The hardest decision to make at 40

lady stuffed toyTwo pink lines and I’m completely screwed. Not in the 17-year-old, life-is-over teen pregnancy way. Not even in the mid-20s, career-just-starting way. I’m in the most embarrassing accidental pregnancy demographic: facing 40, happily married with two children.  We most definitely should have known better, but it seems biology can outwit us all.

And according to research, I am not alone. A 12-month audit of Victoria’s Pregnancy Advisory Service illustrates that unintended pregnancy is not just the scourge of libidinous teens, as a third of the women who used the service were older than 30, with 5 per cent in their 40s. Nearly half were already mothers.

Despite decades spent successfully navigating contraception, and despite rapidly declining fertility, some of us still end up sucker-punched by a zygote.

Anyone facing an unplanned pregnancy has their own excruciating dilemmas to solve, and I’m no exception. With my eldest settled into school and my youngest in his preschool years, I’d planned to shrug off the fog of mothering small children and reignite my stalled career. I’d dreamed of a wild weekend to celebrate my impending fortieth. I was going to rediscover something of myself again after seven years of being life support and life line to growing little humans.   

But these two little pink lines scratch all that.  

When I tell my husband, he reminds me that we’re broke, that I’m aching for the workforce, that we’re renting with my mother to save for our own home, that there are more complications as older parents, that after just finishing his PhD he wants to build his career, and that another child in the equation is going to mean less for everyone else, including our two kids. Including me.  

I can see that although he supports my process, he’s disappointed that I can’t reach the same decision he has made just as easily. In his youth a girlfriend had ended their pregnancy. He considers it is a logical solution to a problem. I remind him that she struggled with that decision years after.  

We talk about our friends who have had terminations, but most were in untenable circumstances: young, unstable relationships with undesirable fathers, or midway through their degrees, or single mothers unable to provide for another child. In those situations continuing the pregnancy would be foolhardy. But I can’t find a convincing argument for our situation.  

I’ve never had an abortion. I thought that I’d dodged that bullet, but here I am at the end of my 30s, staring down the barrel of that gun. So why do I am I finding it so hard to make that decision?  

The thing is that after my second I had a longing for a third. I think it’s a nice dynamic, particularly in adulthood, to have two siblings to lean on. I still felt there was room for one more.  

My husband, however, was done. I never made the decision to restrict our family, but I accepted his completely. And as we moved further away from babyhood, once I packed away the nappies and my maternity bras, that ache subsided. I still had three-kid envy of my friends, so I got a puppy. I decided I’d just get on with living, not creating, life.  

Until those two pink lines appeared. While I adopted pregnant behaviour immediately – avoiding alcohol and soft cheese – I was simultaneously researching abortion, looking up clinics, calling counsellors and help-lines. I searched for reasons to justify it – my health, the baby’s – but there is no physical reason to end the pregnancy. I found myself sobbing and overwhelmed with the thought.

I don’t want to be pregnant, but I don’t want to an abortion either. I crave an easy out, for the decision to be out of my hands. But I’m stuck.

I am acutely aware that at 40 this is the last pregnancy I will ever have. It’s easy to agree not to have another child, but to actively terminate a pregnancy is another thing entirely. I am not a young woman anymore. This is not a case of bad timing and bad circumstances, and maybe later things could work out. This is it for me. This is the last baby I could ever bring into the world.

So here is predicament I am faced with: I have to either submit to a procedure that I desperately don’t want or make my husband to have a baby he doesn’t want. The decision is the heaviest burden I have shouldered. And it grows a little bigger every day.

This article first appeared on Daily Life. The author has chosen to remain anonymous.

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