Why do women in their mid thirties or forties suddenly wake up and decide that they should probably start thinking about having children? The operative term here is probably, alluding to that certain lack of conviction that I call fertility ambivalence. Sadly, I meet many women with this affliction. I feel like a protective mother hen to them.
What’s the profile of an ambivalent woman? She is in her late twenties to mid-forties. She does not know that she was born with all the eggs she will ever have. She does not know that fertility peaks between the age of 20 and 24, according to the Mayo clinic, and begins it’s slow decline around age 30. She makes a lot of assumptions. She assumes she will have kids easily. She assumes she will have no problem conceiving. She does not know that by age 40, she has a 5% chance of getting pregnant. She is of the generation where work and career have taken precedence over having children. Economics have entered into the decision making process and, generally speaking, money comes first.
Fertility ambivalence manifests itself as an utter lack of awareness about one’s own body and the miraculous things it can do. “Knowledge is power” but the opposite, a lack of knowledge, translates into disempowered decision-making. Recently I chatted with a woman at a restaurant bar and the conversation moved in the direction of kids and family. (Somehow, conversations with middle aged women always move into this territory!) She confessed her age, 42, and explained that she often thinks about children, she thinks she should do something about it. She wonders if she should still wait for Mr. Right or perhaps she should begin her journey as a single parent. I asked her if she had ever seen a fertility specialist who could advise her but she was surprisingly unaware of this option. We discussed periods and ovulation and frequency and eggs and, as we talked, I realized that she was uncertain about her own body and the beauty of her internal mechanisms. I wanted to give her a good shake and tell her to wake up and honor the gifts she’d been given. Of course, I did not shake her but I did give her the gift of my experiences as a woman who conceived in her forties.
So, ladies, wake up, buck up, take your power back and arm yourself with information so you can make informed choices about childbearing.