Every so often, my mom would ask me when I plan to get married and have kids.  Not because she’s worried that I won’t be bearing her grandchildren anytime soon.  But precisely because she fears I would choose marital life too soon.

I understand my mother’s concern for my education and career, but if I were to wait until I finished my PhD and then 3-5 more years for a post-doctoral fellowship, then I would be at least 34 before I even begin to consider starting a family.  That is, assuming I’ve found the right partner and barring any health conditions that hinder pregnancy.  34 puts me at the brink before a natural, rapid decline in fertility.

Holly Finn’s, “My Fertility Crisis,” in the Wall Street Journal is a tragic account of her unsuccessful attempts with IVF.  Her story is a reminder of the risks for many women today who are choosing to have children later in life for whatever reasons.  The problem is that you never think you’d be one of those people who have trouble conceiving.  When you’re 30 and trying to build up your career or waiting for a better guy to come along, I can understand how parenthood is the last thing on your mind.  I imagine it’s only after much later in life when reproductive technology fails you, that you wish your priorities had been different.  But when you’re young and ambitious, the risks of infertility seem small enough to gloss over.

I’m not saying that all women should start families earlier, and even I’m not sure that I would change my priorities, but Finn’s article reminds me of the difficult choices women have to make.  Although, given how research for artificial reproduction is developing, in a few decades, this issue may be moot, anyways.

It’s ironic how we’re simultaneously trying to extend reproductive life while vigorously coming up with novel contraceptives.  Last year, the nobel prize winner for medicine was Robert G. Edwards for pioneering the field of in vitro fertilization.  Just this morning, I read in the New York Times about scientific advances for interrupting male sperm count as a form of long-term male contraception.  I suppose, we won’t stop until we achieve perfect control over our reproductive capabilities so that we can schedule to have children at our convenience regardless of age.

While that may be a great thing for a lot of people, there’s always the risk for abuse.  Reproduction would almost seem too easy.  When life is about making tough choices with the short time you’re given, then your decisions really reveal who you are and shape who you will become.  You can’t do everything you want to do.  There may be decisions that lead you nowhere that you want to be, all I can say is, regret and grieve and move on with the best that you have and the best that you can do.

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