When I was in second grade, the teacher asked everyone in my class to “draw a picture of what you want to be when you grow up”. So, at the unripe age of 7, I drew myself in a white lab coat dress, accented by a bizarre looking square hat with a red cross. Clearly fashion design was not in my future. On the back side of my Crayola masterpiece, I wrote BABY DOCTOR. Not quite sure what the allure of the medical profession was to me at such a young age because I don’t recall being particularly fond of going to the doctor. But, I did like my pediatrician (I remember him being a very kind man) and I did like babies (they were so cute).
Today, at 39, I am neither a “BABY DOCTOR” nor do I have children of my own. I am an entrepreneur and business owner; I am in a long term relationship, though not married. For the most part, I’m a happy woman with an enjoyable life, two successful businesses, financial independence, a caring boyfriend, a small group of truly good friends and the most wonderful family. It’s a good life in my humble estimation. But, there are moments when I over analyze things – one of my special talents – from a philosophical standpoint and think that there could be and should be more to my already good life.
But more of what exactly? Certainly not stuff because I am a minimalist, loathe clutter and don’t particularly like shopping. More professional success? I’m a proud overachiever and I love to work and be really good at what I do, but I’m not one to measure real personal value on that scale. More money? I’d be stupid to say no to that, especially in the midst of the current economy. But, it’s deeper than that. More meaningful purpose perhaps? Yes! Now we’re getting warmer. When I boil it down, my more seems to point me in the direction of one monumental, selfless act… motherhood and pursuing it sometime in my near future. Simple, right? Not by a long shot for me.
I was not the little girl (or young woman, for that matter), who dreamed about the man she would marry, her wedding day, her house or her adoring children. In my happily ever after dreams, I was at one point a TV talk show host, then a radio DJ, then a TV producer, then a rock star (though I have zero musical talent), then a mystery writer. Point being, my visions of my future always involved my career. I assumed I’d get married and have kids some day because family is of the utmost importance to me, but it was never a focus, in the personal goal sense.
Life has a funny way of not really working out the way you plan. That’s probably a good thing in my case… I would not want to be, professionally, anything that I previously dreamed for myself – though mystery writer does still have some appeal because I am so in awe of people who can tell an unbelievably riveting, page turning story. As my wonderful mother and grandmother would always say, “everything happens for the best” or the slightly tweaked version of the same “everything happens for a reason”. I used to roll my eyes at these two very well intentioned women because I thought they were dishing a load of crap. Truth be told, their words of wisdom have actually held true for me to some degree in most areas of my life. Does that mean that when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease at age 34 I was a.o.k. with it because it was happening “for the best”? Absolutely not! Nor could I find a good “reason” that it was happening. However, time and perspective gave me the ability to see that even my greatest personal set-backs, crises and challenges have taught me invaluable lessons about life and myself. That’s the message I’ve taken from those two maternal catch phrases I used to so easily scoff at.
So, how do I now take that message and apply it to my current personal situation… I’m 99.8% certain I want to be a mother by way of birthing my own children, yet I am unmarried, nearing 40, and have a biological clock that is slowly winding down, or so the experts like to tell all women over 35. That’s a really tough one and coming up with a good response for myself has felt quite daunting at times. How do you convince your body to hang in with you just a little while longer so that you can get to the very best personal and professional stage in life, so that you are at your optimum for having a baby and subsequently raising that child? Unfortunately, you can’t, which is incredibly frustrating and depressing for a Type A, wee bit “need to be in control” woman like me. Sure, you can eat right, exercise, manage stress, etc. etc. I try to do all of those things and succeed most of the time… I even kicked Graves’ Disease in the ass and quickly (less than 9 months after my diagnosis) sent that uninvited thyroid invader into what my doctor believes is a permanent remission. But, sometimes none of that matters, especially when you factor in biology.
I often wish I could take a test that would allow me to count the exact number of eggs I have left, so that I could get a better handle on what my Vegas odds at conceiving will be and how much longer I can actually wait before the “GAME OVER” read out shows up on a sonogram. But, as far as I know, no such test exists. And lots of women, MUCH younger than me, have trouble conceiving. So, baby making can be a bit of a crap shoot at any age, but certainly doesn’t get any easier the older you get. I realize this and it pisses me off. That’s why I’d really love for someone to explain to me how the beauty industry has figured out thousands of ways to stop and/or turn back time on our faces, necks and hands, but modern medicine still leaves the all important ovaries and uterus to fend for themselves when it comes to the effects of aging? Not fair.
I get lots of unsolicited advice when conversations shift to my age, fertility, family planning… “just get yourself knocked-up, what’s the big deal” – “poke a hole in the condom” – “forget to take your pill” – “young people today want to wait until everything is perfect, but perfect never comes and then it’s too late” – “freeze your eggs“. Well, NONE of that is useful to me AT ALL. But, just for fun, let’s take them one by one:
For the “just get yourself knocked-up” crowd, I say, “Are you kidding me?!?! What’s the BIG DEAL?!?! Oh yeah… I forgot that raising a human being is a breeze – emotionally and financially. Zero effort, zero responsibility.” Having a child should be a well informed, well intentioned decision, not simply a human right just because you have a reproductive system. How easily some people can turn a selfless act, into a selfish one. I am not one of those people.
To the birth control sabotage proponents, I say, “A. Someone has been watching way too many Lifetime movies and B. I’m in a healthy relationship where we respect each other, make major decisions together, don’t lie to one another and certainly don’t launch diabolic plots to get something we want.”
I’m not even touching the one about “waiting for perfect… never comes… blah, blah, blah” because I refuse to acknowledge that kind of nonsense.
The last one, “freeze your eggs“, I get often. That seems to be the of-the-moment advice sound bite uttered to women in my position and stage in life. The worst part is that it’s usually said in the identical, casual tone that the very same people use when they tell me to “get a massage” when I’m feeling a tad fried. Admittedly, I’ve only done a little research on the egg freezing subject, but from what I know it is very costly, the success level is uncertain (I’m not a fan of prospects with low ROIs) and it’s not as cut and dry as some misinformed people seem to think it is.
The beauty of my life is that NONE of this “friendly” advice is coming from my mother (shocked?) or anyone else in my family, for that matter. They’re all incredibly proud of everything I have achieved in life and of the woman that I have become… that and my happiness are what matter most to them. When the “tick tock” starts to get a little deafening in my head, my older and much wiser sister encouragingly reminds me about her friends who have successfully had their own biological children into their 40’s, almost none of whom required medical help to do so. On the flip side of that perspective, it was my pragmatic dad who recently chose to remind me that not every woman has kids and “that doesn’t make any of them less women because of it”. Ever the humorist, my dear father then declared that he and my mom are way too busy to be grandparents, so it’s just fine with them if I never have kids. That made me belly laugh, which I know was his primary goal. I also know that his more covert objective was to impart the idea that my life may not turn out exactly as I expected it to and that can be OK if I allow it to be. But, you can be darn sure, if I told my family that nothing would make me happier in life than having a child, they would go to the end of the earth to help me fulfill that dream… my poor boyfriend might feel a little bit cramped in that scenario, but I’d be sure to set the necessary family boundaries, if a team effort was required.
My latent quest for motherhood is in part my doing and choosing and in part life just playing out as it has for me. There is a chance that this will result in my not being able to have a child naturally or on my own, but there is also a chance that it won’t. While I can’t pinpoint the one specific reason in the “everything happens for a…” mantra that this is the situation in which I find myself, I do know that having a baby right now would probably not be doable for me… for a lot of reasons, biology and fertility aside. So, maybe I AM waiting for everything to be “perfect”, but I’d rather try to create a masterpiece on a solid foundation, than on cement that has not quite settled just yet.
While I really do hate my biological clock and wish I could slow its ticking, I will not live in fear of it or be pressured by it. Rather, I will appreciate my life for all that it already is. Until I am absolutely certain and ready to try my hand at baby making, I will continue to take excellent care of myself, treat my remaining eggs with love and kindness, cherish my relationship with my boyfriend for the “family” we are to each other and have faith that when my time comes whatever happens will happen for the best.