Though the United States’ fertility rate is at a 30-year low, having a baby — one’s desire to do it and one’s ability to do it — remains very much on the minds of many, if not most, American women. Technology has aided many women’s ability to conceive later on in life than was possible for earlier generations, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, or stress-free. Many women face barriers to pregnancy in the form of illnesses like PCOS and endometriosis, and women partnered with assigned-female partners can’t get pregnant without medical intervention (and often, substantial cost). In some straight partnerships, women must contend with male partners who want babies more than they do. Basically, there’s an awful lot to think (and worry) about.
Though having children is still something more women do than not, it can be a difficult, confusing, and sometimes painful experience — and then there’s the years-long lead-up to making that decision. Here, nine women, all at varying stages in considering motherhood, share what worries them most about their own fertility.
“I don’t know if I want to get pregnant, but I’m 31 and increasingly worried that I won’t figure it out in time to actually have a kid. I’m married, my partner would make a great parent, our parents would make great grandparents, but I don’t think those are good enough reasons to get pregnant. Overall, I just feel guilt about not providing a child for the rest of my family (I’m an only child, this is my parents’ one shot to be grandparents), and anxiety about figuring it out before I’m too old to get pregnant without a lot of outside help.”
“Because I have PCOS and do not ovulate, I’m worried I won’t be able to get pregnant easily. This has me feeling desperate to ‘settle down’ ASAP so I can start trying while I’m still as young as possible. I also feel like I have to find someone wealthy to try it with in case I need expensive help in the way of fertility treatments like IVF.”
“My husband and I have recently started trying to get pregnant (though I usually say we’re no longer actively preventing). Even though I don’t necessarily want to be pregnant right now (if I could choose, which I know I can’t, I would get pregnant a couple months from now), I still find myself getting a little disappointed each time I’ve gotten my period in the months since I went off the pill. My main concern is that I have no idea if it will be difficult for me to get pregnant or not. We waited until we were ready, but I have no idea if things will go well for us, or if we will find ourselves down the road looking into other options.
“I turn 31 soon, so my age is always in the back of my mind too. I would like to have my first before I turn 32 so that I could potentially have a second before being 35, but any time I think about age and timeline it kicks my anxiety up. I don’t actually have a concrete reason for feeling anxious about fertility, other than the potential for issues. My friends and I keep saying that when you’re younger, you think that when you want to have a kid, you just will. But when you’re younger you never really know about all of the issues people have when they’re trying to get pregnant, or how common miscarriages are. It feels like you spend all of these years trying to not get pregnant, but then when you want to, it’s just not as easy as it seems like it should be.”
“I had cancer when I was a child, so I had chemotherapy. When I was around 17, I was told that chemotherapy usually causes women to experience menopause early. When I had tests done, I learned that the number of eggs I have is a little low compared to the average woman my age. I also haven’t ever really had a proper pregnancy scare, whereas loads of my friends have.”
“I never used to experience anxiety related to fertility. I had two unplanned pregnancies in my late teens and early 20s, which helped as far as feeling like I had nothing to worry about regarding my ability to conceive. Now I’m 30, and married, and want to start a family with my husband — but I’m terrified I won’t be able to, after finding out from an ultrasound tech that I have textbook PCOS. Every month I wonder if I’m actually ovulating, if I will at some point … the overall amount of time I spend thinking about my fertility or lack thereof is overwhelming. I’ve even moved on to worrying about my husband’s ability to help create a child! The worst part is that there is no one I feel comfortable sharing this with other than my therapist, because I feel crazy. I never thought I would be this woman, googling ovulation signs at midnight on my phone and counting down the days until my doctor will prescribe Clomid.”
“I am single at age almost 32, thinking I probably want to have kids (I guess), but also thinking that’s a decision to be made with my future partner, who is, as of yet, non-existent. Then I start running the timelines, and even if I meet him tomorrow (impossible because of an impending move) we wouldn’t be talking about children for, like, a year, if we TOTALLY rush things. So then I’m 34, starting to try to get pregnant with someone I still don’t know that well. And that’s the super conservative timeline. I probably won’t meet someone until 2019 or later … or I could meet someone and we don’t want to rush into having children … which makes it unlikely that I start trying to get pregnant until I’m 36 or 37. That doesn’t sound insane anymore in 2018 … but it sounds risky, and it’s quite likely it won’t be easy to get pregnant. I don’t think I could afford egg freezing, and I’m scared it would be painful. But I try to avoid plastics and stay relatively healthy to increase my odds down the road. I also think idly at times about whether I’d have a kid alone, and if so, at what age would I consider that the right thing. I’m not sure yet.”
“Growing up, I never thought that I would want kids, a mentality that stayed with me until I reached 23 and everything changed for me. Suddenly I realized that maybe I did — which is anxiety inducing in itself. But I’ve always had this fear that I wouldn’t be able to have kids — a joke I’ve been making to myself since I was 18, as a part of dealing with the larger anxiety surrounding birth control. While I never wanted them, the thought of not being able to have them changed my thinking. Either way, I’m still dreading the day I decide to try and get pregnant, only to find out that after being on birth control for ten years, I’m infertile. I think the possible loss of choice is what gives me the most anxiety.”
“Once I decided I wanted to get pregnant, and then didn’t get pregnant immediately, I began researching every possible and potential problem with my (and my husband’s) fertility. I was actively trying to get pregnant, so the anxiety was centered around failed fertility when I wasn’t. I sent my husband to get a sperm analysis (normal), then began monitoring every aspect of my menstrual cycle. I took my temperature every morning before getting out of bed so I could confirm ovulation, peed into a foil bag so I could test for the lutenizing hormone surge predicting ovulation, took a cocktail of vitamins and supplements to increase my luteal phase, and joined the obsessive BabyCenter Board ‘Actively Trying to Conceive.’ It only took me six months to get pregnant, but I was obsessed with fertility every day of those six months.”
“My husband and I have been together for a decade and our sex life is not good. And I am desperate for a baby. I keep a count every week of how many pregnancy announcements and how many birth announcements I see on social media, because it is a constant trigger. I also have a brother who just had his second baby, which is a huge trigger too. I’m not even sure where to start. There needs to be more resources out there for women who are in a less-than-amazing moment of their sex lives while also struggling with being in their mid-30s, feeling the pressure to have a kid NOW BEFORE I DRY OUT AND AM OLD FOREVER.”