6 Major Mistakes To Avoid If Your Biological Clock Is Ticking

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woman in bed with an infant

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 while since you’ve even been in a 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, and your fertility may be declining. 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 30s or early 40s, it's easy to start panicking about having a baby. But don’t let panic derail your better judgment.

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Here are 6 major mistakes you must avoid if your biological clock is ticking:

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 the glaring red signs that you're settling.

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 onto fantasies

As little girls and young women, we have a picture of what we think partnerships and families 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, and so on.

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4. Don’t avoid hard emotions

It’s not easy to give up on your picture of what you wanted, but don’t avoid allowing yourself to experience difficult emotions. 

There's 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 and now I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to have kids.

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's very difficult to have a baby in your forties. 

We are bombarded by stories of women getting pregnant well into their 40s, yet 90 percent of a woman’s eggs are chromosomally abnormal by that age. Statistically, it's difficult to conceive at that point unless you use donor eggs. 

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And while a 40-year-old woman has a 5 percent chance per cycle of getting pregnant, by 44 that number plummets to 1.6 percent, with a 54 percent chance of miscarriage, even with fertility treatments. Don’t let stories of celebrities or fictional characters 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 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.

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Sarah Kowalski is the founder of Motherhood Reimagined, a life coach and fertility doula.