Well, here it is for me…40…that big number that you’re supposed to dread while you’re in your thirties. I dreaded it somewhat. I mean…40…in our culture that is the official death of any “youth” you may have had lurking around in your body right? Well, I’m here now, and I say HOGWASH!
I will not go as far as to say 40 is the new 30 like some do, because let me tell you the years between 30 and 40 have been filled with lots of lessons and lots of life experiences. I don’t, however, feel like a 40-year-old woman. On most days I feel like I’m in my late 20’s or 30’s, but my life is different from the usual demographic of a 40-year-old woman.
The typical 40-year-old woman either has older children, teenagers, or has just sent her oldest child/children off to college. Some of the latecomers might even have young children, but children are usually in the picture somewhere, and if they aren’t she’s usually running frantically to get one in as her biological clock has hit the 11th hour.
Not me…my biological clock evidently broke sometime in my teenage years, and it wasn’t until my thirties that I realized it could never be repaired.
This is making the completion of forty years of life different for me than most ladies. Once I learned that my infertility was most likely terminal somehow forty was going to be a milestone where I could officially let go of my dreams of children and really move on. To an extent that is what has happened, but what I have learned is that you can never officially close the door, have a funeral, or somehow put it all behind you. If you ever desired to have children and could never have them childlessness defines who you are to an extent, and the extent to which you let it define you is totally up to you, but it’s always there. Like any loss in your life it never totally goes away. The pain fades, but the scar remains as a tender reminder of the injury.
Yes, the worst is over for me. I no longer cry in secret at every pregnancy announcement. I can attend baby showers if need be (and if push comes to shove I can throw a dandy one too!), but there are times…especially for me in the last couple of weeks…that something happens, and the pain comes flooding back in at least for a few hours or days. However, at forty I have now have developed a procedure for dealing with these “baby” emotions, and like a seasoned captain of a well-weathered ship I know where every flotation device is and can get to them quickly.
Then there are your problems not related to the childlessness such as keeping a marriage alive and healthy after nearly 20 years, inevitable financial challenges, aging parents, and will I have enough in my 401K to retire in 20-25 years? It would be nice if childlessness were the only problem in life, but unfortunately, it’s not. Sometimes when I’m faced with yet another problem I ignorantly cry to God, “Wasn’t the childlessness enough for one lifetime?!” And he says, “No…I’m building more character in you!”
So, for those of you still in your twenties or thirties dealing with the reality or the high likelihood that you will be childless for the duration let me tell you that forty is and is not the milestone you might think it will be. The comforting thing is that most likely you will be more mature and accepting of God’s choice for you by the age of forty, but it’s not a miraculous turning point. The upside is that if you allow yourself to move on you’ll find more contentment and fulfillment in your childless state.
So, on I move to my 5th decade…oh, what will it bring?