On Sunday I celebrated my 29th birthday. I am officially on the very last rung of the twenty-something ladder. I spent the entire weekend eating, drinking and rejoicing the fact that I was turning “not 30.”
I also happen to share my birthdate with a dear friend’s baby boy, which is why I found myself sipping sangria at his first birthday party on Saturday afternoon in a room full of tiny humans who count their age in months rather than years.
I marvelled at the group of men and women casually clutching their infants in one arm and a beer in the other. It was a strange realization that these parents — who were discussing daycare options while getting day-drunk — were all my age.
Being surrounded by adorable and surprisingly well-behaved babies for an afternoon didn’t exactly make me broody for one of my own right away, but it did make me wonder when I might start to feel that maternal instinct kick in.
When it comes to the ideal childbearing age, I’m not quite over the hill but I’m definitely past my prime. Most doctors agree that a woman’s fertility peaks in her early to mid-twenties and starts declining soon after. Getting pregnant in your younger years lowers your chance of miscarrying and increases the likelihood of giving birth to a healthy baby. At 35 and beyond, women are six times more likely to have issues conceiving or pregnancy complications compared with those 10 years younger.
But getting pregnant and being a parent are two very different concepts. Our bodies might be ready for a baby as soon as we hit puberty, but we mature mentally and emotionally at very different rates.
Just because it’s physiologically possible doesn’t mean you’re psychologically (or financially) ready for the drastic shift in priorities that come with birthing and raising another human being. There will always be personal and professional sacrifices involved; you’ll have to put a fulfilling career on pause to go on maternity leave and give-up the Pilates body you’ve spent years sculpting, even if it’s just temporarily.
I know there’s no perfect time to start a family and for now I’m happy to attend baby birthday parties as the token childless friend. But when I read scary statistics about infertility rates in older women, I find myself wishing that I could re-calibrate my biological clock to keep time with my current lifestyle.
Sometimes I worry that if I continue to refill my birth control prescription each month and wait for a time when I feel completely “ready” I’ll miss my chance.
I have to wonder how long I have left until my window of opportunity closes and I’m forced to pursue potentially painful and expensive alternatives with no real guarantees of success.
In some ways, it’s almost pertinent for a woman to start trying to get pregnant before she’s actually ready in order to ensure that she even can conceive.
Perhaps all this panic is a bit premature on my part. But as I enter my 30th year I know it’s something I have to start thinking about, even if it just means incorporating a few folic acid pills into my morning routine.