should’ve had another baby

  • Dec 4, 2013

Anyone who knows our family, and surely those of you who know us only through this blog, have witnessed our love of babies, toddlers, little people. At church, Gabe scans the pews to choose a “baby hot spot,” at the neighborhood party, Hans befriends a two-year old named Benny, we plan outings and game nights with families with small children just to get our baby fix (and we like their parents too).
So I‘m not surprised when friends (and strangers) quip, “It looks like you need another baby at your house.”
I wish. I wish. I wish.

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I’m writing the truth I wish I’d heard five years ago: you don’t have as much time to have children as you think.
In an age where the tabloids show women in their mid and late forties snuggling newborns, infertility treatments abound and ‘forty is the new thirty’ I think we’ve forgotten the reality of the biological clock.
Here are the cold hard facts: a woman’s fertility peaks in her early twenties, declines in a gentle slope through our twenties with a slightly steeper drop in our thirties. But get ready for the nosedive at forty. The rates drop from 30% at age forty, to 10% at 41, 4% at 42 and 1.6% at 43 (even with every technique known to modern medicine). To quote SoCal, “Estimates from embryo biopsy reveal that at least 90% of a woman’s eggs are genetically abnormal when a woman is over 40.”

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And yes, everyone believes they’ll be the exception to statistics. I certainly did.

Now, no one’s crying for me—I have six magnificent children and an extremely happy and fulfilled life. But I wish I’d known my years were so numbered. My pregnancies were hard, my babies were hard, but about 4.5 years ago we decided we were ready for another baby. After my mother’s death, a new baby felt even more urgent. We’d name her Zoe; Mary would have a sister. Or we’d be equally thrilled with a baby boy.

But then my dad pulled his antics and I lost my emotional footing. For two and a half years I fought just to stay above water; adding in a pregnancy and a baby seemed insane. But last winter on my 43rd birthday we went back to the round of doctors. I knew I wasn’t quite emotionally stable (will I ever be?), but I also sensed I was running out of time. After three sets of doctors (the first two pretty much laughed me out of their office) the test results came back, “I don’t ever want to say there’s no chance,” the doctor began, “and I’d love for you to prove me wrong. But statistically, we’re looking at 0%.” He went on to explain most women my age having babies are using egg donors. “That’s what you’re seeing in the tabloids.” There are the exceptions, and I certainly thought I’d be among them, but the doctor said he sees hundreds and hundreds of women in their early forties who feel sure they too, will be the exception.

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But if hundreds of women are feeling this way, how come I’ve never talked to more than one or two? A few guesses: 1. these decisions are extremely personal—both the choice to have another child and the choice not to. It’s taken me 9 months (just saw the irony in that) to speak out loud. 2. It feels unsavory for me to whine about my over-40 infertility when so many young people are struggling to have babies.
And while babies are lovely little creatures, no family should feel pressured to have more, more, more. Ever family has a unique mix of strengths and weaknesses, abilities and disabilities; marriages are fragile, bodies age, older children need and deserve a lot of attention and I scarcely need to mention the expense of raising a child.

But if you do want another baby, if it feels right for your family… maybe hurry your plans a long a bit? You likely don’t have as much time as you think.
As for us, we’ll hold your baby at parties, admire their pink cheeked faces bundled on a winter day and play peek-a-boo over the bench at church. If your child throws a fit in the grocery store, know we aren’t judging your parenting but admiring your toddler’s dark curls and silly antics. And if you have an extra baby around the house, just give me a call; we’ll happily take him or her off your hands.
December 7, 2013

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15 Comments

  1. Reply

    Linn

    December 4, 2013

    I needed to read this today, Michelle. Thank you.

    Sometimes I feel ancient to have just had my sixth. And yet, I know I will never regret having my last two little ones, even when I felt old and like I didn’t know if I could do it again. Twice.

    I’m so grateful.

    I’ll trade baby holding time for time to sit down and talk with you. Win-win right? 🙂

  2. Reply

    Laurel C.

    December 4, 2013

    This is such good (and needed) advice. In our haste to “have it all,” women are forgetting that times may change, but biology does not.

    I married when I was 33 years old. I didn’t put off marriage (I’m a late bloomer), but I did put off having children. I, too, thought I’d be the exception to the “biology rule” and waited a year before starting our family. I knew I’d be an at-home mom once we started having children, so I wanted to play out my career a bit longer. I look back on that decision with such regret. How I wish I had those 16 months back. Our first baby came when I was 35 years old; our second came when I was 37; and then… nothing. We wanted #3 so very, very badly. But the clock had spoken. I’m 43 years old now, and although we’ve come to terms with the fact that our family will be “just” these two children, we look painfully and wistfully at families of three.

    How I wish women at age 30 who think they “have time” could see and feel the regret at the end of that road while they still have time to correct it. I wish my experience (and those of so many others) could speak louder than those deceitful tabloids and their pictures of new mothers at age 40.

    I feel so blessed to have my two babies as I know many women struggle with infertility at a young age. I agree with you when you say that this topic isn’t spoken about too often. And I’m so glad that you’ve written about it today. Infertility is painful… no matter the age.

  3. Reply

    katieo

    December 4, 2013

    Thank you. (And thanks to Linn and Laurel C!)

  4. Reply

    Gabrielle

    December 5, 2013

    I “only” know you through your blog, but delight in the joy your children show in babies and little children. I have three boys, and always thought I’d have more. I’m 2nd of 9 kids and thought 5 really was just the starting point for me. 🙂 Then infertility struck. Through IVF we have our 3 boys. I love them so much. I want more just like them. But then I got MS, and what fertility I had was destroyed by the chemotherapy I received during a bone marrow transplant to treat my MS. We hoped so much that I’d be that exception as well, but last spring we also got the “0% chance” from our doctor. I’m “only” 37.
    I’ve told all my sisters to have at least one extra for me. 🙂
    I am so blessed. I remember the pain of wondering if I would ever even have one. But knowing that my at-home mothering is well past half-done is a constant ache. It’s all I ever wanted and it takes my breath away how quickly this time is slipping through my fingers.

  5. Reply

    Tracy

    December 5, 2013

    This post made me cry big ugly mama tears. You know why. I love you. xo

  6. Reply

    Michelle

    December 5, 2013

    Thanks for your comments and emails. This was a scary post to write and I appreciate your kind words. In fact, the night after I published it I dreamt of finding a dozen angry comments. 🙂

  7. Reply

    Michelle

    December 6, 2013

    Thank you for writing about this important topic. It is a sobering thing. I’m so grateful we didn’t put off having our kids, because another sobering facet of this (mentioned in another comment) is that you assume you will just always have the health to sustain a pregnancy. For me, that was lost a few years into my marriage, so had we put off having kids, we might not have had them at all. My health never came back.

    I was just thinking about this today…that I don’t even have the option anymore. I , too, am 43. Time goes so fast.

  8. Reply

    The Linabooty's

    December 6, 2013

    Can I just say how nice it is to hear these things out loud! I have children and constantly feel that pull of “should we have more” or “should we be done” It seems like a topic not many of my friends like to discuss and although I agree it is such a personal decision it can be so helpful to share our stories with each other….if nothing else making us not feel so alone in this journey of motherhood.

  9. Reply

    Jenny Hatch

    December 6, 2013

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Reply

    Erin

    December 7, 2013

    Thank you for this post. It has left me thinking and grateful for what I have. I’m currently in the thick of raising three girls under age 6 with the fourth little sister coming this spring. This pregnancy has taken more of a toll and this was such a timely reminder for me, to find gratitude in the miracle that it is to carry a child.

    Thank you.

  11. Reply

    Kim

    December 8, 2013

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. There’s a baby right around the corner that would love to be held anytime!

  12. Reply

    Lizzy

    December 8, 2013

    Infertility is infertility no matter the age or the number of children already born. It is a righteous desire to want to have children. You may want to ask Mr. Lewis some questions. Since my teenage years I’ve wanted to ask God why good parents weren’t able to conceive, especially when a child could be born into a loving, good home to a mother and a father. I understand God has to follow natural laws, but I also believe in miracles.

    Also, I wish your sweet Gabe was in my ward. Each Sunday I pray that someone will come and help me with my two little ones under age two as my husband isn’t able to attend sacrament meeting while we are at the 9:00 block.

  13. Reply

    Chocolate on my Cranium

    December 9, 2013

    Bless your dear mother heart! I remember the sadness in your eyes when you told me this back in April…all while you were holding and loving on my own baby. Thank you for being open and sharing the hard topics.

    One of my friends who experienced infertility said she will never give up the desire to have children, even when she’s 90, because the Lord also judges us on the desires of our hearts.

  14. Reply

    Kerri

    December 9, 2013

    Michelle, I love your good and open heart. I love watching you raise your children through your blog. I am truly sorry that you are being put through more loss and heartache. Much love to you.

  15. Reply

    Mary

    December 30, 2013

    I’m so glad you have your six! I am so lucky to have two, a boy and a girl, and am offended when people assume that is enough. I will take allofthepreciouschildrenGodwillgiveme, thank you very much. There really is nothing greater to collect in this world than relationships and family. I want all the family I can have. Wish more women could understand the dang physical limits of this earthly existence and not take their pretty youthfulness for granted. That clock is ticking….and it’s getting louder for me. 🙁 Love you and your blog, your beautiful family and gorgeous photos. You’re an inspiration!

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