On Being in Your Thirties.

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I was asked the other day how old I was and it took a couple beats for me to do the math before answering “I’ll be 34 in August”.  It shocked me to think that I am that age, as I certainly don’t feel it at all.  There are days I feel 28 and others barely 18. Acknowledging that number kinda hit me like a ton of bricks, and then the inevitable follow up question came…

“Do you have kids?”

I get asked that question more often than not these days, especially after admitting to people  that I’ve been married going on eight years. Hardly a child bride, but young by the standards set by my peers, I was one of the first to walk down the aisle and now one of the last to be pushed into the delivery room.  This unnerves people, the bewilderment spreading across their face as they try to comprehend why I don’t have a bundle of joy yet.  In the past few weeks I have had a hard time with this and the realization that being in your early thirties is really hard as a woman.  It’s the decade of SO much change in our lives- where in one set of friends you can have one person with three kids, some pregnant, a handful childless, others not even engaged yet and some even ending their marriages.  This diversity in lifestyles and milestones causes a tough dynamic between women that seems to get swept under the table because it’s simply too uncomfortable.  It’s such an emotionally charged decade to navigate,  rife with joy, sadness, excitement, jealousy and yearning.  And  just when you think you have it all figured out, for the 24th time in one month, a friend announces her pregnancy on Facebook.  A little snapshot of a sonogram that fills you with both happiness and yet a pang of loss and you begin to think “maybe I’ve got it all wrong”. Instead of reveling in your successes you feel like a failure as you zero in on the one thing missing in your life. And you may not even WANT it yet, but for some reason you feel you SHOULD want it….. paging the shrink.

The truth is, I’ve been trying to get pregnant for many months.  And it’s not happening for me right now.  Medically, we are healthy as horses but the universe has just decided it’s not time yet.  A smart universe, I might add,  as I have a friggin’ BOOK to write (oddly, due in 9 months- deduce what you will from THAT coincidental gem).  My incredibly busy schedule has kept me from feeling I was missing out, and also from starting any fertility treatment, as I felt in my gut that this is just NOT the year.  I have a lot to accomplish and I can’t be sick or “distracted” in order to cross this big item off my Bucket List.   The smart part of me says “Erin, one thing at a time, you’ll be a better mother if you succeed in accomplishing goals for yourself first.”  But then the other part of me feels so left out and that time is ticking for us, I am almost 34 after all, and Andrew is 40 (although I think he’s an emotional age of about 25…)  And I’ve never been the girl whose been just DYING to have a baby, my biological clock is more like a Swiss watch than a church steeple- consistent, but whisper quiet.  Our neighborhood’s obnoxious teenagers also seem to be serving as a sobering reminder that babies turn into screaming, annoying, angsty creatures….but even so, I know I want to experience motherhood in this lifetime, I very much do. It’s just a question of WHEN.

But it’s hard feeling like the odd girl out.  The only one without a baby saddled on her hip. A great job, husband and house- yes- but not that one thing that seems to bind women together.  It’s only natural for mothers, especially new moms, to spend more time with others going through what they are, but I can’t help but notice how motherhood sometimes draws a line in the sand between those with kids and those without.  People you used to meet for a drink or hang out with seem to disappear from your radar.  Dinner dates become fewer.  Emails less frequent.  It’s heartbreaking, yet understandable when it happens.  People latch on to those who are experiencing the same things as they are, it’s only natural.  I’m sure they feel that talking about the all the minute details of motherhood would bore those of us who aren’t going through it, and NOT talking about it would be like trying to write a novel without using vowels. Impossible.  So there is a natural separation. And there is also a specifically tough dynamic between those who get pregnant and those who struggle to. Remember how Miranda felt horrible telling Charlotte she was pregnant because she knew she was struggling and it happened to be (incredibly) easy for her?  That happens every day off the TV screen. It’s happened to me. I’ve always thought I was a Carrie, but apparently I’m a Charlotte too.

As Andrew said to me yesterday with a big sigh after I came into his office a bit despondent, ” Man, you have a lot of complex emotions going on right now.” Oh boy, do I. Someone pop the pinot grigio.

And it may not be a baby for you.  It may be a ring, or a house, or a job.  There is always something that makes you feel your life in not the one you had hoped or planned for.  That there is something missing, incomplete or off.  And the thing to remember is that it will ALWAYS be this way no matter what age you are. Instead of looking and the boxed left unchecked on our life “to do” list we should be looking at the ones we HAVE checked off.  Everyone’s life plan is different and we miss the joy of what’s happening to us right now if we consistently focus on what’s not.  It’s all very zen and “namaste” of me to say, but we do need to be more present. I need to be more present. Yes, I need to be vigilant about my health and have a plan so that I can make sure I can have a baby someday, but focusing on that is making me miss the wonderful things going on right now, of which there are many.

I am where I need to be.  And I’ll be somewhere else soon enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

210 comments

  1. It’s funny how we stumble upon things we need to hear… I’m struggling with a major life transition and wanting nothing more than to be in a different place than I am right now. But every once in a while I have to step back and be grateful for where I am and where I’ve come from. Thanks for sharing and letting us know we aren’t alone in these “complex emotions”.

    Kelsey

  2. Thoughtful and beautifully written post Erin. Your personal posts are always so relatable and thought provoking. It seems we’re always wishing/hoping/striving for something that we think we’re missing. That one thing that will make life perfect and make us feel like “ahhh NOW I can be happy.” But then we finally get that one thing, and while it adds happiness to our lives, somehow it doesn’t give us that full contentment we thought it would, and we quickly find something else that’s missing and start focusing on that. I do agree that it will always be this way no matter what age we are, IF we don’t do anything to change our state of mind, which of course is easier said than done. Remembering that we are where we need to be is a good start.

  3. LOVE LOVE LOVE this article! You hit the nail right on the head, and I completely identify with what you’re saying. My husband (of 7 years) and I had been waiting until we could afford to have kids and maintain our lifestyle, and now the moment is upon us but we find ourselves still wanting to wait! We’re enjoying life as it is and my career is taking an exciting turn… the time will eventually come, but not just yet. And that’s okay.

  4. Wow, so so right. I’ve been married 12 years, with two years of trying to get pregnant. I turn the dreaded 35 in August. Complex emotions is right! It’s been a rocky road to a healthy pregnancy. A few months ago I thought I would put a pause on fertility treatment because of job and school stress, when a friend (a therapist actually) said gently, “I would urge you to reconsider that. This seems really important to you and your work will always be stressful.” There’s no right answer, but in that moment I knew for sure what my priority was. Everyone has to find their own priorities and then like you said, enjoy the present as well.

  5. I don’t usually comment on blogs or articles, but I just had to after reading this. Thank you so much….I read this at the end of a day full of these “complex” feelings. I had to forward on. Beautifully put!

  6. Erin, Thank you for sharing this. It resonates so perfectly with thoughts and feelings I constantly struggle with… especially as the years pass by and more of my friends drop off into married, baby bliss.

  7. I’ve now read this several times, and I can’t tell you how much I agree with it. I had the opposite situation – I was first of my friends to have a baby, by almost a decade – but the separation was the same from the other side.

    Thank you, thank you, for writing what you did.

  8. Thank you for this! As a childless, 30ish military spouse, people are constantly shocked when they find out my husband and I don’t have any children. In our world, you get married at 22 and pop out 3 kids before you hit 30. I have to constantly remind myself that there is nothing wrong with me. My husband and I are smart; we want to accomplish personal goals and get in a better place before we bring a child into this world.

  9. This post is so honest and hits home for me. I am 32, not married, not engaged even, no kids, no house. I love this part of your post though “Instead of looking at the boxes left unchecked on our life “to do” list, we should be looking at the ones we HAVE checked off.” I should instead be happy about my apartment right in downtown Boston, my boyfriend who loves me so much of 3 years, and my small biz that is chugging along!! Thanks for this :)

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