I talk and write a lot about owning our own timelines in life and eschewing society’s prescribed milestones for us. But is it sometimes unavoidable? Because… biology.
I have loved my thirties. They have given me a renewed, and possibly first genuine, sense of myself. I’ve found comfort and confidence in myself. I have had wild adventures and indescribable experiences. But I have not found a person to share the adventures and experiences with, that I thought I would.
For the most part I’ve been accepting of that, at least once I came to accept and appreciate being alone (not lonely) and leant all the way into the “this is just how it’s supposed to happen for me”. I’ve believed all along that things were happening just as they were supposed to and I was right where I was supposed to be.
But life has a funny way of fucking with you, and by recently bringing to (and then taking from) my life a relationship which made me the happiest I had been in so long that I couldn’t accurately put a number of years on it, not only did it provide me with another heartbreak to deal with, it also splintered a piece of my heart I hadn’t dealt with before.
I trust the relationship served a purpose. I learnt from it, I grew from it, and temporarily it brought happiness like I’ve maybe never known in a relationship before. But it also served to leave me with a longing for a partner and, possibly more surprisingly (to me at least), it left me with a sense of confusion and concern over my want for children.
I’ve always said I wasn’t sure if I wanted children, I certainly didn’t want them to any degree close enough to want to have one by myself, but my guess was always that if I met the right person, I may in fact want to procreate with them. But I also don’t believe it’s something every woman was put on earth to do, and maybe I’d meet a partner and we’d decide to live our life just the two of us.
All of that still rings true for me. Nothing has changed. Except for the fact that I’m staring 38 in the face at my next birthday and, as another relationship has left the building, there’s a rising panic in my throat about the “option” to have children diminishing.
I call it an “option” in inverted commas because I am painfully aware, having watched many friends struggle with fertility issues, that it’s not as simple as just choosing to have a baby and BAM! you’re with child.
My age has never been a concern to me and children have never been at the forefront of my mind, so it has been a hard feeling to face, and an even harder feeling to allow to flow through me without brushing over with a no longer true narrative, like the fact that up until now I’ve never been one of those women that is desperate to find a relationship so she can get married and have a kid. To be clear, I’m still not desperate to find a relationship so I can get married and have a kid, but it’s something I’ve had to question of myself, and if that was the case, that’s also fine.
My ability to be willing to change the narrative is key because it is so damn easy to tell ourselves we don’t actually feel a certain way simply because we haven’t felt that way before. I couldn’t possibly be concerned about my age and having kids, I never have before! Except that… things change. And god knows, ageing doesn’t stop.
I’ve been attempting to find all the grace I can muster to allow these new feelings to bubble under and up to the surface, and often spill over into tears. The other day I was that woman who had a toddler smile at her which in turn prompted a spontaneous bout of sobbing. WHO THE FUCK AM I?
As I’ve worked through all the thoughts and the fears, I’m settling into understanding that my main concern is meeting someone (whenever that may be) who I decide I want to have children with (whenever we get to that point) and at that time (we’re pretty far down the road here, if you can’t tell) I realise that biology has caught up with me and there are age related obstacles in making that want a reality. Of course there are other options available aside from natural conception, but that would likely be my first want.
Beneath the overriding concerns about the ticking biological clock, the other thought I have which comes screaming at me in the middle of the night or often, weirdly, as I’m driving my car – how did it get to this? How did I get to 37, and find myself facing these concerns? Alone? And it’s at times like these that my belief in life happening exactly the way it’s supposed to starts to waver. Because, let me tell you, it’s fucking exhausting to keep believing it when things feel so completely outta whack.
Doing life alone can be exhilarating. But it can also be exhausting. Having these types of thoughts and conversations by myself, with myself… I never thought I’d be here. I never thought the concerns I’d have about fertility would be that I was getting “too old”. I never thought the decisions I’d be making about planning for the future would be by myself. I never thought I’d be looking at referral forms for fertility clinics and ticking the “No Partner” box.
I am a strong, independent, and fully capable single woman, but I would be lying if I said that box didn’t make my lip quiver and the page go blurry as my eyes filled with tears.
I have wildly supportive and wonderfully sweet friends but it’s not the same. If you’re not having this conversation with your partner, with your person, then there is no one that can bear the weight of it with you.
I’ve chosen to explore freezing my eggs, knowing that even at 37 those eggs are already past their prime (are we talking about bananas in the supermarket or my potential future offspring?) but it feels like it’s the only thing I can do right now that gives me any sense of control. I’m looking at it as an insurance policy that ideally I won’t need to use, either because I decide not to have children, or because if I do I am still able to conceive naturally.
Pragmatic and decisive are descriptors often used about me, and I haven’t been any different in dealing with this subject despite its emotive nature. I try to be proactive when possible and look at things rationally, trying to make the best decision for future me. And having something I can tangibly do that may relieve some of the building pressure I’m feeling seems like the right option for me. Even if that pressure diminishes on its own, and I find that these brand spanking new emotions were only fleeting, I’ll at least know I’ve taken steps to provide future me with additional options, whether she wants/needs them.
Regardless of the practical steps I’m able to take to offer some sense of solution, ultimately the processing of these feelings and of my situation has cracked me wide open. It’s left me struggling to find my usual silver linings and positive outlook. It’s made me question what the actual fuck is going on with my “journey” and who the fuck is responsible for this absolute clusterfuck of a path I’m on. It’s testing my faith in myself and my faith in things “working out”. It’s made witnessing new babies or mentions of getting old from a 28 year old cause me to wince.
I practice gratitude daily, and I am still (and forever will be) so grateful for so many things. But how? How have I come to feel that the time is now for me to make a decision like this, and I find myself alone in doing so?
So deep breaths. A lot of deep breaths. A lot of grounding and centering myself (hello recent trip to the Rockies). A lot of remembering that “what could have been” in a number of other situations would have left me in far worse off positions. A lot of sucking it up and getting on with it. Because, after all, what else is there to do?
‘And in the end all I learned was how to be strong alone”