By Lisa Manterfield
I was asked once, by a well-intentioned person, if I thought I’d waited too long to start trying to have children. I have to admit that the thought has flitted across my mind on more than one occasion, but once I stop to think it through, I’m able to answer the question with a resounding “No!”
I remember being completely affronted (and rightly so) by a very conservative college professor who told me that the prime age for women to have children was 18. Of course, looking at a chart of fertility vs. age, I now see that he was correct, even if his suggestion that motherhood might be a more suitable choice than college was extremely misguided.
Looking back at my 18-year-old self, it’s hard to imagine what would have happened if that young woman had become a mother. Yes, I know lots of women do it, and I probably would have too, if I’d had to. But thinking about all the upheavals I’ve put myself through, I just cannot imagine that a child would have benefited from having me as an 18-year-old mother. Maybe (maybe) my supposed topnotch fertility at that age would have enabled me to conceive, but it would have been no guarantee of my suitability as a mother.
The truth is, I have absolutely no idea if I was fertile at 18. I assumed that, like many, many women, I would still be fertile at 34, and look how that turned out. There’s no way of knowing how long ago my body decided it wasn’t up to the task of reproducing, and now I’ll never know.
When I look back at the 18-34 years, they were rocky, but good. I had all kinds of experiences that I couldn’t have had if I’d had children to take care for. I went to college—twice—moved to another continent, traveled to many countries, did volunteer work, had fun but unsuitable relationships, changed careers (more than twice), and got to sample adventures not well-matched to motherhood. I certainly don’t feel as if I wasted those years. I wonder if I’d feel the same if I’d been raising children all those years.
So, no, I don’t feel as if I waited too long. I waited until I was ready, and while I waited, I was busy living my life to the fullest, and I don’t consider that wasted time at all.