I came across this question on Yahoo Answers recently: “How rare is it to be childless at 30 years old?”
In my world, it’s not rare at all. Thinking back to when I was 30, very few of my friends had children. When I was 30, I wasn’t ready to have children, never mind the fact that I hadn’t found anyone responsible enough to have them with! So, my answer to this woman is, “Don’t worry about. Just live your life!”
When I was 30 I had no idea that my fertility was already in decline, and I hadn’t yet seen the freefall that happens on the fertility rate chart when a woman hits 35. Given my own experience with trying to conceive in my 30’s, it makes me want to offer this woman some of my hard-earned wisdom.
But what would I tell her? Don’t wait too long? If you think you might want children someday, consider freezing your eggs now? Think about your long-term goals and priorities? Find a man and hurry up?
Blach! Of course not! When I was 30 I would have rolled my eyes at this advice, too – probably did, in fact. And who am I to tell this woman that life isn’t as straight-forward as it’s cracked up to be? Who am I to tell her she needs to hurry up and take on the responsibility of being a parent?
I was happy being childless when I was 30. I was unhappy being childless from 34 to 40, and now I’m looking at 41, I’m still childless, but you know what? I’m happy again. It’s called life and you can plan it until you’re blue in the face, but sometimes it just happens how it happens, and you find your way. So I won’t offer her any advice (especially as she didn’t ask for it) and I’ll just trust she’ll find her own way.
How about you? What would you tell this woman?
The Barreness says
In many ways I don’t want to give advice, although we are experiencing the reality of a life without children it doesn’t mean she will too. I don’t want to rain on her parade so to speak. I think I might take the “live life as you want to live it” I can’t think of another thing as they all seem to be tinted with a little “it happens to the best of us”….infertility re-wires your brain.
I was perfectly happy being childless at 30 too, & I still had lots of childless friends at that point — although they began dropping away shortly after that, as we reached our mid-30s. I certainly don’t think it’s rare at all to be 30 & childless these days, although perhaps it’s more or less common in different areas of the country/world.
It is a fact that your fertility declines with age, although some women will have trouble conceiving in their early 20s & others will pop out a baby effortlessly in their 40s. You never know until you try, & waiting is the chance you take. There are all sorts of other factors that come into the decision — whether you’re married or in a committed relationship, how financially stable you are, where you’re at in your career, whether you have family support around you, etc. etc. Everyone is going to be different so it’s very difficult to make blanket statements.
Iris D says
I’m 42 and didn’t get the baby bug until I was about 37/38. I have no idea where my baby craving gene was hiding. Until then I hadn’t craved a baby, had told myself that I would not subject my body or my emotions to IVF treatments, and had thought I preferred to adopt. I had a healthy “if it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t” attitude. And then, suddenly, I went berserk. In my case, though, freezing eggs would not have solved our problem, as it is primarily male factor. I have talked to a younger friend, now in her early 30s about freezing eggs. She is much more informed about her own fertility than I was.
Iris, seems we share a very similar story, even the “if it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t”…..ugh. I wondered what was wrong with me, why I didn’t get the baby bug until 37/38. Now I’ll be turning 41and I’m a bit of an emotional wreck these days.
I know a young couple whom both have just turned 30 and they are “sure” they don’t want children, he got a vasectemy for his birthday. I hope they really are sure about this and pray she doesn’t hit 37/38 and wish it had all been different. I don’t know them well enough to say “WAIT”!
Iris D says
Steph, I am even guilty of telling a younger friend, then in her mid-late 20s who had undergone 3 failed IVFs, if she thought about adoption. I feel badly about that now. I know it didn’t help and maybe affected her negatively at the time. But I said it, because I just “KNEW” that is what I would do. I haven’t entirely ruled it out, but I haven’t even gotten started on the process, which tells you that my heart is just maybe not that into it. My husband is 14 years older than me, and I’m assuming that would make adoption more difficult, not to mention that I’m not sure his own heart is that into it either. Lately, we talk more and more about how to make life really fulfilling and joyful as a family of two, but I am ambivalent about this, too. I’m still on the roller coaster ride, as I deal with other issues… finding a job after finishing my dissertation… and being uncertain as to what I want careerwise, even at this stage in my life. I feel so unsettled. But, hugs to you and hope we’ll all find peace and contentment!
Dior G. says
Hi Iris D.
I really hope you see this, or anyone else who’s opinion I could get on the subject. As a teenager, I had at least one boyfriend that I did the whole “when we have kids” fantasy speak with. After that for the rest of my dating life, I rarely had serious committed relationships, therefore I rarely fantasized about having children. As a woman who has recently turned 31 and has met a guy that I have not dated for very long but who speaks very happily about marrying me, and whom I would LOVE to spend the rest of my life with…I am not really very sure/positive of what my feelings are about having a child. To make matters even more complicated, he has expressed a certainty in NOT having a child, he has 3 adult sons. I feel (or at least at first, felt) that I had finally met the love of my life but now, I do not know. Am I even fertile? I’ve never had a single pregnancy scare, do I give up a man that I am head over heels about for a baby, I do not even know that I can or can not have????
i am only 31 and have been trying to conceive a “viable” baby since i was 21 and so at 30 no i wasn’t happy being childless. at 31 quickly approaching 32 i’m still not happy being childless.
in fact if i’m totally honest, i’m not sure i’m ever going to be “happy” being childless, or content, or at peace with it. i may learn to “live with it” but i’ll never be “at peace” with it.
i envy women who can be and who are. but at the minute i think it’s all just still too raw for me. i’m the only woman i know who doesn’t have children and so i really feel like i don’t fit anywhere which is making me feel isolated and very much alone.
all that being said, i don’t think it’s rare to be childless and 30, with most women not having their first children until their middle to late 30’s these days.
Laura Nye says
Rach, I can relate to your feelings of isolation and being the only person you know who doesn’t have kids. I struggle with this every.single.day. But you are not alone. This blog has been a life saver for me just knowing you all are out there and talking about topics that really hit home.
It’s noone else’s concern if other women have children or not so I would not tell her anything. I am 30 and not sure if I would want to be a mother but it doesn’t matter because I have never prevented it and have been with the same man I am… about to marry for over 3 years now. I just can’t get pregnant anyway. So I certainly would not tell her to “find a man and hurry up”, and infertility is not a reason to leave someone that you love that loves you in return that you have already shared your life with. I get a lot of strange reactions from various people, but it’s none of thier business and it’s very annoying!!
Oh and in my world, it is very rare!!! I am always the only woman at 30 to not have a kid, out of all my old friends from junior high and high school they all have at least one, but most have 3-5! and all the other women I have met through jobs and college all have had kids much younger than me.
It’s totally normal to be childless at 30…. and fertility problems don’t have to hit everybody above that.
BUT i think most women that age aren’t aware of the fact that getting pregnant might take some time even without medical problems. It’s not that the day you decide now’s the time for a baby, the baby will follow within the next 9 months.
I think our generation has been brought up to do EVERYTHING to PREVENT getting pregnant (and getting AIDS and other yucky diseases).
So nobody’s given us a guideline on how actually getting pregnant works in reality. At least i myself was kind of totally clueless. I mean i knew how babies are made 🙂 but for example the fact that chances of getting pregnant when having sex even on the “right day” are only 25%, nobody ever told me, i only realized that when infertility problems had already hit and been going on for years. I’d really been brought up believing that unprotected sex = you’ll get pregnant. I worked the “right day” factor out at some time but without properly realizing what that means.
Also noone actually tells you honestly about fertility decline once you’re over 30/35. It’s all just innuendo, and social expectations (all these “so when are you two thinking of….” – questions, doctors saying “well it’s about time you got started”…). You try not to get panicky, not to put pressure on yourself or your partner, you see all those people who seemingly got pregnant “when they wanted to”… it’s also linked to the fact that people don’t talk about problems conceiving.
Noone gives you the honest facts and you don’t start looking for information yourself if you think there’s no problem… until the problems start and it’s (too) late.
Add me to the group that didn’t get the baby bug til I was older. I don’t think it really hit me until about 39/40, maybe because I got married at 39. I’m 43 now, and it’s pretty much a roller coaster of emotions — some days good, some days bad.
But I still can’t see me being someone other than myself at 30, even knowing what I know now. The person I was at 30 thought a baby (and even marriage) would totally cramp my style. It just didn’t appeal to me. So if I’d gone against that, particularly out of a panic about declining fertility, I’d probably still have regrets or “what if” moments now, just from a different perspective.
I agree that 30 without kids is super common…and not necessarily anything to worry about. (It’s that “necessarily” part that’ll get ya.)
As for me, I always wanted kids and was aware of my clock, but I didn’t meet the right guy until I was 33. He’s younger and needed several years to settle into the marriage and babies business. My mom was pushing, but I refused to rush him. And besides, I thought, I’m built for babies: I have child-bearing hips; I’ll have no trouble with pregnancy or delivery. I was getting a later start than I’d wanted, yes, but I knew of a bajillion successful late-in-life pregnancies. It never occured to me that my design flaw would be functional rather than structural. I mean… it NEVER occurred to me.
The industry I work in is growing fast. I know a lot of young women, fresh out of college — few in serious relationships, some dating, most prowling. They’re in the contraception mode, nowhere near the conception mode.
At our very different life stages, we don’t have a ton in common, but if we do manage to connect, and if the mood is right — maybe we’re talking “futures” — I’m not shy about sharing. I don’t go into uncomfortable detail and emotion, just some quick matter-of-fact chronology. (Ugh…and they ALL ask about adoption, but I’m prepared for that.)
I feel kind of obliged to clue them in to the possibilities (well, the potential impossibilities) without scaring or preaching to them. I don’t expect them to think about it or relate it to themselves now. And the majority of these girls won’t have any trouble conceiving when the time comes anyway. But I just hope that if any of them ever struggles early in their efforts they recall my tale and seek care/support before it’s too late.
Now if there were just someone who could plant these seeds in the minds of young men…
I like your statement about not offering advice, “especially as she didn’t ask for it.” I think of all of the advice that well-meaning people with children give/gave to us who are/were trying. I never asked for advice, other than from my RE, and resented the unsolicited comments such as, “relax”…etc. We all know all of the common advice given.
No, I would not offer her any advice, but would tell my story if she asked. And yes, life happens and we deal with the disappointments as best we are able. Some times, that just takes time.
I am so pleased to find women here who share the late arrival of the baby bug with me!
Would I have given 30 year old Mali advice? I’m not sure. Perhaps I’d have made sure she knew the facts – in terms of fertility drop off later in the 30s – but would have done so without judgement.
And at 30, none of my other 30 year old friends had children, with the exception of a couple of old friends.
Carole Heath says
My husband and myself have no children. We have been married for 42 years now. We were expecting a baby some years ago but i miscarried and later on i suffered a really bad bout of depression which took me 2 years to get over i was on anti-depressants and felt like i was going to die. That was about 33 years ago now i have had one recurrence sometime ago brought on by stress of my parents death’s. but it went within a few month’s glad to say. I have never been a baby person really since growing up and to be quite honest i am glad we never had any children although i was sad about the miscarriage at the time. The depression put me right off so we decided to call it a day regarding the baby life. People can be very insensiitive in this area when they go on about kids and they know you haven’t any by choice or not. These sort of people i avoid now anyway i find it boring to listen about kids they do this they do that and what they have for breakfast and the contents of their nappies yuk.It’s not the kids fault it’s the adults who go on about it all. My sister-in-law always said she would have liked to have been an aunt she used to bring it up when other people were present which annoyed me and she know’s what happened to me years ago most tactless i think, so i dropped hints about it but she still did it so i don’t see much of her now. Just because she thinks the only thing in life is having kids some of us don’t many of my friend’s have had kids and they have had terrible trouble with them drugs drink crime etc. We have a good life without kids and we enjoy it.
Loved hearing your story, Carole. I recently was privy to a conversation between parents who voiced their concern over a mutual friend marrying an older woman who could not have his children. Oddly enough, instead of letting what they said bother me, I thought, well, they don’t know what it is like. They don’t know that life can be good without kids, maybe as good or better than their own lives now.
I’m 31 approaching next birthday in 3 months. And I just need time to slooooow down everything is moving to fast, my head is spinning with a thousand thoughts about have I left it to long, what if I can’t get pregnant, I still feel like a kid myself even now , am I normal? why do other women find the decision so easy (I think) I’m petrified of giving birth. What if I don’t love my child like my mum. . What if by the time I’m ready I’ve blown it.the thing I’m sure of is,I love children, but the plunge feels very scary to me, but being childless also has the same feeling and fills me with a meaningless hole and almost pointless life journey . Which I sometimes know is stupid way of looking at it. As there will be plenty of contented childless people .i am so 50/50 I just wish one decision would out way the other, so I could end this mental torture.i had a huge row with my partner who I have been with for 8 years, because his parents made a comment, that they thought I didn’t want kids! Because I’ve never mentioned it! Wtf! Why do women have to talk about kids morning noon and nite for people to think they want kids?isnt it a private matter. I also have had the comment a few times” do you never want kids” a perfect stranger letting me know I’m running out of time or some kind of freak that I’m 31 and childless. I need some advice.