I decided at the age of 19 that I did not want to have children. I don’t dislike children, and I have even contemplated adoption, but for a number of reasons (which may or may not be part of a future post), I made the choice not to have any. A series of life experiences and heart-breaking relationships cemented this decision over the ensuing decade. Society judged me, and it seemed everyone had an opinion they did not hesitate to express on the subject. Apparently, the common view is that a female who chooses to not have a child is evil and selfish. However, I am of the opinion that having a child just because society says I am supposed to is actually more selfish and horribly unfair to the child.
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I was in my early 20s the first time I mustered up the courage to ask my gynecologist about tubal ligation. She literally laughed at me, assured me I was too young to make that decision, and told me it was not even an option…until I had at least one child. WTF?!?! The point is to NOT have a child! This exact conversation was repeated in subsequent years with other GYNs. At 29, I finally had a GYN who was willing to at least discuss with me my reasons for wanting my tubes tied, the risks, and the options and potential challenges if I were to change my mind in the future. Then he, like the others, tried to dissuade me from having the procedure done until I had at least one child.
Finally, I asked that last GYN the question that was at the back of my mind for years: “So basically, if I get pregnant, I can easily get an abortion to kill the child that I already know I don’t want, but you refuse to let me get the procedure that would prevent that pregnancy from ever occurring?!” At last, I found the winning argument! (Feel free to borrow it if you find yourself in a similar predicament.) My procedure was scheduled and successfully completed a few weeks later. (As an aside, I don’t believe in abortion in most situations, and I wanted to avoid a situation that might lead me to contemplate that option.) I told very few people at the time, and since, about having the procedure done, as I already had enough of people’s judgment on my choices regarding children. The only thing that mattered was my tremendous happiness with finally having my tubes tied, and there has not been a single day that I have regretted that decision.
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My lack of regret may seem odd to most since now, at 38, I have taken my first steps toward IVF. That is to say, I have my first appointment with a fertility specialist scheduled in July 2014, when I return home from an extended business trip. Tubal reversal is not an option for me, in part for the same reasons I had it done in the first place. I do not want to worry about other methods of birth control failing and having an unplanned pregnancy, especially as I approach my 40s. In addition, IVF provides some options that are very important to me, including choosing my own time to try to get pregnant and the ability to do pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS). The latter is a huge factor for me, due to my age and the inherent risks that come with that.
I knew my age might become an issue in childbearing, but it was not until I started researching the details of IVF that I became aware of the full spectrum of risks and limitations. That’s when I was harshly confronted with my biological age (cue the dawn of this unexpected midlife crisis). It turns out those little eggs age the same regardless of how young I may look or feel or how well I strive to take care of the rest of my body! Apparently 38 is at the far end of the less-than-optimal age range for retrieving viable eggs, and I’m rapidly approaching 39.
It was May 4, 2014, when I decided to look into IVF. By May 5th, my research turned to fertility preservation in the form of freezing my eggs, and by the end of that week, I scheduled my appointment with a highly recommended fertility specialist in my area. I found myself immediately concerned with preserving whatever viable eggs I may have left as soon as possible. This is despite the fact that IVF itself is still a ways off for me, due to career factors and relationship status. I currently travel a ridiculous amount for work, and a significant career decision point is 18 months out. My boyfriend is amazing and very supportive of my recent choices, but he is at this point still “just” my boyfriend (sorry, Love!). We have talked about the future and long-term possibilities, including having a child, but it is certainly too soon in our relationship to actually embark on the emotional roller coaster of IVF! However, retrieving my eggs cannot wait.
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Beginning this journey, I find myself both scared and excited! I also find myself feeling a little bit alone. My boyfriend is supportive, but realistically, the egg retrieval and preservation part of this process has very little to do with him. I don’t think most men really want to think or hear about all the gory details of hormones, ovaries, follicles, and maturing eggs! (For that matter, I was happily oblivious to all of that until I made this decision.) Aside from one very close friend, there is really no one else I feel comfortable discussing this very delicate subject with – people are just too damn judgmental about things they know little to nothing about. But at least here, I can share with others in similar situations, learn from their experiences, and find ways to deal with what I know will be numerous challenges, highs, and lows on the road ahead.