When we talk about fertility over the age of 50, it's usually because we are lamenting the loss of fertility for women. Done, done, done. No more babies for you! We are either done or nearly done with our fertility related to having babies. Often, we are done with parenting, at least to the degree that our children are often in college when we enter our 50s. Our careers may be waning rather than waxing.
These are an obvious group of generalizations and they fall apart rather quickly these days. In fact, those generalizations are just plain and simply more wrong than they are right. Still, talking about fertility after the age of 50 often turns to talk of infertility. Of endings rather than beginnings.
What happens when you talk to women of these advanced ages? We find out a truth -- we are not infertile because we've turned 50 or 60, or 70 or 80 or 90 and are no longer capable or even interested in producing babies.
These stereotypes continue to be wrong even in terms of facts. We are "fertile" longer and older. Even in terms of what we typically understand as fertility, we women are having babies into our 50s. We are often parenting very young children, at an age where we would have been assumed to be their grandparents several decades ago. It's becoming more accepted, as a rule, that even though we're a little older, we may indeed by the 3-year-old's parent and not their grandparents.
We're finally shedding the curious notion that fertility is only about producing offspring or growing a plant. Fertility, it turns out, is much more than that. In talking with women lately about their concept of fertility, their response is epic. It's ferocious. We are fertile because we are alive -- that's my takeaway message from speaking with friends, students and even strangers.
We are not infertile because we can no longer have babies. Secret? We were never infertile even when or if we couldn't have babies. The hidden part always was that finding our version of fertility was our quest, if we recognized it.
Fertility. A few generalizations that we really can live by -- brand new generalizations that women are living by, right now, with or without being recognized for it.
We are strong and vibrant and healthy. We are bigger, we are better, we are more confident.
Being over 50 isn't all about flab or wrinkles, or misplacing our words. It's not all about aches and pains, medication or even really bad health and disease. It's not about death and it's certainly not about sitting around waiting for death to walk in the door.
My conversations lately have included many women well into their 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th decades. Some with children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren. Women are speaking to me about fertility when they have not had children, either out of choice or because there was not enough help to have the children that they dreamed of having.
They are all saying very similar things.
I am alive and well. I pick my own paths. I make decisions that work well for me.
They don't so much as make bucket lists, they live in a way that invites new experiences. They are intrigued. We are intrigued. We are curious.
We are lit up by the places we've been and are investigating where we go next.
How do we get there? How do we move along when we retire? Whether we retire from active duty parenting to mentoring our children or we retire from a career, how do we find a new path?
My choice? Sometimes?
I sit my butt down, where ever I am, and I absorb quiet. I shut up.
I am not good at it. I am not exaggerating how not good at quiet I am. I fidget, my brain goes yakity yak, my foot falls asleep. It's not pretty.
And still I sit.
Because fertility can only make it's appearance with time and space. We create the space after we have made the time, take it in our own two hands and molded it to our desire. We plant the seed. We nurture it with love, water and sleep and tender or violent dreams. And conversations with our friends and even our enemies. We all learn a lot from our enemies, don't we? Especially when we can get on the same side as them.
We sit quietly.
We put all that into growing something new and we add patience. Even when we don't have any.
Especially when we don't have any.
Fertility is available at any age, regardless of ability or health.
Start with your heart wide open.
Here are a few questions to consider to help start you on your path -- it's not always easy to start anew, so be kind to yourself. That's the first rule.
1. What have you left undone so far in your life?
2. If money were not an obstacle, where would you go, what would you do?
3. When you sit quietly, what makes you smile?
4. What excites you to consider doing?
My inspiration for fertility after 50?
To celebrate my mother turning 80 this year, we are going white water rafting. Whose idea? Hers, of course.
Fertile at 80 means white river rafting to my mom.
For me? It means expanding, even if slightly or dramatically uncomfortably, including writing here, to you.
What does being fertile and remaining fertile mean to you?