I May Never Be Able to Have Kids. Here’s How I’m Processing That.

As I near my 40s, I've begun to think more about having kids and what my prospects for a family would be.

As someone who has had hundreds of sex partners over the years, I’ve obviously had a lot of sex in my life. You know what I’ve never had? A pregnancy scare.

At first I thought this was a great achievement, I mean I must have been practicing some pretty safe sex, right? I stopped using condoms when I started dating the man who would eventually become my husband. We had 10 years of unprotected sex before we decided to get divorced.

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Maybe he was shooting blanks, maybe I just got lucky. Maybe I just got lucky with all the other men I’ve slept with since my divorce, some of which were definitely dicey in the birth control department. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve never had to have a pregnancy scare because I can’t have kids. As I approach my 40s, I’ve been thinking more and more about what it would mean to be infertile.

My fertility status has not been confirmed by a doctor, but at this point, I’m wondering if I should even bother finding out. I recently stopped having casual sex, and I have no idea when or if I’ll get into another relationship, if that relationship will result in a long-term partnership, and if that long-term partnership will grow into a family.

There are too many “ifs” at the moment to have me spending time, money, and stress to find out if I can have my own kids. The only givens are the fact that the possibility to conceive, while not outright impossible, certainly dwindles as time goes by. So the longer I am single and celibate, the less likely pregnancy will be an option for me.

I’m not ruling out pregnancy altogether, but in an effort to preserve my mental health and still take pride in my body, here’s how I’m trying to reframe my options.

I’m trying not to think about time

This has been the hardest aspect of my “will I give birth, will I not give birth?” contemplation. I know that, while health risks associated with pregnancy increase as we age, there are more women having children later on in life (into their 50s, even).  So while I theoretically still have time to get pregnant, I can’t help channeling Marisa Tomei’s Oscar-winning line from My Cousin Vinny – “My biological clock is ticking!”

That biological clock comes with a lot of pluses and minuses, of course. I have friends who got pregnant early on in their relationships because they were terrified of missing out later. Some of them have since admitted they would have started a family later on if they knew all of the things they’d be giving up by choosing to have three kids before the age of 30.

We always seem to want the things we don’t have, which is why my friends wish they could have traveled more, or gone back to school, and why I’ve had more baby fever as I inch closer to my 40s.

I refuse to blame my body

There is this idea that there’s “something wrong” with a woman if she can’t naturally conceive — after all, we’ve lived for thousands of years hearing how a woman’s primary role in life is to bear children, take care of a family, and have no ambitions beyond that. It’s easy to blame ourselves about being infertile with all that messaging.

While fertility and reproductive science has come very far in my own generation, I’ve watched friends struggle with IVF or egg reimplantation experiences. Many end up happily pregnant, but I know that those options would be extremely stressful for me to handle.

Maybe that cuts out some chances of conception. But if I were to go through the pain, mood swings, financial strain, and more, only to have nothing come from it, I’m afraid I’d blame my body and my mind for deciding to put myself through these ordeals.

Even if there was a definitive cause as to why I can’t get pregnant, it’s not fair to resent the very capsule that gives me life and has allowed me to experience the world as a relatively healthy human being. I want to be thankful for all that my body can do, not what it cannot, and practicing that kind of gratitude is important.

Motherhood may not realistically fit into my lifestyle

Being a mom is a feeling that ebbs and flows in my life. Sometimes it’s all I want, and other times, I really do question if I’m meant to have a family at all. I love to travel and I do it so often that starting a family could possibly limit those experiences. I’ve gotten SCUBA certified in Egypt, paraglided around the Matterhorn in Switzerland, and made a career out of freelance writing.

I’ve lived for 35 years without children, so I know it’s possible to lead a very fulfilling life without them. It doesn’t mean my life wouldn’t feel fulfilled with them as well. However, it’d take a lot for me to shift that perspective, and I would need to feel confident in doing so.

There are certain “wants” that I feel would help me be a better mom and a better human, and I don’t have them right now. I don’t own a home and since I move around a lot, I don’t really have a stable home base. I don’t have a supportive partner. I don’t work in an industry that allows me to raise a family independently.

None of these things is required of course, and I admire parents who are able to manage raising a kid on their own. But in terms of my own comfort level, each year that passes without these elements, makes me question whether this life is meant for me at all.

I’m ok with creating a non-traditional family

I have a lot of friends who absolutely knew they wanted to give birth, no other option would suffice. Some considered adoption only if they absolutely couldn’t have their own kids. And lots of my friends refuse to date single parents because they think, “They already have kids, they won’t want to have more with me.”

Adoption has always been my go-to family plan. As someone who used to be absolutely terrified about the back pain, weight gain, and overall anguish and pain that seems to come along with being pregnant and giving birth, it seemed logical. As my career in journalism and education covered the foster care system and orphanage relief around the world, it started to feel more like a calling. There are so many wonderful kids who deserve a loving, supportive home and don’t have one.

As I got older, I realized what a gift my personal feelings towards non-biological children could be. I’d be so proud if my future partner and I decided to adopt or foster kids, and I’d also be very comfortable filling the stepmom role too.

If I can have my own kids someday, that will be awesome. If I can’t, I still have options. Families are made in lots of different ways. No matter what happens, I feel good about reframing previous ideas I had about pregnancy and family life. I just want to be thankful for all that I’ve experienced in my life and the chosen loved ones that I get to share it with.

Katka Lapelosova
Kat is a born and raised New Yorker exploring the world as she writes, eats, and everything in between. Read more
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