This post is intended to serve as both a PSA to those of you who do NOT want to get pregnant and perhaps a reassuring bit of news for those of you 35-and-ups who hope to have kids (or MORE kids) at some point and have underlying anxiety about the non-stop, aggressive warnings from the medical community that it is much harder to conceive after age 34.
Now, I’m not here to argue with science. Clearly, there is medically researched backing to the idea that conception becomes more difficult as you get older. I’m just here to make you aware of the less-talked-about phenomenon that occurs in your mid-30s, but is just as real* (*have no scientific backing for this claim, based solely on personal experience and, you know, “what I’ve heard”)– it’s called Catcher’s Mitt Syndrome** (**not a real syndrome. Don’t quote this to people without a sense of humor– they won’t get it, and then they’ll research it, find out it’s fake and report me to Snopes).
Catcher’s Mitt Syndrome is when your geriatric*** uterus (***not my term– actual medical term for when you are 35+ and trying to have a child) overperforms. See, thanks to your 17+ years of popping birth control pills like tic tacs and/or using other means to impede its life work, your uterus hasn’t been given any opportunity to fulfill what it believes to be its life’s purpose (I am not saying this IS its life’s purpose, I’m just saying that’s what your UTERUS thinks. I fully support a woman’s choice to never have kids, and in fact encourage that choice. Trust me, I’m a teacher– I’ve met far too many parents who probably shouldn’t be parents.)
And so when your Guterus (celebrity couple name for geriatric + uterus) DOES get that one opportunity to shine, it gets so fucking excited that it dusts off the cobwebs, sprouts 27 limbs, and slips a catcher’s mitt on each of them. Then it does everything in its power to catch one of those incoming suckers because it knows this might be its only opportunity. This “last chance” mentality also causes your Yogi Berra uterus to text-alert your ovaries, encouraging them to release every available egg from their dark, abandoned storage room, which is why twins are more likely**** as you get older, even without the assistance of IVF (****statistic based on what my 35-year-old friend who just had twins told me. But she claims her doctor told her that, and I believe her because it sounds legit, and also this friend is a general knower of stuff and we used to share custody of a bunny when we were teenagers, so let’s just say I trust her. Yes, we ended up giving that bunny away because it was too much work and not as much fun as we thought it’d be, but that’s a story for another time and hopefully not at all reflective of our parenting abilities).
Needless to say, Eric and I did not know about Catcher’s Mitt Syndrome when we headed off to our 2-week South Africa/Seychelles honeymoon in late November. Like most people with a Guterus, I assumed that making a baby would take about 6 months if we were lucky, a few years with medical assistance if we were less lucky, or just wouldn’t happen at all. In fact, as proof of the absolute and utter uselessness of anxiety (my therapist would be so proud right now), I have spent the past 8 years worrying that when the time came for me to start a family, I would be unable to. This fear was based on absolutely nothing other than the knowledge that I would probably not get married until my mid-30s (because when you’re having a mental breakdown, living at home, and sleeping in your parents’ bed at age 27, you can safely assume marriage isn’t happening for a while).
Eight years of worrying I’d miss my chance, only to conceive on the first try. Anxiety, you deceptive bitch! Don’t get me wrong, I am EXTREMELY grateful that it turns out you’re nothing but a lying whore– I’d just like those 8 years of wasted energy back. It was exhausting.
So before we left for the honeymoon, I looked at my handy dandy ovulation app and noted that my “fertile days” would begin and last right through our 5 days in the Seychelles, at the end of our trip. Smack in the middle of paradise seemed like as good a time as any to get started!
Well, in true-to-me fashion I managed to contract a stomach bug of death during our last day in South Africa, which had me projectile vomiting through 2 countries, 3 airports, and 2 aircrafts (one of them a 20-seater so again, fellow passengers and unamused flight attendant who aggressively tried to block my path to the toilet during taxi, I’M SORRY.)
We finally arrived in the Seychelles, where I threw myself dramatically onto the sweet salvation of the bed and, with this exact level of energy and enthusiasm , turned to Eric and said “Sooo….I’m ovulating…”
I still had dried throw up on my chin.
“Alright, well….maybe not tonight,” he replied gently, from the furthest corner of the room he could find. Because even Eric has his limits.
While I did stop puking that night, I never fully recovered from my illness in the time we were there, but we still put in some minimal baby-making effort because it just felt irresponsible not to.
It was only on our last day in the Seychelles that we decided to actually consult a calendar and calculate when this baby would actually be born, should we conceive. To our horror, we realized that it would be during our annual 2-week trip to the Outer Banks, the family vacation to end all family vacations– and, more importantly, the one that is fully financed by Big Steve. My siblings and I literally spend the year counting the days until this trip, and it’s pretty much what gets us through life. Eric has grown to love the Outer Banks as much as I do, so the idea of not going was unacceptable to us both.
Me: “Alright, well, we only tried once. Luckily the chances of getting pregnant on the first try when you’re 35 are zero*****.” (*****Again, all quoted statistics are based on NOTHING.)
Well, you know how this story ends– I never felt fully recovered from that stomach bug and by our second week back in the US, I decided that I definitely contracted an African parasite. Shortly thereafter, we confirmed (via 4 separate home pregnancy tests, because reading lines is hard), I DID have a parasite, but technically it was of Seychellian (Seychellese? Seychellite?) origin, and that parasite was going to turn into a human.
So, of course, we’d like to thank Catcher’s Mitt Syndrome for this blessing that is our daughter-to-be, but we also wish we had known about this phenomenon ahead of time, as we would have scheduled accordingly.
“Yeah, but your parents will just switch the vacation dates, right?” many of you have queried.
Oh, you sweet, naive people from normal families.
Here’s how the conversation with my mother went:
Me (right after taking pregnancy test): “So…we’re pregnant! The only issue here is that the due date is August 26, literally smack in the middle of the Outer Banks vacation…”
Mom: “Well, we don’t know that’s the due date.”
Me: “Ok. We do, though.”
Mom: “Let’s see what the doctor says.”
Me: “The doctor is going to say that’s the due date, because I used the exact same calculation method a doctor uses.”
Mom: “Em, let’s just see what he says, ok?”
(after going to doctor)
Me: “The doctor says the due date is August 26.”
Mom: “Ok, well let’s just see what happens.”
So no. No one is switching anything.
The takeaway from all this? It’s six-fold:
- Ignore research-based science and listen to my unfounded generalization that is based on one thing that happened to me once– conception at age 35+ can actually occur very fast, because your uterus has now become Hamilton and it is not throwing away its shot.
- Be grateful for this phenomenon, but schedule life plans accordingly. All-expense-paid vacations are precious. Yes, so are babies, but I’m just saying– shifting things a month never hurt anyone.
- Everything I’ve presented in this post is based on stuff I heard/experienced. I don’t know if it has any general merit so do not quote me, unless you’re doing it in a light-hearted, jokey way. Like, don’t tweet this at NIH.
- If you think these theories DO have some merit, google them and see if you find anything to back them up. I’d love to know what you find! “But why didn’t YOU google them to see if they have merit, Emily?” Because that’s not my job here. I write a blog, not a medical journal.
- No, this post is not an ungrateful, whining complaint about missing a vacation to have a baby. We are of course thrilled that this happened so easily for us, know that we are extremely lucky, and this post is all in jest. It annoys me that I even have to include these disclaimers, but there is always that person who takes offense, and while I don’t understand then why you continue to read this blog, I still feel the need to address your complete misunderstanding of how humor works.
- For this entire post, I am sorry, Eric.