The choices I made regarding pregnancy and childbirth 30 years ago seem more like the result of the time period I grew up in as opposed to any conscious decision on my part. I grew up knowing that girls turned into women. (My dad said when I started my period, “Congratulations, your mother told me that you became a woman today.”) I knew that women turned into sexual beings, and that it was women who tried to prevent pregnancy (not men—I never saw a condom until I was in my late 20s) until they fell in love with the man of their dreams, married that man and together they had children. I do not recall knowing any childless couples when I was growing up, I did not know any same-sex couples, and I only knew a handful of children who were adopted—but that was kind of a “secret.” I also never heard of infertility issues until I was pregnant myself. This was my view of the world and pretty much how I progressed into adulthood and motherhood.
Agh, you’re thinking…she is so old-fashioned! Well, this is certainly not my thinking any longer, and it’s not the case for the girls and women of the 21st century—particularly if they are living in the northeastern part of the U.S. Today’s young women are very conscious of and conscientious about the choices they have. Birth control is talked about openly (understanding all of the options and consequences certainly is helpful to girls as they mature). Young women have so many choices around becoming parents and so many different paths to take—if, in fact, they choose to have a child. And what about women who choose not to? Many women feel that there is a stigma to this. Contributor Alanna York was going through all of the motions and more to become a mom, until she realized that maybe she didn’t really want to be one. Read her column, Polished, on page 30.
Maine women make choices today that were not options for women 20 or 30 years ago. Meet Jaime and Tom Johnson, whose desire to have another child led them to embryo adoption. Until recently, I did not know that option existed. The embryos were originally fertilized as part of the IVF process for another couple. The embryos that weren’t used were subsequently donated so families like the Johnsons might use them.
Tracy DeMatteis, a loan officer from Scarborough, was told she could never have a child. But she wanted to become a mother, at the age of 42 and single, she forged ahead with her choice to conceive via sperm donor and in vitro fertilization and today is a happy single mom of a 3-year-old daughter. Her choice was clear: She wanted to conceive, carry and deliver a baby, and she did whatever she could to make this happen. Her story is on page 8.
I hear younger women talking all the time about the choices they are faced with concerning pregnancy and childbirth. Some women cannot stand the idea of being pregnant, others want to be pregnant but not raise their children. I still hear women talking about their biological clocks and whether they want to freeze eggs “just in case,” or hurry to start a family on their own. Some women talk about disappointing their own mothers, some of whom can’t wait to become grandmothers. You can read Candace Karu’s take on this in her column on page 20. Candace, a mom of two grown children, is coming to terms with the choices that her kids are making that will prevent her from being a grandmother.
As a mom to four young women today, I am thrilled that they have so many options as they meander their paths through life. I have already learned so much from choices and decisions that they have made that were different from my own. It is such a privilege to watch them choose, with confidence and independence, the life that they want for their own.