Dating with baby goggles on

It’s September 13th, which means I’m forty-and-a-half. This is a little worrying, both professionally and personally. Professionally because I’d hoped to turn this site into something more over the course of my 40th year – an online magazine at least, a book deal at most – and I only have six months left. I’d better get my thinking cap on, or maybe my doing cap.

And personally because I’m six months off 41 and, while I think I coped with turning 40 quite well – embracing the liberating side of it – I’m not sure I’ll feel the same about moving up another year. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against the ageing process per se. I like how I grow and change over the years, particularly on the inside. And while sometimes I’d rather the lines around my eyes or mouth weren’t so pronounced, I can appreciate they’re the marks of 40 years of smiles, laughter, frowns and tears.

I guess the main problem with advancing through my 40th decade is the baby dilemma (which I’ve written about in previous posts: The baby conundrum and The baby gap). Of course, it might be too late to have my own child already. It might have been too late at 35. Who knows? But for any woman who still holds out hope of giving birth, I imagine that every birthday beyond 40 takes away a little bit of hope.

And while I like to think an active lifestyle, a good diet and a healthy BMI will help preserve my fertility, it’s clear that’s not the case. This New York Times article Are You as Fertile as You Look? spells it out for us all. “Forty may be the new 30,” it says, “but try telling that to your ovaries”. Glossy hair, a great complexion and regular menstruation may suggest good fertility but, according to the article, most doctors agree that by the time a woman is 40, her chances of getting pregnant each month are about 5 percent. Yes, that’s 5 percent. And what if you’re 40 and you’re hair isn’t glossy, your complexion isn’t great and your menstruation is all over the place? Where does that leave us?

Are you hearing the patter of tiny feet?

Which brings me back to the title of this post. How does a woman in her late 30s or early 40s who thinks she’d like children approach dating in a sensible fashion? In the good old days, say pre-35, I don’t think I had on my baby goggles (a variation on beer goggles for anyone who was wondering) every time I came across a potential boyfriend. It was much simpler. Did I fancy him? Did we get on? Did we have a laugh together? I can’t remember sitting down at any point in the first few weeks and asking if he wanted kids. But for any woman in her late 30s or early 40s who’d like to at least try for a baby, it seems we have to cut to the chase. But then doesn’t it all get too serious too quick? Do we end up ruling out perfectly decent guys just because they’re reluctant fathers. And what if we discover we’re infertile anyway?

As you can see, the dilemmas are numerous, which is why I’d really appreciate a little help on this one – from men and women. I’d love to hear your comments. Is it ridiculous to talk about parenthood at this age on a first or second date or is it highly sensible? How do you relax about the whole baby thing and date as though you weren’t aware of your ageing internal organs? Do you decide a great partner is more important than trying for a baby? Or do you take a gamble and assume that any man who truly fell in love with you would want you to have his babies, despite earlier protestations? I think I know the dangers of that last one – going in to something expecting someone to change is generally a recipe for disaster! I know from previous posts that this will also strike a chord for would-be mothers who are in long-term relationships with reluctant fathers and are wondering whether to stay or whether to go.

And what do men think about all this? How do they cope with women who can’t take their baby goggles off? And do they have their own baby goggles on? It seems that many do. If you check out internet dating sites, many men in their late 30s and early 40s won’t consider women their own age. They generally only want to look at the age category beneath them. For some it’ll be because they simply prefer a younger woman but others, no doubt, will want to date someone with more childbearing years to spare.

Of course, as a 40-year-old single woman, I know what I’m supposed to do and I’ve written about it before on this site. I’m supposed to trust that if it’s meant to be, it’ll be. I’m supposed to put it all – both a relationship and motherhood or a childfree future – in God’s hands and not fret. But I have enough experience – through friends, people I’ve interviewed and through what I’ve read – of how painful the whole process can be to know ‘letting go and letting God’ won’t be easy in this area. And just because I trust, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make sensible choices. One thing I do know is that I really don’t want to put my body through years of prodding, poking and injecting to try to conceive. Melissa Foss, the 41-year-old who spoke to the New York Times, had 15 unsuccessful rounds of IVF. That’s 15 rounds of emotional and physical pain. But nor can I say I wouldn’t try the IVF route if it came to that.

At this point, I should also pause and reflect about whether I really do want children. Is my body telling me that’s what comes next or is it my mind, shaped by everything I see around me? I’m not sure I know the answer but it might be time for some serious thinking.

But even if you take the baby thing out of the equation, there are plenty of other dilemmas that come with dating at this age. I should probably resist the temptation of writing about them all at once, though, so I’ll be back with more thoughts in coming days on relationships, particularly on commitment and commitmentphobia, on the perils of too much independence and on healing from past hurts.

Before I go though, I did a Google search before I began this post on ‘dating at forty’ and I can’t say I liked what I found. I came across a few dating sites for over forties and words like ‘middle-aged’ and ‘mature’ seem to appear rather frequently. I guess I can accept I’m just about ‘middle-aged’ although that phrase still makes me grimace a little. But mature? I’m not sure I’d go that far! Although I’m working on it.

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About Katherine Baldwin

I am a writer, dating and relationships coach, mid-life mentor and motivational speaker. I'm the author of How to Fall in Love - A 10-Step Journey to the Heart and I write for the national media on topics including love and dating, how to change unhelpful habits and have healthy relationships, and other aspects of personal growth. I coach people to create healthy, loving and authentic relationships with themselves and others, and lives they truly love. I lead workshops and run retreats. You can find out more about me at www.katherinebaldwin.com and www.howtofallinlove.co.uk or read my blog at www.fromfortywithlove.com
This entry was posted in Fertility, Pregnancy, Relationships, Trust, Uncategorized, Women and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Dating with baby goggles on

  1. Liz Bedford says:

    Hello,

    Hmm, this is a difficult one. I’m not exactly in the same situation, being 33 and married a year, but if you’d like to hear my thoughts despite that, here goes…

    I wouldn’t mention it on the first date, but I don’t see anything wrong in bringing it up after 3 or 4 weeks, assuming you’ve met up several times during that time and you think the guy is someone you’d want to be the father of your children!

    An ex once told me about a previous brief relationship in his early 30s, with someone who he already knew a little before they started dating. On the second or third date (they did know each other a little already) she was quite candid about essentially looking for a husband and father to her future children, hoping to be married and trying for a baby within a year (she was in her late 30s). He ran a mile – but her next boyfriend didn’t and she got what she wanted. If she hadn’t been so candid, she’d just have been wasting her time with him (my ex). He still hasn’t settled down a decade later.

    I do think that a man of any age will feel he wants children ‘soon’, ‘later’, or ‘never’, and it’s hardly going to be a surprise to him that a woman in her late 30s / early 40s is going to be looking for someone to be a father in the nearish future, if she does want to have children of her own. Which of course is why many men of that age who feel that they’re in the ‘later’ or ‘never’ category pursue younger women, as you have described, as the woman is more likely to be on the same timeline as him.

    Call me unromantic but I think it’s more about timing than anything else, I don’t believe in the ‘only one true love’ theory. I believe that there’s hundreds, if not thousands of men out there that a certain woman could have had a happy life and family with, it’s just a case of meeting them when it’s the right time for both of you.

    Have you thought about getting your fertility tested? Then at least you’d know how things stood with you. I always prefer to know the odds…

    Good luck – I hope you have fun sampling the potentials!

    Liz

  2. Hi Liz,
    Thanks so much for your comment and sharing those thoughts and experiences. I think you give very wise advice! I agree with you that it’s about timing, rather than ‘the one’, and that it’s a topic worth discussing reasonably early on in any relationship. I guess we’re all adults at this age (or supposed to be) and, as you say, most people will be aware of what’s going on even if it’s not talked about.
    I pondered having my fertility tested a while back but decided against it. I wondered how it would help if there wasn’t a potential father on the scene and thought it would just stress me out more. I think I still feel the same. I’d rather just trust that if it’s meant to happen, it will.
    Thanks again. It’s great to have comments from women of all ages and perspectives.
    Best wishes,
    Katherine

  3. Kathyn says:

    Hi there
    I am not in the same situation either being 37 and have 2 little girls and a step daughter, but I was in this situation not that long ago!!!
    I dont think I ever mentioned wanting kids on the first date but I would early on, because I wanted kids and didnt want to waste time with some one who didnt.
    I met a man who already had a child (that is a whole different story!!!!) and I thought maybe he wouldnt want any more. Luckily he did!!! it was a bonus because I could see what a wonderful dad he is.
    Have fun dating x

    Love Kathryn x

  4. Thank you Kathryn. Lovely to hear from you. Enjoy your wonderful family!
    Katherine x

  5. Natasha says:

    HI there,

    I am in exactly the same situation – if not just a year older at 41 going on to 42 in 6 months… I’m not in a steady relationship (following a break-up 6 months ago) but have started dating again. So, this is how I’ve been thinking things through…

    My break-up was particularly difficult because of this issue – I knew I was potentially throwing away my chances of having my own child, but despite this, I broke up anyhow. I didn’t want to bring a child into a situation that I wasn’t sure of, besides if it hadn’t happened during the course of our relationship, then it clearly wasn’t meant to be… I have come to the conclusion that I am not a woman who needs to have her own child above anything else, and that children and relationships don’t necessarily stay the distance.

    I believe that if you really want something, you will make it happen – I know many women who wanted to be mothers above everything else, and so they went out and ‘got’ themselves a child, sacrificing many things in the process. I’m not one of those, I’d like a child in my life, but have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t necessarily have to be mine. There are plenty of children out there who need someone to love them unconditionally, in fact there’s a bit of a crisis in this respect. I’ll be fostering some of them sometime soon. Hopefully. Would I tell a date? Absolutely, not as a big statement, just as an essential part of information about myself and who I am.

    This is an Interesting debate – I think we are the generation that are re-defining these life stages and I personally have felt a little bereft of role models and guidance as to how to deal with these issues… Some of it has been quite testing and all of it has made me grow.

    Natasha

    • Hi Natasha,
      Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your story. I agree that there are many children out there in need of love and parenting and there are many different ways to be a mother. I think I’d have some grieving to do if I didn’t have my own child but I’m sure we can all find outlets for our mothering instincts.
      I think it’s an important and interesting debate too – so thanks for adding your voice.
      Best wishes, Katherine

  6. Susan says:

    Dear Katherine,
    I just came across your writing. I’m in the exact same position – 40, dating (or trying to), and to make matters worse – jobless. I moved to a new city a year ago, and am now a full time student getting my Masters in Education. I am worried about the future – financial stability, and of the dream of having my own biological child fading into oblivion.

    I recently broke up with a nice guy who told me on our first date that yes, he did want a child, and later on told me that he wasn’t cut out for it. Now I’m dating someone I’m really trying to make it work with, but feel in my heart it isn’t, because I don’t want the dream of motherhood to die.

    Anyhow, if in the past year you’ve come up with any great insights, I’d love to hear them. I too tried to embrace 40, and even though people usually think I’m younger, I somehow don’t think that extends to my ovaries.

    Susan

    • Dear Susan,
      Thanks for getting in touch. It’s a really tricky time but you’re not alone – I’ve come across so many women in this position. Although it sounds like you have some complicating factors, with the new city and studies.
      As for great insights, I’m not sure! I’m still single, still 41, and am trying to date myself (am on a few websites) but there’s not much going on! I am writing a book about all this so I’d love to chat to you if you’d be up for that – and maybe we could share some insights on the phone! I’ll drop you an email or email me at katherine{at}katherinebaldwin{dot}com
      Best wishes,
      Katherine

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