How much attention did you pay in health class when they explained menstruation and ovulation and all that other lady-part stuff? What did you learn? Oh, yeah – how NOT to get pregnant. That’s pretty much it, right?
Let me tell you how well this will serve you later in your life. On one hand, quite well because I can tell you that you won’t ever have an unplanned pregnancy. Yay for contraception! However, I can also tell you that once you purposely decide to try to have children in your mid-30s, you will have one healthy child, one chemical pregnancy and three miscarriages. Having an only child was not your plan. This is a difficult reality, and you cry a lot for a few years.
Here’s what I wish you (we) would have gleaned from health class.
You are born with all the eggs you will ever have. Every day you’re alive, they are aging or dying. This means that because you decide to wait until your late 30s to try for baby number two, you will find yourself seeking a fertility specialist, designated AMA – advanced maternal age – and, after a whole lot of testing, determine that you’ve not had a successful second pregnancy (miscarried twice) because you have old-ass eggs.
You will quit taking your depression meds in order to start fertility treatment. After a failed IUI, you will switch to a fertility doctor in St. Louis (too close to fly, four hours one-way to drive) who has decent success rates for women your age. You will think there’s no way you can do more – it’s stupid expensive, and your house needs costly improvements. But, your BFF will say something wise and gutting like, “Who cares what your house looks like if there’s a chance that all of your family members aren’t in it yet.” And you will cry and eat your “I’d never do IVF” words. You will spend thousands on meds, egg retrieval procedures and storage. You will, as always, rely on Mom and Dad to help you wrangle this insane schedule of extended trips out of town. You will endure tens, if not hundreds, of injections. You will get every last one of your hopes up after the stick shows two lines, only to start bleeding on the day after Christmas. You will kick off the new year taking pills to miscarry at home. You will spend the next two weeks doing HCG tests to be sure that the process worked, your hormone levels are dropping back to normal and you are indeed not pregnant anymore.
Your people will circle the wagons and love on you as they always do. Your other BFF will offer to be your surrogate and your heart will explode. You will cry some more at the thought of her deeply selfless offer, though you decline because it’s not your oven that’s faulty, it’s your geriatric buns. You’ll delete the photo of you and your husband smiling like goons after peeing on the stick. You’ll inform your fertility office contact of your desire to cease treatment. You will ponder what to do with the three remaining frozen eggs, all of which are lesser quality than the ones that have already failed you.
While all of this is physically draining and emotionally wrenching, nothing will prepare you for the medical event that follows. At the direction of your physician, you will quit taking your progesterone supplement cold turkey. This, combined with the hormonal storm that’s wreaking havoc on your body, will throw your poor self into a weeks-long migraine that lands you in the ER in the hours after your son’s seventh birthday party. It will take two neurologists and half a dozen medications to find a way to abate the debilitating headache and the subsequent rebound headaches. You will rely heavily on your village to shuttle, entertain and parent Clark. It will become one of those before/after events in your life.
After you finally recover from “the headache,” two old friends will return – depression and anxiety. You will have an unexpectedly difficult time accepting that your baby journey is indeed over. There will be sadness-filled crying jags, worrying that Clark will be saddled with geezer parents and zero siblings. There will be overwhelming grief and guilt about him being alone as an adult. There will be conversations with all the higher powers about willing Clark to find a life partner who will embrace his family and not try to edge you out because you’re the in-laws.
You will be so grateful to have wonderful framily and a husband who is, like, the best ever – who never waivers in his unending support and reassurances that your little band of three is perfect and exactly all he has ever wanted. You will procrastinate going through your baby stuff for donations. Months later, you will finally make plans for a family road trip to St. Louis to claim your remaining eggs. Upon receiving the three tiny tubes in a business envelope, you will unceremoniously dispose of them before you even leave the hospital. To each their own – this albatross won’t follow you home.
The two-fold moral of this long story
Firstly, do everything you can to remain close to your family and framily. You will spend your life cultivating rich and deep relationships that will keep you afloat through one of the biggest challenges of your life. Keep that up. Those relationships will carry you, always.
Second, FREEZE SOME EGGS. LIKE RIGHT NOW. There are many great things that will come from your choice to wait for the right guy, to wait for him to propose, to wait to have kids. You will end up with the perfect partner, you will have financial stability and a fulfilling and successful career before you choose to stay home with your beautiful boy. But for the love of Pete, use some of your disposable income to harvest some supple, healthy eggs and freeze those puppies. Pay the money every year to keep them in storage. You will not regret it when you turn 40 and find yourself running out of options.
I love you, 20-something self. Freeze those eggs. And say yes to the guy at work, the one who thinks he’s your “secret” admirer and pays your cover at the bars every weekend. Freeze the eggs, and say yes. He’s a keeper.