I was one of two kids in my family and we always had the oldest parents. I remember being in second grade and thinking that my friends' parents looked more like their older brothers and sisters than they did their moms and dads. But, as the older of two girls born to parents who didn't even marry until their mid 30s, my parents seemed pretty normal to me. They were grounded. They were solid. And, they instilled in me a sense of family pride that I now long to share with a child of my own.
When my mom and dad married, they started trying right away to build their family. After three years, they finally had me. My sister followed 13 months later. My mom stopped working to be home with us and although that meant some sacrifice, I am so grateful to have had her there. My parents insisted on family dinners every night of the week, never missed gathering for birthdays or holidays, and instilled in us a sense of loyalty. Today, my sister and I are best friends and we remain close and connected to our parents. There's something to be said for traditional family values.
Now, I am in my late 30s and married to a man who I believe is my soul mate. Having children is something we both want. But for more than two years our attempts at pregnancy have been unsuccessful. I cannot count the number of people who tell us to "Just relax." I've lost track of the women who have said to me that "It will happen if you just stop thinking about it." And, I've grown tired of peeing on a stick and structuring our sex life around a certain time of the month.
I'm sure that my parents never thought about how old they'd be when I got married and had children. I'm confident that they assumed I'd be married in my 20s and have a couple of kids by now. But that's not how my story goes. Now, as I look at my aging parents, I feel a certain pressure to have a child soon so that he or she can benefit from their love and example. I also worry about my own kids trying to understand why their parents are the oldest ones in the class.
Looking back, I'm not sorry for the decisions I made or the paths I chose. I have two college degrees and a rewarding job. Those things have allowed my husband and me to afford a nice house in a neighborhood where we feel safe. I also married with a strong understanding of who I am and what I want, things that I'm not sure you know in your 20s. To be honest, I always felt like there would be plenty of time to have babies. I never factored in that it might be a challenge.
I have found is that infertility is one of those quiet struggles that couples face. Everyone assumes that a marriage will result in children. People are never shy to ask, "When are you going to have a baby?" What most people fail to recognize, however, is that children truly are a blessing. The miracle of conception and how complex a process it is goes unrecognized in a society that often takes it for granted.
I have also found, however, a growing circle of people who - for one reason or another - have been unable to conceive. All of us, together, share an experience that is often unspoken in our world. We laugh together at the fact that it is always the most unprepared people who get pregnant over and over with ease, we cry together at our shared longing to love a child, and, together, we hope for miracles.
My parents will each turn 75 this year. The ironic part of this experience for me is that with each passing year they rely on me more and more. I get calls about the computer, I give rides to the doctor, I help manage medical care, I cook them dinner. I have become their advisor. In many ways, they rely on me for the things I once expected of them. In many ways, I am a parent. I guess you could say that I have my training wheels on and I am ready to take that hill. All the while I remember that in so many ways I am blessed ... and I remain hopeful.
J.A. Blake, a writer and CEO of Blake Communications, lives when her husband Kai in Media.