for it. I’m probably a little unfairly militant in my beliefs but I am actively going through this so try to understand where I’m coming from. One of the first things the director of my fertility clinic pointed out at the group intro… was that their biggest struggle is egg quality. And that most women 40+ who conceive are using donor eggs so don’t let all those 40+ pregnancies in Hollywood mislead you. And at 31, you still have time but your peak fertility passed 6 years ago. I don’t want to scare anyone but I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I’ve gone through if it can be avoided. At my last fertility clinic meeting, the average age was 38 (with women up to age46). A lot of those cases could have been avoided. It almost made me angry. I’m condemned to this genetically. And they just waited too long? Not fair.

          • Abby

            I can’t exactly this for some reason, but anyway, I’m really sorry that you’re struggling and I agree that it’s important to be physiologically realistic about this.

      • Sarah

        I agree. If you think you need some time, you probably do. And if you do need the time, and you don’t take it, there’s no going back.
        Deciding to wait at 31 may feel like “point of no return” territory (you think it’s now or it might not be ever) but it’s definitely not. Having a baby, on the other hand, is the point of no return.

        • Jo

          “Having a baby, on the other hand, is the point of no return”. Yes. Exactly.

          My mother used to tell me that there’s no decision in life you can’t undo except the decision to bring a baby into the world. Of course, this has brought me the most solace when making other big decisions – ie, worrying about choosing the right college or grad school or city to live in or person to be with – changing my mind about any of those might cost me time and money but would never be impossible. It’s impossible to undo having a baby.

          • Jo

            And the other thing –
            If it’s the *wrong* time to be having a baby, I’ve always believed that it’s more important to have a healthy world to bring the child into than for that baby to be biologically mine. If waiting a little longer means that my body is no longer prime for producing, then we’ll adopt.

          • meg

            JO! YES! That’s always how I’ve felt about it. (I know not everyone feels that way, nor should they, I’m just fervently personally agreeing.) If not having a kid at a time that was wrong for me, meant adopting or even not having a kid, that’s what it meant.

          • Class of 1980

            And adoption makes some child in need very very happy. ;)

          • DNA

            Yes to adoption! I just want to say that I have *always* wanted to adopt. I volunteered at an orphanage for years while I was in high school, and I was surprised by how attached I became to some of the kids there. Things have changed a little bit since high school now that I’m about to marry someone I really love, and my reptile brain really wants us to combine our DNA and make some offspring (not right now, but in a few years perhaps). However, if we run into fertility issues, we’re planning to adopt.

          • Kristine

            Adoption is DEFINITELY on the table for us too. And the idea of opening our family to a child (of any age) who needs one warms my heart.

            So yes, Jo! Thank you for bringing that up!!!!!!

        • I want to exactly Class of 1980, just above me, here about ten thousand times. (Approximately one for every day I have had my awesome adoptive parents.)

          • Ambi

            Absolutely YES to adoption as another option when thinking about having kids!!! I know I want kids, and I know that age, timing, relationship issues, and potential medical issues may make biological children impossible for me. So, I am already researching adoption, and honestly getting very excited about it. Maybe I’ll end up having biological children, and maybe not, but I am fairly sure that I will want to adopt, no matter what. I am not trying to minimize the grief that can come with not being able to have biological children. But it is important to realize that infertility can open doors to happiness that you may have missed out on otherwise. Read some adoption blogs. You will be struck by the intense happiness and love. Yes, it is a struggle, and it can be long and expensive and difficult (or not – there are many couples out there whose adoption journeys were surprisingly quick), but the result is so amazing. It may seem strange, but if you are stressing about infertility, I’d really suggest looking into adoption blogs, groups, etc. – don’t get bogged down in the details yet, just soak in the happiness and realize that this is an option that can be just as exciting and fulfilling and full of love and happiness as having biological children.

          • I always hesitate to suggest it because the more I talk to other women about their fertility issues I realize that it’s not a choice that I really can understand fully (I don’t want children myself).

            What I do perpetually try to inject into the noise out there is that adopted kids really are YOUR kids. It’s okay if you want biological kids (if we had kids they would be biological) but there are kids out there who need your mothering/fathering/parenting and they will love you.

          • Class of 1980


            You made me cry. There are so many children who need a family.

          • meg

            Also, can we talk about how BADLY foster kids need homes? You have to be strong to take it on, but god bless the people who are.

          • Class of 1980

            Meg, I saw a foster/adoption site for the State of Georgia that said something to this effect …

            “If you are worried whether you’d be a good parent, there are plenty of kids who’d love to put up with you and your faults.”

          • meg

            OH WELL HELL. Thanks for finally making me cry today, Class of 1980.

          • Class of 1980

            I knowwwww.

          • Class of 1980: There are ads on the NYC subways encouraging people to foster gay kids (they say “Be their champion”) which totally pull at my <3 every time I see them!

            (BTW many kids in foster care are gay; having been kicked out by parents who don't understand.)

      • Kelly

        I certainly agree that we shouldn’t rush women into something as serious as parenting if they are not ready for it- having some arbitrary age does not make sense for every woman’s body, lifestyle, or plan.
        However, it doesn’t look like anyone has mentioned the increasing risk of birth defects with increasing maternal age. For example, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (from 2000, these numbers could have changed):
        The risk of having a child with Down syndrome is 1/1,300 for a 25-year-old woman; at age 35, the risk increases to 1/365. At age 45, the risk of a having a child with Down syndrome increases to 1/30. (By convention, maternal age refers to age at the estimated or actual delivery date.)

        Women should not necessarily let this stop them from trying to get pregnant as they get older, but they should be well-informed of the implications and take them into account for their decision-making.

        • meg

          Sure, but being well informed should NOT rush you. There are lots of options, including testing, if you want it. Also, I recently looked up the downs chart for women in their 30s. The bottom line is it’s only *marginally* higher for a woman at, say 33 than 31. And the numbers are still very very low. So the amount that we’re scared by this, doesn’t necessarily line up with the facts. I think the most important thing is to listen to yourself, and get real information not just listen to what people say. And LISTEN to yourself.

        • ecd

          The thing about medical statistics and facts is that it has a lot to do with how and what’s presented. For example, yes, the risk of Down’s is much higher at 45 than 25. However, the majority of babies born with Down’s are to women under 30 (over 75% or something like that). That’s another way to present it.

          I read Susan Faludi’s book Backlash quite a few years ago, in my early 20s and long before fertility was ever a thought for me, but I remember her [incredibly well researched] chapter on women and fertility and feminism had a huge impact. She makes a good case for how a patriarchal culture can ratchet up fear about when and how to plan one’s family as yet another tool to oppress women. I think Meg’s saying some similar arguments here (as far as: it’s important to consider our own readiness and goals before biology, as well as how every woman is an individual in this situation), and I think it’s a great thing to keep in mind when we talk about pregnancy, birth, maternal age, and fear–especially from a feminist standpoint.

          Haven’t read the book in ages, but there’s a newer edition out from a few years ago so perhaps it’s time for another look…

  • Kay

    This was very helpful to read upon waking this morning to a huge temperature plunge (signaling the start of my period and another cycle of not getting pregnant). Thank you.

  • Kara

    Oh man, thank you for this! I’m nearly 35, my new husband is 41 and I’m hearing the clock tick. BUT, we just got married, had never lived in the same place and while we’re financially secure, there’s a lot of uncertainty facing us over the next year or so. Thankfully, my ob/gyn deals with older first time moms (35+) often enough that she’s not worried (at all!), but there’s still a lot of pressure, uncertainty, and general angst about the whole getting pregnant thing…

  • Beautifully written post. I hope if I face those same challenges, I can handle it with the grace that your writing exudes.

    I loved your line “I think our team is complete on its own. We hope the team expands in the future.” Teamwork is a really big thing in my family – in fact, it can be a bit of a catchphrase with my husband, my sisters, my parents – but I had never thought about having kids myself as adding to the team. But I like it.

    • I was going to quote this line too. I give this whole post a big HELL YES. :)

      And I feel super super super lucky to have a group of wise, witty, wonderful women to turn to if there’s trouble down the road.

  • I stress out about this so much and we are neither married yet (September 1st!) or trying to get pregnant right now. But I’ll cop to being completely terrified by my friends’ experiences and media fear-mongering. I am 29 (30 in July) and David is 29, so it’s not like our expiration dates are coming up or anything, but all the struggles that come with attempting to get pregnant are so heart-breaking to me. I’m pre-traumatizing myself.

    Your words are wise and so so helpful. Thank you for sharing.

    • meg

      God, how many of us are guilty of pre-traumatizing?? I think we need some sort of positive intervention. Because even if things ARE hard, beating ourselves over the head with fear does not get us to the right emotional headspace.

      • Lindsey

        I am so guilty of this! Hearing about multiple friends go through fertility struggles and suffer miscarriages…it makes me afraid to try. I keep trying to put it out of my mind since we are not ready to try yet, but it is definitely there.

      • Kristy

        The media is doing a FANTASTIC job of terrifying me. :( I’m 33 (will be 34 at the wedding) and we want a year of waiting to try to get pregnant so we can spend some time as newlyweds sans kids. But the screaming “what if you CAN’T get pregnant? What if you need IVF? What if you’re so old your kids will come out with all kinds of horrible problems????” in the media is terrifying.

        I want to feel confident in waiting to get pregnant until we really choose to try – but the “you need to start immediately!” voices are really, really loud.

        • Class of 1980

          It is a pendulum swinging back and forth.

          It wasn’t so long ago that women were led to believe it was nothing to wait until age 40 to have a first child. Then a backlash happened because it didn’t work for so many. Some people took it upon themselves to get the message out there that we had been deceived – that fertility declines earlier.

          So you are just getting hit with a pendulum going back the other way. As with any relatively new message, it’s very loud out there right now.

      • Sarah

        And how can we own our choices if we don’t know if we’re making the decision based on what we want instead of based on fear of the unknown? Everyone’s got a horror story of someone they know, or a friend or family member, who waited because they were happy childless in their twenties, or who put their career first or some other reason and NOW LOOK AT THEM! Unable to have children!
        And I’m not even claiming to have any answers to this conundrum. I’m just as lost as every one else.

        • meg

          You know what. DAMN IT. Being happy in your twenties and having a career should never be a horror story. Even if it ends with not having kids, or not having biological kids. Doing what’s right for you at the time is *always* something to be celebrated. Sorry. This messaging just makes me SO MAD.

          Also, I have a ton of friends who had kids before they were ready in their very early 20’s. Guess what? While they have a kid, they are often not happy about it, and have really difficult, somewhat unhappy lives. That’s the trade off that’s supposed to be worth it? Just because they have a kid it’s ALL OK?

          • Class of 1980


          • Kristy

            :) Agreed. I have thought about this- and if it turns out that we aren’t able to have kids (and I have no reason to believe this to be true), I will NEVER regret my 20’s and law school and living abroad and building my career. Ever. It wasn’t a choice between that and having kids for me in my 20’s – I hadn’t met my future spouse yet, and I didn’t want to have kids alone. So…I built a life. Wouldn’t change it for anything.

          • Ambi

            This is random, but I remember watching an interview with Felicity Huffman imany years ago n which the interviewer asked about her children, saying something along the lines of “motherhood is so hard, but it really is the most important job you’ll ever do. Aren’t your kids just the most wonderful thing ever?” And Felicity Huffman thought for a second and said (and I am paraphrasing from memory again) “No, I reject that. You wouldn’t be asking a male actor if his kids are the thing he is proudest of in his life. I am really proud of my work, and I reject the idea that, because I am a woman, my kids have to define my life.”

          • meg

            FUCK YES, Felicity Huffman. Cate Subrosa wrote a post (that I wish I could link to, but it’s not up right now) how after she had her first, her someone said, “After you have kids, nothing else matters.” And she was like, “Yea… WAIT THAT’S NOT TRUE AT ALL. My kid matters, but the things that mattered before still matter!!”

            No one expects this of men, really. No one expects that they’ll regret having a career. Which tends to be a sign that what we’re being told is bullshit.

          • Kristine

            Yes – this! I was talking to a fellow thirtysomething friend who is getting married this fall. And we both railed against the cultural expectation that “having babies changes everything”. On one hand, of course it does. On the other hand, phrases like that make me mad. Because my life pre-motherhood matters just as much. And being a parent (if we do ultimately go there) will be an important role, but won’t define me on its own. My career, my adventures, my marriage, my family, my relationships. These have all contributed to my sense of self. And my self won’t be incomplete if children don’t become part of it.

            My mom moved to Thailand with the Peace Corps in her mid 50s, four years after my dad passed away. She is an incredible woman and I’m so glad she’s my mom. But going through dad’s illness with her, grieving with her, and then hearing about her adventures abroad have helped me get to know her as a woman independent of her being “Mom”. I am so proud of her.

          • Liz


            Just wanted to chime in and say that is so awesomely awesome of your mom. I want to high five her through the screen.

          • Sarah

            oops, sorry to clarify, I was not characterizing it as any of that as a horror story, just the way the stories themselves are passed around from woman to woman as some kind of cautionary tale, meant to scare us out of our wits and jump to decisions before we’re ready to make them.
            I totally agree with you. Personal “readiness” between my partner and me trumps biology every time.

          • anonym

            reminds me of a story from my friend’s mom, who had a childless aunt. When asked, in her seventies, about why she didn’t have kids, she said “I guess I was just too busy doing what I actually wanted with my life. I realized if kids were important to me, I would have done something about it sooner.”

          • Exactly is so totally not enough for this!
            It makes me so mad too – and the way they blame the woman for wanting a career and to have some fun when she finds that at 30 she cant get pregnant? I was deeply involved in church in my early 20s, if I had met a man there that was marriage potential, I would happiily have had kids at 25. But he just did not exist.
            Now, I’m turning 30 in a few months and we are still regularly tossing up the kids option.
            If we cant get pregnant, thats ok by me. We have already agreed to no IVF for us…

          • MissT

            I know I am late to this party but I have to extra exactly what I this (although I’m not sure it’s going to appear there). There are so many things we don’t necessarily have control over in our lives – from who are parents are to whether you lose your job to whether you achieve the goal you are working so hard for. And whether you will get pregnant when you want to. I can’t run around trying to do everything not to lose my job – that would probably make me lose it. So I do my best. At my life lives and for myself and my family, too. And in making, growing and raising my family – with all the unexpecteds included.

          • Cate Subrosa

            Here’s what I wrote, dear Meg:

            “Once you have a baby, that’s the only thing that matters,” Birdy said to me the other day.

            “Yeah,” I said, as I made the tea. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought “no.” No, no, no, no, no. My baby is not the only thing that matters to me. In fact, the things that mattered to me before matter just as much. There is room in my sense of what matters for everything else to still have its place, despite this enormous space now taken up by the needs and desires of my darling baby. I am still me.

            I am still me, and we are still us. Husband and wife. Through the disruption of becoming parents, the (temporary!) assumption of very traditional roles, through whatever life throws at us, whatever we decide to do with it. Me and him, “ambition squared [http://apracticalwedding.com/2009/10/reclaiming-word-wife/].”

      • Kat

        Yup so pre-traumatized! Hearing the several miscarriage stories over the last few months from two friends and the “I had to have several doctors fist my uterus so I would stop hemorrhaging” story from another friend… I’m seriously wigged out about even trying to have a child. I’d like to have one, but is all that despair, depression, sadness, emotional isolation and verge of deathness worth it? Call me selfish if you like, but I’m just not sure any more and I’ve always considered my self to be the very maternal/wanting to have kids type. The SO and I are both kinda on the “we’ll see when we get there/if we have an oops we’ll deal with it” train.

        • Class of 1980

          Well, yeah. But don’t let the fear of loss make you avoid life, or you will miss the richness of life, which includes gain and loss.

          A friend of mine is hesitant to get another dog because it broke his heart into a million pieces when his dog died. That dog represented a part of his life he never wanted to lose.

          I just lost one of my cats. I feel like I just lost a piece of my life that I was not ready to say goodbye to. I cry every single day, but it won’t stop me from giving love to another cat in the future.

          And when it comes to human loss, you won’t find very many people who wish they never had a beloved family member in their life just because they lost them. The love is the part that keeps living.

        • rys

          “Is all that despair, depression, sadness, emotional isolation and verge of deathness worth it?” Amen.

          My first reaction to this post was “I’m so glad Kristine and her partner chose not to focus their entire lives on fertility and instead just live their lives” because I’ve had way too many friends be either a) so pre-traumatized that every waking hour was devoted to thinking about in/fertility or b) spend upwards of 7+ years devoted to getting pregnant at the expense of just living their lives, choosing to adopt/have a family in some other way, and most of all being happy.

          The message “if you don’t have kids NOW, you will regret it” has been so firmly implanted in American culture that when it doesn’t happen as someone wants or on the preferred timeline, it becomes a tragedy. I don’t want to minimize the actual grief, but I think it often overcomes the other delights of life, the other reasons we all live — all of which existed before and will exist after in/fertile years. I want my friends to be happy, not so tied to baby-making plans that when plans go awry, living in the present, in this world becomes almost impossible.

          • Kat

            Yes this.

            Another friend who just got engaged and will be married next year is so focused on “getting to babyland” and how her “time is running out” (she’s 31) and that she has medical conditions that will make it harder for her to have children that I keep telling her to calm the frig down about the whole thing or her body will just not want to co-operate.

            She’s so determined that she won’t have a baby or that it will be hard that I think she’ll will herself into not having what she wants!

    • But for all those tales, there are people like me who at 29 got pregnant the first month they tried. Okay, fine, it ended in miscarriage, but I got pregnant again for keeps two months later. My cousin who is 31 got pregnant mostly by accident. My friend who is 37 is pregnant with her third child – this one is an oops.

      It’s easier and more exciting to tell the horror stories. “I got pregnant easily when I wanted to” isn’t much of a story, you know?

      • I got pregnant with TWINS at 31, at first try. And there are no twins in either family (talk about surprises!)

        • Now see, shit like that stresses me out!! ;)

        • H

          That’s so exciting! I totally want twins… bizarre but true. No twins on either side of our families, but still.

          You give me hope!

      • Kristen

        Exactly this. It only took me 3 months to get pregnant at 34 and I was completely traumatized by all the stories and wondering “what if I’m infertile?” And now I’m 35, husband is soon-to-be 37, and we are expecting our first any day now.

    • Rachel Wilkerson

      Kelly — Thank you for introducing me to the term “pre-traumatizing.” It’s perfect for what I was going through after I found out I have a damaged fallopian tube. I spent a bit of time wallowing…even though I don’t have any desire for kids right now, even though it’s not even an infertility diagnosis…the miscarriage stories just terrified me.

      I found out last week I needed to have the egg chute removed altogether; my doctor is optimistic abouteverythjng and actually…so am I. The tube is painful and I want to feel healthy again, even if it means my chances of getting pregnant are reduced. But also, to wallow now would be like crying over a my fears of not getting tickets in three years to see a band I’m not even sure I like. I am glad I have a head’s up on my body’s limitations and I’m REALLY glad my fiancé and I are already discussing what we’d like to do in the case of infertility (which I think is so important for couples to discuss!) but I’m also no longer letting myself go to the scary place. No more pre-traumatizing for me!

      • meg

        And you know what? Knowing about issues in advance is actually such a good thing. Both medically and psychologically you go into things with such an edge (says the girl who’s had a shit ton of medical problems).

  • SeptCaBride

    Thank you for this beautiful post.

    After 12 months off the pill and a lot of charting, timing, TRYING… we discovered (through much medical intervention and a great deal of pain) that I suffer from an aggressive form of endometriosis that has led to two blocked tubes. 12 months of hoping takes a toll on your mind, your body, and your marriage. We are moving forward with IVF, but I am also slowly developing an imagine of life without kids. What does that look like – a life with just the two of us? Do I maintain my current career path or chuck it all out the window and follow my other dream of going to culinary school and yoga teacher training? Do I quit my job and spend six months traveling with no specific plan? I am slowly becoming okay with the idea of a kid-free existence by getting excited about all the things I couldn’t/probably wouldn’t do if I had kids…

    • meg

      I love this comment. I know a lot of people can’t do this, that they really need kids, but the idea of you exploring new options (no matter what you end up deciding) warms my HEART, for whatever reason. Probably because we should all let ourselves off the hook and do this more.

    • Ashley

      I started this comment and deleted it because I was afraid it would come off insensitive but I think I want to say it anyway.

      First of all, know that having never been where you are, I know that I cannot possibily imagine the kind of pain you’ve gone through in the last year. I also cannot feel the kind of grief you would have over considering giving up on having chidlren when you know you want them. I can however tell you that once I made the deicision not to have children ( I was MUCH more ambivalent than you, and although it was a BIG decision it was not anywhere near the same for me as it was for you. ) I found it extremely liberating. Once you can get past the sadness of the situation and see the other side, your options as a child-free couple are pretty awesome. I just want you to know there’s hope.

      • SeptCaBride

        Ashley – you are good. :o) I think that we are actually saying the same thing. While I would really prefer that my life include children, I am embracing all of the wonderful things my life will/would/could include if I can’t have children.* My husband and I have been together for eight years and have had WONDERFUL child-free adventures. There is a part of me that mourns the fact that we will lose some of that adventuring – for a few years anyway – when we become parents.

        *I didn’t mention this in my original post because it is just opening another can of worms, but I think it is relevant here: if we cannot have children through ART, we won’t. For a variety of reasons (some personal, some practical), adoption isn’t for us.

    • Have you read the blog “La Belette Rouge”?

      • SeptCaBride

        I just found this and am loving it – THANK YOU!

  • Frances

    This is a great post and really interesting., thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience.

    We’re only a few months into trying after spending a while deciding that it is a good enough time. We’re both pretty young but my family is full of fertility issues so I suppose I’m trying to brace myself for it not happening.

    I too have found that our sex life has been hotter since we stopped trying not to have a baby (absence of condoms is probably part of this). I was worried we’d end up scheduling sex and feeling obligated to go through the motions during my “fertile window” (ick!) but it’s not been like that at all. It’s exciting in ways I really didn’t expect.

    This is a pleasing bonus at the times when I can just tell my period is coming and feel fed up about it – oh well, lots more trying :)

  • Daynya

    I love this. I am 31, and constantly getting nagged by doctors, family members, etc., that we better get on it. Well, we aren’t married yet (October), and we’ve discussed that once we’re married, we’ll just let things happen. I spent so much time obsessing over whether or not having a child was right for me, for us, for the world. I have many friends who basically got married, and automatically got pregnant. What is that?! I feel like I’ve always known deep down inside that getting pregnant would be a challenge for me, but I have no idea where that thought comes from. It scares me though. I’ve come to the conclusion that I have no freaking clue if it’s the right thing, but I don’t think I’ll be able to figure it out either. So, once married, we’ll toss the protection, and TRY to just let whatever happens happen. Now, I might become completely obsessed with it all again (likely), but I’m hoping I can try to let go of some attachment to outcome, and take a much more zen approach to the whole thing. If it ends up just being us? Awesome, I love us! If we end up having a little addition to our family, also awesome. It’s so hard to step back from the pressure, and ideal picture of what my 30s are supposed to look like, and get some perspective sometimes. When I do, I realize, hey, if we have kids, that will be a great little family. If we don’t, I bet we’ll be those totally awesome people who get to enjoy other people’s kids and spoil them rotten. Either way, I’m hoping I can gain more clarity on the whole thing. Thank you so much for sharing this, it really is like a huge and warm hug!

    • Kristine

      I totally agree with everything you said. We also started by taking the carefree “see what happens” approach. It was when I did start obsessing over it and having emotional breakdowns at the beginning of each new cycle that I realized enough was enough. And when we could both honestly tell each other that just the two of us was just fine, it was like a huge weight came off my shoulders.

      I love us too! :-)

      • Daynya

        Oh that is so reassuring, from someone already there! I am a pretty obsessive person, so I’m well aware that I’ll probably latch on to this pretty hard. Even today, I had my annual exam, and my doctor gave me handfuls of prenatal vitamins. I was like, wait, what…? This is NOT helping!!! I hope I can be as aware and cool about it as you are!

    • H

      “I feel like I’ve always known deep down inside that getting pregnant would be a challenge for me, but I have no idea where that thought comes from. It scares me though.”

      The “Exactly” button isn’t enough. WHERE DOES THIS THOUGHT COME FROM!?

      • Daynya

        I know, right?! I have NO idea. I know my mom had a few miscarriages when I was older, but…other than that, I have no damn idea why I think this. Casually chatting with my doctor yesterday, she mentioned that sometimes caffeine can be linked to infertility, and I said, well I don’t drink caffeine anymore anyways. She was like, wait, you are NOT infertile, please realize that. Yes, hello! Where in the hell do these thoughts come from?!

  • We are not in the baby-making phase yet (although we will be in the next few years!) but we actually had a very similar conversation last week about how we want very much to have children, but if we don’t, the two of us are enough together for a full and happy life.

    Thank you for sharing, and I wish you both the best. <3

  • Ambi

    I have mentioned this in the past, but I want to offer it here again as a way to quiet your biological clock: start saving money. Seriously. I am 31, and stressed about having children (long term relationship, though not even engaged yet). Maybe I’ll be able to get pregnant at 35 or 38 or 40, but maybe not. And if not, I still want kids. And those options are expensive (IVF, or more likely, ADOPTION). So, as a way to calm myself, I am socking away money to use for future fertility treatments, or adoption, or if we are able to conceive without any medical intervention (I hate the term “naturally”), the money can be used for those expenses or go to the child’s college fund or something like that. It never hurts to have extra money saved! And this way, the prospect of dealing with future infertility is not quite so scary, because I feel like I have a plan and am working towards something.

    • Jo

      Yes. Yes. Yes. You go girl!

    • Ambi, this is brilliant.

    • Sarah

      Yes! This seems like a really healthy way to take control without freaking out about not being able to control everything (does that make sense? oh well, I’m going with it.)

    • Marina

      Totally. I did this and ended up conceiving on the first try… and then had enough money for both my husband and I to take a full 3 months of unpaid parental leave, which was amazing. But really the biggest benefit was like you said, during the period where I knew it was the wrong time to have kids, still feel like I was working towards it.

  • Carolyn

    Your post could have been written by me. We are still newlyweds (closing in on our 2nd anniversary)–I am 35, my hubby is 32. When we got married it was my second go-round and already I had a diagnosis of endometriosis and 4 years of “trying” with my previous husband. When I started dating husband #2, we were dating about 6 weeks when I thought I better tell him that I might not be able to have children. Despite the fact that he LOVES children, he wanted to stay the course and took the risk that it might never happen for us.

    When we got married we didn’t wait long to try. A year later, still no baby. And a month after our first anniversary, we both came to the conclusion that that was OK. After going through the rigors of drugs and hormones, neither of us was willing to pursue IVF. Quite truthfully, we weren’t even sure we could endure the rigors of adoption either. Then last September, my husband became paralyzed in a tragic accident and we became actually grateful that we did not have children. (I’m working on writing a Reclaiming Wife entry for this, by the way!)

    There is a teeny, tiny part of me that will always wish we had kids, but I also feel a little overwhelmed with relief, and maybe greed? that we have the rest of our lives to focus on us.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Daynya

      Wow Carolyn, that is a lot. I cannot even imagine the combination of sadness, and also relief that must come from that. I cannot wait to read your Reclaiming Wife entry!

    • Ambi

      Carolyn, your story is really inspiring. I am not a particularly religious person, but the idea that “everything happens for a reason” kept coming to me while reading your story. I think you are so wise to be honest with yourself about how much harder your situation would be right now if you had a newborn. Your story shows that we can never really know what the future holds for us – but please keep that in mind for you and your family, too. Whatever happens, I have a feeling you are going to end up happy and content, and you never really know how the universe may end up giving you a family. My parents thought they were done raising children when they ended up taking in two high school girls that were living in terrible situations at home. Those girls are part of our family now, although they aren’t anything that my parents ever planned on. I can promise you that, when they got married, they weren’t thinking “let’s raise two kids, then find two more needy children and give them a home as well” but that is what happened and they wouldn’t change it for the world. I think you have already experienced the sadder side of learning that life throws you curveballs, but you will eventually experience the much happier side too. And whether that is discovering unexpected happiness in a life without children or expanding your family in unexpected ways, I really wish you the best! We are all sending you our hugs and thoughts and love.

      • H

        Wow, that story gave me chills. I’d love to read a post from your parents’ perspectives on this. What a lovely and meaningful thing to do.

        Also, Carolyn- you get a “wow” too. I’m not articulate enough at the moment to say anything else. I cannot wait to read your post.

    • Kristine

      Oh wow, Carolyn. I can’t wait to read your post.

      I totally get why there would be a small sense of relief in the midst of all the other emotions you’ve probably experienced. And by the way, I think having the rest of your lives to focus on “us” is a powerful gift. Growing your marriage is never greedy.

    • meg

      Oh lady, write this post…

  • Meg

    I am 28 & husband is 35… Completely healthy …we tried for 6 months and got pregnant on our seventh. I think the biggest misconception about baby making is that it happens right away. Obviously if you are more comfortable waiting now that you made that decision then that is great! But everything I’ve read would argue that six months is way too early to throw in the towel! Best of luck!

    • Kristine

      I think it was less the idea of throwing in the towel and more the idea of embracing the possibility that kids may not be part of our future. We were so focused on the baby-making that we didn’t even stop to think that it might not happen. Six months is a drop in the bucket compared to the length of time many couples try to get pregnant…it just became our turning point for our marriage.

    • meg

      Well, I’d argue that the whole point of this post is that we culturally have the idea that “throwing in the towel” is a bad thing, or YOU CAN’T GIVE UP. And Kristine is turning that on it’s head. They are letting it go for now, and that’s TOTALLY OK.

    • KateM

      Typically it takes most couples 3-6 months. That is the average and that is with two healthy individuals. My sister and her husband struggled for 7 years with infertility and the doctors told them it is 25% the woman, 25% the man and 50% the combination of the two that causes fertility issues.

  • I’m so glad we’re getting into kids territory, these are such helpful discussions, and ones that are often dismissed in real life. Two things I hate: ‘there’s never a right time!’, like Meg said, and, ‘oh, you HAVE to have kids’. Um. No I don’t. I get that you did it and you loved it, well done. But it doesn’t mean that if I do that will be my experience too. I think I do want kids (but not now), and I know all those people will be all, ‘I told you you’d change your mind!’, even though all I have ever stated is that I’M NOT SURE. And it’s really something you need to be sure about, I feel.

  • SpaceElephant

    I know there’s a lot of talk in these comments about how the media traumatizes women into thinking they need to have babies NOW, and I just want to say: yes and no. Yes, the media sometimes blows things way out of proportion and there is a bit of fearmongering happening.

    But. Your fertility DOES decline as you age, it’s a fact. Something like 10-15% of women on average will have trouble conceiving normally, and that percentage only goes up with age.

    I’m very grateful that I was able to get a diagnosis of some reproductive issues well before we were ready to start trying, and that has factored into our decision-making, because since we know that it will likely take us YEARS to get pregnant, we can think more realistically about our timeline and priorities.

    I guess what I’m saying is, don’t freak out about your fertility unnecessarily, but also don’t assume that when you’re 34 you’ll be able to get pregnant right away. If you do want kids someday down the road, maybe talk to your doctor about it? And maybe chart your cycles for a bit just to make sure everything’s working as it should? Personally, I’d prefer that peace of mind over just clapping my hands over my ears/eyes everytime the NYT runs a fertility story.

    • Jessica

      Charting fertility can be really helpful! We are still years from kids but i have been charting for nearly a year now- and found there are definitely some fertility issues going on. I’m 26 and healthy, never sick or diagnosed with anything bad, but something is wrong with my reproductive system. I’m so grateful charting helped us discover this NOW instead of years down the road when we actually start trying.

  • afrome

    As a 34 year old, I know all too well about the guilt/fear cycle when it comes to fertility. I thank my lucky stars that my partner and I have always been on the same page (which is that it saddens us to think about being old(er) and not having kids to keep us company, but right now? – NO THANKS!). I guess we just love our freewheelin’ lifestyle too much.
    Does this mean we assume we’ll be physically able to conceive if and when the time comes? hell no! We have seen so many others even younger than us go through this horrible struggle. But, is the fear of regret enough of a motivation to do something that we don’t want NOW? Hell no!
    Realizing that (for us) fear of regret is an unacceptable reason to pressure ourselves has been hugely helpful. I recommend that everyone take a moment to consider the role fear plays in ANY extremely consequential decision.
    I would also like to bring attention to the fact that women are not only pressured to conceive while “young”, but are pressured to have more than one child to boot. I find it infuriating when people tell me “you can’t just have one!” Ummm, yes you can, thankyouverymuch. I know many only children who have grown up to be stellar adults.

    • meg

      “Realizing that (for us) fear of regret is an unacceptable reason to pressure ourselves has been hugely helpful. I recommend that everyone take a moment to consider the role fear plays in ANY extremely consequential decision.”


      • Class of 1980

        People will always use fear to try to convince you of something.

        After my divorce in my early forties, a male friend of mine told me to be sure to remarry while I was still in my forties. I shouted that I WAS NOT GOING TO LIVE MY LIFE BASED ON FEAR!!!

        He was too stunned to say anything.

        I needed time to be single because I’d been in relationships my whole freaking life! I can live with any consequence to get the alone time I needed. Besides, I don’t buy into the idea that there is any cut-off age to remarriage … except death itself. ;)

        Maybe I’ll get married in a nursing home when I’m ancient. Who cares? I don’t want to create a life that only works out if I get married!

        In my unconventional life, I have managed to build in support in unconventional ways. I think my business partner and I will still be helping each other in old age, not to mention I do have relatives.

        Like you said before, there are many ways to skin a cat.

        • I am digitally high-fiving you so hard from over here. :)

          Such a great mantra/outlook, no matter where you are in life.

          • Class of 1980


            Someone recently told me that 90% of the things we worry about never happen. And the stuff that does happen is usually the stuff we weren’t worrying about.

  • kathleen

    I work with pregnant women, and as part of the work have heard thousands (really) of stories about how women and their partners came to the place of being pregnant. And most of them are NOT the usual “we tried for a few months, and hooray! baby”– rather it’s stories of women who get pregnant who really aren’t sure they want kids, or stories of years of fertility treatments, or stories of miscarriage and loss. It’s really changed how I think about pregnancy and the decision to have kids, and it has left two big impressions:

    1- being intentional about having kids (or not) is the best and only control we have over this event. We have a lot less control over if/when we get pregnant than we think, but being really clear (with our partners) about the choice is our biggest job- and Kristine, it’s what makes this post so great. You are clear that right now is not the best time, and being intentional about the timing is so so smart.

    2- I had a client that told me the only thing she learned in the years she struggled to get pregnant was that she “would not hang her happy hat on getting pregnant” and guys. THIS. It goes for more than just kids- but coming to a place where all one’s happiness is dependent on ONE event you can’t control (whether it be kids or finding a partner or getting married or whatever) is so natural, and if possible, must be rejected.

    • meg


    • Class of 1980

      “It goes for more than just kids- but coming to a place where all one’s happiness is dependent on ONE event you can’t control (whether it be kids or finding a partner or getting married or whatever) is so natural, and if possible, must be rejected.”

      I nominate you for COMMENT OF THE YEAR.

    • Marina

      It is totally boggling to me how much women don’t talk to other women. When I had an abortion and made the conscious choice that I was going to be open to talking about it with my friends, suddenly I was hearing dozens of stories of abortions and early miscarriages that were a huge relief. When I got pregnant, suddenly I was hearing all these pregnancy stories that were totally, totally not the nice pat mass-media pregnancy story. Now with an infant I’m hearing the epic breastfeeding stories. But prior to being in these stages myself I had no freaking clue all this existed. I think the same thing happens with money, too, like we’ve previously discussed on APW–we just don’t talk to each other, so we all start assuming we’re alone in this…

      TL;DR Thank goodness for APW. ;)

      • Class of 1980

        Miscarriage stories, pregnancy stories, breastfeeding stories …

        It’s always something. ;)

    • That second part is just brilliant, especially because one of the problems with parenthood is that it can feel so all-consuming that it places too much pressure on kids to validate that intense investment. Kids need to know they’re important to their parents, but they shouldn’t be responsible for their parents’ happiness. Parents can help with that by cultivating more than one source for happiness.

      BTW I think it works for relationships, too. My partner and I need other people. I love our relationship, but it doesn’t thrive in isolation because it ends up being too much pressure.

      • Absolutely. Kids cannot, should not bear that responsibility!

        • kathleen

          I agree, but I think it’s bigger than that- I think what Laurel is saying is our partners shouldn’t bear that responsibility. I try to be really clear about this– it’s not my partner’s job to make my life good. Rather, I try to build and sustain a really great and fun and rich life that my partner 1- feels lucky to share and 2- makes even better.

          This is not always the case (I type while sitting in bed with the flu having just had my partner bring me veggie broth), but it’s what I work towards.

          • YES EXACTLY. And that doesn’t negate the care-taking or responsibility we do have. I also have a responsibility TO MY PARTNER to maintain my other relationships. I keep thinking about writing a post on this because it’s a huge part of what works in my relationship.

          • Absolutely. We are the only ones responsible for our own happiness. But a child doesn’t have the resources to defend itself against that pressure, adults do (or can look for help).

  • KateM

    This is a tough conversation, thank you for sharing your story. My sister and her husband struggled with infertility for 7 years and they were pretty young in their early 20’s. Conservative friends/acquaintances would tell them they needed to start making babies, and others would congratulate them on taking their time and enjoying their youth and building their careers. She called me crying at least twice a week for YEARS. People need to stay the F out of other people’s baby making business. If you want kids, don’t want kids, it is between you and your partner. They now have two beautiful girls, one by adoption, and one was a biological surprise.
    Having watched them go through this, my FH and I had long talks about what we would do if we couldn’t have have the children we both want. We made a deal that if we haven’t conceived in the next three years, we will adopt. It is an arbitrary timeline, but it was something I needed to have given what I had seen with my sister and also many friends. I think a plan is a great thing to have, and obviously children should be part of any pre-marriage counseling, but so should infertility. That being said, life does not let you plan it out, and we all need to learn to roll with it, and adapt as life changes together with your partner. The fact that you were able to have this conversation and both end up in the same space is a pretty great indication of how awesome your relationship is :)

  • You know, I think a lot of the things people say aren’t really personal–they are scripts. Kind of like when you were in college and in the lead up to Thanksgiving you would ask: “So what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” Did you care? Were you invested? Nah, it’s way to connect with people and find out where they are with the big life markers that tend to define roles and relationships and frame behavior.

    Most people (other than your direct family members) are not really invested in whether or not you reproduce. I think most people are just making conversation and following the script, like a groove on a record. If they are more energetic than the script, their comments are usually more about their own concerns and turmoil and insecurity about those issues than judgement of you.

    I think the mommy war is just an extension of this deep fear within each of us that we are Doing It Wrong. “It” being????–In my experience, there are as many ways to do “it” as there are individual personalities operating within different cultures. The sooner we abandon our fear of failing at “it” the better off we are. Success comes through innovation–not conformity, and peace comes through not giving a rat’s ass and holding true to your inner code.

    My husband and I are decidedly older than 31: me in my late 30s, he in his mid 40s. We are a blended family with four kids between us. ranging from 16-7.

    I KNEW I wanted more children, until I met Brian who really and truly does not want more children. He’s not joking. He had a vasectomy. And beyond that, our family is balanced as it is. Everybody knows their place, and everybody gets along. Why would we potentially F*&K up equilibrium with a baby that he doesn’t even want? So I no longer want another baby either.

    The funny thing is that we constantly find ourselves explaining why we aren’t “sealing the deal” with yet another baby! People who push it learn far more about my husband’s anatomy than they even imagined. Some will persist and even ask about frozen sperm, reversibility etc! It makes me laugh. I honestly don’t think people mean any harm… or are even asking the question particularly thoughtfully. It’s the script.

    • Chris B

      Huh, I never really thought about that, but I think you’re right about the script thing. Cool, thanks!

    • Class of 1980

      “Success comes through innovation–not conformity, and peace comes through not giving a rat’s ass and holding true to your inner code.”

      Oh no, another COMMENT OF THE YEAR. ;)

    • You know, I used to be pretty certain that it’s just a script for most people (and I still believe that’s true for MOST people) and I’m glad you brought it up, so we can all stop taking it so personally when most people start prying.

      But there are a select few people that I just do not understand. Close family members, OK, I get that they feel like they might have a horse in this race (I disagree that they do, but I understand that they think that they do). My office mate? Not so much. But the bullying about how I NEED to have kids, like, 5 years ago because OMG smart women are not reproducing at the same rate as uneducated women* and the human race is only going to get stupider and we will all be DOOMED if I don’t start making the babies right now!!!!!!!! got so bad that I had to move to a different office. I’m pretty thick skinned, so that’s saying something.

      Whoa. First, is intelligence even genetic? We really don’t know. Second, assuming for the sake of argument that it is, are “intelligent” people inherently “better” or more valuable than “uneducated” people? Third, intelligent v. uneducated is false dichotomy. Fourth, even if we could accept all the above premises as true (for the record, I vehemently do not), why does it all fall on my personal shoulders, exactly? Am I the last unicorn? I didn’t think so. Doesn’t my choice and preference figure in this at all? Nope. Not to her.

      *and I ask you here, what about the men who are supposed to father these children with all the smart ladies? Did we suddenly become parthenogenic? Because that would be neat and all but I’m pretty sure that there are very few examples of immaculate conception out there. (and not to erase the non-het couples out there but they definitely did not fit into this person’s calculations about the “personal responsibility” of smart (= het in her mind) women to reproduce so our world doesn’t get stupider.) Ugh. The yuck is strong in this one.

      • Class of 1980

        “But the bullying about how I NEED to have kids, like, 5 years ago because OMG smart women are not reproducing at the same rate as uneducated women* and the human race is only going to get stupider and we will all be DOOMED if I don’t start making the babies right now!!!!!!!!”

        For what it’s worth, I used to hear the same thing in the eighties and nineties.

        Furthermore, they used to say the same thing … in Victorian times. Lots of hand-wringing about the “lower classes” having more children.

        Tell them that a greater percentage of natural resources are consumed by individuals of higher socioeconomic status. Do they really want that? ;)

        • H

          “Tell them that a greater percentage of natural resources are consumed by individuals of higher socioeconomic status. Do they really want that? ;)”

          HA! Love that!

        • “The yuck is strong in this one.” Haha! :)

      • rys

        Well-meaning family and friends frequently talked about how I and my high school sort-of-bf “needed” to — one day, mind you, after college and more education and such — have kids because we were smart and needed to create more smart babies for the world. Since this is clearly illogical on so many levels, I take particular delight in the fact that said sort-of boyfriend is gay, out, happily married to a man, and not planning on having any (biological) children.

  • kayakgirl73

    This post really hits home today. Right this minute I sit at my desk waiting for the nurse from my RE’s office to call me with the results of my beta HCG pregnancy test following the IUI I had last month. TTC and Infertility have been a struggle, we don’t know where we’ll go if we fail. My husband said to me last night that it will be okay if it ends up just being the two of us.

    We don’t know if adoption is right for us and personally I’m not ready to think about that yet. My husband is reluctant to pursue IVF.

    I want children but if we don’t have them I know there are other wonderful things out there. Perhaps travel, volunteer work, special things for nieces and nephews, the career path change that we could make if we don’t need to worry about taking care of a family?

    My childless relatives did so much for us as kids. My mom’s best friend is childless, I have no idea whether it’s by choice or IF but she has had a great life and many many adopted nieces and nephews that she has aided so much. She and her husband brought their classic car in a borrowed car carrier three hours to wedding to provide our transportation.

    • Class of 1980

      Personally, I think our world is richer with childless people helping other people’s children. The children end up getting more support in life, and the parents get a break sometimes.

  • Lizzie

    Does anyone else feel timeline pressure on having kids not because of their own age but because of their parents’ age? I mean, I’m almost 32, so I guess I’m starting to think about my own biology as well, but the thing that I find heart-wrenching in waiting a few more years is that my mom will be 71 this summer and probably wants a grandchild more than anything else in life. She got a late-ish start herself (especially for 40 years ago), and I’m her youngest, and my siblings are not paired off, so although she isn’t badgering us or anything of the sort, I feel like every time I see her, I disappoint her by not telling her that I’m pregnant.

    My husband is three years younger than me, but his parents are also on the older side (his dad spent 15-20 years as a Catholic priest before marrying and starting a family), so at least we’re very much on the same page with those types of feelings. It funny because you think it would be liberating to have parents who took their time and made their own paths on making families, but for me, it’s always been pretty stressful to have a mother that was older than the other moms, and I’ve also always wanted to save my own kids from that stress.

    • Class of 1980

      Lizzie, I think that sort of thing happens all the time. But what can you do?

      You still have to choose the best time for yourself, because the child will live in your household. I know that doesn’t make it easy when you love your parents and want to give them that joy.

      BTW, my former mother-in-law married a man she didn’t want to marry and had a child right away … because her parents were grieving so hard for her brother who had died in his twenties. She wanted to take her parents to a happier place. It was a bad decision that had many consequences.

      • Lizzie

        Absolutely we need to make a conscious, self-full decision about it, but I guess what it comes down to is that we both feel like we might as well get started sooner than later since we know we want children anyway, even if circumstances seem less than ideal, because the best time for us includes a consideration of the roles of our kid’s grandparents. It’s certainly a much less crazy position to take than my 27-year-old single self who kinda just wanted to get knocked up with whoever’s kid so that my parents would have a grandkid.

        A lot of this has to do with me being the level-headed, dependable member of the family (maybe least so when I was 27…) who typically fulfills everyone’s expectations, blah blah blah…(insert complicated family dynamics)… but being able to understand it as such doesn’t make it any less powerful.

        • afrome

          I hear you – I am roughly your age and so is my mom. However, you have to put it in perspective. No matter what, I know my mom will have lived to see me find a wonderful, loving partner who she adores, and can know that I will have someone to go through life with [for those without partners, insert other great achievements here]. I’m sure she’d love a grandchild (or two, or three) as well – and maybe she’ll get them one day – who knows – , but the rest is enough for me (it has to be!).

    • Definitely, definitely! My dad was in his forties, my mom 39 when they adopted me, and now they are both in their sixties. They both have health problems, not too serious, but they’re not the best candidates for making it to their centenary. A grandkid would make them both SO happy, and they were such amazing parents that I really want them to be a part of my kid’s life, not just some hazy memories from early childhood.

      I feel lucky that I’m young and want kids, and so does my fiance, but realistically we’re not ready right now and probably won’t be for another three or four years at least. But you are totally not alone in the age of parents being a factor, and occasionally the cause of some twinges of guilt.

    • My dad died right before I got married, and one of the hard things I had to deal with when I was pregnant was knowing my daddy would never meet my baby.

      But you live. It’s sad, yes, but that’s life. My kid has three loving grandparents and will grow up with stories and pictures of the fourth.

      • meg

        God Morgan, you’re killing me with smartness of late. “But you’ll live.” Hard, but nails it, right? (And by IT, I mean so much of life, really…)

      • Ellabynight

        My dad died a year after our wedding (and my husband’s dad died a few years earlier when we were 21), and while we haven’t had kids yet, I’ve always felt that one of the hardest things we’ll have to deal with is raising kids without grandfathers. I know we’ll just deal with it and still have wonderful kids with wonderful grandmothers, but I still mourn the what could have been.

        Hearing someone else say “you’ll live” definitely helps. I still mourn the idea that *my* dad won’t be there and that my kids won’t get to know him personally, but that has more to do with the possibilities I can imagine instead of the realities my kids will face.

        • My only advice is to not watch the How I Met Your Mother episodes where Marshal’s dad dies as he and Lily are trying to get pregnant.

          Unless you like weeping, I guess.

          Even on the second watch while actually pregnant it was like getting punched in the stomach.

          Okay, wait, I lied. Other advice, based on what we plan to do. Tell stories of people who are gone. My maternal grandparents died 13 and 16 years ago, but we talk about them often enough that it feels like they’re almost still here. Gone but not forgotten, you know?

          • Louise

            Tell stories of people who are gone. My maternal grandparents died 13 and 16 years ago, but we talk about them often enough that it feels like they’re almost still here. Gone but not forgotten, you know?

            So true. My cousin has a 3year old daughter who recently received my cousin’s dolls from when she was young. Our grandma, who died nearly 15 years ago, gave them to her, and her daughter knows this. (She also has pictures and has heard stories about Grandma Rose, but dolls transcend generations for this girl better than anything). She talks about her “pretty grandma rose” all the time. It’s adorable, and lovely, but also sort of heart wrenching. I particularly like that she calls her pretty because she looks so much like grandma rose!

          • GOD that episode, with the counting down of the numbers to what you THINK will be good news, and ohgod the weeping.

    • One More Sara

      a bit of a tangent, but I’m also beginning to feel the urge (not pressure) to have another baby. I am 3 yrs younger than my older sister, and my FI is 3 yrs younger than his. Our son is turning 3 in a couple weeks, and while we aren’t ready to have another child (and we’re both 24 so we have LOADS of time) it feels like the age difference between siblings also has influence over the timing of having subsequent children.

      • Chris B

        If this makes your decision any easier, One More Sara, my parents had a surprise late baby, so my youngest sister is eight years younger than me, and it was awesome for me.

        I was old enough to remember her birth and help take care of her when she was a baby, and we never fought about anything (what could we possibly have to fight about?) but always just enjoyed one another’s company immensely. The relationship is like the best blend of sister-sister and aunt-niece.

        Of course I love my closer-in-age sister just as much, and while we fought, we also played together and had a lot of fun together in more traditional siblingy ways. All I’m saying is, from my experience there isn’t a wrong way to space your kids!

        • One More Sara

          We aren’t really struggling with the decision right now. there is no room in the apartment, we want to be married (Aug next year!) before the next one, and we aren’t prepared financially. It is nice to hear that a big age gap isn’t really noticeable looking back on your own childhood. I think that we want our children to have the same good experiences that we had as children. Sometimes that is having a bunch of cousins nearby, or going to summercamp, or having family beach vacations. Naturally we also want to recreate our positive sibling relationships, but as parents the only thing about our children’s relationships that we can control is their age difference. When thinking about this logically, it’s easy to see where these feelings come from, but the urges can still be so strong!

    • Marbella

      Yes… my husbands parents are in their 60’s and I am well aware that they really want grandchildren. They will be fantastic grandparents too, and it’s a big part of the sooner rather than later thoughts I have. I want our children to know their grandparents for a long time.

    • YES. Yes a thousand times. I’m 25 and my husband is 28; his parents are significantly older than mine because they had him quite late, so while we’re pretty young, there’s an ever-ticking clock for us if we want any kids we have to know his parents (know as in old-enough-to-form-a-relationship). I have two younger brothers (unmarried, not even with girlfriends) and he has an older sister who isn’t interested in kids (we’re not sure…? None of our beeswax really). But the pressure it on us. And of course it’s worse when I had a miscarriage last year, and we’re coming up on a year of trying to conceive with no success (miscarriage doesn’t count).

      We want kids now too, of course, and now is as good a time as any for us, so it’s maddening when we want this so badly not only for us but for my in-laws. (I mean, my parents too. But his particularly more because, well, ticking clock.)

      I totally understand.


      Yes. Definitely. It’s something my FH and I talk about explicitly — wanting our children to know their grandparents.

    • Kat

      Both my sister and I feel this way for our mom. She’s in her mid/late 60s and the only one of her siblings that doesn’t have grandkids. When someone in our church has a baby she’s generally among the first to hold the kid, cooing, smiling and bouncing the baby for hours. Her WHOLE face lights up. My sister is getting married this summer and at 26 has no real interest in having kids yet. I’ll be getting married in another year or so and my SO and I are both on the fence about kids right now, he’s 40 and I’m 30. The idea that mom might not be able to hold/play/be there for her grandkids saddens me, but thankfully mom would never put baby pressure on us kids, she’s much too enlightened :)

  • It may be the postpartum depression talking, but now that I have a small baby? I know in my soul that we would have been just as happy without a baby. I mean, she’s cute and we’ll keep her, but I know very clearly now that we would have been JUST FINE had we always been a family of two.

    • meg

      So interesting…..

    • On-the-fence Anon

      Thank you for the honesty. Truly.

      • Jo

        Do you ever read the “Modern Love” column in the NYTimes? I’ve been reading archived articles lately, and your comment plus this whole conversation today reminded me of this one:

        • Oh, the controversy that stirred up! Yeah, I guess I’m in the camp of husband first, baby second as well. Also, I didn’t fall in love with the baby immediately. There was no transcendent moment of my heart exploding that I had hoped for. I just felt, well, tired. And sad. (See also, extreme baby blues and PPD.) But the love grew, as expected, because of course I love the flesh of my flesh, who giggles in her sleep and has just learned social smiling. But I love my husband longer and deeper and consciously. I don’t know. I mean, we’re biologically wired to love our babies, right? To make sure we don’t eat them when they won’t stop screaming? But loving my husband is a choice – a choice I make gladly. To me, I love him more in part because it’s a choice and not simple biology.

          But again. PPD and the baby’s only 8 weeks old, so YMMV.

          • Mmouse

            I’m due in Sept and I think about this a lot. Everyone says you will instantly change and feel love like nothing else before. I worry about that in the sense that I love my husband like nothing else and I don’t want our relationship to change for the worse. I’m so glad to hear someone honestly say they still love their spouse despite the child. I feel like, if it was just us, I would be happy because I’m happy with him. And I’m glad to feel like that’s valid and not blasphemy against babies.

          • MMouse – I’m sure that instant love happens for some people. Probably even most people. But of the women my age I’ve been close enough to talk honestly with? Most of them said the love came later. Months later, in many cases. I found this so comforting when faced with a small screaming thing I didn’t feel anything for. And they were right – the love did grow. But it was very much in addition to what I feel about my husband, not as a replacement.

          • Morgan, thanks for your honesty. I would guess this happens a lot but is the kind of conversation falls into the stuff women rarely (if ever) talk about, so it’s really great to hear honest discussion of these feelings/thoughts…. Thank you!

        • meg

          Oh Ayelet, with the being so smart and saying things your not supposed to say, and having women in the audience threatening to kill you when you go on Oprah. Our parents raised us this way, by the way, and we turned out just fine.

  • Something that has struck me as I’m reading through the comments, especially the discussions on biological clocks and the messages women hear about their fertility decreasing with age is that we are not in this alone.

    Even the most fertile woman in the world isn’t going to get pregnant easily if her partner has fertility issues. While men might not have the same internal & societal pressure that goes with eventual menopause and growing out of fertility, they are still part of the equation.

    • Ambi

      Oh my GOD, YES!!! This actually came up for us recently when a study was released that linked autism to “advanced paternal age” – meaning dads that conceive after age 35. Dads! When my boyfriend heard that, he seemed really stressed, and it opened a really interesting conversation about the pressures that men and women feel about reproduction and “biological clocks.” He said that he had never thought about needing to have kids by a certain age, but he had thought a lot about being stable enough to provide for a family before becoming a parent. His pressures had always pushed him to want kids later, rather than earlier. Now he felt a tiny bit of what I have been feeling.

      • Ambi

        Sorry, by the way, to add to the fear-mongering. I should add that (1) this was only one study, and isn’t conclusive, and (2) the same week, another study came out saying autism is linked to maternal obesity. So honestly, they really haven’t figured it out yet! I just posted this because it was a huge contrast to see my guy experience the “biological clock” for just a moment.

        • Class of 1980

          And then you have my ex-brother and sister-in-law who adopted twins – a boy and a girl.

          The girl ended up being autistic. The biological parents were young and in college, and neither was obese. Then again, the twins were one month premature and did have to get a lot of shots.

          Who knows? Something has changed though, because autism was incredibly rare when I was young and I strongly don’t think it was under-diagnosed then.

    • meg

      TRUTH. Our partners are in this with us, and culturally, we have our feet held to the fire, and no one even bothers them.

      • Class of 1980

        Don’t you KNOW your uterus is the portal of future humanity? You are The Gatekeeper.

        Ha ha ha ha ha. ;)

        • Kat

          HA! What a hilarious awesome comment Class of 1980! I think I need to copy and paste that somewhere for some sort of future use! Thanks! :)

  • Amber

    When I was engaged previously, a dear, close friend who has known me for years, and I were talking about our upcoming nuptials (she had gotten engaged about a month after me, and got married last month). She has a timeline, on a calendar, with colored ink, for when she and her now-husband are going to try, and she wants to be pregnant within 3 months of the wedding because she thinks she’ll be too old. She’s 31. I’m 28, and when she asked me where my crazy person calendar was, I said “yeah, we don’t want kids.” I’ll never forget the look on her face, or what she said: “Why are you even getting married then?” *pause* “You’re going to be so lonely when you get old!”


    I ended up not getting married (thank every power that exists in the universe) but her words still sting. I KNOW, with the deepest part of my being, that I don’t want kids. I like kids. But cooking and having and raising a tiny human? Yikes! Even getting married wasn’t something I really wanted to do, but thought that I should do. I’m so happy that places like APW are trying to change that, and I love the OP’s attitude about kids – if, and when, you have them, it will be for the right reasons, not just because you should.

    • Class of 1980

      Children are the only reason to get married?

      So, will she get a divorce if she is infertile? ;)

    • meg

      “when she asked me where my crazy person calendar was…”

      I just snarfed something.


      My FH and I have a five-year “crazy person” calendar with multiple color-coded babymaking windows, and I don’t think we’re crazy.

      I recognize that this is one of those situations where I’m on the “dominant cultural narrative” side, but coming up with a plan was one of the ways we were able to come to terms with things after I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. The looming prospect of a “high risk” pregnancy, combined with my VEEEEEEERY long training program with a predictable ebb and flow (woot, MD/PhD!) makes this a good option for us.

      Will we be married yet when our first window arrives? Who knows. Do we expect to magically get pregnant in that first window? Hell no. Are we open to adoption? Of course! Do I think this is the way everyone should do this? Of course not! But the “crazy person” five-year calendar? It’s what makes sense in our situation.

      • Amber

        Having a plan isn’t crazy…but this calendar was. Like, color coded 2 years in advance, around his and her schedules (like you could know that that far in advance) and with things like “buy crib – sales on target usually happen now!” written in. I definitely think that having a plan is great, and especially if you’re high risk, but this was like me saying “In ten years I want to go to Europe” and planning every second of every day for the next ten years and the trip, all with glitter pens. Oh my.

  • Ambi

    I just noticed that our discussion, as rich and interesting as it has been, seems mainly focused on heterosexual couples. I would love to hear some discussion of these issues from an LGBT point of view, if there is anyone out there willing to share their story.

    • Here’s mine in a nutshell (if I do more than a nutshell, I’ll start crying at work because this whole discussion has made me incredibly emotional).

      It’s really hard, because we do want kids and we want them soon. We’re 30 and 31, I’ve just started a great job with super pricey benefits, she’s dealing with underemployment issues while trying to launch a wedding planning business. Money is a huge issue in our daily life, I can’t imagine what’ll hapen when we add a tiny person.

      We can’t throw out the birth control and see what happens. We’re going to have to go have conversations with doctors that will be awkward and painful – I’ve had doctors be painfully ignorant/insensitive about my sexual orientation in the past and I expect this to be even worse. The only thing scarier than the monetary investment to conceive is the price of day care in the DC area and that my job does not provide ANY paid maternity care. So at some point, we’re going to have to sit down and decide that yes, now is a good time to start trying to have a baby. It’s been six months to a year out for two years. I am scared the window is going to close and we’ll have missed out.

      I am also slightly terrified that if I ever actually get pregnant, I will have unending awkward questions from strangers or acquaintances that will be none of their business (because that already happens ALL THE TIME). I am also held together with caffeine and needless worry, so there you go.

    • Me too!

      The Husband and I go to a Methodist church in Atlanta with a lot of diverse partnerships. Many of the LGBT couples in our church have children. I actually am not sure if I want children at all but these couples make me so incredibly hopeful for our future. Their children are all amazing (not to mention adorable). But I know very few of their stories right now. I would love to hear if any of the LGBT couples here on APW have thoughts as well.

    • Two big issues we have that most straight folks don’t have:

      1. We have to ask for help. We’d rather have a known donor, and I worry about how to have that crazy conversation and when and with whom. Can I ask a straight friend or will his wife feel uncomfortable? Is it ok to ask someone who doesn’t have kids yet, and won’t know how he’ll feel about semi-not really-parenthood? Etc.

      2. Right now, we live in a legal environment where it would be easy and relatively cheap to get a court order listing the non-gestational parent as, you know, a PARENT. We might move in a few years, and who knows what the legal environment will be like where we end up? It might get really hard to protect the non-gestational parent’s relationship with the kid. That plus a couple other logistical reasons that now would be a good time to have kids makes me feel like I should do it now even though we’re genuinely truly not ready yet. It’ll never be easier! But I just can’t yet.

  • Sarah

    Thank you – I needed this post, of late. I’ve always been on the fence about kids, but slowly starting to (maybe) come around to having them one day. It’s so exhausting sometimes, hearing people say “oh, you’ll change your mind” or pushing, always, for the having of children. Despite knowing many wonderful people who haven’t had kids, but seem no less complete, some days, it is hard to feel that there’s a sense of balance out there.

  • Honestly? Just hearing that other people struggle with the cultural script that throwing in the towel isn’t okay and that you HAVE to keep trying because OMG this could be the month!!…yeah, I needed to hear that.

    Also — I really, really advocate being honest with your friends when these things happen. I had a miscarriage last year and told some friends. Turns out one of them got pregnant the same cycle I did, which has been incredibly rough on me since it’s a constant timeline reminder for me of where our lives *would* have been (literally). And another good friend is pregnant now too. And the saving grace in my sanity has been my being honest with them about how a) I’m happy for them and b) I’m really struggling right now emotionally (so, like, if I’m moody, it’s nothing to do them THEM, everything to do with…well, jealousy, in a nutshell). Friends. They’re good things. And women should talk to each other about this tough stuff. As in, I’m happy for you and in a lot of pain and that’s not you, that’s me, I swear I am not a bitch!

    • Class of 1980

      Aww. Cut yourself some slack with the jealousy. Wanting a baby is not like wanting a material object. It’s a deep desire of the heart, which makes it so much harder to cope with.

  • Rachel Wilkerson

    Thanks for this post! I have been thinking about the possibility of being childless a lot lately because I just got diagnosed with a hydrosalpinx and have to have my left Fallopian tube removed. It’s scary and it’s so reassuring to read the post and all the comments reminding me that yes, there is a wrong time, and the fear over being infertile shouldn’t make me say to myself, “Oh totally start trying now, Miss Crappy Insurance and Still in Progress Career Path.” Infertility (even just the suggestion of it) is scary shit but it doesn’t mean this is a good time.

    On a semi-related note, this post/comments reminded me how sick I am of hearing “Oh but you can always just do IVF!” when I mention my reduced fertility to people. Um, there is no “just” about IVF. It’s emotionally and financially draining for so many couples and I hate the idea that it’s as easy as taking a Tylenol and look — twins! Saying “I think I’d prefer to just adopt if it turns out I can’t have children” or saying “I’m infertile so no kids for me” is met with SO much judgment. What is with is with this expectation that ALL couples who struggle to get pregnant must do IVF (and several times!) to be considered “okay” by society?

    • Class of 1980

      It’s almost like they don’t recognize adoption as a good choice. What’s up with that?

      • Although this at least 5 years off for us, we’ve already started looking at adoption and the (huge) process behind it. We aren’t infertile, or rather we have no idea whether we are or we aren’t. We just don’t feel the strong desire for biological children the way we do for children. There’s so many kids without families, and, someday, we’ll be in state to provide someone a loving family.

        However, it turns out many, many, many agencies don’t see things that way. Some of them require you to have been diagnosed with infertility, gone through multiple rounds of “failed” IVF, and “thoroughly mourned” your inability to have children biologically before you can use their services.

        Seriously?! What kind of BS is that?

    • meg

      That’s so baffling to me. Both adoption and IVF are hardcore options, but if someone said, “You know, we’re thinking we want to adopt not do IVF” I’d be like “Eye to eye, you and me girlfriend. I get you.”

      Not that there is a THING wrong with IVF, but the idea that it should always be the first choice, and adoption (or no kids!) should be second is baffling to me. And totally the dominant cultural script.

    • It’s always “well there’s always IVF or adoption” isn’t it? As though these are not incredibly emotionally fraught and financially fraught options (isn’t it something like 25-35k to adopt, factoring in legal fees and the whole shebang — sure, kids are expensive any way you slice it…but you don’t have to have it all upfront when you’re able to have them the non-adoption route). To act as though these decisions are easy-peasy is mostly naive on the part of the people saying them, in part because culturally we talk a lot of the wonders of IVF and the wonderfulness of adoption while leaving out the unpleasant facts associated with those choices.

      • Lauren

        I agree with Hayley. I also think that there are a lot of pretty serious ethical concerns that go along with adoption that most people don’t ever think about. People say ‘oh if it dosen’t work, we’ll adopt’ like babies are just there for the taking. There isn’t a lot of thought that goes into where the babies are coming from.

        Is it ethical to adopt a baby with parents who are still living & love their baby & are only giving them away because they lack the financial resources to ensure their baby a good life? I know that there are lots of stories about people adopting babies who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned, but there are equally as many stories of babies being adopted when one or both of their birth parents really really wanted them. These instances are frequent, and under reported, and it shows how adoption – especially of babies- tends to benefit the privileged and the wealthy,while destroying the families of people who are less fortunate, and to me that feels wrong. That goes for domestic as well as foreign adoptions.

        I know this is an extreme view, and I’ll go ahead and confess that I’m a birthmother (he’s about to turn 11) & therefor TOTALLY biased, but I also know that there are A LOT of birthparents out there, who feel like they were coerced and like they didn’t have a choice, and they are permanently damaged by it. So when I read people causally talking about how they’ll just adopt I always think “Really? who is going to make that baby for you? Have you thought about that?” because people should think about it more.

        There is no JUST about adoption either.

        • Rachel Wilkerson

          I agree — there is no “just” for either option! I hope I didn’t imply that I think adoption is easier or simply a more “noble” option…there are just personal reasons I am less comfortable with IVF at this point so that gets under my skin more. But seriously, neither option is easy and couples deserve to choose either or neither without having to justify their choices.

          Do you happen to have any articles you could link to re: the ethics of adoption? I know you said it’s underreported but I’d really to learn more.

          • Lauren

            Hey Rachel,

            I wasn’t aiming that comment at you – sorry. There has been a lot of adoption talk on here that hasn’t taken this kind of thing into account, and I just wanted to put it out there.

            There is an organization called Concerned Untied Birthparents, and they have position papers that serve as good jumping off points for the ethical questions that I’m talking about. You can find them here: http://www.cubirthparents.org/home/where-we-stand/position-papers/

            I’m not totally up to date on this stuff because reading about it upsets me – but I did a long paper about it back when I was an undergrad (8 years ago) and what I found was that information about adoption from the birthparents perspective is pretty hard to find, & pretty sad when you do find it.

            Adoption companies paint a rather unrealistic picture for potential birth parents when they’re trying to convince them to relinquish their children. They show pictures of happy birth mothers hanging out with their babies. They don’t show pictures of a life time of heart ache.

          • @Lauren Cool, I just wanted to clarify! (And even if it was aimed at me, that would have been fine — I don’t mind being called out when necessary.) Anyway, thanks for the link and all the info to get me thinking more about this!

  • Hannah

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

  • Today was a busy day & I’ve been looking forward to reading this post since I glanced at it on FB earlier . I really admire the author for getting to place where they will be okay being parents someday or they will be okay if they’re not parents ever. I’m not sure I will have the courage or strength to get to either place. My husband & I have been trying to have a baby for about a year now. I had a miscarriage in February & it was heartbreaking & devastating for us. While we love our life & our baby family, we want a baby. Plain & simple. I don’t know what the road ahead will be like for us but I hope that whether we become parents or not, we have the grace to accept it.

  • Sharon

    man, how do these posts come up just when I need to see them? At first we were getting pressured to get married, but now we’re getting a lot of pressure from the family to just skip getting married and have babies already. I still don’t know if I want/can have kids.

  • Jackie

    I’ve been thinking about the whole “not having children” thing too. In some ways, I never thought I’d be here. I grew up thinking marriage and babies were what it was all about and if I had gotten married in my early to mid-20’s I probably would have 2 kids by now. But I didn’t. And I got into a career I really loved. And I pursued graduate studies. And now I just turned 37 and I feel “the right” time for us to have babies will be in 2 years because of job stress for me and additional grad school for him. But I am also very aware that in 2 years, I am 39 and that sounds very risky for fertility. But then sometimes, I actually hope I’m infertile so I don’t have to make the choice to not have children. Like if I do get pregnant I feel like I”ll willingly go with it, but to make the choice to NOT have children… I just don’t know. It feels like such a strong stance to take now and the critique I would have to withstand sounds terrible… Also, I don’t think my spouse would be totally on board to “decide” we weren’t having kids. He could get there – we talk about the option- but his default is “have kids.” But to choose not to… Something sounds so liberating about that!! But I also feel like I’d miss out on so many things… But then I think how many of my expectations will actually be met/unmet? Like I have dreams of a family of older kids (20’s/30’s) and enjoying them as people, but what if my kids move to the other side of the world and I never get to see them? What if I am not that close to my kids because they are just not that into me or because we are so different? I feel like “having kids” comes with so many expectations and assumptions, that taking the time to really think about what you envision and challenging that with the reality of possible disappointments helps you clarify whether or not you want kids, no strings attached or kids, with strings attached. And knowing some parents who definitely have “strings attached” to their kids and seeing that pressure… makes me uneasy. I don’t know… There’s a lot to consider. And the damn clock keeps ticking!