I miss the perky eggs of my youth. I walked around in my teens and 20s with all of these marvelous eggs primping in my ovaries, just waiting for their 15 seconds. But as I approached 30, I was too distracted by the process of creating a PR agency—my "baby"—to think about trying to have a real one.
At the very least, I should have frozen a few of those suckers. If anyone ever got the technology right, those eggs would've had a chance to be my kids. But as it is, I'm staring down 37 and asking my body to try to get pregnant again, au naturel.
I don't usually feel old, but when you spy the words "advanced maternal age" on your medical chart, it's as if the medical profession is secretly laughing at you. "Look at the old biddy and her beat-up eggs, trying to have a baby at her age." (Advanced maternal age, by the way, means that you're over 35, and your risks of birth defects or complications during pregnancy and labor are rising.)
Carousing through my 20s, it didn't occur to me to hurry up and have children. Sipping wine on transcontinental flights, I pored through the birth announcements for women over 40 in People magazine, naive to the fact that many of them employed multiple forms of assisted reproductive technology to get there.
Now I realize that the Spears women are the only celebrities getting pregnant unassisted these days. And unless there is some egg-duplicating substance in the Southern California water, some of these famous twins may have less to do with twins running in the family than with twins running in IVF cycles.
But no one tells you this when you're slaving through graduate school, planning to have children "someday." It comes as a total shock—once you locate your "someone" and reach "someday"—to learn that your eggs, as you approach 40, are getting older too.
Next Page: My aging eggs and miscarriages [ pagebreak ]See, since we are born with all of the eggs (ova) we're going to have, they age as we do. And, like us, they begin to break down; in the process, they begin to exhibit more chromosomal abnormalities. I suppose that back in caveman days, 37 was ancient—they didn't have grad school back then.
Assuming you can get pregnant (which I'm pretty good at, thankfully), your chance of miscarriage increases. Of course, many people get pregnant easily with no complications at my age (and beyond it), but some of us run into problems. As my OB put it, "some people have to roll the dice more often than others before they get a healthy baby."
That'd be me. I have two beautiful children, but I've also rolled a couple of snake eyes. So far, we've had one chemical pregnancy (an embryo that never formed a real body or beating heart) at six weeks, and a miscarriage late in the first trimester. Based on the karyotyping, or chromosomal testing, done on the body, we know she was a girl and didn't have Down syndrome (a common reason for fetal hearts to stop beating as hers did).
But there is a spectrum of genetic disorders she might have had that are not yet detected by the typical karyotyping test. I guess the genes just didn't knit together for her right, poor chick. After all that drama, I wish I were done with the business of reproduction.
Call us greedy, but we would really like to add one or two more people to our family. So, with the recent return of my period after giving birth six months ago, I am back in the saddle, riding along with a sack of aging eggs at my side, a hope in my heart, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get pregnant, even at my age.