Forty

My fortieth birthday has come and gone. It was a hard day for me.

I used to look forward to turning 40, because I knew that most women say that they start to come into their own and enjoy life more in their forties. I had always thought of it as a decade to begin to enjoy myself and who I had become. But then, I started trying to have kids, and my thoughts about 40 changed.

40 suddenly became a terrible deadline. It meant that I was officially too old by medical standards to have kids. It started a stopwatch ticking in my head like the one at the start of 60 Minutes. We were rushing headlong toward 40, trying desperately to have children. It became a race to a finish line I did not want to hit.

And then it came. “You’ll never have kids” flashed in my head like a neon sign. “You will never know what it is like to be a parent.” “Look at everything you have missed out on.” “You’re going to get old alone, you’re going to die alone.” It wouldn’t stop. I cried a lot on my birthday. I mourned the loss of children we wanted so deperately and would never have. People continued to be pregnant, and have babies, and tell me about their children. It was a terrible day. One of the worst birthdays I can remember for a long time.

Before the day came, I told my husband I did not want to celebrate my birthday. He was crushed. He loves to spoil me on my birthday, because normally I love to celebrate my birthday. I look forward to it like a little kid. He was confused. I couldn’t put into words the fact that I was unable to face people that day, because talk would inevitably turn to my fertility or their kids or something, and I knew I would not be able to stop crying. I did not want to cry in front of people on my birthday. I didn’t want to feel like more of a broken person than I already did.

And now, it has passed. The tears are subsiding. The pain isn’t going away so much, but it is less immediate. And on the other side of 40, the future still stretches out bleak and lonely without children. But now, I have the rest of my life to get used to it. The deadline has passed.

And I see articles in the paper titled “Poll Says Childless Couples are Happiest” and I think maybe I will be ok. I doubt it. I think I will be unhappy without kids for the rest of my life. But at least now, I can entertain the possibility that somehow I will find some happiness in life after 40. It will always be a bit bittersweet, but maybe I will be able to enjoy it as I had imagined, after all. Just with a bit of a different spin.

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