Read this if you feel like you're running out of time to have kids
Updated: Mar 12
First off, know this: you're not alone
Far from it.
Almost half of women don't have children by age 30 – compared to one in five in our mothers' generation.
Seismic shifts in gender roles, longevity and religious and cultural convention mean that being single or childless in your thirties or forties is no longer the exception or taboo it once was.
In fact, one in five women now reach 45 without ever having a child, according to a US study. For increasing numbers of women, this is by choice.
But what if it's by circumstance?
Often that circumstance is lack of a partner.
Waiting for Mr (or Ms) Right
A seminal piece of research on egg freezing by British sociologist Dr Kylie Baldwin concluded that women's use of egg freezing is shaped by fears of running out of time to form a conventional family, difficulties in finding a partner and concerns about "panic partnering", together with a desire to avoid "future regrets and blame".
Despite the rise in women entering solo motherhood, most women still say that it's their preference to raise a child with a partner. It's just, that can feel like an uphill struggle.
One beautiful, eloquent, single CEO in her late thirties we spoke to described feeling like finding a life partner to start a family with while she is still in her fertile years is like unwillingly playing a game of musical chairs:
"It feels like the music has stopped and I'm the only one left standing here."
Feeling out of control (of biology, of the timeline of your life) can feel incredibly overwhelming.
Women who want children but haven't had children by age 35 can also feel judged by family and friends for it, according to a study.
But, remember this...even though it might not feel like it:
You have OPTIONS
Never before have women had such freedom to make the choices that best reflect our desires.
That's not to be confused with "having it all" (that old chestnut) or not having to make compromises - that's life, after all.
But the list of ways to live your life in a full, confident, secure and maternal way within the situation you're faced with are ever growing. These include, but aren't limited to:
Freezing your eggs in the hope of using them in later years
Trying assisted reproductive technologies like IUI or IVF if natural conception does not happen
Using donor sperm to have a child at the right time for you
Becoming a step-mother
Aunt-ing like a boss
Becoming an older mother
While it's never a sure-thing to conceive "later" as a woman, don't write off the possibility altogether. As this piece from the Guardian says:
"For women for whom children are a priority, you’d be amazed how much can be achieved in the few short years before you hit 40. The amplified ticking of our biological clocks seems to focus minds and energy on the single issue of motherhood in a way that often produces results. So many of my friends found partners and had children, as I did, around the age of 40." - Mariella Frostrup
It's a great idea to make an appointment with a fertility specialist to talk through your options with your own unique medical history and age in mind.
While you might be waiting for the right person or the right time before having a baby, there's no need to wait for the "right time" for having some simple tests run and understanding where your body is at.
Fertility doctors often say they wish patients would have paid them a visit earlier, when they could have helped them more and given them a wider range of options.
You have the power to help break the stigma
Research by an infertility charity reveals that even if they plan to have a child, 40% of women aged 35-45 surveyed say they are too embarrassed to talk about fertility, especially with family and friends.
That's not surprising, as family and friends can often unwittingly be the biggest sources of pressure, or even judgment.
Despite social changes, fertility and alternative routes to parenthood can still be taboo subjects - not to mention isolating.
Although it's certainly not easy, you can help take control of your own narrative in several ways:
Educate others by talking to them about your situation: family and friends may just lack the insight to know how to approach the issue
Educate yourself with other women's stories of assisted fertility, alternative, family-building, "otherhood"
Accept there is no one way to make a family, even if you always thought yours would come via the traditional route
Help and connect with others in the same boat - find a ready-made community of like-minded women by signing up to the Fertility Fit app for women exploring egg freezing and other fertility options, or enquire about becoming an ELANZA Ambassador where you can opt to be a mentor or a buddy for a woman going through fertility treatment (egg freezing, IUI, IVF etc.) For an information pack email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can make some positive changes to your life
It's increasingly written about and shared that motherhood can be isolating and a huge period of adjustment.
What's often not recognized is that when you're the one left single or childfree in a fractured peer group, it can also feel disorientating and isolating.
It's sometimes hard to consciously bridge the new gap that often opens up (resulting from some of the persistent stigmas around childless women in their thirties and forties - hello sympathetic awkwardness). Plus, it's just an immutable fact that mothers of young children are naturally going to be more caught up in their own lives and less able to continue being the same kind of friend to you, for now.
Now is the time to use your freedom. Regardless of whether you feel like you wanted a baby, like, yesterday, that's not your reality right now.
You don't have to sit around and wait for things to fall into place. Life is what happens when you're busy doing other things.
What are some things you've always wanted to do but couldn't if you had a young family right now? What if you have a baby in 2 years time? What are some of the things you wish you'd spent more time doing?
Going on a trip, getting fit, eating healthier, learning a language, switching jobs, getting a pet, going to the theatre, volunteering, making a new friend, joining a class...not the easiest things when you're a new Mom. Is life giving you some extra time to experience all that you want to experience?
There's no such thing as too late
For anyone who thinks they missed their shot, like you are too old, that things have not turned out like you planned, that you’ve been royally screwed by bad men, bad luck or bad timing...
Remember: you still get to make this life what you choose.
You can practice gratitude each day, and reframe your perceptions on what motherhood, partnership and family mean. By celebrating all that you have, as well as still aiming for all that you desire, you can live in balance.
There is no such thing as too late.