I’ve always known I wanted children. When I was a little girl, I used to fantasize that someone would abandon an orphan on our doorstep. In my imagination, my mother would be too busy with work to care for the child, so he or she would become “mine.” This impulse never left me, and in my early twenties I’d often boast of my intention to have five children (likely to the dismay of my boyfriend at the time). Back then, of course, thirty still seemed old, and like most of my friends, I assumed I’d be married well before then.

It didn’t turn out that way, though. Now I, along with many others I know, have found myself in a difficult modern predicament. Do we keep waiting for love, hoping it’ll come into our lives before our biological clocks run out, or do we take matters into our own hands, prioritizing the baby before the man, whatever that may look like for us?

Though society tends to characterize childless, single women in their 30s as being either overly career-minded or, perhaps, fearful of commitment, there are any number of reasons why one might end up un-partnered but wanting children in what are considered to be critical years of fertility.

Here are just a few:

  • You haven’t met the right person to start a family with yet. It’s no small matter to decide with whom to spend every day for the rest of your life, and a lot of what goes into finding that person within the ideal timeframe has to do with circumstances either beyond our control or reflective of our unique paths in life;
  • You’ve fallen in love with someone who doesn’t want children, which occurs more often as you get older because many 35+ men already have children and therefore aren’t interested in starting a full-on second family;
  • Your long-term relationship may have ended right at the point at which it was expected to transition into the marriage-and-kids stage;
  • You might be involved in a same-sex relationship, or;
  • You haven’t yet been ready, emotionally, financially, or for any of the other innumerable reasons. To understate things tremendously, having a baby is a big responsibility!

Whatever the reason, it’s heartbreakingly difficult to navigate this situation. My friends and I talk in circles about what to do next, with no clear answers presenting themselves. Some are choosing to freeze their eggs. Some are holding out for things to happen in the ‘natural’ progression. And some, like me, are frozen by the anxiety of it all. None of us want to audition baby daddies rather than date for love. None of us want to go it alone via IVF, but all of us want children very, very badly, and we realize that there’s no guarantee this will happen for us if it’s left to chance.

Conception Misconception: Having Kids After 30 | DARLING

While I can’t give advice on what to do next if you, too, find yourself in this situation, I can provide you with some peace of mind as you try to reconcile the pressures of biology and society with your current reality.

I have a friend who, at 35, had chosen to freeze her eggs, much to the dismay of her practitioner. He told her that the age panic we all feel is a western construct, and that women have babies over the age of 35 quite naturally all over the world. He’s not wrong. Research increasingly shows that a lot of the fear-mongering the media is engaged in regarding a woman’s alleged need to have kids before reaching her mid-thirties is not backed by scientific data.

Here are a few actual facts to help those of you grappling with this issue to sleep better at night, knowing you may have more time than you think to find the path that’s right for you:

  • The statistic that women over 35 have a 1 in 3 chance of getting pregnant after a year of trying comes from an analysis of French birth records collected between 1670 and 1830. Today, around 80% of women between the ages of 35-39 will get pregnant naturally within a year of trying. To put this in perspective, that number is only 85% for women under 35. – The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant
  • Both natural conception and IVF studies show that number of normal embryos produced by women remained unchanged between the ages of 29 and 37 and rose only slightly thereafter until the age of 44. – The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant
  • Similarly, in early genetic testing, 99% of fetuses are normal when a woman is 35. Ninety-seven percent are normal at age 40. – The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant
  • A new study finds that women who begin having children (albeit naturally) after 33 have a better chance of living longer than those who had their last child before 30.
  • Over half of fertility problems are due to male issues. – The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant
  • According to the NYT, it’s the father’s age that’s responsible for birth defects, not the mother’s. Random genetic mutations that become more numerous with advancing paternal age may account for 30% of all autism cases, yet men are rarely made to fear their own biological clock!
  • As of 2012, 15% of first-time mothers were over 35, and the number has only continued to rise in the years since. Births outside of marriage are also increasingly common, which means that if you do decide to go it alone, you’re not actually alone in doing so.

I hope this helps, at least in preventing you from making a major decision that will affect the rest of your life out of (mostly irrational) fear. Take a deep breath, stop blaming yourself for what’s outside of your control, and remember that you, like all those lucky moms who were able to do things on a socially acceptable and physiologically ideal timeline, deserve to have the things you want in life.

Do you feel pressured to have kids by a certain age? How do you handle that?

Images via Lily Glass


  1. While I appreciate the message in this article, I would echo the sentiments of another comment in saying that statistics like these can be misleading. Myself and many women in my community have not had this experience. The fact of the matter is there is no way of knowing what your situation will be. And you are the only one who can decide if and when having children is right for you. But because I wish someone had told me – I want to say to all those women reading this article: Nothing is certain. Follow your gut in these decisions (both having children and freezing your eggs.) They are never simple. But please don’t read this article and think because of these statistics you will be guaranteed the timing you wish for. Weight every possibility and make the decision that feels right for you.

    1. This article is completely irresponsible. No actual studies are cited, just unreliable sources that likely misconstrued study results. Erin, I suggest staying away from science-based articles until you learn how to interpret scientific literature correctly. I did a brief Google Scholar search on “age and pregnancy” and tons of recent articles about the risks appeared. Here’s a more helpful article for women over 35: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20045756?pg=1

  2. Thank you so much for this truly inspiring article. It brought me to tears because at 32, I feel like my time is running out to have children. I have been struggling with the idea of giving up that dream. I have always felt I was meant to be a mother and it’s an internal emotional battle of not having that opportunity. I have gone through the foster care system to be qualified and was ready to visit the sperm bank for my 33rd birthday this year. This helps give me peace of mind I am not alone in this emotional race.

  3. Statistics can be so misleading. In my younger years I’d take comfort in these stats, knowing I had plenty of time. I’m now 34 & struggling with infertility & so are many of my friends. Based on my own situation, I was given a 10% chance to conceive naturally & 50% chance using technology. If I’d only known!
    Waiting is such a personal choice. I wish I’d started sooner though. There isn’t ever a right time, if you want kids; just go for it.

  4. While I have numerous friends who have had healthy babies in their late thirties, I also have multiple friends who have struggled to get pregnant, done IVF unsuccessfully, or have had miscarriages in their thirties (myself being one of them). Perhaps the statistics in my inner circle are worse than the national average, but it does make me aware that waiting is a risk, one that I hope I won’t regret.

  5. This is a lovely article-very encouraging, and very honest. The pressure to have children is really intense! And it’s a monumental decision.
    Perhaps it is important to also mention that adoption or foster care is also a brilliant path to have children in a person’s life. Certainly, some forms of adoption (domestic infant, or international) can be unbelievably costly, and seem quite out-of-reach. But foster care or adoption through the foster care system can be free (or very close to free!), and totally attainable, and a single person can absolutely be licensed and home-studied (simply needing to prove that he/she has a good network of loved ones and help).
    My husband and I tried (and are still trying, honestly) to have a baby, but it hasn’t worked for us, so we’ve gotten licensed to adopt through foster care. It’s been emotionally costly, but we feel great hope.
    Best of luck to everyone making this big decision. Our children are out there somewhere, darlings, for each of us. We just have to figure out the path to find them, whatever that might be!

  6. First of all, it’s nice to read about this point of view but I have to strongly disagree because my life experience was totally different and I have the need to share it. I’m a lawyer and I always knew I wanted kids but it was never the right time, mostly my career got in the way. So at 34 I got married, I was successful lawyer and I thought now is right time. Long story short, after 3 year of trying, IVF… we were said it’s practically impossible for us to have kids and that we would have higher chances if we started trying just 4 or 5 years earlier. The sad thing is that we could have trained earlier, we dated for 6 years but we kept telling us we’re not ready because people today get married in their 30s. Now we’re considering adoption. The thing is that I’m not alone. 7 of my girlfriends were in the same situation except 3 of them got pregnant via IVF and we all thought things like we have time, people get married in 30s, women today give birth in 40s. It’s a lie. Yes, women give birth in 40s, but it’s their second or third child, just think how many couples do you know that went through IVF. The number is huge and I would say to anyone who really wants to have kids- just have them. Nothing good happens if you wait the right time. It will never be the right time or you’ll wait too long.

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