I am writing you this letter because through many years and hundreds of conversations I still haven’t found a way to say to you what I need to say and think you need to hear. I don’t know why this is so hard for me, you would think that after all I have been through it would be easy for me to tell you not to wait, not to do what I did and let precious fertile years slip away. After hundreds of shots, tests, ultrasounds, and buckets of tears I should be screaming at you “Don’t wait! You can’t wait. The most fulfilling and beautiful experience a woman can have is slowly creeping out of your reach and you have to do something about it NOW.”
But I don’t do that. Somehow I can’t ever find the words, not matter how hard I try.
I have danced around the topic many times and I know you share my discomfort when I do. You tell me you will be okay either way. You can imagine a life with kids and can also see a life without and that either can be great. Like me, you went to school, experienced life, began a career that you loved, and haven’t felt like the time was right to have children. And of course you want to find that person, the one who makes you long to carry a child. I understand, life just hasn’t come together in the right way to make you a mother yet, or even to allow you to give it too much thought. It seems so distant, so impossible and foreign, even if you feel that natural drive pushing you toward doing what you were made to do.
I remember the feeling well. There was a time in my life I wasn’t even sure that I wanted children. And then at 34 I had a moment that changed that, a moment that many women have and that you too may have someday. The moment is different for us all and doesn’t happen for everyone, but it does happen for many women like us.
After that moment, all I wanted was to be pregnant and to give birth. So we started trying. I had no idea that I was about to wrestle with demons that, up until that time, I didn’t even know or care existed.
And how would I know those demons were waiting in the dark shadows of infertility when celebrities all around me were popping out babies in their mid-forties? I didn’t know then and chances are you don’t know now that there is a damn good chance that those babies carry the DNA of much younger women and are born of expensive, invasive, and emotionally difficult procedures.
Chances are you don’t know that fertility takes a nose dive at 32 and not at 35 like you have always heard. You heard that because long ago we only measured in 5 year increments but today we know more, a lot more, and we know that we are losing valuable time. Sadly, for most bright, ambitious, and driven women like you, your early thirties arrive before you are even the “you” that you want to be before you are ready to become two or especially three.
I am lucky and thankful every day that we started when we did. After multiple heart wrenching, physically taxing, financially draining, and emotionally painful procedures we had our little girl and I have never been the same. I am sure you are right, life without her could indeed be very good, but I have no doubt hat it is better with her. She is love, pain, joy, fear, purpose, and every human emotion in technicolor. I couldn’t breathe without her and I don’t even remember what mattered to me before her. I am smitten, turned upside down and inside out, and its wonderful.
I want that for you if you want it. And I want you to understand what you may need to do to get it, because if I don’t tell you I don’t know who will.
I am thankful every day that we started when we did, right at the peak of the steep slope of declining fertility. Four years later in our quest for a sibling, the fight is even harder and we are unsure if we will win it this time. Looking back, I wish I had created more young embryos and stored them before transferring the one that gave us our daughter. Or I wish we had made embryos right after we were married and put them on ice for awhile until we were ready to try for the first time.
Better yet, I wish I could talk to my 25 year old self and tell her to go through the slightly expensive but highly effective process of preserving her fertility through egg freezing.
Twenty-five year old me would have thought I was completely insane, because she had time and wasn’t even sure she wanted a baby. I know she would never have done it. Why spend all that time and energy on something she might not even need during a time in her life when she felt like she had way more time than money?
That’s the reaction I expect from you too and its the reason I haven’t said all this to you before. After all, I don’t like it when people tell me to “just relax” or give me other unsolicited advice about my fertility. Who am I to presume that you want or need to know this? Who am I to tell you that even if you aren’t ready you should talk to a specialist, get a few tests done, and consider your options for preserving your fertility even if you may never decide you want a child?
You may not need any of this. Fertility is different for everyone and some women can and do get pregnant in their late 30s and early forties, Its just not nearly as common as popular culture makes it seem. I want you to know that. I want you to make an educated decision about one of the most important and amazing choices we make as a woman.
I want you to know because I wish someone had been brave enough to tell me.
So who am I to say such things to you, Sarah?
I am a woman, mother, friend, and an advocate. But above all else I am someone who loves you.
All My Best and Love,
*Image by William Arthur Fine Stationary via Flickr