Calgarians open up about postponing having children

Allison Wick, 31, knows what she wants — kids.

“Not until I was about 25 (years old) did I really all of a sudden figure out that I needed kids to be happy; that that was going to be part of my life,” she says.

She adds that there’s a deeper meaning to becoming a mom for her due to her childhood.

Top Ten Misconceptions about Age and Infertility

40 is the new 30.

Everyone says I look great for my age.

I know lots of women who got pregnant in their 40s.

I can’t be infertile. I had a baby 5 years ago.

I come from a very fertile family. My grandmother had her 9th child when she was 45.

I’ve been on the birth control pill for years, so I’ve been saving my eggs

I exercise regularly and I take good care of myself. When I decide to get pregnant, I know it will happen.

I had a miscarriage 2 years ago, when I was 43, so I know I can get pregnant. There must be something wrong with my uterus that prevents me from staying pregnant.

If _________ did it, so can I. (fill in the name of your favorite 40+ pregnant movie star)

I’m too young to go through the menopause.

Courtesy of: Infertility Awareness Association of Canada

“I think it’s part of being a good mother, to me. I think just because my mother left me when I was two, part of the reason I want to be a mom is to kind of correct some of the wrong, because her mom (my grandmother) left her as well, like just abandoned the entire family when she was 9, so I kind of just want to stop the cycle,” she says.

Wick, who has been in an on-and-off relationship for about three years with a man who doesn’t want children, has yet to start her family, “unless you count my puppies,” she says.

Wick calls her puppies “snooze-buttons” for her ovaries.

“It’s like, you want them so bad (children) and then your boyfriend buys you a dog to kind of get your mind off of it for a bit.”

Although raising her puppies, three chihuahuas and a brown labrador, has taken up some of her time, Wick says the main reason she has yet to become a mom is her boyfriend’s unwillingness to have kids, which has resulted in the instability of their relationship.

This comes as no surprise to Rhonda Trumper, a psychologist at the Regional Fertility Clinic in Calgary, who says she thinks “a lot of people have the assumption that the reasons why women are delaying childbearing is so that they can work on their career or financial issues,” when this in fact may not be true.

Josh and Jocelyn Withell say they aren’t that concerned with the risks associated with giving birth later in life.

Photo by: Ashley Freeman“I remember about a year ago we had a presentation from somebody from the gynecology department who’d done a study on why women delay childbearing,” she says. “And one of the really interesting things that had come out of that study was that the main reason why women were delaying childbearing was to have a stable relationship.”

Relationship stability is not the issue according to one Calgary couple. Josh and and Jocelyn Withell, 32 and 30 years old respectively, will have been married for four years come July and continue to postpone parenthood.

“You don’t want to be a senior citizen with kids. But I don’t think you have to be 24 (years old) to have a baby,” says Josh.

The couple, who fully intend to have children before Jocelyn reaches age 35, say some of their reasons for putting off diapers and play dates is they wanted to have time for themselves to travel and not be “held down.”

“I think the other thing is that getting married is a big step and it’s sort of like, no one wants to be their parents. Not that there’s anything wrong with our parents, but it’s just like, ‘OK, I’ve gotten old because I’ve gotten married and bought a house and kids is sort of the final step for making the jump into being a real adult, so I think that’s always been something for me. Just not ready,” says Josh.

Quality versus quantity

The age-related decline in ovarian reserve usually involves a steady decrease in both the number and quality of the eggs that remain in our ovaries. It is estimated that a 38-year-old woman has only 10% of her eggs remaining. From that point onward, the progressive yearly decline in a woman’s fertility will start to become one of the biggest factors in her ability to conceive.

Once we’re in our forties, only a few eggs can start to grow each month. Those remaining eggs are of lower quality than in our teens and twenties. It is harder to get them to ovulate, to fertilize, to implant and to grow normally. This translates into lower pregnancy rates, higher miscarriage rates, and a higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities in the few babies that are born to mothers at this age.

At some point, fertility medications become ineffective, because the ovaries can no longer select more than one egg at a time, or because the quality is too low.

Courtesy of: Infertility Awareness Association of Canada

He adds that the pressure from society to have kids by the time you’re age 30 is something he’s not worried about.

“I don’t buy into that theory and most of our friends are in the same position we’re in. I think maybe that’s a past generation thing, but we have very few friends who have kids and if they do, their kids are (age) two or three maybe,” says Josh.

Despite this, Josh says he can feel the pressure to become a dad from his own family at times.

“That’s parents. They want to be grandparents. They’re not overbearing by any means it’s just, ‘are you guys having kids yet? Are we going to have grandkids next Christmas?’ – that kind of thing. And then you don’t hear about it for a few months and then they’ll jab you again.”

Ultimately, Josh says this decision is one to be made by couples themselves.

“I think everyone’s going to figure out their own system. If they don’t want to have kids until they’re 40 (years old) or they don’t want to have kids at all, it’s their call.”

afreeman@cjournal.ca