I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life trying to avoid pregnancy. Now that I’m ready, getting pregnant is not nearly as easy as I thought it would be.
When I met my current partner, I was 20. The beginning years of relationship have been amazing. We saw each other through undergrad and graduate school, surviving breakups and makeups and all the fun and difficult stuff that happens when you’re in your 20s and early 30s.
Plenty of people have asked us over the years, when are you going to get married and have kids? This is what society expects from us—traditional families are still very much the norm. But contrary to ideas that everyone should reproduce, we never felt any real rush or pull towards parenthood.
We wanted to enjoy our lives and our relationship, to carve out our own paths, and to accomplish important goals in our careers. We also loved the autonomy and freedom of child-free life and the ability to travel. I can’t imagine we’d be where we are today if not for the choices we made.
Nobody ever has better than a 25 per cent chance of pregnancy each month, even if they’re in their 20s.
Now, at age 35—which is considered geriatric in the field of reproductive medicine—having a baby is something we’re finally open to. And I suppose, our story is not that unusual. The mean age for childbearing in Canada is 29.2 years, up from 23.7 in 1960.
But the challenge as women get older is two-fold: our eggs decline in both quantity and quality, which impacts natural fertility and chance at pregnancy.
Nobody ever has better than a 25 per cent chance of pregnancy each month, even if they’re in their 20s. At 30, the chance of becoming pregnancy drops to around 15-20% in a given month and by 35, the likelihood is less than 10%.
I took my IUD out in July 2019 and at first, the process of trying to conceive was fun. I felt hopeful and excited and was enjoying the benefits of having more sex. But getting your period again and again—when it seems like you’re healthy and doing everything “right”—is a deflating feeling.
You can’t help but question everything. Am I getting enough sleep? Am I eating healthy? How are my stress levels? Maybe I should exercise more or stop drinking altogether. I could start meditating or praying. Heck, at one point, I even suggested we start attending church!
I also received all kinds of questions and advice from others. What does your cervical mucous look like? Are you taking evening primrose oil capsules? Why don’t you plan a holiday specifically devoted to getting pregnant? Have you tried getting drunk? Yes, I have. And no, it didn’t work.
It’s funny how common infertility is, yet how taboo it is to talk about it.
After about six months of trying, we were given a long to-do list from our fertility specialist that included extensive bloodwork, an ultrasound, sperm analysis, and a procedure to flush my uterus and tubes with an oily fluid called Lipiodol. Everything came back healthy. “What a gorgeous uterus!” one doctor even said.
Fast forward a year and we’re still not pregnant.
It’s funny how common infertility is, yet how taboo it is to talk about it. About 10–15% of couples aren’t able to get pregnant despite having frequent, condomless sex for at least a year. Some of these couples are infertile, meaning they’re unable to conceive naturally and require assisted reproductive technology, while others may be subfertile—they still have a chance at unassisted conception, but it takes longer than average.
Having experienced it myself, I now have a greater appreciation for the people in my life who have struggled to get pregnant. It’s such a roller-coaster of emotions each month—anxiety, elation, anguish. Not being able to conceive is the phase that no one prepares you for.
Lately, I’ve found it difficult to watch other women get pregnant and have kids, especially women my age. I hate that feeling. I wish I could be happy for them. A part of me is, of course, but the other part of me is envious of their bodies and irritated with my own.
Had I known then what I know now, I might have started trying sooner or froze my eggs when I was younger.
Just last week, I felt resentment toward a happy two-kid family I passed on the street. They were strangers and I despised them! ‘Despise’ may be a strong word, but if you’ve ever struggled with pregnancy, you probably know what I mean. You can’t hide from your own vulnerability.
Though, as my partner said to me in that emotionally exposed moment, we don’t know that family’s journey. I hope it was easy. I hope they didn’t grapple with the same issues we’re now facing. And if they did, I hope they didn’t feel alone, because so many of us go through it.
I don’t regret my decision to have children later in life. But I do wish I had more information sooner. I wish I’d known how difficult it’d be. I wish I knew more about how aging would affect my fertility and importantly, how infertility would have such a profound emotional impact on our lives. Had I known then what I know now, I might have started trying sooner or froze my eggs when I was younger.
I wish I didn’t have to write this. I wish I had another story to share. But I do hope this encourages women to talk more openly about their experiences and to seek help and support if they need it. The more we know about how our bodies work, the more control we can have over our reproductive health and healthcare needs.