I distinctly remember this being my response, when at age 17, I was told by my boyfriend’s sister that she was pregnant. Even if she hadn’t been a possible drug addict and definite high school dropout, my response would likely have been the same based on her age alone.
She was 17.
In my WASPy neighbourhood, it was general knowledge that getting knocked up as a teen spelled “Loser”. It was taken as an automatic given by myself and my high school friends that getting pregnant before one was finished university, had travelled, had a well paying job, and was happily married was akin to a suicide mission. Your life was over.
This is why, not 5 minutes after I found out about his sister’s pregnancy, me and my then boyfriend had a nice long heart to heart that if something similar were to happen to us, I was definitely having an abortion. Sorry, Catholic high school boyfriend...as much as I planned to enjoy our sex life, there was NO WAY I was risking my entire future on a BABY. He agreed.
I, being one of the ‘responsible’ teens ensured that I started on birth control (for a whole month prior to commencing sexual activity to ensure that it was working) and we used condoms. I was not about to risk my future. Or his. And damn, it would have been SO embarrassing to have to tell our parents. That scene in the movie “Juno” to this day, makes me squirm.
The adults of our social spheres (other than the ones that preached abstinence of course), would have applauded both myself and my boyfriend for such responsible attitudes towards our burgeoning sexuality. They would approve of our plan to ensure that our emotional, social, educational and financial futures were not compromised by our sexual desires. They would have been glad to know that, although we were fucking, we weren’t fucking up.
But nobody warned us about our biological futures.
This seems to get missed in our world focused on achievement, self gratification, educational pursuit and the accumulation of both wealth and experience. Women (and men) are encouraged to go on to higher education, pursue careers, date, travel, save money, buy real estate, live together, get married, ‘wait’ a few years and enjoy each other’s company...AND then have a baby.
However, take a look at the following graph:
Pregnancy Rates Over the Course of One Year (Women with Normal Reproductive Function).
March of Dimes also reports that:
"The risk of miscarriage increases with age. Studies suggest that about 10 percent of recognized pregnancies for women in their 20s end in miscarriage (1). The risk rises to (1):
About 20 percent at ages 35 to 39
About 35 percent at ages 40 to 44
More than 50 percent by age 45
The age-related increased risk of miscarriage is caused, at least in part, by increases in chromosomal abnormalities."
So biologically, according to this info we would all have been much more likely to have gotten pregnant and had a healthy baby sometime around the age when we were dealing with final exams, hangovers after one (or two or three?) too many shots of Tequila, discovering the best way to ‘sell’ ourselves on a job application (without lying!), ‘finding’ ourselves in Europe, and deciding whether Jesse or Tom is better in bed.
Babies. I’ll get right on that.
But here I sit, ready and willing to have my life completely changed by a demanding offspring...and have come up short in the biological lottery. Although my views on abortion have not changed for general society (I am still resolutely pro-choice), Aidan, and his death, has made me question my previous need to so tightly control my biological ability to reproduce. What was I so worried about? That I wouldn’t have the job I always dreamed of if I had a baby too young (like at 24??). Well, I actually don’t have the job I always dreamed of now...and it’s okay. That I would show up at my wedding huge and pregnant, and that the day would somehow be less special, or somehow ruined as a result? Um, probably not. That I would not fit in with my peer group as a result of my 'youthful indiscretion'. Yeah, well, I don’t really fit in with my friends now that my kid is dead either. And there is no baby to replace the hurt I feel at not belonging. That I would never get to travel having to lug a child around? Maybe not...but as observed during my travels, other parents make it work. I’m sure Brian and I could have as well.
Sometimes I look at the current predicament that my husband and I are in and wonder “what the hell were we waiting to have a kid for??” I’m not ‘old’ by any stretch of the imagination. At 28, I’m still considered a ‘good’ age to get pregnant and have healthy babies, but as we all know there is no ‘add baby to cart’ button . Who knows how long it will be before (if?) we get another chance at a baby. It could be soon...or it might not be.
If I hadn’t been so worried about fitting all that life in before I had a kid...would I have one now?
Knowing what you know now, would you have done anything different in your reproductive past? Does your dead baby make you question any of your previous choices?