I'll be 33 years old next week. It's shaping up to be one of those birthdays that gives you chest pains because you can't come to grips with the fact that your body continues to age despite your lack of accomplishments.
I'm not saying 33 is old, guys. But what I've absolutely come to accept is that as it relates to fertility, my age is not ideal. I know people older than me are having babies every day and I haven't reached that evil age cutoff of 35, when your eggs suddenly turned into powdered milk. But science is science. It doesn't matter how healthy you are or how awesome your skin looks -- every year that goes by is another year older, and your eggs are as old as you are. You don't make new ones. It's a real bummer.
All of the eyebrow-raising from my doctors used to irritate the living hell out of me. They'd ask if I was planning on having children soon. Ages 27, 28, 29, and 30 slipped by, and I told the doctors I wasn't planning on it. And they, without fail, told me that the sooner I did, the better.
There is a section in Making Babies titled "Be Aware of Your Age." This section also irritated me to no end; if I had a time machine, maybe this section could have helped me. Nonetheless, it cuts to the chase immediately: "If we had to pin fertility on just one factor, the most important would be age. The older you are, male or female, the more likely you and your partner are to have problems conceiving and carrying a pregnancy." The book goes on to say "the best advice is to have children sooner rather than later." Sounds familiar.
Here are some more fun statistics from the book.
Women under age 25 have a 96 percent chance of conceiving within a year. That figure drops to 86 percent between the ages of 25 and 34. The odds decrease again for women at age 35, with further drop-offs at 38 and again at 42.
Beginning when men are in their mid-30s, miscarriage rates start to rise, enough to double by age 45, at which point about one in three couples with men age 45 or older had a pregnancy ending in miscarriage, regardless of the woman's age.
All of this kind of information used to bug me. How dare my doctor, or some book, or anyone for that matter, try to tell me when and how I should use my reproductive organs? I wasn't ready to have a baby and that was all there was to it. Should I have gotten pregnant and had a baby just because it was the right thing to do, biologically?
The short answer to that question is Yes. I never, ever imagined I would be the kind of person who said something like this, but I'm going to say it now and I'll keep saying it to anyone who listens:
If you think at some point you will want children, have them now. Have them in your 20s. You will never be physically, emotionally, or financially completely prepared for children. You will never take that trip to Italy before the kids get here. You won't lose the weight. You aren't going to be glad some day that you spent an extra three or four years indulging yourself by doing whatever you wanted instead of changing some screaming baby's poopy diaper. Have them now, if you can, and then your eggs can get old and turn into powdered milk. Have them now and maybe you won't deal with miscarriages, drugs, needles, IUI, IVF. The story of the 40-something movie star who gets pregnant with twins is a delusion, my friends. God only knows how many rounds of IVF she paid for. How much money and grit do you possess? How much heartache could you potentially save yourself?
Thirty-three isn't ancient, even in fertility years. The doctors still call me "young and healthy." They expect I'll be able to get pregnant and carry a baby to term, and I expect the same. But I admit I hear a clock ticking in the background. I admit I wish I'd listened more thoughtfully when my doctors advised me to think about having children sooner. It might have saved me some trouble.