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I'm about to bring you all up in my business. Specifically, the business of my more than 40-year-old uterus. You're
Dr. Marcus Ferrando, a leading expert on fertility, recently
with DailyMail.com about women's fertility in their twenties, thirties and forties. I've lived it, so none of it was news to
me. Long story short, women are most
fertile in their twenties, the eggs start to go through changes our thirties. And in our
forties? Well, good luck with that whole
fertility thing, to those of us who happen to be late bloomers.
I was always a late bloomer. Didn't ride a bike until I was 12. Got my driver's license at 18. Was a virgin until well into those super fertile twenties that Dr. Ferrando was
chatting about. My bad.
The truth is that I was not ready to be a mother until I was
deep into my thirties. At that point, I had a
husband I loved, a secure home, a satisfying career. The decision to conceive was more complicated
than that, but if ever we were "ready," it was then. I was 35.
In the end, two to three months of trying was all it took to conceive
our beautiful daughter. We were truly
blessed. I had my first miscarriage when
I was 38. It was early into the
pregnancy and felt like a very heavy period. Our son was conceived a few months later, and I delivered my second child
at 39. Again, we were blessed, advanced
maternal age aside.
What struck me most about my four miscarriages was the lack of curiosity the OB had about them
This is when our fertility took a turn. Shortly after turning 40, we actively tried
for a third child. Again, I got pregnant
easily but had another miscarriage. Within
the next year, I would have two other miscarriages, each late in the first
Each miscarriage was difficult, but they happened while I
was actively grieving the cancer death of our young daughter, our first child, who had died just days
after my 40th birthday. Burying a child provided a perspective shift
for us during this time.
With each subsequent miscarriage, my OB would inevitably
express concern about my "psyche." Her
word, not mine. I would gently try to
explain that, for better or worse, my continuum of sadness simply ran much
further than her typical older patient trying to conceive. But
even this grieving mother had her limits. After our fourth miscarriage, my husband and I called it quits.
What struck me most about my four miscarriages was the lack
of curiosity the OB had about them. She
was absolutely more concerned about my psyche than my uterus. While I continued to wonder what it was that
was causing these miscarriages, inevitably my questions were met with a
shoulder shrug and the explanation of having "old eggs."
The reference to old eggs always struck a nerve, as a family
member used to taunt me about having old eggs after I got married at 31. Eventually the joke, which, I think/hope,
was intended as a misguided gentle prod to, you know, get
going already, was banished at my insistence. Never tell a woman in her thirties that her eggs
are old. Trust me, she knows.
So what is the moral of this story? The truth is, there is none. Each of us has to come to parenthood at our own pace and from our own path.
Also, in complete unison, my husband and I opted out of pursing
fertility treatments. After spending more than two years in a medical environment with our daughter's cancer, the idea of
entering that arena again was simply too much for the both of us. And, just like in a good old fashioned pregnancy,
the window of success for women over 40 diminishes significantly for IVF and
other medical interventions.
Adoption was the route we chose. I fully appreciate the privilege we enjoy to
even explore that option, as it is insanely expensive with no option of medical
insurance to supplement the cost. Like
conception or fertility options, adoption is fraught with uncertainty. But, somehow, the uncertainty of adoption felt like something we could more easily
handle as a couple than the uncertainty of fertility treatments for that more than 40-year-old uterus of mine.
So what is the moral of this story? The truth is, there is none. Each of us has to come to parenthood at our
own pace and from our own path. Those
will look very different depending on who we are. It is important to know the facts about
fertility as a woman, but I believe it is equally important to know the facts
about our capacities, too. I am a much
better mother at 46 than I ever would have been at 26. Slower, perhaps, with more gray hair.