I get so many emails from women in their early twenties worried that they will never get married that I find myself saying again and again, "You can become too old to be a mother, but you will never be too old to get married."
This is meant to be bracing and comforting, but it also reluctantly points to a harsh biological fact. You can become too old to be a mother, and so far there is no test to tell you exactly when that will be. And this can be very sad. It is certainly very sad for me, as I am in the not-sure zone between 35 and menopause.
There are young married couples out there who have infertility problems. And often they don't find out about these infertility problems until after they are married and months pass and the bride never gets pregnant. But infertility problems are more likely to happen the older a couple are when they get married. (Naturally I am talking about couples not using abstinence or contraceptive methods.)
I am thinking about this today because although I am absolutely terrified of the British medical system, I have just made another appointment to talk to a doctor. It has taken me almost two years to get up the courage again. Two years. And it's not like I am normally a coward. Last week I submitted a column on Margaret Thatcher that I knew would rile up readers who hated Thatcher. The week before I whacked a man with my handbag. I used to box. I'm learning Polish. I cook Polish food for Polish people. Ergo, not coward. But terrified of the British medical system all the same, not to mention the phrase "reproductive health", which most of the time has nothing to do with "reproductive health" but is merely a euphemism for ab*rtion.
At times like this, I really, really wish I were back in Ontario, whose medical system I am completely familiar with, or in a Catholic country, where I would not have to explain to one stranger after another in a semi-apologetic tone that I have deep ethical and religious objections to various reproductive tests, technologies and practices. Or a city like Toronto or Dublin where there are lists of NFP practitioners as long as your arm.
My greatest regret is that I did not go to my own decent, familiar, Canadian family physician before I got married. I could have said "I want someone to look at my insides," and--without a mountain of paperwork and borderline offensive letters --someone would have looked at my insides. I could have said, "I want a test for this," and I would have been given a test for that, either on the spot or half an hour later downstairs in the lab. I could have said, "I'd like you to actually look at me while we're talking and spend more than five minutes with me before chucking me out of your office," but, actually, I never, ever had to say that. My family doctor was a "Hey, how are you! How's your mum doing?" kind of lady. I didn't realize that not all doctors are like her. And so I took her for granted and left Ontario serene in the misunderstanding that if I had any problems I could just consult a local Scottish doctor, and it would be completely the same.
Ah ha ha ha.
But, anyway, just like I have made myself lose ten pounds and made myself read the first chapter of Harry Potter in Polish, I have made myself call the clinic. Somethings we cannot control but with grace we can at least control ourselves. And we must all remember that although the expression "reproductive health" has been cheapened and basically ruined by the ab*rtion industry, we still should take seriously the concept of fertility care.
Update: Lest I look like I am poking unfairly at poor old Scotland, I will admit that the pure irrationality of my level of fear points to Migration Angst. Anyone who leaves their country (especially a richer one) to move to another country in mid-life is very fortunate indeed if they do not hit a wall of Migration Angst. Many Catholics are going to feel uncomfortable with doctors when it comes to reproductive/fertility issues, so when you throw migration into that--! And it's not like I can go to the Canadian Mass and meet other Canadians who can tell me where I can find a Canadian-speaking doctor.