When I got out of the navy, I was 24 years old. I got divorced a year later. I remember sitting in my apartment lamenting having been in the navy, married and divorced, all by the time I was 25. I’d felt like I’d lived a lifetime already. I felt old and awkward and lost. I had waited until after I was out of the Navy to even consider having babies. Suddenly, divorced and 25, I heard for the first time the ticking of my biological clock. Sitting by the bay window watching the four pregnant women and their children playing by the pool, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d just lost my best chance to have children.
Over time, I pushed the thought of children out of my head, even while on the floor playing silly games with my friends’ kids. I just figured the six years in the Navy and the time lost married and after meant my window was closing, but there was no sense getting upset about it. I truly figured one day if I really wanted to have kids, I’d just do it by myself if I had to.
In all honesty, I’d get upset, but only when I saw mom’s treating their kids like shit. I just knew in my heart of hearts, I would have been a better mom; and it made me sad that I hadn’t been given the opportunity to prove it. Once I got to the place where I figured if time ran out, there was always IVF, I didn’t really get down about the time tick tick ticking away.
As time went on, I started to consider what it meant to be a woman and how not having a baby figure into that. When I got to the place where I began to wonder what the gender difference was between a man and a woman if the woman hadn’t ever gotten pregnant, I knew it was time to really think about life on a grander scale. I had just depressed the hell out of myself and made it all the more difficult to find the feminine me I felt I’d lost in the Navy. See, I went into the military a girl, and came out a sailor who got divorced within a year. For a multitude of reasons, I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t a good enough woman. I’d not stopped to consider what good enough meant, or even who got to define “enough”. Logical or not, rational or not, its just how I felt.
Over time, I got to a place where I had to figure out what it meant to be a maternal. Eventually, when you are childless, you realize being maternal has nothing to do with having children biologically. When I realized this, I was perfectly happy sacrificing the rest of the time my dear little eggs may have left for the loving and beautiful family I have spent ten years working with my partner to cultivate.
It wasn’t easy, but I realized I was enough of a woman, I was perfectly perfect the way I was, with the life choices I’d made; and because of those choices, I’m a unique woman with unique experiences that help the kids in my life see things in ways they may not have otherwise. I am no longer petrified that maybe my memory will not be passed on through the generations (because we are all a bit narcissistic that way), and that my time on this Earth didn’t amount to anything. I am secure that my influence on others is positive enough to survive my own eventual death.
This article (written in 2013) caught my eye today because perfection is often times wrapped up in that elusive idea of ‘enough’ which causes incredible amounts of anxiety, particularly where the biological clock is concerned. Somewhere along the line, someone made us feel like the only way we could be good enough women was to have babies. We don’t realize we decide what enough is; and further, perfection is an individual concept…or should be.
I was stunned when I read the below paragraph:
The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations.
In other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment. Most people assume these numbers are based on large, well-conducted studies of modern women, but they are not. When I mention this to friends and associates, by far the most common reaction is: “No … No way. Really?”
I couldn’t help but feel a bit of annoyance that researchers and scientists/doctors/etc., would play with emotions so haphazardly. The beauty of the article below is the author, Jean Twenge, does a fantastic job of really analyzing the data that is available for when women should have babies. It turns out the decline in fertility for women in their 30s has been overblown – based on research from the 1600 – 1800s, and small sample sizes that aren’t really relevant to natural births.
Having this article readily available to me when I turned 30 would have done wonders for my self-esteem. That said, I’m sure I would have put off my own exploration into what being maternal means and the subsequent realization that it can be a verb as well as a adjective; and I may have missed some truly wonderful, heartwarming moments because I didn’t commit to my own inherent abilities to be maternal.