Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
It’s rare that a parenting topic gets covered in high-fashion Vogue, but when it does, it has a tendency to make a splash. I was intrigued by Tanya Selvaratnam’s latest piece for the magazine: “Postponing Motherhood: When Does It Actually Become Too Late?” In her article, she states that many women in her generation waited too long to have kids and missed out on motherhood.
It’s a tricky subject. We are living in a society that is much different than the society of our parents’ and grandparents’ time. Look no further than Marie Claire’s February 2014 issue, which is a celebration of the single, independent woman. With sections on how to travel alone and how to live alone, the feature reflects the new culture that we live in. Since we are taking time for ourselves, women today are taking longer to get married. In 1960, the median age for an American woman to first get married was 20; now, it’s 27.
Even though marriage can be put off for as long as we want, kids can’t be postponed for too long (if you want them). Our biological clocks still exist. Amongst all of the great discussions in Marie Claire about the benefits of not being tied down in our 20s, the magazine acknowledges that, by 27, our fertility is already starting to decline. The best age to have a baby biologically is 20. According to a 2009 CDC study, by age 40, our chances of a live birth are 18.7 percent; by 44, this decreases to 2.9 percent.
The message behind these statistics is easy to brush off. “We are not conditioned to feel the urgency of fertility,” Selvaratnam writes in Vogue. This was the case for 37-year-old Hilary Grove, who was under the impression that it wasn’t “a big deal” to wait before having kids. Now, she struggles to get pregnant.
Should we be having kids younger then? My mom was 23 when she had me, and I love how close we are. Today, she is in her 40s, and I can’t imagine her having me now. We’ve already had so much time together.
These days, society is also encouraging millennials to postpone having kids, to work on our careers, relationships, ourselves, and our generation is not so keen on following in our parents’ footsteps. We’re a bit slower with everything, from moving out to getting married, so it is no surprise that many 20- and 30-somethings feel that they are not ready for a kid. As my colleague Jessie pointed out in her recent post, millennials aren’t financially secure enough to raise a child. Though more people are graduating from college than ever, they are increasingly working at dead-end jobs, with the added burden of student loans.
As a millennial still fairly fresh out of school, it’s even hard for me to believe that I could be having kids of my own at this stage in my life. This is despite my mom’s eager anticipation, which grew once I got engaged. (In typical millennial fashion, I still think I’m too young!) However, Selvaratnam’s Vogue piece serves as a reminder that there is a biological expiration date for conceiving, though it varies from person to person. That’s important, and it’s something for me to consider in my 10-year plan.
Are you trying to conceive? Check out our fertility calculator and a 7-step plan to getting pregnant faster.
Image of a pregnant woman via Shutterstock.
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Monday, July 29th, 2013
“Ruthie and Tra-vis sittin’ in a tree,” my little fourth-grade classmates would sing as I jumped rope at recess.
Nina Davenport/Courtesy of HBO
“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage.” A schoolyard game taught us the “proper” sequence of life events before we even understood them. But what if that doesn’t work for everyone?
Filmmaker Nina Davenport examines the new trend of single women of a certain age having children without Mr. Right in her autbiographical documentary “First Comes Love,” premiering Monday, July 29 on HBO.
Davenport always wanted to be a mom, but as she got older she felt her chances of finding a man to have children with were fading along with her “rapidly diminishing ovarian reserve.” At age 41, Davenport decided to stop waiting and go it alone. “You can have the child and you can have the loving partnership for the rest of your life,” counseled her sister-in-law. “It’s just going to happen in that order.”
Using her friend Eric Oleson as her sperm donor, Davenport underwent fertility treatments before becoming pregnant and giving birth to her son, Jasper. Over the course of the film, Davenport found support in some—like her best friend and birthing partner, Amy Meselson—and scrutiny in others, like her father. But aside from confronting the difficulty of becoming a single mom, particularly at an advanced age, the movie raises important practical questions. Would Davenport be able to afford all of the expenses of a child? If Eric doesn’t want to play a larger role than sperm donor, and Amy’s commitment does not officially extend beyond delivery day, where will Davenport find the longterm help she needs?
Davenport’s film tackles tough issues as members of her own family cast their doubts over her journey into motherhood. “What about having a child is going to make that [financial] stressor go away?” questions Davenport’s other sister-in-law. “You don’t expect to provide a worse life for your child than you had. Do you?”
And aside from a potential financial burden, Davenport’s friends Howie and Dara seemed to be in awe of the motivation driving her to become a mom no matter what. As a new dad Howie said, “In all seriousness you have a much harder time because I see what it’s like with two people and you are alone so…wow! That’s going be twice, even more than twice [the amount of work].”
Throughout the film, Davenport consults with other single women in their 40s who have either had kids on their own or are trying to. Though limited, her pool of women all seem to be successful in their careers, independent, and confident in the people they have become. But as these women reflect on their paths, is all this self-investment and personal growth at the expense of finding a suitable parenting partner?
As women in Davenport’s documentary forego the romantic relationship in favor of a parental one, they may also give up the financial stability of two potential incomes, the emotional support of entering parenthood with a partner, and the physical sharing of time spent with the new baby. If that baby cries in the middle of the night, there is no “It’s your turn, honey.”
But as more women take full control over their reproductive future, the community of single mothers by choice will continue to grow. With that choice they choose the love of a child before the love of a partner, showing that truly “first comes love.”
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