Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Don’t expect to get pregnant in your 40s

Women in their 40s who are still trying to figure out whether to have children are not going to like this post, but they need to know the facts.

A reader sent me a comment today that fit right in with a recent news story I was planning to share. She’s 42 and has a child from a marriage that went sour. Now she’s dating a 28-year-old man she calls her soul mate. At first he said he didn’t want children, but now he does, and she’s stewing over whether or not to have a child for him. Read the whole comment here.

The thing is, she’s not likely to get pregnant at 42, even if she decides she is willing. Check out this article at cnn.com. “The‘Big Lie’ in putting off pregnancy” makes it clear that while today’s 40-year-olds may be as youthful as yesteryear’s 25-year-olds, their eggs are old-school. A lot of the reason more than twice as many women age 40-44 are childless as in 1976 is that they’re delaying parenthood while they build their careers and enjoy the unfettered life. Meanwhile their eggs are going stale. By the time they think about having children, it’s too late.

The article notes that a woman in her 20s has a 20-25 percent chance of conceiving naturally per menstrual cycle. In her early 30s, the chances are 15 percent. After 35, it goes down to 10 percent. After 40, the number falls to 5 percent, and after 45, it’s only 1 per cent. It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s the way it is.

Well, you can just go to the doctor and start fertility treatments, you say. Unfortunately, most of the women who go that route do not successfully conceive. They spend thousands of dollars, experience lots of disappointment and sometimes several miscarriages before they give up. Sure, we hear about celebrities and others having babies in their 40s, but for most of us that’s not going to happen.

Last night, I lay in bed running the numbers. During my first marriage, I was in my 20s, but my husband wasn’t ready for children. When I married Fred, I was 33. I had time, but not much. Scary.

A lot of readers who comment here are in their late 30s or early 40s, still trying to work out the baby thing with their mates. I hate to put more pressure on you, but there’s no time to waste. Men can wait, but women can’t. In your discussions, show them the numbers. Maybe they’ll get the point.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Should you stay with the guy who doesn't want kids?

In looking for what to write about today, I keep going back to the comment I received over the weekend on a post titled, "He said he didn't want any more kids." 

Anonymous said...  
My boyfriend and I have been dating for going on five years and he has said repeatedly that he does not want anymore kids. He has two kids from previous relationships and basically refuses to even talk about what would happen if we have an accidental pregnancy. I do understand where he is coming from, he lost his daughter in a horrendous and long custody battle after his divorce, and although we see his son on a regular basis, he simply doesn't want anymore children. I very much want to be a mom at some point, and though I'm only 25 (he is 33) I know I want a child of my own too. I love his kids but it's heartbreaking and makes me incredibly envious and even a smidge resentful. I have nightmares about being pregnant and him leaving me because of it. I'm terrified of the possibility of becoming pregnant because I love him more than anything and don't want to lose him, but what if I do get pregnant even while on birth control? I want to know he won't leave me in that circumstance, but he won't give me any reassurance on the issue. Any advice would be appreciated!  

Oh boy. As I noted in my reply, my gut instinct is to tell her to get another boyfriend. If he would leave her if she got pregnant even by accident, come on, that's not right. At least that's my opinion.

I know what it's like to be in a relationship that is not good in some ways but still feel like I would absolutely die if he left me. More than once. And you know what? Eventually these men dumped me. Maybe I was too clingy. Maybe I scared them with my dreams of marriage and children and a nice house in the suburbs. Maybe they were just jerks. I'm no expert on relationships, but it does seem to me that if you can't discuss an issue as important as whether or not to have children, the relationship won't last. Also, if this guy is so anti-children, why doesn't he get a vasectomy so there won't be any accidents?

I would love to hear other opinions on this situation. If you read the other comments on that post, you'll see that this particular anonymous writer is not the only one struggling with this. It all comes back to the same question: Do you love this person so much that you're willing to give up having children for him or her?

Please comment.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Are marriages happier without children?

Check out these headlines:

Recent headlines shout that couples without kids have happier marriages. Down in the fine print, they back off a little, but the writers maintain that non-parenting couples pay more attention to each other and have more time and money to date, travel and generally continue the honeymoon indefinitely.

Well, that’s true. I never had children of my own, but I did have a live-in stepson, so I got at least a taste of it. Whatever you do, 24/7, when you’re responsible for a child, you have to consider that child’s needs. She needs new shoes, so you keep wearing your old ones. He’s got the flu, so you stay home from work to take care of him. You have less privacy and more expenses, and you can’t just go off to the beach, a restaurant, a show, or Maui, or even have sex without thinking about the child. Can he go with us? Do we need to get a babysitter? He’s got soccer practice, or his science project is due tomorrow, so we can’t do what we want to do. Spontaneity goes out the window.

That’s how it is with kids. And it does put a strain on marriages. You have wonderful loving moments when you thank God for your family, but you also argue over money, responsibilities, discipline, and priorities, and you don’t have much privacy. You pay less attention to your spouse because you're focused on the children. These are some of the things that made my husband and perhaps many of your partners and spouses decide they didn’t want to have any more children. Their first marriage failed, and the kids were at least part of the problem. They don’t want the same thing to happen to this marriage.

Sound familiar to any of you? Of course you tell them it will be different this time, but their previous experiences with children tell them otherwise.

The articles in the Huffington Post, Jezebel and the Telegraph don’t tell us whether the couples are childless by choice or by circumstance. I’m guessing it’s by choice. But even if it isn’t, I suppose we can take some comfort in knowing that even if we wanted children and grieve their loss, even if we see a great gaping hole in our lives, our marriages might end up being happier than those of our friends with kids.

I don't know. What do you think about all this? Do you think childless couples are happier?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

No Kidding: The book, the club, the goats?

Book review: 
No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood, edited by Henriette Mantel, Seal Press, 2013
When I started working on my Childless by Marriage book, nobody was writing about being without child. It was almost a taboo subject, but now the shelves are filling up with books about not having kids. Most of them, like this one, are about the joys of being childless by choice. In this case, 37 women writers in the entertainment business tell the story of how they ended up not being mothers. Although a few did try to have children and learned that they couldn’t, most never wanted them in the first place. They were too busy with their careers and not interested in the sacrifices required to raise a little human being. 

The writing here is good. Many of these women are comediennes, and they know how to put together an amusing essay. But after a while, all the stories blend together in my mind because they are so similar. Some of the names are familiar. Most are not. It is an entertaining read. Readers in the childfree-by-choice crowd are sure to enjoy it. Perhaps those who are childless not by choice will find some encouragement and see that life can be wonderful without children. At least that’s what these women tell us. 

The club: 
In addition to being the title of a book, No Kidding is the name of an international club that provides opportunities for members to make new friends whose lives are not wrapped around their children. Members are all ages, married and single, and lack children for all kinds of reasons. You can find chapters all over the world or start a new chapter if your area doesn't have one. Many of the people who comment on this blog and at other childless sites describe how uncomfortable they are at gatherings where everyone else seems to have kids. This is a chance to find friends with whom you have more in common. 

The goats: 
When I was young, people who used the word "kid" were quickly corrected and told that a "kid" is a baby goat. Well, we humans have stolen their word and often use it to describe our own offspring. Funny we don't call them calves or puppies. Unlike humans, goats don't use birth control. If you put a he-goat and a she-goat together at the right time, they will have baby goats. Believe it or not, there are actually goat mating videos on YouTube. I don't want to get in trouble for recommending goat porn, but they're pretty funny. 

No kidding. The word "kid" applied to a child apparently traces back to the 13th century with Olde English and Norse origins. But how did the word kid come to be used also as a synonym for joking? Beats me. 

Have a happy day.