Warning: Allusions to Natural Family Planning in this post, so modest Eavesdroppers shouldn't read it, and the rest of you Eavesdroppers are jerks.
So when Benedict Ambrose and I met and got engaged, I was 37. My mother conceived her last baby at 36, so I figured I was running out of time. We tried to get married as soon as we could, but my parish priest back home squeaked with horror, so we couldn't get married in March, as we wanted. We had to get married in May.
Now, I learned all about NFP when I was 19 and was as regular as clockwork from the age of 12 to the age of 37. That's, twenty-five years with serious dysmenorrhea, too. I used to lie on the floor next to a radiator with a scorching hot electric pad on my tum, complaining about it to Almighty God.
"You better give me children to make all this worthwhile," I said.
My point is, I definitely knew the signs of fertility when I saw them. And the last time I saw them on a normal, clockwork basis was that March. April, no. May, no.
So I should have gone to my friendly family doctor in April. By the end of May, I no longer had access to my friendly family doctor because now I was in take-a-number-IVF-is-free land instead. Despite her politics, I was comfortable with my Canadian family doctor, who still treats the rest of the family back home, but the idea of submitting myself to a gang of foreign pro-ab*rts scared me to death. When the first nurse I spoke to mentioned the baby I wanted to have and then swiftly corrected herself to say "fetus", I was so depressed, it was a long time before I went back. Why they bother asking us our religion when we sign up is a mystery. Maybe I should start adding "PRACTISING" or "FANATICAL" to forms.
The local bedside manner is such that when I called to make an appointment regarding the results of my fertility tests, the doctor gave me the bad news over the phone. And mentioned IVF again. And sounded pissed off after I told her my opposition to IVF was very difficult to explain as a Catholic in a Protestant/post-Protestant country. In Scotland, it is a big insult to suggest that someone is sectarian; the idea is that cultured Protestants/post-Protestants like Catholics, they just hate the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, for all I know, Doctor Sensitive was herself a Catholic, only pro-IVF and drugged to her eyeballs on the Pill.
That said, the last doctor I talked to was very nice and gave me what I wanted, which was a prescription for anti-depressants. Hello, pillbox, my old friend; I've come to talk to you again. Actually, I love these pills because I love balanced seratonin levels like I love Georgian architecture. Where was I?
Ah. Time. So the thing about not settling, is that sometimes not settling means not having babies. However--and this is very important--I do not regret it. I love my husband and our life in Scotland and the view outside my window and this beautiful blue 1960s formica table we got for only £25. I love our Extraordinary Form of the Mass community, and my Polish classes, and being so close to the delights of Continental Europe. I love the Historical House almost as much as B.A. does. I did not want just any baby--I wanted B.A.'s baby. And I keep hoping some dramatic teenager appears at the door, announcing in tragic tones that B.A. is his father, although B.A. assures me that this is not going to happen.
I am happy to ascribe blame for my too-early infertility on God or the nervous parish priest or the British medical establishment or myself, but the culprit is really Time. Bad Time. And I can in no way blame B.A., even if I wanted to, because B.A. married me as quickly as the Church allowed.
I would never recommend that anyone else marry in six or eight months after meeting. We are very happy together, but we are we, you know? If you are over 30 and seriously grown-up, getting engaged after six months sounds reasonable to me. If you are under 30, I'd say a year before engagement. If you are under 20, I'd say wait until college/trade school graduation. Meanwhile, we did not marry so fast just as a last chance to have a baby but to avoid serious sin and also because we were so crazy in love, we suffered so much from being apart.
So I do not understand why women spend so long waiting for their boyfriends to make up their minds to marry them. I really do not understand this. And I really do not understand this in women over thirty. Okay, I guess I do understand how hard it is to say to a man you deeply love, "Marry me or I'm gone", but I don't understand why the men, if they are not getting any sex, don't want to sleep with their girlfriends. In short, I don't understand why Catholic men do not marry their Catholic girlfriends within two years of dating.
Anyway, this is not really about me not being able to have a baby because nasty old Father Time tapped his watch. It is about other women not having babies because they are stuck on a man or on a series of men who simply will not marry them or, if they are living with a man, because he says that he is not ready for a baby and means it. If the woman stays with him so long that eventually she cannot have a baby, how could this situation not end in bitter resentment?
I will always say don't settle for the wrong man. You are never too old to get married. But, unfortunately, you will one day be too old to be a birth mother. I am, but the man I love most in the world is not at all to blame. That is a huge comfort.
Update: New post at Ignatius Press Novels! Subject: why Catholics need other Catholics to teach us to write.