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Being Thirty-Five

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I was just finishing my annual gynecological exam last spring. Everything had checked out fine. Uh, I thought.

“So, do you want kids?”

“Uh, yeah. I do. At some point…”

“Well, right now would be a good time.”

My gynecologist smiled politely. My jaw dropped.

“Ideally, early 20s,” she said, quickly adding, “Of course, none of us are mentally ready to do it then. We’re usually too busy.”

I half nodded. But I’m too busy now, I thought. At thirty-five I feel good. Finally I really know myself. I’m comfortable in my own skin. But am I ready to be a mother just yet? Sure, I do want to have a child, but—

“There are plenty of women who have kids at forty,” the doctor continued. “But there are more significant risks involved.”

She did not spout lots of facts or try to scare me. She just continued to talk plainly about declining fertility. The words resounded in my head. At the end of the conversation it was clear: Fertility declines after age thirty-five. Ok. I can handle that, I guess.

If a friend had told me this, I might have winced or felt judged, but because it came from a doctor—and there were actual medical facts cited—I could not help feeling concerned. And old.

Up until now, I’ve never really been told that by a certain age it’s time to do something. Sure there are things we do at certain ages, like walk, talk, graduate high school, graduate college, but it never distressed me. I just did it.

Now a doctor was saying, you better move or the window of opportunity just might close.

Time has flown in the last few years. It seems like just the other day I turned thirty. My thirties have been a much happier time than my twenties, so aging has not bothered me too much. Sure, the pain in my back or in my knees was not there at twenty-five. Sure, I can’t drink and not feel the aftereffects like when I was younger. I cannot get in shape as quickly either.

And I do think about my mortality a lot more than before.

But still, aging has not hit home until now. The thought of rushing into having kids even next year feels too early.

Everyone I talk to says, “There’s never a good time. You just do it.”

I disagree. My physical age may be saying “time to be a mom,” but my mental age is asking, Are you really ready to change your life just yet? Living with my boyfriend has been pretty blissful. Why mess with a good thing?

There is so much that I need to do. What about that novel? What about my music? What about training for another half marathon? (Maybe I should have had kids at twenty-five. Then I would be running in a ½ marathon now with my ten-year-old!)

Of course, all of this is still possible after having kids. But life will be different.

All the moms I know have hinted that it’s all worth it. My gut instinct agrees. I often look at my nephew and think, “Wow, I want a child.” But while my biological clock ticks, my brain is still in a holding pattern. The moms I know say, life does become more complex—but richer than before I had a child.

But I’m not sure I am ready for complex or richer. To me this translates as time to be a Super mom. Do it all. And oh by the way, that thing you were going to finish? It’s not happening. Time for yourself? Forget it.

For now, I’m taking seriously everything the doctor has said and reading up on fertility myself. Perhaps my delay is less about having a child than fearing a loss of individuality. The other fear of course is that I will change as a person and will suddenly act “old.”

But if acting “old” is a concern, perhaps I’m self-aware enough to realize that this will not be an issue, once I have a child. Perhaps accepting that I will change on many levels is not necessarily a bad thing—and that it needn’t mean losing my individuality. And finally, maybe all of this (except for the biological thing) has nothing to do with age—and everything to do with mindset.

I can’t figure it out today. But I will probably have another conversation like this soon. After all, my annual gynecological appointment is coming up.


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