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Panic Parenting

All The Single Ladies? Would You Freeze Your Eggs To Avoid ‘Panic Parenting?’

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It was hard to tell if I was about to have a panic attack or if I was just seriously beyond excited to have the chance to hold and smell a newborn again when I was recently at a gathering in honour of a new baby.

It wasn’t exactly a Sip and See party, but there was food. Most importantly, there was a baby! I had one mission and that was to hold this newborn. When I first saw the baby, my heart started pounding, and I worried that I was about to have a panic attack. But really, I think I was just somewhat suffering from something called ‘Panic Parenting.’

Panic Parenting is sort of like the piece I wrote on mid-life crises babies (I had one of those), except women suffering from panic parenting are freezing their eggs, something I had never considered. The difference when it comes to true panic parenting is that I already have two children, while others, who refuse to settle for a sub-par mate just to have a baby, don’t and end up freezing their eggs. Still…

Infertility is now front and center of the news, thanks to the former first lady, Michelle Obama, who writes in her new memoir, Becoming, that she and Barack Obama “struggled with infertility, had a miscarriage and used in vitro fertilization to have their two daughters, Malia and Sasha.” Obama doesn’t exactly fit into the Panic Parenting category either, as she had a willing partner – her husband – who wanted to have children. But many women, according to this recent article, are trying to avoid panic parenting with the wrong man. These women are single or with a partner, unwilling to try for a baby.

I think I may have suffered from panic parenting like many women who have put their eggs on ice, when I had my mid-life crises baby, Holt. Now, six years later, I’m done having children. But if circumstances were different – if I had way more money, and the world wasn’t such a scary place, and I had a partner who wanted another baby, or even if I was a little younger – I wonder if I would be done done. Just thinking about having the option to have another baby kind of makes me wish I still had…well… the option. So now I’m wondering, should I have put my eggs on ice?

I wonder what would happen if meeting my son’s father didn’t coincide with my ovaries, screaming out, “Need another baby! Need another baby!” I had never thought about freezing my eggs and waiting for the perfect man because I thought I had found the perfect man. My baby, who is not-so-much a baby anymore, is a complete blessing. But, although I hadn’t frozen eggs, I think I was panicking to have another baby. I may have settled because now that I look back at the situation, I wanted another child and realize I was definitely panicking as I got closer to thirty than forty. There. I admit it.

Personally, I believe there are three times in a woman’s life, where we feel the overwhelming urge to have a baby. The first is when you’re in your mid-to-late twenties, and you start seeing all your friends getting married and pregnant and you want in on that club too. The second time in a woman’s life that the urge hits with a vengeance is when you’re in your late thirties because you think that time is running out. And, yes, there is a third time, when you have the urge to have a baby, and that is when you already have children, and suddenly they don’t need you as much, and all you want to do is hold a baby again.

When you’re done having children…But you still want the option.

But this third urge also generally coincides with knowing that you’re-oh-so-close to freedom, or at least to having more time to yourself! It also coincides with the fact that even if you know, rationally, you are done done, you kind of still wish you could turn to clock back to when you had younger, better quality eggs, that could be stored and used later to improve the chances of having a healthy baby, via IVF. It would be nice, like I said, to have the option.

In this article, British researchers interviewed 31 women who have put their eggs on ice for non-medical reasons. Dr Kylie Baldwin said: “Women did not want to be panicked into relationships they would not consider otherwise just because they wanted a child.”

I get it. And good for these single women for not settling for a sub-par partner, simply to have a baby. Then again, I do wonder how many women have settled because they desperately wanted a baby. I’m guessing a lot.

The urge to have a baby, whether you’re in a relationship or not, whether you already have a child or not, still can be quite strong. Make that very strong, for some people. So strong that, even though you know in your head you’re done, you can’t help but wonder…what if?

When that what if? urge hits me, and it does, I need to force myself to remember, “Rebecca. Your youngest can now take a shower by himself. He can play on his own. He sleeps through the night! He’s in full-day grade one! Freedom is – if he becomes a productive member of society and goes to University – only 13 years away! Why ever would you want to add on MORE years, when you can sort of see freedom, sleep-ins, and travel? Plus, just be happy with the two blessing you have. And you haven’t had a good night’s sleep since 2003!

Still, when I think that I will never hold another newborn and smell their sweetness and listen to them making baby noises, I do convince myself that having another baby, at this stage in my life, is a fucking ridiculous idea. Except for the fact that I like babies. And I miss holding them.

The study, which was originally published in the journal Human Fertility, “warns women about the low success rate of using frozen eggs – estimated to be 20 percent for women over 36.” Mrs. Baldwin, a sociologist, interviewed 31 women who had frozen eggs up to seven years earlier. The women were mostly middle-class, highly educated and were aged 38, on average, when they had the treatment. “I asked them about their motivations and I would say none of the women underwent the procedure for career reasons,” she says.

Instead, the women threw themselves into their careers because they were unable to find a suitable man. Mrs. Baldwin said: ‘One of the women said to me, “Yes, I’ve got a great career but that’s not because I’ve deliberately avoided relationships, it’s because there was no one to go home to, so I stayed late at the office.”

The women also spoke of their difficulty in finding a partner committed to parenthood. ‘”There is this increasing expectation for men to play a larger role in the home and in the raising of children. I think these women really had this expectation of their male partners and that hope wasn’t met.” Mrs Baldwin says, adding that while egg freezing is touted by some as a ‘quick fix’ to the problem of a woman’s ticking biological clock, it doesn’t help address the reasons that lead to women using it, including the “lack of a suitable partner, unstable job markets and soaring property prices.”

Still, experts are warning that egg freezing does not guarantee motherhood. One IVF pioneer, describes the process as being “grossly oversold by commercial interests with very little practical chance of a baby”.

Geeta Nargund, medical director of  Europe’s largest IVF clinic, said one reason men struggle to commit is because they are under less biological pressure to become parents than women. Dr. Nargund also expressed concern that the women studied didn’t freeze their eggs until 38 – when fertility has already plummeted.

I didn’t get to hold the baby that day. The baby slept the entire time in a sling attached to the mother. This was probably a good thing, considering I’m now just realizing that, even though I sometimes have a strong urge, I really am done done, which makes me sad.

And this is why I’ve been researching dogs. I’m doing it not because the kids have been begging for one for years, but because like many others I know, who realize they are done done, you’re never too old to be the mother of a fur baby.

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