First things first — don't panic!
You may have thought the last guy you were with was "the one" you’d have children with. Or, maybe it’s just been such a long a while since you’ve even been in serious relationship.
You yearn to be a mom, and now you are wondering whether it’s going to happen for you. Right at this moment, time might be running out. If only you could freeze time — but barring egg freezing, there is no way to stop your biological clock from ticking!
If you are in your late 30’s or early 40’s its easy to start panicking.
Don’t let panic derail your better judgment. Take a deep breath ... and avoid these 6 common pitfalls:
1. Don't settle.
It’s easier said than done, but don’t panic and end up in a bad relationship just to have a baby. If you end up in a relationship and you’re trying to decide whether to move forward to marriage and a baby, be honest with yourself. Trust your gut and your friends and listen to that voice that is telling you if it’s not right.
Ask yourself if you would enter into this partnership if you were not worried about having a baby, or if there was never going to be a baby. If the answer is "No," don’t ignore that glaring red signs.
2. Don’t take shortcuts.
We often try to move way too fast, racing to the finish line when desperately wanting a baby. Slow down and take your time through the normal stages of courtship to make sure you are making a good decision.
Again, trust your gut about whether or not you would want to be with this man even if you were never to have kids.
3. Don’t hold on to fantasies.
As little girls and young women, we have a picture of what we think partnership and family are supposed to look like, yet life rarely turns out the way we plan. Don’t hold onto the picture you had when you were 15 — or even 30.
Examine how you might be grasping to conform to an ideal, and be open to something different than you imagined. Maybe that means looking for a different type of man than you've dated in the past. Or, maybe it’s staying open to different family structures, such as single parenting, co-parenting, adopting, etc.
4. Don’t avoid the hard emotions.
It’s not easy to give up on your picture of what you wanted, but don’t avoid allowing yourself to experience the difficult emotions. There is often grief involved in letting go of expectations. If you don’t allow yourself to feel it, it will only take longer to move forward.
Have the courage to grieve your former dream so you can move forward with fresh eyes. Ask yourself what you want more — a baby or a partner. The answer may surprise you.
5. Don’t bury your head in the sand.
Don’t refuse to look at the situation for what it is. I personally buried my own head in the sand, telling myself I wouldn’t ask myself if I wanted a child until after I found a partner. Then there was no partner in sight.
By the time I had the courage to examine my feelings and ask what I really wanted, it was too late to use my own eggs.
6. Don’t stall.
Don’t fool yourself into believing you’ll always have time to have a baby with your own DNA. It is very difficult to have a baby in your forties.
We are bombarded by stories of women getting pregnant well into their 40’s, yet, ninety percent of a woman’s eggs are chromosomally abnormal by that age. Statistically, it is difficult to conceive at that point unless you use donor eggs.
And while a 40-year old woman has a 5% chance per cycle of getting pregnant, by 44 that number plummets to 1.6 % — with a 54% chance of miscarriage, even with fertility treatments. Don’t let stories of Janet Jackson, who got pregnant 2 weeks shy of her 50th birthday, or the fictional character Bridget Jones, who is accidentally knocked up during a one night stand at age 43, lull you into thinking getting pregnant will be easy.
If you are getting close to these fertility cliffs, don’t be passive. Make a plan.
If you are under 35, consider speaking with your doctor about egg freezing.
Commit to dating, but if having a child is more important to you than having a partner is, set a time limit on how long you will wait to find a partner.
If you feel certain you only want to have a baby if it's with your own eggs, explore what it will mean to raise a baby alone. It can be a daunting at first, but it can also be empowering and liberating.
Most importantly allow yourself to think outside the box.
There are so many ways to have a baby or a family. Expand your view and have the courage to examine the possibilities. Talk to friends or find a coach to help you process your feelings and explore options.
I know from experience that once I removed the limits of what I had envisioned for my family, I took an unexpected path as a single mom by choice who conceived via egg and sperm donors. It was a far cry from anything I ever thought I wanted, but now I can’t imagine more joy or a more perfect child and family for myself.
Sarah Kowalski is the founder of Motherhood Reimagined, a life coach and fertility doula. She is a go to guide for women who are contemplating single motherhood, seeking help with fertility or raising donor-conceived children. Contact her for a free 15-minute consultation if you are struggling to find your own unique path to motherhood. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter too.