There I was, sitting at my desk having a perfectly good day. It had been a while since I was on Facebook and so I decided to see what my friends had been up to. And as a scrolled there it was – my dream. A woman holding hands with her husband and toddler, a beautiful pregnant belly growing obviously under her dress. Everyone in the picture was smiling with what could only be described as bliss.
I’ve seen this picture a million times in my mind’s eye. Only in my picture, I’m the woman. This was supposed to be my future. But today this picture was of a friend who is not much younger than I am. I was happy for her, yet also sad for the loss of my dream. I know I am not quite done with infertility treatments yet, but the end is very near and our last efforts are a long shot at best. So I am preparing for, and on most days accepting, this loss.
It did make me wonder, though, how some older women get pregnant so easily and others are fighting an uphill egg quality problem due to age. I began to get irritated. Maybe even angry. On the one had you see all these stories of women getting pregnant well into their 40’s, many even seem to be natural conceptions. Everyone knows a mom, friend, or friend of a friend who had a healthy baby after they passed age 40. On the other hand, any fertility expert will warn you that egg quality dips after 35 and plummets after 40. That doesn’t mean that there is nothing that can be done to help improve egg quality. But I feel like I’ve done all the recommended strategies – supplements, healthy clean eating, removing toxins and endocrine disruptors from home care and beauty products, weekly acupuncture, etc. – and still my egg quality has been dismal. I’m not sure why these strategies seem to work for some women and not others. I’m not sure what the norm is.
To many women, stories of others conceiving in their 40’s gives them hope. And in the beginning of this journey they gave me hope too. In fact I delayed seeking infertility treatment for about 5 months because I had so much hope. But at this point those stories don’t give me hope. Call me a pessimist, but I prefer the term realist. I think it really comes down to perspective. While we see these great stories of pregnancy success in older women, what we don’t see posted are all the stories of the women who didn’t become pregnant. Now I know we do see many negative outcomes in IVF support groups for women over 40, but still, what about all of the women who are silent? Can you imagine what it would look like if we knew how many women tried and were unable to conceive in their 40’s? How much would those stories outweigh the successes? Would that give us a more realistic picture of our chances?
When I thought that age was just a number and it didn’t really impact fertility, I felt hurt, confused, and depressed when my IVF’s failed. I simply couldn’t understand what was going wrong. When I take a more balanced perspective and realize the positive stories of conception in older women are exceptions not the rule, then I don’t get so down and hard on myself when things fail. I know that now, I’m the norm – unfortunately. It’s still sad and part of me wishes I would have been able to try when I was younger. But I also know that life circumstances simply didn’t work out that way for me, and I wouldn’t necessarily change them.
I may never get my dream picture, but I will adjust and heal. I will enjoy life and all my blessings. But I think there may always be days when I see my dream manifest in other people, and I will take pause and hold loving space for that loss.