Wednesday, December 22, 2010

an open letter to the "ageists"

The saying is that "age is nothing but a number" when it comes to romantic relationships. Somehow, this saying never holds true when it comes to a different kind of relationship: the one between a parent and a child.

I have no issues putting my age out there for everyone to analyze. I am 25 years old. My husband is 33. When we tell people we can't have children, almost everyone has the same reaction:

But you're so young!
Go enjoy life!
You have plenty of time!

Why is it that people, when they learn our ages, automatically think we should wait to be parents? I know: this isn't a new debate. In fact, many of you who are reading this probably have strong opinions on when a person is ready to be a parent. I have these same opinions. But my concern is that we pin too much of that opinion on a number and not other factors. My greater concern is that we don't realize that there are people within our own community, like me, who are young and who are hurt by the judgment and generalization about young women and motherhood.

So, I decided to write an open letter about my feelings on the topic. Love it or hate it, I'm annoyed and this is what I have to say:

Dear Ageist,

Thank you for weighing in on my mothering capabilities. First, yes: I am young. But I am an adult. I've graduated from college once, and I will do it again in about a year and four months. I'm happily married to a man that I've known for almost 10 years. I realize that turning 18 and becoming an adult may not make someone capable of being a mom. I know I never could have properly cared for another person at age 18. I know that other people may not be ready for motherhood at age 25. But it's wrong to assume that I haven't lived or experienced enough to be a good mom.

I have enjoyed life. I spent a majority of my college years drinking heavily in bars with friends. I still go out with my friends now, even while we wait to adopt. But what makes you think I wouldn't enjoy life as a mom? What makes you think that having children is so un-enjoyable? Better yet, what makes you think I should party like it's 1999 until I'm 30 years old and my liver is dying? I get it. I'm in my 20s, and that somehow equates to me having the time of my life. I am having the time of my life - as a wife. I've lived through the "taking shots until I pass out and vomit" stage of my life. It's time to move on.

Speaking of time: while it appears I may have plenty of time left in front of me to have children, I don't. I certainly have zero time to produce biological children. My lady parts are failing, and they have been for a while now - longer than I've known there were issues. So why are we choosing to adopt now rather than adopt later? I lost my grandmother when I was in 8th grade. It was devastating. She was so young, and she missed so much of our lives. My mom has already beaten cancer once. My greatest fear is that some day it will return and she will miss my child's milestones because of it. Joey has his own reasons that are family related.

But neither of us are doing this for our families. We are doing it for ourselves. I've always wanted to be a mom young. Always. And whether it happens now or five years from now, I'll be ready. My husband is beyond ready. It hurts me to think that people question what kind of mother I'll be at my age, when there are women in their 30s who have never once held a baby until they've given birth. It's infuriating that people have this preset notion of what I should be doing with my life at my age.

The bottom line is you are not me. My birth certificate may say I'm young, but it doesn't have a place for a stamp of motherhood approval. Every day that I get older and I still don't have a baby, a part of me dies inside. While I'm grateful for the experiences our journey with infertility has given me, I would trade in these experiences in a second for a chance to hold my baby. I would trade in every night of drinking in college and partying with friends. When it's all said and done and my life is coming to a close, I guarantee that none of the "fun" experiences of my teens and 20s will make the top ten list of best moments of my life. But I bet that there will be plenty of moments on that list, if not all of them, that involve being a parent.

So please, think before you speak or type. Think about the women who ARE young and who hurt because they can't be a mom or make their partner a parent. Think about the people who are mature enough to become parents but will never get that opportunity. And for those in this community, think about your infertile sisters - the women who are going through the exact same thing you are. Don't look at their age. Look at their experience: what they are going through, what they have been through, and their support for you. We are too close, too special to divide ourselves with meaningless numbers.

Sincerely,
Me

39 comments:

Emily said...

Beautiful.

The Steffens said...

I am older than you and I still got lots of comments like that. ESPECIALLY FROM MY RE!!!!!!! It was like there was no rush to get things going in the treatments because we were "so young." It drove me crazy. I don't feel particularly young, just ready for a baby. I don't think it's just age but other factors like you said - we are mature, in a stable relationship, financially stable - we can do this. And it really isn't for anyone to judge that. blech.

Doogie said...

And then there's opposite problem; those of us who are edging into OMG so old.
I read an article yesterday that was talking about how insensitive and cruel it was of Elizabeth Edwards to have children so old (early 40s) because now young children have to grow up without their mother, and what a horrible woman she was for making that choice.
Like there's some magical yet of years between 25 and 32 and people should only have children then, if want the perfect life.
Newsflash for them: There's no such thing a perfect childhood. There's no such thing as a perfect parent. And your choices and your feelings on the matter neither validate nor negate my choices and my feelings.

So thank you for saying this. Hopefully people with personal age issue comments will keep them to themselves.

jennifer @ What Would Jen Do said...

people always tell me i'm running out of time. thank you Einsteins, i get it. i'm already pretty much out of time, but thanks for rubbing it in.

unaffected said...

Well-spoken, as always.

Lu said...

Bravo, dear! It ticks me off that people say crap like that to you -- and I'm 13 years your senior : )

Hang in there, mentally tell them to go to hell. When you are ready for a child, you are ready for a child - case closed. I can't stand when people judge our decisions. Had some major crap thrown on me lately too from fertile myrtles and judgemental asshats.

Best of luck in the new year!

Erin said...

Thank you once again for putting my thoughts exactly out there. You always say it just right. You know when you are ready to be a mother and because of that you will be an amazing mother and your children will be beyond blessed to have you and your husband.

Another Dreamer said...

I totally second that letter. It's always driven me nuts- oh you're so young. Let's forget that fact that I stopped making eggs when I was probably 20. Naw, that doesn't matter- right? I'm young after all. I started trying at 22, and I'll be 26 next month. I've been through almost 2 years of fertility treatments and 3 miscarriages... yeah, that whole being young thing has really worked out awesome for me. Ha.

I also wanted to be a young mother. I struggle a lot with the fact that now, with adoption in one form or another on the horizon, I probably won't be a mother until after I'm 30 due to finances. Bah.

Sorry for the rant- that statement just always strikes a nerve with me :( I feel ya, I really do.

Another Dreamer said...

I meant to say 3 years of fertility treatments... having trouble typing today!

Best wishes :)

Candidly_Andrea said...

Another great post Katie.

Believe it or not, I'm almost 33 and I still have people say "don't worry about it you're still young" - sadly people just don't realize age has nothing to do with it sometimes. Fact is I'm ready NOW.

waiting and wishing said...

I love this. I can totally relate!

Rebecca said...

It's funny, I remember when I was "young" being amazed at friends who were having kids so early and thinking they were way too young. Then, I suddenly have reached a point where I'm starting to feel too old. Somehow I went from "too young" to "too old" with no "perfect" in between. The time to be a parent is when you're ready. And, you're ready. Period. You're an adult and this decision is right for you.

(I will apologize up front if I've ever said anything that comes out ageist. I sometimes feel WAY old when I realize how many of my former students are in their mid to late 20s and have kids.)

Of course, in a previous generation, you'd be considered OLD for not having kids, yet. My mother was always one of the oldest mothers amongst my friends and she was 27 when she had me. The mother of one of my friends in college was 34 when she had her and her parents always seemed SO old to me... I try not to think about that when I think about how old I am at this point...

I get scared when I think about how my parents are getting older and still aren't grandparents, actually. It makes me sad sometimes.

Glass Case of Emotion said...

I started at age 26, and still get comments. It drives me crazy. Um, it's bad news when a woman aged 26-31 can't concieve a child for her life. I did get pregnant- but not until I was 30! And it didn't last. If I hadn't started when I did, I would have never known their were such problems.

Ughh... sorry. Yes, I get these comements too. Thanks for putting it into clearer words than my reply, which is generally, "Suck it!"

Stephanie said...

I get that all the time too - "you have plenty of time." I hate that! Thanks for being so honest with your feelings, and how many of us feel.

Rita said...

Well said, Katie. There are so many factors that go into whether someone is ready to be a parent. Maturity is wayyy more important than age.

You are going to be such a great mom someday soon!!

allischaber said...

thank you. once again you have captured my daily torments and struggles. i am so grateful that i have someone that understands, although its over an unfortunate experience. i cant wait for you & joe to become parents. i'm ready to be an aunt once again. love you

A. said...

We started TTC at 25 and 33...in January we will be 27 and 35. I look MUCH younger than my age and get comments all the time about how much time I have from everyone I come into contact with in the fertility clinic setting (nurses, u/s technicians, etc - except from the re himself who is more sensitive than that). It really drives me batty. It's true that us younger gals may have more years to build a family in whatever way we choose, but that's a small consolation when your body isn't working right when you are supposed to be in the prime of your child-bearing years...I can't say I feel that my fertility is improving with:-/ By the way, I am pretty new to following your blog, so hi:)

Mamablogarama said...

Amen to that! A mere 50 years ago you would have been considered old to start having children at 25. I don't know that I could be as strong as you if I were 25 and still TTC. You're married, you're educated, and you will certainly provide for your children better than many older parents have before you. You have said so much of what I feel, why wastes decades partying, why wait until you're 30? You are more than capable of being a good mother right now and I wish you the best of luck in having a little one in your arms as soon as possible!

Kaitake said...

Ah well, to me you seem the perfect ages for having kids! Our situation is difficult with me being 28 and hubby being 46. You can imagine the sort of things people say without thinking!! Somehow, because hubby already has 3 kids, I'm expected to just be happy with that. It's like everyone in my family was so surprised to hear I wanted children, mum even told me that she had "grieved for the grandkids she would never have!" so no one has hope but me.

Jem said...

I think those people are jealous and wish they were "free."

I hope you don't think that those comments about going out and having fun just mean to go out and drink. For me, being in my twenties was a chance to travel, explore the world, learn a new language, make interesting friends, find out what's important to me as a person. When I reached the age of 28 I was definitely ready to come home and settle down (= meet my husband and have babies). Unfortunately, we didn't start with the baby-making until he was ready, at which point I was even older.

I'm glad you have figured out what is right for you right now and are pursuing it.

~Jem (who will never be a young mom, even tho she still feels young at age 40)

Arlyne said...

beautifully written as always!

It's funny you wrote this today, because as I was sitting in my OB's office, I wanted to punch out the woman sitting next to me with her 15 yr. old daughter who was 34 weeks pg. She sat there ranting on to another woman about how great it was that her daughter was so young, & that women over 35 having their first baby were crazy, & the ones over 40 ( that would be me) are just plain sick & selfish! ageism sucks at any age & I don't think that anyone has the right to judge at what age it's appropriate for anyone else to be a parent!

Secret Sloper said...

I get those comments, too. And I'm 30--like, prime gottamakeababy time. But I especially got them when we first started TTC (and I was 28) from--my mom, my MIL, my gyn, my friends, virtual strangers.

But when we met our RE, she congratulated me on starting to try "so young," because that is what's given us time to identify LG's sperm issues before my age causes any problems.

And in conclusion, F the haters.

CW said...

Sometimes I think people say it because they don't know what else to say when faced with our infertility. It is like the wild card of consolation. I yearned at 27, couldn't start till 30 and now I am almost 33. In two more years I will start hitting the black ski run of fertility but you know I still get it is ok you are young. Err not really?!

Kakunaa said...

I used to have people wonder why I was freaking when I was "so young" - at over 30. They thought I was your age. But tack 5 years on, and it becomes, why did you wait so long? It is a double standard! An annoying one. Where is that line? Is it supposed to be just a couple years that are the right age??? People are ready when they are ready. Or not. But just because I can't have imagined being a mom at your age doesn't mean you can't :) I completely agree with you sweets. Good letter!

someday-soon said...

Well said. I think many people make that comment because they don't know what else to say and stupidly think it will make you feel better. There are some 50 year olds not mature enough to be mom's and there are some 18 year olds that are plenty mature...age is just a number.

Courtney said...

Excellent post my friend

Kim said...

That was so great!! I agree with you 100%. I knew from a a very young age that I wanted to be a mother. I wanted 2 or 3 kids before I was 25. I had a young mother, and loved how close we were growing up, and especially now. I loved that she was always there playing with me and participating in everything we did!! I was devastated that I had IF and didn't become a mom util 29 years old!!

DH and I experienced age judgement from an RE we interviewed. (We ended up going with another RE bc of it.) DH is nearly 7 yrs younger than I am, so the judgement was on his age. Tat RE actually told us that he was so young, don't we want to wait!! Hello, I am not a spring chicken here!! He's an RE, I know he knows that at 30 eggs start going bad. (If not before, in some cases.)
I'm sorry people do that to you. It is wrong!!

Adele said...

You are not me is exactly right. And age is one of those largely irrelevant things that people think explains a lot, but usually explains so very little (on either end of the spectrum).

Our situations are so unique, so specific. And nobody else gets to say what we should do/the decisions we should make. Because, frankly, nobody else knows.

(And, for what it's worth, I don't ever think of you in conjunction with your age but rather as a smart woman who has smart things to say. Perod. And who deserves a little one in 2011. In case you are listening, universe).

Jen said...

Well said, as always. I actually got the "you're young, you have plenty of time" thing too. Um, really? I was 31. Yeah.....clock was ticking! And you know what? Even if isn't a literal biological clock, we can each feel our own "ticking" as we wish; no one else gets a say in the matter b/c they can't hear it or feel it!

cOLey24 said...

I am having this EXACT conversation right now... "you need to relax, you're still young, stop worrying so much..." I would like to stab this person in the jaw! People just don't get it... they just don't understand the biological need, the problems with our time clocks, the drive to have something (someone) of our own! Ugh. Thank you for posting this - it's totally true to reality and beautifully said!

AplusB said...

I was diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve at 28. My ovaries are MUCH older than my actual age, and it pisses the hell out of me when people comment on how young I am. Even the ultrasound tech would say, well...you're young! Regardless, no one should be judging anyone, young or old, on their reproductive status!

Conceptionally Challenged said...

Very well said, Katie. I get similar comments, and I find them confusing because I don't feel young -- I suppose my body not working the way it should has gone a long way in making me feel "old".
Good luck on your journey. You'll be a wonderful young mom, hopefully very soon.

anonomity said...

AMEN! I am the same age as you and get all of these same comments, and it drives me up the wall! You have said it more eloquently than I ever could. Wonderful post!

amiracle4us said...

People think that is an encouraging statement, yet is it one of the most hurtful. Age does not constitute how good of a parent you will be-whether you are 20 or 40, age does not matter. I am 28 and hear that constantly-it does not take away ANY of the pain and hurt we have endured on our 3 year battle. Being 'young' doesn't make it hurt less. You will continue to hear that statement, so be strong, know age does NOT matter! You know, as do those that know you, you will be a WONDERFUL mom!!!

amiracle4us said...

I have heard this comment more times than I can count. Rather than bringing me comfort as those that say it think it should, it brings me anger! Age does not constitute the type of parent you will be-whether you are 20 or 40. I am 28 and my answer to that is, 'yes, I am young, but that doesn't take away any of the pain and hurt IF has brought us over that past 3 years'. That usually causes a confused and 'oops' face and they don't say it again :) Stay strong and know you will be the best mom ever! xo

amiracle4us said...

I have heard this comment more times than I can count. Rather than bringing me comfort as those that say it think it should, it brings me anger! Age does not constitute the type of parent you will be-whether you are 20 or 40. I am 28 and my answer to that is, 'yes, I am young, but that doesn't take away any of the pain and hurt IF has brought us over that past 3 years'. That usually causes a confused and 'oops' face and they don't say it again :) Stay strong and know you will be the best mom ever! xo

amiracle4us said...

I have heard this comment more times than I can count. Rather than bringing me comfort as those that say it think it should, it brings me anger! Age does not constitute the type of parent you will be-whether you are 20 or 40. I am 28 and my answer to that is, 'yes, I am young, but that doesn't take away any of the pain and hurt IF has brought us over that past 3 years'. That usually causes a confused and 'oops' face and they don't say it again :) Stay strong and know you will be the best mom ever! xo

Bobbi Janay said...

Very Well Said.

Whitney said...

I rarely comment on blogs, but was so impressed by the beautiful way you express yourself. Thank you for saying things that are probably hard to say, but need to be said very much!