When old enough is too old

Jennie Ridyard

Jennie Ridyard

As a child, I imagined I’d get married at 23 and then I’d have children at 30.

Why? Because that’s what my mum did. As an adult (well, almost) I had my first baby at 19 and my next at 26. I never married.

It’s not that I’d ever had a burning desire for babies – probably because I had my boys way before the biological clock started ticking – but today, looking back, I’m so glad it happened the way it did.

I was a young mum, and now my children are all but grown. And at least I’m not in the same predicament as so many of my friends.

At 40-ish my friends aren’t exactly “old”. They don’t look it, they don’t dress it – they’re fit, strong, healthy, and have years of the good life left in them – but could someone please explain this to their ovaries?

Because their ovaries are old, you see, and are failing them.

The alarm bells first sounded a few years ago when some of my then 30-something friends – happily-married, snugly-careered – decided it was time to complete their families with children.

They did what is done to make said sprogs, but nothing happened. Then came the testing, injecting, hormone balancing, egg harvesting, jars of bodily fluid and so very much anguish.

And now, as these relieved mummies and daddies hold their toddlers tight, there’s a second wave of baby-panic.

“All those years worrying about unplanned pregnancies, and now look at me,” wails one friend after another failed IVF (in vitro fertilisation). If anyone warned her that this could happen, they certainly weren’t nearly strident enough.

Another ponders staying with Mr Alright or finding Mr Right as her biological clock chimes louder than an emergency vehicle.

There’s much peeing on ovulation sticks, taking folic acid, too-late talk of freezing old eggs, accidental forgetting of pills and condoms, and “leaving it to fate” – but my friends are at the age when “leaving it to fate” is a last gasp.

Those who have panicked for a little longer are already on round three or four of IVF. But IVF has a success rate of only 25% – after four torturous attempts, that figure is dropping all the time.

I know for the majority it’s not going to happen. Already there is so much heartbreak. They didn’t feel too old to become parents: they thought they had years …


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