The stork is fleeting the coop.
November 29, 2012 6:48 AM   Subscribe

How do you let go of what you want (fertility version)?

I'm rapidly approaching 34 years and have been together with my boyfriend for over a year - he's 40. We're both in excellent health, are active and have great careers. We're happy and stable. We have talked about getting engaged and I know it's coming soon. We already live together and have joint finances. We've also talked about what we want as a couple and one of those things is a family.

I know that "family" comes in all shapes and sizes and definitions. However, and I'm not sure if this is my age/gender speaking, I've become a little overwhelmed lately with the concept of declining fertility. My boyfriend 110% wants kids. I 90% want kids, and am onboard with all of this. Besides, I would love the experience of being pregnant and having a kid with him. However, here's the rub: I don't want to have kids until we're married for a variety of reasons. This means by the time we get engaged/married and start working on having kids, I'll be at least 36ish. I think I would be crazy to think that everything would work out on the first month or two of trying. After all of the reading and researching, etc. I've been doing, I'm really concerned about TTC at 36 and over, because it means he would be 42 or older, and the risk of all sorts of stuff skyrockets. In addition to all of that, we would be some seriously old parents.

Please understand that I'm trying to state the facts and I'm not trying to rush the relationship.

Here's where I could use advice - I can't really control when we finally DO get married. My boyfriend seems to be operating at his own pace, and again, I don't want to rush this, but I'm also worried that he is totally aloof to the fact that we're probably not going to have our own kids due to our ages. I have talked to him about this, and not much was said, which leads me to believe that he's either in total denial or aloof. What I can control, I think, is how I feel about everything, and one of those feelings is having to let go of the possiblity of having our own kids. Is this healthy, and how do I begin letting go of my fertility? How do I get past the feelings of resentment that he doesn't understand that male fertility is A Thing? (The way I've phrased it to him, is that I know that Hugh Heffner fathered a kid at the age of 72 or something like that, but that does not give men the license to think that all of them are capable of the same. Yeah, I agree this was a little bitchy, although he laughed and said that he got it.) I don't want to freeze eggs and we've talked about IVF and neither one of us want that path. I have wondered about possibly going this alone without him, but that also is contradictory to me not wanting IVF, and if I got pregnant before we got married, I know I would let this relationship go, because I know I would be so filled with anger and bad feelings that I would never be able to move past them to try and have a healthy relationship with him.

But then there's all those other feelings I'm trying to manage - How do I get past the guilt that I waited so long/it took so long for me to find someone to settle with? How do I get past the feelings of shame that I'm a failure? How do I move past the idea of "family" for us meaning me getting pregnant and giving birth and that "family" for us most likely may mean adopting, or no kids at all? I've never experienced having to let go of something I've wanted do I do this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
36 is not really that old to be having a kid, as long as you are happy having only one.

If 1) not having kids until you are married is a non-negotiable for you, and 2) having kids is a non-negotiable to him, then you really need to speed up the marriage plans (or get comfortable with the idea of having kids in your mid/late 30s). Have you made 1) and 2) crystal clear to him? Does he understand that delaying marriage might mean no children? What about stealthily eloping now so that you have the legal protections of marriage, and taking your time on the Big Wedding?

In terms of working on your feelings, the standard answer is always therapy. Know, though, that this sort of disagreement (whether or not to have kids) is not really one that there's a lot of room for compromise, and doesn't often end well if the couple can't communicate about it. It's not healthy to try to bury your feelings. It would be much healthier to have an honest and open conversation with your boyfriend and come up with a realistic long-term plan.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:01 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wow, that's an awful lot of assumption and over-thinking.

First things first. Do you love your boyfriend and want to marry him? If so, then propose to him. If he's not ready, there's your answer. Move on.

Why will becoming engaged and getting married take two years? It doesn't have to. You can decide to get married and plan an intimate wedding rather quickly. Sure, if you want to be a princess on your very special day, and spend the GDP of a small nation, then I understand. But no law says you have to do this. You're just as married if you do it at the courthouse on the QT as you would be if you did in St. George's Hanover Square.

Now the fertility stuff. 34-36 is on the edge, but I have two friends who did it. One with fertility treatments, the other without.

If you want to be assured, make appointments with the appropriate doctors for each of you and get evaluated for fertility. That may set your mind at ease.

I get that you've got a timetable, but perhaps you need to reframe the whole question. It's not WHEN you become engaged and married, but IF. If this guy is your future husband, then make it official, the sooner the better. If he balks, there's your answer, stop wasting your time.

Now to address your question, Man Plans, God Laughs. You need to learn to roll with it when things don't go your way. Therapy is helpful for this. Disappointment sucks to be sure, but we survive it all the time.

A personal anecdote: Interstingly I too wanted kids from about the age of 26-35-ish. I was on the prowl for a husband, and potential father. Then, when it just wasn't in the cards, after about the age of 35 I didn't really care anymore. As I get older I have NO regrets about remaining childless. Husbunny and I married when I was 39 and we never planned on having kids. We're the happiest DINKs you've ever met.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:10 AM on November 29, 2012 [21 favorites]

I know many parents who were closer to 40 when they had their kid and everything was fine. I'm not saying you should wait longer than you have to, but don't think that it can't happen.

I think the way you deal with this situation is to talk to your boyfriend about it. You have a legitimate concern that has a certain timeline attached. You need to tell your boyfriend exactly what you wrote here, so that he understands that this is a big concern to you.

There is no reason you have to wait for him to propose to you. You can propose to him.
posted by markblasco at 7:11 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

not QUITE your question, but you might find this previous ask useful.

Disclosure: that was me. We're now married and I'm nursing my 6 month old as I type. I turned 41 recently.
posted by kestrel251 at 7:17 AM on November 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

Re: "seriously old parents": my mother had me at 38 and my sister at 40 (with no fertility treatments of any kind -- it can happen). To put this into perspective, she just retired a year ago, and I'm approaching 30. So having kids at 36 won't make you an "old parent." I see this concern raised a lot, but when I was growing up my mom always did everything that my friends' (much younger) mothers did, and she's still a badass and travels alone and is not geriatric in any way.
posted by baby beluga at 7:25 AM on November 29, 2012 [10 favorites]

1. You're not too old.
2. "...and the risk of all sorts of stuff skyrockets." Yes, but it goes from like .05% chance of something bad to 1.0% chance of something bad. You're just going from really rare, to very rare, or something like that.
3. You're not too old, nor will you be even at 40.
posted by Blake at 7:30 AM on November 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

If you both want to get married, you both want to have kids, and you're only 34, I'm not quite sure I get why you need to let the dream go.

Also, anecdotal, but my mom was born to my grandmother when she was 50, and she had no birth defects.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 7:31 AM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

and if I got pregnant before we got married, I know I would let this relationship go, because I know I would be so filled with anger and bad feelings that I would never be able to move past them to try and have a healthy relationship with him.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Why is that? You write that you are opposed to pre-marital babies which, okay, ideally, but this seems like an extreme reaction if this is the man you want to have children with anyway. I am gently suggesting that you try to talk this out with a therapist, if finances allow.

If you're that viscerally affected by the mere idea, I really suggest that you have a come-to-Jesus talk with your boyfriend. Tell him that if the two of you want biological children together and IVF categorically isn't an option (which is a legitimate sentiment) you need to start trying sooner rather than later. He needs to take you seriously. If he doesn't take you seriously, you have a bigger problem than fertility.

Option B, plan a quick wedding when he does propose (who in the world decided that you needed at least a year between engagement and wedding ceremony?). Option C, propose to him and then plan a quick wedding.
posted by lydhre at 7:36 AM on November 29, 2012 [16 favorites]

Married when I was 30 and hubby 38. Never planned on kids. Changed our minds and first was born at 35. Second at 38. No fertility issues, thankfully, and both are obnoxiously healthy. I think waiting to have kids was a blessing and a curse; they wear us out, but we know ourselves well and mesh well as partners and parents. And that helps when playing man-on-man defense with the kids.

Hubby sometimes wishes he'd had them younger but that's rather fleeting. And usually when they have run him ragged.

Ultimately, I believe we do the right thing at the right time. And things do have a tendency to turn out correctly a ridiculous percentage of the time. So do what feels right and try not to worry TOO much. You aren't alone in that boat.
posted by tigerjade at 7:36 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Okay, a loving bitchslap here: YOU ARE FREAKING OUT FOR (PRACTICALLY) NO REASON. You are freaking out based on 5% hard data, 95% just-for-the-sake-of-freaking-out. You are 33, nearly 34. Forget individual anecdotes - the overwhelming majority of people I know did not have kids at that age. In a lot of social circles, it's downright weird to even CONSIDER kids prior to that age.

Believe me, I understand the compulsion to freak out. It's like playing with a Rubik's cube studded with broken glass. You twist and twist and twist it, and you get frantic to solve it, and all the while, your hands are growing bloodier and bloodier, and yet you still can't put it down, because it's STILL NOT SOLVED. I practically need a Xanax just thinking about it.

Here's what you need to do, honey:

- Go to a well-respected local OB/GYN. Get a pelvic exam, get your hormone levels checked, get some reassurance that your body is working the way it should and that you have done your due diligence in making sure that you have no glaringly-obvious fertility problems.

- Do your damndest - either by yourself, by talking with friends or with a therapist - to abandon any and all notions of how marriage and baby-making "should" happen, or how you'd "ideally" like them to happen. I'm going to paraphrase Stephen King here about HIS kids: "We were neither trying nor not trying - they happened when they happened and we were glad to have them". Some people get to have their own bio-kids at the exact time they want, in the exact manner they want. Other people do not. Both sets of people have more or less the EXACT SAME experience of parenthood (30% poop, 10% harrowing, 60% joy). You need to GET comfortable with the King Paradigm - your kids will get here when they get here, and you'll be glad to have them.

Sorry for the harsh tone - I just hate to see someone else doing what I so frequently do (making themselves utterly miserable by obsessing over something which really does NOT warrant that level of obsession).
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:46 AM on November 29, 2012 [22 favorites]

At 34 we conceived the first time we tried with no treatments. Don't assume the worst about biology; millions of years of evolution make this one of the most reliable things human beings can do.

As for the rest, you are making lots of heavy-duty assumptions about things that need a proper talking through. When you ask questions and don't get answers, sometimes the real answer is "yes," and sometimes it isn't, but if he's 110% for having kids then something doesn't add up here.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:03 AM on November 29, 2012

you could also be married. like tomorrow.
posted by French Fry at 8:05 AM on November 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

he is totally aloof to the fact that we're probably not going to have our own kids due to our ages..

This is not a fact.

Most every couple I know who's decided to have kids has done so well into their thirties and forties. I, myself, just had my first child at 38. My husband is 40. Our son is perfectly healthy and the joy of our lives. With all sympathy and respect to those for whom conceiving has been a huge challenge, we were lucky enough to get pregnant naturally, easily, and soon after we started trying.

A dear friend with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome who'd been told she'd likely never conceive had two healthy children naturally, without any medical intervention at all, one at 35 and one at 39.

A midwife friend and her husband decided at 40 to start trying to have children. She got pregnant at 42, had a healthy baby, and then got pregnant again at 44 and had that healthy baby, too, both without fertility treatment of any kind. (This, by the way, was twenty years ago.)

Another dear friend and her husband had their daughter when she was 43 and he was 45.

Just yesterday a friend told me of an acquaintance of hers who just had twins - with medical intervention, yes - at 47. Which sounds like a certain level of heaven/hell to me, an older mom who just got through the brutal sleep deprivation and precious bodily fluid depletion of the first 8 weeks of motherhood, but it happened, the babies are here and healthy, and, though an outlier case, an example that pregnancy and motherhood are possible in many phases of life.

It is not a fact that you've waited too long. It's not a fact that you're too old or that he's too old. None of these things are facts; these are fears you have. Yes, it's statistically harder to conceive as you get older. Yes, statistically speaking, there's a greater potential for complications. Yes, many people aren't able to conceive. We know some of those people. But not all of them are older. Some of them tried in their twenties and thirties to conceive and, for whatever reason, it hasn't happened or didn't happen for them. It's not a foregone conclusion that you will have an easy time in your twenties or early thirties of getting pregnant. Statistically easier than in your thirties and forties? Yes. But there are no guarantees at any age.

If you want to be married, ask your boyfriend to marry you. Waiting around for him to ask you is self-sabotaging, particularly since the two of you are having these conversations, he's stated what he wants, you've stated what you want, and the relationship seems on track to this level of commitment. Put your money where you mouth is and ask him, if being asked isn't more important to you than getting on with getting hitched and settling into trying to conceive and parent children.

If you want to be married before you conceive, forgo the traditional big to-do and just go to City Hall and make it legal in a day's time. You can have a ceremony later where you invite family and friends.

In the meanwhile, stop taking hormonal birth control now. Start having lots of sex, particularly every day for the four days or so leading up to your expected ovulation date each month, knowing that you may not ovulate every cycle. You can make sure to help things along by having lots of orgasms during said sex and holding your knees up to your chest for half an hour afterward to aid the sperm in its journey toward your cervix. You can start getting plenty of sleep, getting plenty of exercise, eating well and reducing your stress level, not just to increase your chances of ease in getting pregnant, but just so that you can live a less stressed, happier, easier existence in general. Isn't that ultimately the best natural byproduct of love, commitment, and making babies, anyway?

Relax. You still have time and options.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:11 AM on November 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

Wait, you're 33, you're sure engagement is coming soon (and really, it's almost the holidays; the last time I had a conversation like this with someone in December, they were engaged literally days later), and yet you don't think you'll be married until 36? Wha?

If you're the type to wait until a proposal, that's fine, but it's totally okay to forgo the long engagement. When he asks you, just say something like "I hate long engagements, don't you? I'm so excited to ACTUALLY be married. Let's set a date six months from now, mmkay?"

Then you'll be babymaking at age 34.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:22 AM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

You are freaking out about things your head is imagining is reality with no data. You are trying to come to terms with not getting pregnant without even trying. Go get a fertility workup. You may have the eggs of a 20 year old, or you may be a reproductive disaster due to a factor that has nothing to do with age. You have absolutely no idea.

You may also find your partner is better at dealing with concrete data than he is at made-up freakouts. You will also discover that there are entire rungs of fertility boosting to try before even considering the last resort of IVF. You may or may not decide Chlomid is the bomb, but there are pretty established fertility protocols out there depending on your issues, if any.

You will normally be advised to try for a year before seeking diagnostics, so you should look at getting off the hormonal birth control and start charting at lest three months in advance of any TTC to maximise the success of your trying.

If your partner is older, by the way, TTT's advice of "lots of sex for four days" may not be the best and can put your relationship under a lot of potentially unpleasant stress. Once every other day will maximise sperm quality.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:25 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I won't question the desire to wait til you're married. But why does getting married take TWO YEARS? Are you prioritizing a big white wedding over your fertility?

(that said, I totally agree with previous posters that 36 is not old. At all.)
posted by kestrel251 at 8:30 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't want to freeze eggs and we've talked about IVF and neither one of us want that path.

Why is this? Is it a religious/ethical conviction? Forgive me if I missed something in your question that explains why it is so important to you not to freeze eggs. I mean, if it's just important to you that pregnancy happen naturally, fair enough I guess. But it seems like it's adding an awful lot of unneeded pressure right now. If you are going on about concerns with freezing eggs, I can see why your partner might be shrugging it off, because it's just not an immediate problem. With stuff like this, it is really better to address the next indicated thing and not borrow trouble.

On the other hand, it is absolutely true that a lot of people don't understand that it gets a lot harder to conceive as you get older, statistically speaking. Again, forgive me; I'm looking into your language a little bit here. You wonder if your boyfriend is "aloof" with regard to this problem. Do you feel like he is "aloof" in general, not sufficiently tuned into your concerns? Because I would feel like that, if my partner did not share in my fertility concerns at all. Plus there is this sense that you're going to get married when he is good and ready, and that you can't "control" the timing. This situation would make me feel not in control of my life! I think it is time to make sure your priorities are in accord.

Maybe you should go, as a couple, to a fertility specialist to be evaluated and use this as a time to have a really serious talk about the timing of all this.
posted by BibiRose at 8:31 AM on November 29, 2012

Just tell him you're ready to have kids now and want to get married sooner rather than later.
posted by empath at 8:32 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

In addition to all of that, we would be some seriously old parents.

In the world I live it, it would make you perfectly average parents.

I had my kids at 34 & 37. My husband is older. We had no fertility issues & both kids are perfectly healthy. Being in your 30s does not guarantee problems. Being younger does not guarantee the LACK of problems. You just have to give it a try & see what happens.

Last week I was at a kindergarten party. All the moms at my table were 40. One has a 15 year-old & a 5-year-old. The other 3 of us have 5-year-olds & 3-year-olds. All of my college friends are announcing new babies on Facebook.

If you're sure he's the one, get married ASAP & get on with it. There's absolutely no reason to wait 2 years to have a wedding.
posted by belladonna at 8:34 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, um, I'm almost 38 with 5 year olds, and I feel like a young mom at my boys' school. Granted, I was about your age when I had my kids, but still. Most of their classmates' moms are in their 40s.
posted by pyjammy at 8:57 AM on November 29, 2012

The risks of birth defects and fertility issues do NOT "skyrocket" at a certain age! Those risks are always there. While it is true that age affects fertility, your gonads do not have an expiration date!

The reason why 35 is the magic number for women is strictly because the risk of a genetic defect at that time are slightly higher than the risk of complications with invasive diagnostic tests for the defects (amnio and CVS). The chance of a defect is always there, it's just that it doesn't make any sense to risk damage to the fetus when you're 25, whereas it may (may!) when you're 35.

Issues with your assumptions about timelines and marriage aside, I suggest you speak to your OB/GYN about age and fertility so you understand exactly what it might mean to have a child after 35.

(I'm typing this as I nurse my 3 month-old, and I turn 39 on Sunday.)
posted by Specklet at 8:59 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had my children at 31 and 35; it was difficult for reasons that had nothing to do with my age, My husband was 37 and 41 respectively. I agree with you that if you're going to be making the babies, you want to do it sooner rather than later, but I also agree with previous answerers that you have some unaddressed assumptions in your question that I think are concealing the source of your anxiety.

1. I am definitely on board with the idea that you be married before you have kids, so I'm not arguing with you there. But do you have to be married before they're conceived? If so, why?

2. The 2-year timeline for getting married and TTC: how come? Even with a big fancy-pants wedding, 2 years seems overly generous. I got engaged in september of 2002 and got married in april of 2003, and we had a big fancy-pants wedding, and frankly we could have done it in half that time. Memail me if you want more specifics on that.

3. If you got pregnant before you got married, you would break up: why? Would you terminate the pregnancy, or choose to co-parent but not to have a personal relationship? Given that you want to have kids with him, the former seems like it could have unanticipated emotional consequences, and the latter seems like it would be a big messy piece of heartbreak. What are your specific reasons for preferring either of those outcomes to a quick wedding and married parenthood?

The specific tenor of your response makes me feel like you are glossing over the reasons for some of these decisions in a way that is not ultimately helpful to you. If you get anxious and cranky while trying to answer those questions, it's worth sitting with yourself and unpacking those reactions. There may well be perfectly good reasons for all of your decisions here, and you're an adult and can certainly decide how to live your own life, but I think the trap you find yourself in here is one of your own making, and I feel like some of its elements are possibly insufficiently explored.
posted by KathrynT at 9:17 AM on November 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

Whoa, hold yer horses! How did you come to the conclusion that you will not conceive naturally at 36? A that age, 85% of women will become pregnant within 2 years of trying. Possibly much sooner if you time it right. (This is tmi, but I got pregnant at 36 with just one try, perfectly timed.) I am in a new moms group, and almost all of us conceived at 35-36.
posted by yarly at 9:40 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I know a couple that met in february, got engaged in august and were married earlier this month. If you really want to get married and have kids, get on it. Ask for it. Make it happen. If you're both ready and agree on the important things, there is no rule that you have to wait. If you don't agree on the important things, you never will.
posted by windykites at 9:41 AM on November 29, 2012

In addition to all of that, we would be some seriously old parents.

Had our first in our mid twenties. I'm like a freaking unicorn.

Seriously we were the youngest people in our birth class by like 10-12 years.
posted by French Fry at 10:00 AM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

But then there's all those other feelings I'm trying to manage - How do I get past the guilt that I waited so long/it took so long for me to find someone to settle with? How do I get past the feelings of shame that I'm a failure? How do I move past the idea of "family" for us meaning me getting pregnant and giving birth and that "family" for us most likely may mean adopting, or no kids at all? I've never experienced having to let go of something I've wanted do I do this?

Holy drama-balls. I say that with love. Sit down. Breathe in and out. Your story is the most made-up, poorly informed, doomsday, low self-esteem and totally devoid of agency version that could be imagined. You haven't missed the boat. It's still just sitting there, idling next to shore waiting for you to pack your bags and get on board already. Toot! Toot!

First stop, talk to your boyfriend. He's 40, he's either ready 110% to commit to a wife and kids or he's not. Determine that today -- this weekend! If he's on board, next stop -- your trusted doctor. When I was gearing up to try at 34, my very trusted doctor (who had her first at 40) didn't bother doing any testing and just said, "you're ready, get going, we'll deal with it as it comes." I had my daughter a few months shy of my 36th birthday. All the women in my mom's group are around my age.

Now, change your story. We all have to let things go as we age and gain perspective. You can have Lady Di's princess wedding if you want but since that gets in the way of your goals, chuck it. How romantic is it to find the love of your life, have a whirlwind romance and a new baby the first year? See, that doesn't sound so bad, does it? Lots of people would envy you.

Take it as it comes. Breathe in. Breathe out. Best of luck to you!
posted by amanda at 10:02 AM on November 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

I feel for you. I am also one of those sort of people who has to constantly tell myself to stop worrying about the future and forgetting to enjoy the present.... But this is a compulsion that people like us need to fight!

Don't feel like you have to come to terms with infertility when you don't have any reason to believe you are infertile. Trust me, it's hard enough to deal with it when it actually happens to you.

Look, what if one of your friends came to you and said that they were freaking out about the fact that they were really pretty statistically likely to get breast cancer, since breast cancer is so common, well, surely they should prepare for the fact it was probably going to happen eventually. So they're already trying to figure out how to deal with getting chemo and radiation, and how they're going to feel after having a mastectomy, and whether it will make them feel like less of a woman not to have breasts.

Your response would probably be "wait... you haven't been diagnosed with breast cancer and you're worried about mastectomy already?" Right? Well, about 1 in 8 women will eventually be diagnosed with breast cancer. about 1 in 8 couples will deal with infertility at some point (playing a little fast and loose with stats here). Hopefully this comparison is making you rethink your worries about IVF, rather than making you start worrying about mastectomy, because that was emphatically not my point...
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:22 AM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Add me to the list of people who don't understand why you think you'll be 36 before you can start on kids (which, btw, is not particularly old these days. Both the Lady Lurgi and I were older than that for #1 and we are going for #2). My parents met and married in the same year. My wife and I took it nice and slow and married 15 months after we met.

If you want to be married before you have a kid (which is very reasonable) then you and your bf probably do need to start talking about marriage as an actual thing rather than just something that you are both generally in favor of. And by "an actual thing" I mean "start thinking seriously about when and where and who is going to be the maid-of-honor". If you are both on board with it being an actual thing then you can be married in just a few months and plan a perfectly decent wedding (heck, you can probably be married in a few days if that's your priority. You won't get the beautiful dress in the lovely old church with flower girls and all that jazz, but that's only a problem if you want all that jazz). If you aren't both on board then you need to get your priorities aligned. Now is a good time to get started on that.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:31 AM on November 29, 2012

Why is this? Is it a religious/ethical conviction? Forgive me if I missed something in your question that explains why it is so important to you not to freeze eggs.

Because some of us choose "not that path." It doesn't matter why, and fertility issues are so emotional and so highly charged that sharing one person's very individual reasoning can come across (and oh God, so easily and routinely does come across) as criticism of how other people made their families or being negative about someone's very real and desperate hope.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:45 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

So much good advice above. I know it's hard to stop worrying about something that feels so real to you, but being in your mid-30s doesn't in any way mean that you'll automatically be unable to get pregnant. I'm one of many people I know who had a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby when my husband and I were both past 40. Fertility obviously does decline as we get older, but it is gradual and your age is only one of many factors.

Rather than rushing straight to the worrying and preparing for the disappointment of not having biological kids, there are things you could do to try to feel more in control of your reproductive health, since it sounds like you don't feel in control of the timing of getting engaged/married/trying to conceive and it's causing you stress. As others have suggested, a fertility workup (for both of you) would give you a sense of whether you might have physical issues that could make it harder to get pregnant. Charting would help you understand your cycle and identify when you ovulate. Focusing on your overall health and well-being seems like the best way to prepare yourself either for trying to get pregnant when the time is right, or facing whatever challenges you might encounter in the process.

Best of luck!
posted by eseuss at 10:56 AM on November 29, 2012

I don't have kids, but a lot of my friends do. Two things I've learned from them:

1. Most of them got pregnant in their 30s/40s and now have healthy babies. Although you are possibly less fertile at that age than you are in your 20s, you can still be fertile enough to get pregnant. It just may take a bit longer. Fertility isn't black-and-white; it's not like you go from being uber fertile one day to not fertile at all the next day when you turn 35. Plus, unless you have ever had fertility testing done you don't know just how much your fertility has changed over time, so why assume the worst?

2. Kids are unpredictable and things hardly ever go as planned so you have to let go of the concept of "right now is the best time for [x] and waiting will make things worse." The process of getting pregnant seems like a great time to learn to live by that philosophy.

And if you really want to be all doomy-doom and prepare yourself for the possibility of not having kids at all, I guess my advice to you is to figure out what else makes you passionate in life. I really want kids one day, but I also have a lot of fun stuff going on in my life -- we travel a ton, eat delicious food, and have grand plans of buying and fixing up our own home. In fact, we have so much fun stuff going on that it's become hard for us to take a break for a moment and actually try having a kid. I know that if we don't have a kid we'll be sad, but we will also have other things going on that make life worthwhile in the end. YMMV on that one.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:05 AM on November 29, 2012

Okay, look. I didn't read all the above comments, so I apologize if I'm doubling up here, but:

--The difference between 34 and 36 is not "night and day." It's not like if you started today your outcomes would be soooooooo different than they will be in two years.

--It's true that statistically, a woman's fertility starts declining at 30, declines more sharply at 35 and again more sharply at 38, but you know what? That is average fertility and doesn't necessarily apply to you. I know one person who was infertile who started in her late 20s, another who had a baby at 42. The chart of averages did not individually describe their experiences any more than it describes yours.

--If you want to know what your personal likely "zone of fertility" is, there is a test you can do with ultrasound to get your antral follicle count, which will essentially tell you how long your particular "biological clock" is likely to be.

--That said, it seems like you're having an emotional problem (guilt about not starting a family sooner, resentment towards your boyfriend for not believing in declining male fertility) plus a communication problem (it doesn't sound like you're able to get across to your boyfriend how worrisome this is for you, plus it doesn't sound like you exactly know what you're asking for either -- to move up the schedule, for him to also feel nervous, or for him to just plain commiserate and help plan your future adoptions). It might be nice to journal some of this out or talk about it with a therapist, because it seems like there are several different issues ricocheting around in here -- perfectly normal for such a big issue, but it'd be nice to untangle them some.

Good luck, anon!
posted by feets at 11:07 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm also a little intrigued by this:

I've never experienced having to let go of something I've wanted do I do this?

I mean, really? You have always, forever, every single time in your entire life, gotten exactly what you wanted, when you wanted it, with nothing out of the ordinary required? I suppose there probably are people whose lives are like that, but I've certainly never met one. My guess is you've coped with losses before --granted, maybe they were small-scale losses, or maybe just time and perspective have shown you they're small-scale-- and you've probably done so just fine, because your life at the moment is not a shambles and disaster (which it would be if you were actually lacking any ability to deal with loss).

You might want to sit awhile with this thought and try to figure out why, all of a sudden, you feel like your coping skills are nonexistent. Think about the hard things you have done in life, and how you did them, until you remember that you can, if needed, totally do it all again.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:42 PM on November 29, 2012

Anon, I've been thinking about your question all day. Even though I agree with the other posters that you are needlesly worrying over fertility statistics, you are still going through something big. What it boils down to is that you had a vision for your life (being a young parent) and that is not going to happen.

In the past six months or so I had to give up my visions for two big things: career and getting engaged/wedding. I was attached to my ideals of those things so much that when reality worked out to be quite different, I felt (and feel) anxious. I can't read wedding planning AskMes because I cry, realizing circumstances aren't going to allow for the wedding I wanted since I was a little girl.

I know that giving up the idea of children as you envisioned it is orders of magnitude different from my not having a lengthy courtship and engagement, or being a professor, but some of the feelings are the same. Pema Chödrön's "When Things Fall Apart" and "The Places That Scare You" are really accessible books on the Buddhist approach to non-attachment. I found meditation to be helpful, and therapy. The best thing you can do is focus on what you can control (get married soon! get a full fertility workup!) and look into therapy and/or meditation to help you manage your anxiety about things out of your control. Good luck.
posted by peacrow at 1:01 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I see a lot of people telling you that 36 isn't too old, etc. so to give you the opposite perspective, I know a perfectly healthy mid-20 something who took over a year to get pregnant. That's not to alarm you, just to point out that regardless of age, fertility can be a roll of the dice.

I think you need to rank the priorities of the conditionals in your question: you want to get pregnant, but only if you're married, but you don't want to rush the relationship, but you don't want to be an older parent or have IVF. Realistically, it will be really difficult to have all those things. So which are the most important?

Can you shift your perspective to imagine being pregnant before marriage?
Can you shift your perspective to imagine having kids at 40 and planning for retirement and college-age at the same time?
Which one gives you the worse gut feeling?
Does HE want or would he be OK with having kids before marriage?

If you're not willing to have kids before marriage and you say you "can't control when you will get married", then... you can't control if/when you'll have kids. If you 90% want kids, and your boyfriend 110% wants kids, I personally would say your vision of marriage-first should shift. I think you can control it, though.

You need to address your boyfriend's aloofness or "operating at his own pace". You have two realistic options as a couple: get married sooner rather than later, even if that's outside his comfort zone, or start trying to conceive without the marriage, even if that's outside yours. You need to compromise. If you have a truthful conversation about the dwindling opportunity and he's still not willing to make a plan or just doesn't get it, I would find it difficult to think of him as a good long-term prospect.
posted by nakedmolerats at 1:24 PM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Just some advice -- Go to a doctor and tell them your concerns about waiting to conceive. The thing is they can do a blood test and give you an idea of how your ovarian reserve looks (which is the most important thing for conceiving in late 30s assuming you don't have any other medical issues). If the ovarian reserve is super low, you don't want to wait.

Some women don't have any trouble, and some women have low ovarian reserve and do, but they can do blood tests and if you a rough estimate of where you might fall in the spectrum.
posted by bananafish at 1:29 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

All the crap about "oh my mom conceived naturally at 38" doesn't help because she might have had great ovarian reserve and you might not. So don't listen to anectdata. Go to an obgyn.
posted by bananafish at 1:31 PM on November 29, 2012

If you really want to know what is up with *your* fertility, rather than just stories from strangers on the internet, I recommend an RE rather than an OB. An OB can give you a blood test, but that's not really too indicative. I had problems, and my blood work came back normal. But my antral follicle count, as someone said above, did reveal that there was a problem. (I kind of already knew that because I had been trying for 1.5 years, starting at age 33). But the point is that the two OBs I have had do not specialize in fertility, and they don't tend to do antral follicle counts. REs do. They are usually not covered under insurance, but one that I saw did the count as part of the free evaluation.

If you are worried about your partner's sperm, he can get his sperm count, morphology, motility analyzed for a couple hundred bucks. That's somewhere between an art and a science, too.

Good Luck!
posted by pizzazz at 2:58 PM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

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