The Ticking Clock

L9P Community Post: Nancy Carlson

As runners, we know all about watching the clock. You know the pace you must run to crack that half-marathon barrier and how much disappointment you feel when your stopwatch records the extra few seconds you were hoping to shave off. As a woman, I am also regularly reminded about another clock. My biological clock.

As a 30-something woman in a committed, heterosexual relationship, I’m often asked, “Are you guys going to have kids?” But what people are really asking is, “WHEN are you guys going to have kids?”

There is a lot of pressure on women to start a family.

Having children is expected. But it is a personal issue. Even though there is no malice behind the questions, you don’t know what someone is going through and what insecurities they have.

My significant other and I can’t go on a weekend getaway without returning to people asking “if we made a baby”. It’s uncomfortable, exhausting, and frankly, inappropriate. Sadly, on numerous occasions I’ve looked in my closet and tried to avoid any piece that could remotely be mistaken for something that’s hiding a baby bump, to avoid further scrutiny.

The pressure to beat the biological clock is felt by many women my age and the many outside opinions into what women should do with their own bodies can be overwhelming. For me, I add a history of an eating disorder on top of that.

While I consider myself to have the healthiest relationship with my body I’ve ever had, I am still hyper aware of everything that happens with it. The thought of growing a person inside of it scares me.

When I look at women who are pregnant, I think it’s beautiful. And the pregnant women I see look so happy and free! You can wear tight clothes or loose clothes, hold a dozen cookies, run slow or not run at all and people would not think to judge you because you are busy creating a human life. It’s amazing, and I hope I’d feel that way. Yet, I fear if I were to decide to get pregnant I would never feel that happy or free, and I would spend those 9 months preoccupied with my body and the drastic changes happening to it.

My History

When I was 18, my dad asked me to go for a walk. I gladly accepted the invitation, as an excuse to squeeze in more exercise, not realizing the conversation we would have would stick with me. We were almost back home when he brought up how concerned he and my mom were about me. He said, “If you ever want to have a family of your own, you have to start taking care of yourself.”

At the time, I was just uncomfortable. My dad isn’t one for having a heart-to-heart. But nearly two decades later, that conversation plays over and over in my mind every time someone questions our plan (or lack thereof) to have kids.

For the majority of my teens and 20’s, I restricted what I ate or binged and purged. I used exercise — mainly running — to burn as many calories as possible, and had amenorrhea for years.

While my recovery is ongoing, things took a positive turn when I started working with a personal trainer. I finally learned healthy exercise habits, and understood the importance of fueling my body to feel good. I have good days and bad days, but recovery is now a process I am choosing.

When people ask me when I’m going to start having kids, I often answer with, “Oh who knows! We aren’t there yet…” but in my mind I’m asking myself if I can even have kids. I wonder if I did any long-term damage to my reproductive system; if I’d be able to handle all of the changes in my body and not become obsessed with getting my “pre-baby body” back.

I’ve been around enough pregnant women and mothers to know that everyone’s experience is different.

My mom struggled with body-image and spent years dieting but says she felt her best when she was pregnant. Later, in the throes of motherhood, she was busy being Mom and spent little time focused on getting her pre-baby body back. My mom admits the pressure to get back to pre-baby weight is much stronger today.

For every new mother out there who battled an eating disorder and says having a baby made her love her body even more, you don’t have to look far to see someone who is struggling. I hope that if I choose to have a child, I am one of the mothers who comes to love her body even more but before I make that choice, I want to know I am ready. It is a choice I want to make, without the pressure of strangers, even friends and colleagues.

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