Over 35 and having a baby

The feminist movement has done monumentally positive things for women…I don’t dispute that. But what it hasn’t done is educate women enough on what they should be ready to sacrifice if they put their careers ahead of having children.’

OH NO, what did I say? Did I just criticize the women’s movement? Or was I criticizing career women? Either way, I’m ready for their wrath.

Because I’m both a feminist and a career woman and I’m angry that women are not given all the information they need to make one of the most important (if not the most) decisions of their lives. To have a baby.

What we are not told growing up is that biology counts, it matters, it’s real and no amount of equality-between-women-and-men debate is going to change that. If you wait to get pregnant until after the age of 35, you will statistically have a harder time getting pregnant, and if you do get pregnant, your chances of having a healthy baby go down significantly each year (the statistics on this may shock you …they are quite dramatic the older you get).

Did you know these things when you were in your 20’s? I didn’t. And I was not living under a rock. I was like most women in their 20’s and 30’s, I had regular check-ups, I read the paper, I read women’s magazines, and I watched popular programs touting advice about health and female happiness.

But I didn’t hear in any of those places how dramatically the health risks to both the mother, and more substantially, the baby, went up each year after 35. Or even that conceiving a child becomes substantially harder over 35.See here for statistics and more information.

How did I learn about these risks? Not in a class, or on TV, or while reading an article in the New York Times. I learned about these risks as a result of a phone call from my doctor one winter morning telling me that my blood results had come back abnormal and that my precious baby, nestled warmly in my 20-week belly, had a 1 in 285 chance of having Down syndrome. I was 33.

With tears streaming down my face, I called my husband into the room and told him the news. We ended up doing a test (called an amniocentesis which involves a giant needle going into your belly to get necessary fluids for testing…yah, it’s just as scary as it sounds) which tells you with 100% certainty whether your child has Downs or not and our child did not. I could breathe again.

What I’m NOT trying to do it preach to any woman about her decision to have a baby or not or when to have it (trust me, I know what a personal and complicated decision that is), but what I am hoping to do is encourage a dialogue about the biological realities that women face when making choices in their lives…this is what feminism is about (or should be).