26 and already pregnant

This is the full version of my piece about pregnancy that appeared here on Slate. I wanted to share the original, because I like the details, and Slate was nice enough to let me. 

When I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t really want to tell my friends. We’d talked about babies, over wine and second draft feature articles at a non-fiction writers’ group, and everyone agreed that if you’re smart, you wait until you’re thirty-five.

“There’s too much to do before then!” said one of the women, summarizing.

I was twenty-six when I got pregnant, which meant I’d jumped the gun by almost a decade.

In a lot of different parts of the country, having a baby in your mid twenties is not a big deal; According to a 2009 report from the CDC, the average age of first time mothers in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah and nine other states New Yorkers rarely visit was recently twenty-two to twenty-three. But the average age of first time moms here in New York was twenty-six, and twenty-seven in New Jersey, where I grew up. When you account for factors like advanced education, the numbers climb. The Pew Research Center notes that 71% of first time mothers over thirty-five are college educated. Since I arrived in NYC, I don’t think I’ve even met anyone who didn’t go to college.

But on my Babycenter.com Due Date Club app, people are constantly starting threads with titles like “aNy othr teen moms on here???” And they get plenty of sympathetic answers. In New York City I only know one other woman my age who has a baby. She’d gone to Harvard and worked on Wall Street, but, she once confided in me in low tones, “I always wanted to be a mom.”

(my eternal hero– Robin McKinley. God, can this woman write a fantasy novel. source)

I have not always wanted to be a mom. (If I’ve always wanted to be anything it’s a famous fantasy novelist – dorky, I know). More immediately, I’ve wanted to get a college scholarship and then get a high GPA and then get into an Ivy League grad school and then have a sparkling career in the big city. I’m not sure about how sparkling my big city career has been (a guess: not particularly), but I made the rest of my goals happen.

Until now, the conversations I’ve had with my friends about babies have sounded something like this:

Glamorous, perfectly made-up Mara: “My mom is a nurse. She says it’s a myth that women are less fertile in their mid-thirties.”

(We all nod sagely.)

Julie, who has just been promoted and is managing ten people and attending star-studded work parties: “I need to spend at least another five years on my career. And anyway, my boss hates pregnant women.”

Stephanie, who works at a tech start-up: “Five years, definitely. That’s the right amount of time. You have to live your own life first.”

Everyone else: “Yes!”

Me: silence

I had been married for a couple years when I decided to go off birth control. By then, I was in therapy to try to cope with my career-related anxiety. At my preconception appointment (this is a thing! Although I may be the only one who has ever taken advantage of it), the doctor congratulated me for being so proactive and told me to go off the pill three months before I was even thinking about trying to conceive, to get the hormones out of my system and allow my body time to readjust. So I did. And then I panicked. “I have to finish my book,” I told my therapist. “Maybe I should wait another year? Six months? I think I rushed into this. I’m not ready.”

But my body was. Two hours after that therapy session, I peed on a stick, telling myself that I was stupid for even taking a test this soon. It said “YES” in very straightforward digital letters. I was already pregnant.


I have had many visions of my professional self over the years, but none of them involved children. At six I decided I’d be a prima ballerina. At ten, when my dad took me to Carnegie Hall, I touched the stage at intermission and swore in a whisper that some day, by the time I was fifteen hopefully, I would walk across it to the gleaming grand piano. My mom, a strong-minded feminist, always told me that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. Specifically, she hinted, it’d be nice if I became a lawyer. Or a rabbi, because I had such charisma. I once briefly forgot how to pronounce my own name when introducing myself to a cute boy– but she insisted that I was born to lead. Later my dad was rooting for me to become a professor, and I did in fact get into a graduate program after my last year of college.

(“seriously, Kate, you need to keep leaning in!” source)

My friends were career oriented and driven, and for all of us, being a young woman was about proving ourselves in a competitive world. Sheryl Sandberg and Hillary Clinton were urging us forward, reminding us of our endless potential. And it was clear that having a baby before fully establishing yourself professionally was exactly the same as giving up on your potential. Having a baby was the kind of thing that my friends’ less ambitious sisters sometimes did, much to everyone’s long-distance concern.

I got married young, at twenty-four. I didn’t mean to, but I fell in love in a way that wouldn’t compromise. “How long do you think people our age should wait before getting married?” I asked my boyfriend. He thought about it. “Five years?” he said. “That’s ridiculous!” I said, surprising myself. He looked surprised, too. “Wait,” he said. “Would you actually consider getting married sooner?”I looked down. “Well,” I said, and I knew I was blushing like crazy. “Wait,” he said, “You would marry me?” “You have to ask for real!” I said. Soon, he did. About five years before sensible people our age might get married, we did it anyway.

But marriage isn’t anything like a baby. Despite what some people seemed to think about it limiting a person’s freedom, I felt more available to pursue my career goals and other interests than I ever had before. Without the distraction of dating and with the support of another income, I could push myself harder. “You should write!” my new husband said. “That’s what you want to do, so you should give it a shot.”

Tentatively, I left a job I’d never really liked, and soon I was working part time and writing every spare moment. I was nervous. I wanted this so badly. Actually, I was nervous all the time. I was also the meanest boss I’ve ever had. I berated myself for not being more productive, for not being more savvy, for taking a whole day off. I berated myself for never, ever making enough money. One night, after a piece I’d worked really hard on finally went live, I had my first panic attack. My heart was frantically trying to escape my chest. I struggled to breathe and my mind kept insisting that everything was terrible. That everything in my life was shattering and skittering under the couch when it hit the floor. It didn’t make any sense. After what had felt like an eternity trapped under a pile of rejection letters, my blog was getting big, I’d signed onto a column, and three literary agents contacted me in the same month. It was beginning to seem like I might survive as a writer, and suddenly I was terrified that I’d mess it up. The panic attack subsided, but my fear persisted.

These were angsty, whiney, first-world problems, I thought, but I couldn’t seem to shake them. So I plowed ahead, telling myself that if only I had a big break, if only I succeeded in the way that I sometimes succeeded in my dreams, where Bill Bryson was constantly telling me that he’d read my latest bestselling book and he loved it, then I would feel better. I would finally relax. By the time I turned thirty, I swore to myself, I would have arrived.

(“you’re doing splendidly, Kate!” source)

But then something happened. I began to think with an eerie, abrupt certainty that I should get pregnant. At first, I dismissed the urge as self-sabotage. You just won’t let yourself achieve your goals. But the changed part of my mind fought back. It said, There is enough time in life for all of this. Babies and writing, too. Stubbornly, it seemed to imagine that everything would somehow turn out alright, that life had a slower, more graceful arc than I pictured. The part of my mind that relentlessly encouraged me to have a baby sounded reassuringly like healthiness. It sounded like growing up. It sounded like calming down. And I was emotionally exhausted. I gave in.

In the middle of the night, during the first trimester, too sick to sleep, I found myself downloading books about infertility. I didn’t know why, but suddenly, I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on about and by people who wanted a baby more than anything and couldn’t have one. It occurred to me slowly, over weeks, unfurling like my baby’s limbs: I wanted someone to explain to me that getting pregnant meant something wonderful and important. I wasn’t sure I was allowed to feel proud of myself, and I was a little embarrassed that I did. For my whole life, I’d wanted to stand out and go farther and be more impressive than other people. But on a certain level, becoming a mother is completely ordinary, and only the infertile writers seemed to appreciate its simultaneous miraculousness.

I can feel my baby kicking now. She prods me from the inside, and it feels like a little reminder every time. I am here, too, my baby is saying. You’re my mother. And I am warmed and scared by it. But not the same kind of desperate fear I’ve felt so often about my career. Instead, it’s a fear that sharpens me and makes me grateful. After a grueling first trimester, I am back to work on my book proposal, and I’ve taken on a new column. Sometimes I am anxious, thinking about how I should work harder, I should have a publisher by now, but the anxiety has slipped into the background in a way I never thought it could.

The day before my twenty-seventh birthday, I had my non-fiction writing group over for cake and conversation. Everyone sipped red wine except for me, and they talked about their recent victories—a cover story, a new job, a book deal. A little awkwardly, I shared my ultrasound photos. “Oh my god,” they said, uncertain at the sight of my ghostly black and white baby. And then they were all talking at once- reiterating themselves frantically to each other, explaining why they weren’t ready to have babies, how they hadn’t accomplished nearly enough yet, despite all of their accomplishments, how they just weren’t old enough.

“I think I’m old enough,” I said, interrupting.

It got very quiet. Finally Stephanie said, “But how do you know?”

“I don’t, really,” I said. “I just don’t want to wait.”

To my surprise, she said that sometimes she wishes she could have a baby now, too, but she isn’t married and wants to get married first. Julie added, “Don’t get me wrong, I definitely want to have kids. Someday.”

“I don’t, ever,” said Mara, and she looked uncharacteristically nervous. “You’ll stay friends with me, though, after this, right?”

I eagerly promised that I would, startled and moved by the reversal of my expectations: I had thought that she would be the one who might leave me, after, when I had been rendered uncool and poopy and distracted by motherhood.

 “Can I touch your belly?” someone asked. And suddenly, everyone’s hands were on me, and I felt like the sun in one of those Styrofoam models of the solar system, with my friends orbiting my roundness. Their hands were shy but supportive, and I felt important and relieved. Rebelliously, I was impressed with myself.

(one of the only pictures I have of my daughter so far)

*   *   *

If you have kids, how old were you for your first? Did you feel young? If you don’t have kids but want to one day, what seems like a good age to do it? I’m always curious!

Unroast: Today I love the way I look in gold and yellow. Like, enough to make it look cheesy.

P.S. Just a note: I wrote this piece a while ago (placement and publication take time!), and I also exaggerated my friends’ reaction just a tad. I’ve been really blown away by how much support I’ve gotten from friends who aren’t doing this with their lives and don’t want to right now/ever.


49 Responses to “26 and already pregnant”

  1. Melanie responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 9:29 am #

    I tend to think pregnancy at any age is a very brave thing and I don’t believe there is ever a ‘right’ time to have sprogs.

    I didn’t ever want kids, but found myself pregnant at 18; during my last year of high school. Oops. That kid will be turning 18 this month and it’s been a hell of a ride. While I would never have chosen to get pregnant at 18, I certainly do not regret my choice to see the pregnancy through to motherhood through to that oops becoming one of my greatest joys.

    I still went to college. I still found time and energy to build a me while raising munchkins, establishing a career, getting my heart broken by boys, etc. By the time I’m 40 I’ll be an empty nester with a whole lot of living left to do. Kinda excellent.

  2. Tess responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 9:29 am #

    I’m similar: college educated, phd scholarship and my firstborn was born when I was nearly 26. I had my second at 30. Now into my 30s, my friends are having babies and some are struggling with infertility. i still have sometimes crushing career angst and 7 years later my phd is still not finished. I also didn’t know anyone my age who had babies, all my friends were climbing career ladders fast. I felt like a total fraud for a long time and used to find myself lying about my age sometimes. But hey, there’s still heaps of time for careers, and my friends will all slow down for kids soon enough. And I love love love my kids. I’m glad I have them in my life, i’m stronger, braver, more decisive because of them. Good luck!

  3. Jordan responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 9:35 am #

    Hey Kate!

    I think it’s awesome to hear you process all of this … the baby factor definitely seems to change things when it comes to friendships, really all relationships, but those changes can be beautiful if you’re open to them! Everybody has a different road, and it’s refreshing when people take the time to know what they truly want in life and are willing to be true to themselves, true to their hearts.

    You’re great!


  4. Chris responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 9:58 am #

    I was 26 when my first was born and 33 when my second arrived. All I ever knew for sure that I wanted to be, was a mother, since the age of nine. However, I’m not sure anyone is ever really ready for a baby, even if it is all they want to do and desire. I wish I could’ve been more mature and wise before my first was born but I’m afraid that most of the wisdom I’ve gained since his birth 22 years ago has been the result of being a mother. We practice parenting on our first ones and perfect our technique with our subsequent children. You seem way more mature and wise than I was at 26. My kids have turned out pretty well so I’m sure you’ll be a fine mother.

  5. Hellena-Beatrice responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Old enough is so personal, Kate:) I am 32 and when thinking of my career… I should say that I did one part of what I wanted (I am a copywriter), while not all of it (my main interests and some of my background are in audience building for the arts). And before getting pregnant I had lots of plans and dreams – creating a freelance consultancy studio, specialized in arts and their audiences, going to Italy for an MA and some local practice in the field, writing about all this… My totally unexpected pregnancy didn’t change the dreams, just rearranged the plans. I still want and will do most of them, just not as fast as I thought I would. And the thing I like the most about my pregnancy is this newly acquired sense of… I don’t know… maybe wholeness. And the warm and scary feeling you descibed so well. And also the thought that raising a human being is probably the biggest creative project I could ever work on.

  6. Pigwotflies responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 10:22 am #

    I’m 33 and trying for my first and it’s not happening. :( It’s been 15 months and I’m beginning to think it never will.

    I don’t think there is a perfect time for children really. Well, if you’re a teenager not in a stable relationship it’s probably too early, but beyond that…

    I got married at 30. We agreed to wait 2 years before we started trying for a baby. I wonder sometimes whether things would be different if we’d started trying sooner, but what-ifs are depressing.

    I’m trying not to think about the statistics about fertility declining after 35, but it’s not easy.

  7. Sheryl responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 10:36 am #

    No kids yet, but I feel both old and young for children. When I was lived in my university town, and then when I moved to Toronto afterwards having kids in your early thirties seemed young. I’ve since moved back to my hometown and more than half the parents I know here had babies as teenagers.

    So it’s a weird balancing act. Either way, they’ll happen when they happen and there’s only so much I can do to change that.

  8. Devan responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 10:47 am #

    I got married at 20 and had my first baby at 23. I had already been a teacher for a couple years, as I graduated college at 21. I don’t feel I was too young, but I do live in the south and it’s very socially acceptable to have children at a younger age. I was very ready to become a mother; I just felt it! Now I have 4 kids and I had them all before the age of 30. I like the fact that I’m a younger mother, and that I’ll still be young when they go off to college. I feel like there’s plenty of time for a career again, and travel, and other things while they’re growing up.

  9. teegan responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 11:08 am #

    Awesome post!
    I think at this point you know I feel about this – I still feel like for someone like me, this is a great way to do things (have a baby before a career). But it helps A LOT that I have a husband who’s a few years older, very mature, and IN LOVE with being a dad. My friends all think it’s crazy cool that I have a baby, even though most of them aren’t nearly ready to do so themselves – they’ve been nothing but supportive and happy for me, though it helps that I don’t think any of them were surprised.

  10. jen responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    I’m due with our first in two weeks. I’ll be two months shy of turning 32 and one month shy of our 10 year wedding anniversary. We feel ready – emotionally, financially, physically. It was always something we planned to do, but because we married so young, were never in a rush. It’s been amazing to go through this pregnancy feeling so calm and right about everything, it’s a feeling I wish all pregnant women could know. But that’s why “when is the right time?” is going to be so different for everyone and a personal decision. I’m happy that you guys feel right about yours and I think your writing will be the better for it in the long run.

  11. Raia responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    Great post!

    Growing up, I thought 27 was the perfect age to have a child, inspired by my own mother who was the same age when I, her first, was born. But I wasn’t ready at 27. I got pregnant at 29, very easily, and my daughter was born when I was 30 (my husband was 31). I am now 33 and I’d like to have another baby before I turn 35.

    30 felt young to me when I was pregnant. Three co-workers (we’re all professional, college-educated engineers/ scientists) had babies within a year or two of me and they were all over 35 and having their first, so I felt very young.

    At my new moms group where all the babies were 2-3 months different in age, the range of mother’s age was pretty wide, from mi-20s to late 30s. I can’t see an obvious advantage or disadvantage to either, it’s such a personal decision. Perhaps the “older” moms feel more pressure to have a second baby (if desired) sooner than the “younger” moms – especially if they struggled getting pregnant with the first. I guess that’s one of the great things about a new moms group, you get to meet woman at different stages in their lives and careers.

    I agree with the saying that, career-wise, there is NO good time to have a baby. Or perhaps, there is no bad time either : ).

  12. Raven responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    I was 21 with my first, nearly 22. It was the right time for her to come, but ended up not the right time for me to be a mom emotionally since the support I thought I had crumbled within the first year. It’s been a rough road since for both of us. Now I’m 34 and nursing my second child, a son, who is almost seven weeks old. I have far more support and stability in my life, which has almost everything to do with the people surrounding us, although I’m also more experienced, calmer, and have better coping mechanisms. My age had little to do with the difficulties, and a lot more to do with addressing past trauma.

    Raising my daughter, though, inspired me more than I’d ever expected. If not for her, I might never have bothered to pursue my dreams, to further my education, it to know who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. Up until I had her, I was adrift in apathy, feeling self-defeat, and assumed all of the different dreams I’d had over the years would never come to pass. Having a child made everything matter. I started paying attention, getting involved, and pushing myself toward any passion that inspired me. So, 13 years later, I know what I want to do and am pursuing it; I even have a fair idea of who I am, which isn’t something I could say several years ago.

    My son was born a year and a day after my mother’s death, which seems significant to all of us near to him. And this week, with a colicky baby, I completed my first indie published book.

  13. Raven responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    Oh, and both times I had kids, I wanted to have a baby but thought I couldn’t. With the first, my partner was transitioning from male to female; we’d already talked about having children, but a fertility test said she was infertile. So, months later, already on a testosterone blocker and Premarin, I became pregnant . . . sort of by a woman. The second time, I had experienced two miscarriages, a rejected IUD, and a subsequent pelvic infection all in the matter of a few months. Five years of hemorrhaging instead of a normal menstruation every month, and I assumed I’d never have another baby. Yet, after discovering a wheat allergy and giving up wheat, things started to become normal again, and hello baby!

  14. Becca responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    “I can feel my baby kicking now. She prods me from the inside, and it feels like a little reminder every time. I am here, too, my baby is saying. You’re my mother. And I am warmed and scared by it. But not the same kind of desperate fear I’ve felt so often about my career. Instead, it’s a fear that sharpens me and makes me grateful.”

    This just made me tear up. I am 26 (27 next month) and 24 weeks pregnant. I also want to write/teach, have an M.A., always thought independent women waited until they were at least 30 to have babies, and still wanted a baby now. <3 Thank you.

  15. Patricia Christianson responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    Keep writing!
    My mother was 36 when I was born. I married at 25 after knowing my husband for one year, & was 28 when my husband and I had our first baby, and 41 when we had our last.
    As a career mother with six (plus one I didn’t give birth to), I am more independent than women who have outside the home careers.

  16. Lily responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    I’m 39. My oldest is 22 and in college. My 2nd oldest graduated from
    High School last night. I went on to get married & now have 5 children the ‘baby’ is now 12

    Certainly, 17 is far too young to become a parent. However, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I relate better to my kids than any other parent I know. We talk about EVERYTHING. We trust each other.
    I love being able to remember, and thus, have empathy for how it felt to be that age.

    I was never career minded. I wanted to be an at home mom, and I was, until I got divorced 10 years ago.
    I was thrust into the workforce with no work experience and a GED.

    I am now in a leadership position at a major health system and consider myself to be quite successful.

    Being a mom isn’t a roadblock to success – you just may have to take some detours. Or maybe you will decide that you don’t have the same goals you once did.

    Don’t listen to anyone. Do what you feel is best for you.

  17. Lily responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    (Typos suck)

  18. Maya responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    I don’t have kids yet- but the whole thing is such a phenomenal balancing act. I’ve had people telling me how important it is to have children, and to have then early since I was in high school (if not before, if you count all the “you’ll be such a wonderful mother someday comments that I got just slightly more frequently than “do you want to be a rabbi when you grow up?”). But I didn’t get married until I was 27- I didn’t meet my husband until I was 25. We want some time to build a marriage before we start a family. I’d like more than 2 kids. I’m just finishing my training this summer, sort of. There feel like there are just too many factors to balance. But we really want a family, and the time to start trying is coming up. I’m relieved, and scared, and am I too old or too young or what? I don’t know.

  19. Kim responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    There’s no right or wrong answer–everyone should have kids when they feel ready (or not have them at all if they don’t want to). I waited until I was 32. I’m glad I waited because I got to travel and play and indulge myself in my 20s. But once the babies came, I realized that it was much harder for me to adjust to such a huge change than it would have been if I was younger. I was “set in my ways” and I’ve heard many parents in their 30s and 40s say the same thing. So I think 26 sounds great. But who cares what I think? Your opinion is all that matters about your family and your choices. Congratulations to you. I am looking forward to reading about your journeys through parenthood.

  20. Kate responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    I like hearing what you think! :-)

  21. Kate responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    I always love your descriptions of your transformation through your daughter–they’re beautiful and inspiring. And congratulations on your son! I want to hear more about him already. AND congratulations on your book! Wow.

  22. karen responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 7:17 pm #

    I was 33 when my first was born and 37 with my second, born 7 months ago. I had two miscarriages between them.

    I wonder some times what it would have been like to have my children younger…would I have more patience? More energy? (the 7 month old was up twice last night & I am wiped out by that and the 4 year old’s constant chatter) …but I was still in grad school at 26. I didn’t even get married until I was 28!

    There is a sort of wisdom that comes with age, I suppose. (I hope?) and personally, I feel that I’m a better mother because I waited and lived a very wild life in my 20s.

    But I do live in one of those states you mentioned, where it is more accepted to have children younger, not to mention I also am a military wife (LOTS of us have babies young) and so I am one of the oldest moms I know!

  23. Angela responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    I’m 26 and still finishing my degree. Almost about to get married too. Babies are next. I feel the same ‘thing’ about just knowing that now is the time. Sometimes it is all I can think about! Really enjoyed this post.

  24. Stephanie responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    I was married at 20 while in college. I had my first baby just before I turn 24 and the second when I was 27. I have had a hysterectomy since so there will be no more. Becoming a mom changed my life. I discovered La Leche League to help me breastfeed and I loved being with my baby. Then we moved and I got to be a stay at home mom, become a La Leche League Leader and then that led to me becoming a lactation consultant (IBCLC). I work at WIC part time in a really cool job as a breastfeeding coordinator and homeschool my kids.

    While I could not have pictured my life this way when I was 23, it is utterly wonderful and fulfilling. Perhaps it has worked out just the way it was meant to be.

  25. D responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    Such an interesting topic to chew on. I’m 28, I’ve been married for 6 years, and I’m getting to the point where I think I’m ready to reproduce. I know in my heart that I don’t want to wait till I’m 35, or even 30. (Maybe part of that is because I grew up in one of those places that New Yorkers never visit :) )
    I used to work myself into a froth about how once I have babies I’ll never be as good as I could be at roller derby, or how I’ll be shooting down my career, and all of that, but I think that none of that is quite as devastating as people our age tend to think. My mother in law got two master’s degrees while she had very young kids. My life won’t end, and my personality and drive won’t be irreparably damaged.
    I’m really happy for you, and a bit jealous, too! I can’t wait to read your take on motherhood.

  26. mel responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    I’m not sure if age is a good marker, since one 26 year old might be in a more supportive situation than a 35 year old!

    Like, it would be really difficult to offer a child everything when you’ve got a $50,000 student loan over your head, or if you had a $500,000 mortgage, or if you’re in a bad relationship you don’t want to leave (because you think it’s too late for you) or if you’ve been unemployed for too long, or if you have no health insurance, etc.

    “Stuff” doesn’t suddenly go away when you turn 30! And some people plan so well as to be in a good spot by 25. And some people have babies anyway and everything turns out just fine. No age to it!

  27. Kay responded on 04 Jun 2013 at 11:53 pm #

    Funny story, I live in Texas and was talking to one of my coworkers (who is from New York and just got married last year) about my recent breakup and how I was the only one of my close friends who is single, and she goes, “Yeah, people in this state get married when they’re like 15, and have 10-year-old kids by my age (32). It’s so weird!” lol.

    Living here I feel pressured, the numbers start adding up in my head when I start a new relationship (“oh if this works out and we get married 3 years from now I’ll be 28, that’s plenty of time to worry about kids later…even if we break up in a few years that’s okay, I have time to start over…but what about after that? My friends will all have started having kids by then and won’t have time for me anymore. oh no.”) Tell me I’m not the only young single person surrounded by young couples who does that :/

    Fact is, I just want to chill out and not be married and not have kids, and for a good amount of time. It’s not a calculated career move. I just want to be with me. 32 sounds like a good hypothetical first-baby age to me, if I had to choose.

  28. Jade @ Tasting Grace responded on 05 Jun 2013 at 2:38 am #

    I’m turning 33 next week, and I’m pregnant with my first. While I’m exceedingly glad I’ve lived the life I’ve lived so far, as it has given me and my husband plenty of time to grow in our relationship, for me to get a doctorate and for our careers to get started, to live our own lives, and have many adventures before devoting ourselves to raising a little one, waiting so long to get pregnant hasn’t been 100% easy either. I went off birth control about two years ago. It took well over three months for my body to get back to normal, and it took more than a year and a half of trying before we finally did get pregnant. I think we’re too easily swayed by thoughts of how easy it can be to get pregnant (generally when you’re a teenager and do not WANT to get pregnant) that we underestimate how difficult it actually can be to get pregnant when we do want it. I’m not sure I would have made different choices, but I do think women do ourselves a disservice if we pretend there isn’t a tradeoff when we put off childbearing. And every woman is different–you never know if you’ll be the one who gets pregnant on the first try, or the one who will need years of trying and fertility treatments, or the one who can’t get pregnant at all.

  29. Laura Barry responded on 05 Jun 2013 at 7:09 am #

    I had my first child at exactly 32 1/2 years old, never expecting to have my first child that late in my life; I always thought that I’d be around 28. But I had to find the right guy first, so G-d and time played it out perfectly for me. My fiance’ and I decided to have our daughter before getting married, which we’d both already been once before. However, my fiance’ was a great father-to-be, so I was encouraged by his behavior to get married (12 days) before our daughter was born. Such is the way life works, and I just want to extend kudos to ALL mothers out there, as mothering is the best, and hardest, job ever! And just as an aside, I now have a wonderful 19 year old daughter, and an amazing 17 year old son. Time flies- don’t even blink, and enjoy every moment!!

  30. Lyssa responded on 05 Jun 2013 at 9:17 am #

    My husband and I got engaged when we were twenty-three, and I had our first child (unplanned!) at twenty-five. Now our daughter, Harmony, will turn one next week!

    There have been a few people who said things like, “isn’t it a bit EARLY for kids?” or “don’t you want to live you own life first?” But I can say with certainty that while I didn’t plan on children coming along this quickly, it’s one of the best things that ever happened. Plus, all the elderly folks I know keep telling us, “it’s a good thing you’re having children while you’re young; you’ll be able to keep up with their antics, and you’ll be blessed with more time with your family over the years.”

    Life doesn’t have to stop when you have a child : ) I still teach music, enjoy the company of my friends, write, and go out in nature, while being an almost full-time mom. We’ve made the commitment to not put Harmony in day care (too expensive, mostly), so my husband and I swap caring for her while still doing our jobs. The balance between being a mother and a teacher and a friend and a wife and an artist is delicate, but attainable.

  31. Katy responded on 05 Jun 2013 at 9:20 am #

    I really enjoy your writing, Kate! I like your humour and thoughtfulness. Always gets me giggling and pondering. (I will always recall the photo of you as a teenager posing as a fantasy chick! Love it).

    I’m 39 and have two kids under 5yo. When I was in my early twenties and single, I used to say to my friends that I wanted kids around 33yo. I met my husband when I was 28 and sure enough, fell pregnant at 33. I was immensely fortunate to fall pregnant in the first cycle we tried, and gave birth 2 wks after i turned 34. And the second bundle of joy arrived 3 yrs later after trying for 5 mths.

    I’m a multiple-times university dropout (still trying to figure out my true calling – wish me luck!….hm, maybe it’s motherhood?!). But most of my friends are uni graduates. But I’m from laid-back Australia, not ‘cut-throat’ New York. lol Though, only one of my friends had a child in her mid 20′s, and most are college educated. But then, my Mum went back to school in her 40′s and completed two degrees when I was a teenager so I guess I have a positive role model that there is plenty of time to pursue one’s goals (assuming she can figure them out!).

    All the best :-)

  32. Katie responded on 05 Jun 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Fantastic article. Although at 24, not in a relationship, and not thinking about having kids, I still could relate to this piece. Your vulnerability and honesty about your experiences makes your writing so wonderful, and easy to connect to.

    As far as looking at my own choices, they weren’t the confident “yes I am going to do this” but rather, the “I need to do this, I can’t imagine not doing this…so I have to do it.” It’s how I ended up working in Israel for six months and now find myself writing fiction.

    I don’t know if you felt similarly about your choices. But you have to do what’s right for you. As long as you aren’t hurting other people, no one else has the right to judge you.

    Mazel tov on your pregnancy, and keep writing. It’s always enjoyable and insightful to read :)

  33. Lynn responded on 05 Jun 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    I’m 30, turning 31 this November. My husband and I hope to start trying early next year….

  34. Molly responded on 05 Jun 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    I was 26 when I had my daughter (I’m 27 now). None of my close friends had kids, and only a couple of people I’d kept in touch with from high school had started families. But like you, I just knew I was ready, although my certainty came after my husband and I accidentally conceived, and then had a chemical pregnancy at only 5 weeks along (a day after I actually found out I was pregnant). I was staggered by how fiercely I found myself wanting the little creature growing inside of me, even though it hadn’t been planned, and by how unbelievably sad I was when we lost it. And my husband felt the same way. So we decided to start actively trying to conceive, and to our joy found out we’d managed a “sticky little bean” our first try.

    I felt young when I was telling my friends I was pregnant. Even those in relationships were nowhere near ready to think about babies (though one friend admitted to having to actively ignore her own “uterine rumblings” whenever she saw babies). But after my daughter was born, I actually started feeling like a grown-up for the first time in my life (some of the time, at least :-) .

  35. Kate responded on 05 Jun 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    “Uterine rumblings” is a hilarious little phrase :-)
    I’m so sorry about your miscarriage and so glad about your daughter.
    I bled briefly after finding out I was pregnant, and I was shocked by how upset I was by it. At that point, I didn’t even really know if I really wanted to be pregnant.

  36. Playing the Waiting Game–in Life, Marriage, and Motherhood | Jade Keller responded on 05 Jun 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    [...] post was inspired by this one, “26 and Already Pregnant,” by Kate from Eat The Damn Cake. If you’re interested in more fun facts about delayed [...]

  37. Je responded on 05 Jun 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    I think it’s more about trade offs than a right time, per se. I’m (only!) 6 weeks along with my first at 34. I’ll be the “advanced maternal age” of 35 when kiddo is born (assuming all goes well, knock on wood, cross your fingers).

    I still don’t feel completely ready – and I *personally* sure as hell wouldn’t have been at 26 when I had just begun to think I maybe, eventually wanted kids – but I’m also astonished at how much I want this. Enough to get knocked up before marriage (that’ll come), enough to mourn a miscarriage in Feb, enough to fret about what could yet go wrong.

    P.S. I was surprised at the vitriol in the Slate comments. Motherhood itself may not be a Big Deal (or so I keep reassuring myself, while simultaneously feeling like there’s a lot of denigration goin’ on) but it FEELS enormous to me right now. Thanks for writing exactly what I want – and need -to read at this point.

  38. Kate responded on 06 Jun 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    NEVER be surprised by the vitriol in comments on major sites. It’s sort of what the comment sections have become for, sadly. Which is why I never, ever read them. Because I’d just cry all the time if I did.

  39. Ariella responded on 06 Jun 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    I was 25 when I got pregnant with my first. I was really scared really during the whole pregnancy. The changes happening in my body and then not always being thrilled about being pregnant BUT once I had that precious bundle in my arms, I instantly fell in love and I will never regret having him then. My 2nd I had at 28 and enjoyed the pregnancy a lot more as I lost one in between, there is nothing like the heartache of miscarrying. I dont know if there is one right time to have a baby. It seems like it is going to be different for everyone and maybe there isn’t a perfect right time, regardless of where you are in your life, it is going to change as soon as teh tiny human is born. After I had one, I wanted 10. :) I have 2 bio kids, 2 step and 1 foster. Hopefully we will eventually have some adopted kiddos as well. I found my passion with my kids.

  40. Beth responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 12:46 am #

    I was struck by the large number of “shoulds” in your post, Kate. As someone who has spent a lot of time “shoulding all over herself,” please let me say that “I should” is really not a great reason to do anything, I don’t think. In my opinion, the only good reason for having a baby is because you really want one, and the only good time is when you feel ready. My first child was born when I was 31, and my second child came 3 years later. I feel lucky to have lived enough of my life before having kids to realize that focusing on me, me, me was not the path to happiness, no matter how fabulous my life became. Yet sometimes I think it would have been nice to have started earlier and have more of that youthful energy for this marathon called motherhood.

    By the way, do you think you will unschool your daughter?

  41. Heather responded on 08 Jun 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    “My mom is a nurse. She says it’s a myth that women are less fertile in their mid-thirties.”

    This line actually made me cringe. I am 23 (almost 24) and trying to get pregnant with my first and it hasn’t been easy at all. (I am also from “one of those states” and come from a long line of women who were mothers before they were 20, so I am actually getting a lot of side-eye from my family for waiting this long.) I am seriously kicking myself for thinking it would be easy to get pregnant just because I am young. I at least am very grateful for the fact that I am finding out now that I am not super fertile, rather than in my 30s. I agree with a previous commenter: while waiting until your 30s is a very good choice for a lot of women, there is a trade-off. Whether that means actual decreased fertility, or just finding out at 35 that it will probably take many years to get pregnant, you have to take into account the possibility when planning for kids.

    Okay, maybe you don’t HAVE to take it into account. But from someone who is struggling daily with the fear of never getting pregnant, flippant statements like the one above about fertility just make me worried for other women like me who assume they are fertile- and potentially find out too late that they are not.

  42. Mary responded on 08 Jun 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    I have lots to say about pregnancy and waiting and not waiting, but I have to say, Kate, that I love how crazy-introspective you are.
    I absolutely relate to all the inner questions, the “what does it mean”, and the expectation that things will feel a certain way or that all of a sudden I will understand the gravity of a situation and things that haven’t fallen into place yet will fall into place.
    The boyfriend is not this way, but I am rereading Quiet by Susan Cain, and trying to explain to him what I’ve read, chapter by chapter. He is beginning to appreciate thoughtfulness and careful deliberation in a way he hasn’t before.
    So thanks for being a thoughtful, introspective person who shares so many of her thoughts with us!

  43. Laura responded on 08 Jun 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    Jumping into this conversation a little late, but my internet access is pretty intermittent now that I’ve started my apprenticeship at a wonderful organic farm. I’d love to have a kid by my mid- to late twenties if I’m economically stable and preferably partnered by then. I’ve been feeling self-conscious about this desire lately because everyone I’m working with in their twenties and very anti-kid. The couple I’m working for thinks they’ll adopt or foster kids… someday. The guy even said that every time he sees a pregnant woman, he thinks “Aren’t there enough people in the world already?” Meanwhile, all I want to do is coo over the babies at farmers’ market and dream of myself in a decade (or less!) running my farm with my baby snuggled against me in wrap. I’m a closet baby-lover!

  44. Emmie responded on 09 Jun 2013 at 9:36 am #

    I was married at 20 and had my first child at 21 and my second at 24 which even though I’m from the south was considered rather young in both my family and in my circle of friends. Now my oldest is 18 and my baby is 15 and my friends who have children all have elementary to middle school age oldest children. A few even have infants and toddlers and that is more the norm at least among my friends. I also tend to stand out because I was one of the few I know who did not finish university and who was/is a stay home mom. IN high school no one would have predicted that least of all me, lol. I was never enamored with the idea of having children but once I got pregnant I was all in. Both my children have autism and one thing I found difficult in my early 20s was trying to get therapists and doctors to take my concerns seriously as a young parent, there was a significant delay in getting a diagnosis with my older son due to being ignored by his pediatrician and everyone around me assuming I didn’t know anything b/c of my age. Raising children has been a part of my life adventure which I haven’t found kept me from any other experience I desired to have, things just took a bit more planning.

  45. Krystle responded on 14 Jun 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Robin McKinley ruled my highschool years – I think I read Beauty forty times.

  46. Sarah responded on 16 Jun 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    At 28, and just broken up with boyfriend of two years, I find myself suddenly panicked at the idea of turning 30 without the husband and kid I want. You’re so lucky to have met The One in your early 20′s. I never wanted to marry young, but now I’m realizing how it is to find the right guy and terrified of missing out. I know 28 isn’t old – but time moves very quickly these days (is that just me?!).

  47. Rosanne responded on 17 Jun 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    Lovely piece, Kate. Very calming and reassuring. Not sure what the reassurance is about exactly, but hey, it put a smile on my face and an ease in my stomach :)

  48. Olivia responded on 22 Jun 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    I think the right time for some never comes, whether it’s their career or something else that will be put on hold or change, many (not all) often have an excuse. When the day finally comes and your child is born, I and anyone I’ve talked to seem to forget any previous excuses. And it turns out to be one of the best days of your life.

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