Silence is Golden, So are the What-if’s by Melissa Swedoski

Here’s the funny thing about being a first time mom over 40: people automatically assume you used some kind of assisted reproductive therapy and they feel all kinds of okay asking you questions about it. Someone actually asked if I had “any embryos left over” once we had our first daughter. In hindsight, I wish I had asked if she had any eggs left in her ovaries.

This new information age world we live in – complete with sites like this one and blogs like oh so many – is that we’ve opened a myriad of doors to peek into others’ lives, while so many are out there sharing it for all the world to see. But not all of us are waving the banner of broadcast. In fact, some people think reproduction is a private matter, preferring not to discuss how we went about “making a baby,” and there are those who seem disappointed by it.

When Jennifer Lopez announced she was pregnant with twins, many rushed to judgment on her method of conception. When Nicole Kidman said she was pregnant for the first time, there were a few eyebrows raised. When Halle Berry recently let the world know she is having another baby, let’s just say some I know on Twitter were more than happy to “call her out” on her conception methods.

Oh me, oh my. When did we lose our ability to be shy? The days of not showing a pregnant woman on TV are long gone. Heck, the days of not being able to use the word “pregnant” on TV are long gone. Lucy Ricardo doesn’t have to pretend anymore, and she and Ricky are now more than welcome to share a bed.

Before our first daughter was born, I went through two D&Cs. As I was doling out instructions to employees, saying simply that I was having a procedure done, one of the reporters asked if I was having IVF. I was so stunned that all I could say was, “Quite the opposite, actually.”

When I told a couple of close friends that we were trying, they didn’t hesitate to ask about the drugs I was taking, or the exams I had to endure, or the inevitable: “How does it work, anyway?” Magic, I always said, because explaining the intricacies of how the process worked just made me tired.

I’m not ashamed we did IVF. I sometimes wish we had started trying sooner, but then I realize that we might not have ended up with the two daughters we have. It’s all about timing, isn’t it? If I hadn’t been going to the exact doctor at that exact moment in my history, it could have been a completely different egg and sperm. And if I’d had a baby at a younger age, the second “spontaneous” baby might never have happened. Or, again, been a completely different egg and sperm. 

Life can turn into one long series of “what-if’s” if you’re not careful. As I prepare to close the book on having any more children, I’m filled with melancholy and bittersweet emotions. I am so utterly thankful every day that I have these two gorgeous daughters, and yet, wistful for one or two more. I think that would have been a darn fun family to be a member of. But time and money and yes, fear, have parlayed into a hand that I need to fold.

As the what-if’s wash over me – what if we’d started sooner? what if we’d never moved? what if we hadn’t had the money? – I still wonder, what if we’d never had any babies at all? Then who would I be? And I do a silent happy dance that I will never have to figure that out. As I decide whether or not I even want to talk about it.


  1. 3 Responses to “Silence is Golden, So are the What-if’s by Melissa Swedoski”

  2. Melissa,
    I love this and can relate to it so well. We didn’t do IVF but so many people assumed that we had due to my age. When did people start becoming so much less shy anyway? Sheesh. I know what you mean too about wishing I’d had my son when I was younger but also knowing that a different egg and different sperm would have given me a different kid – and the one I ended up with is exactly perfectly perfect.

    By Kristi Campbell on Jul 31, 2013

  3. Great post Melissa!

    By allison on Jul 31, 2013

  4. I ached for a baby for years before my 40th birthday, when I told myself — as often as was necessary over the next several months — that life without one might not be what I planned, but it’s probably what I’m getting, and that can be a good life, too, if I let it be. Then, as if all fate needed was for me to chill out, I got pregnant with my daughter. I feel I was staring down the what-if. Had that been my life, I hope I would’ve had the sense to enjoy life anyway, but like you, I’m very grateful I didn’t have to find out.

    No one has ever asked or made any assumptions about how my daughter was conceived, not to my face anyway. But I’ve never been a very outgoing person. People close to me know she was conceived the old-fashioned way because they know my husband and I couldn’t afford IVF. Others might wonder, but not feel comfortable enough with me to ask. Perhaps they ask because you have a gift for putting people at ease.

    By Cathy on Aug 14, 2013