After Years Of Infertility, I Got Pregnant At 46. I Had No Idea That Would Be The Easiest Part.

After Years Of Infertility, I Got Pregnant At 46. I Had No Idea That Would Be The Easiest Part.

The author and her newborn son.The author and her newborn son.

I turned 51 this year, and one of the many things I’ve learned over the course of five decades on this planet is that our dreams rarely manifest exactly as we envisioned them. We can spend years and years longing for something and then, when it finally arrives, we either don’t realise it or we’re disappointed because it doesn’t look quite the way we expected it to. 

I never dreamed that a “normal” family was in the cards for me. It was something that happened to other people. People who were better at finding themselves in the right places at the right times. People who weren’t so guarded with their hearts. People who were unbroken. But a part of me yearned for it. I remember thinking that a loving family must feel like the safest place in the world.

I’d been told, my entire adult life, by a battery of soft-spoken doctors and specialists, that I would never conceive a child naturally. While there were times when I considered alternative avenues to motherhood, ultimately I felt content in my child-free life. I was a dog mom and an auntie, and I relished those roles. I was also a mountain girl: adventuring into the alpine each weekend in my Jeep or on foot to leap into remote crystalline lakes. I loved my adventurous single gal existence and my freedom. I had plans to travel, continue building my creative business so I could work from anywhere, and collect stories that I would one day, just maybe, compile into a book.

One month after my 46th birthday, I missed a period. Though I’d been casually dating someone, I assumed, considering my history, that this was menopause rearing its head at last. A couple more weeks passed and I started to have some other symptoms that were unusual for me. I figured these were further indications that my hormones were changing. But — maybe on a whim, maybe at the urging of my best friend, maybe in a burst of intuition — I bought a pregnancy test at my local drugstore and went into the bathroom at the adjacent Whole Foods to take it. 

I sat there in the stall staring in disbelief at a very crisp, clear blue line in the little window on the test stick. Surely this was an error — yet another artefact of my hormones gone awry. I immediately consulted Dr. Google and learned there is a kind of ovarian cyst that can release hormones that mimic the signs of pregnancy. That was it. I was certain I had one of those cysts. I just needed to get the confirmation from my doctor.

That confirmation wouldn’t come. What would arrive was a phone call from a jovial nurse, the announcement that my HCG levels were so high it was in fact possible I was pregnant with twins, and a referral for an ultrasound that would reveal what was now undeniable: I was pregnant. PREGNANT. Impossibly. At 46. With a man who was certain about few things in life save for the fact that he didn’t want to be a father.

The author and her partner, unwitting parents at midlife, in 2023.The author and her partner, unwitting parents at midlife, in 2023.

He was a performing circus artist — an aerial acrobat seven years my junior. We’d dated briefly several years prior and had at this point been rekindled for a few months. Our connection was mostly physical and it was far from serious. On our first date, I texted my best friend, “I’m not gonna spend the rest of my life with him, but he sure is cute.” He told me on many occasions that he didn’t want to have kids, and I thought I couldn’t conceive, so we were well-matched, in that regard at least. 

Now I had to bestow on him a piece of news that could forever alter the course of his life. I remember driving to his apartment the evening I planned to tell him, half in a daze, almost numb with uncertainty. We had already made plans for that particular night — get pho and hang out at his place listening to podcasts — so I remember him opening the door with a smile, then ducking back inside to grab his coat. I recall that, as usual, he was warm when he hugged me, warm and strong. And he seemed happy to see me. My heart was leaden in my chest as I asked him if we could sit down for a minute before we left. As soon as we did, I began to cry. He put his hand on my knee and looked at me in a way that said, “Hey, whatever it is, I’m here.” You have no idea, I thought.

I managed to utter the words, and he managed to receive them, setting in motion a period that was both miraculous and fraught. I felt stunned, terrified, sad, thrilled, hopeful and humbled all at once. He felt disempowered, grieving for a future he’d envisioned that might not come to fruition in the ways he’d hoped. I think back on that time as both a whirring blur and a slow-motion free-fall.

We attended therapy together, spent hours and hours talking about all the possible scenarios. He promised he’d be there for me no matter what I decided to do, but he also begged me not to have our baby. I came close so many times to assuring him that I wouldn’t, but I always, inexplicably, stopped short. I wondered: If I chose to have an abortion, would I have regrets? And would that experience, and those regrets, leave me forever heartbroken? I also thought about how I’d be in my mid-60s when this child graduated high school, and about the end of those solo summer days high in the mountains, the travels, and the book.

While I’ve always vehemently supported a woman’s right to determine what she does with her own body — and while I was very clear about the choice in front of me — the gravity of that choice, now that it was mine to make, was almost too much to bear. I felt crushed under the weight of making it for the both of us. For the three of us. Crushed and paralysed. In my state, in-clinic abortion is legal into the second trimester, and other options are available until a foetus is viable. I would need every single minute, hour, day, week and month I could get to process my own conflicting emotions, to be counselled, to get clear with myself, to gain some level of certainty that I was making a decision that was truly right for me, that was pure of heart, that was mine.

Ultimately, my choice was to meet my child. 

The author and her family.The author and her family.

When I finally knew what I was going to do, and when I eventually began telling my friends and family about the decision I’d made, what stood out to them was the unlikeliness of my story. I got pregnant naturally at midlife, after decades of infertility. Their faces lit up with the news that perennially single me would now, along with my soon-to-arrive babe and his inadvertent father, have a family. Congratulatory texts arrived from people I hadn’t spoken to in years, cards came in the mail, packages appeared containing hand-knitted baby blankets and wise, loving notes. People used words like “miracle,” “wonder,” “blessing,” “full circle.” And so much of that was true. It was a wonder. My son was a tiny miracle. 

But the journey of the midlife mother is rarely so black and white. No matter which road leads us to motherhood, we each end up in a place where we have to reconcile the woman we spent half our lifetimes becoming with the mother we’ll spend the rest of our lives being. Even after my son was born, big and healthy after an uneventful pregnancy, I found that my identity was still firmly rooted in the soil — for lack of a better word — of childlessness. I still felt like the woman at the party who couldn’t relate to the moms in the corner swapping milestones, like the auntie whose nieces confide in her things they’d never tell their moms, like the single gal sneaking peeks at the handsome dad in the grocery store wearing his baby, wondering about the partner waiting at home, and if it would ever be me. 

I still felt like her because I still was her. But I was a mom now, too. This clumsy dance of identities is one of the more profound grapplings of later-in-life motherhood: straddling adjacent chapters, one just beginning, the other not yet closed, attempting in real time to bridge the two. It’s disorienting to lose access to things we’ve always known. But we also get the thrill and delight of peeking into new places in our hearts that we didn’t know were there before and of discovering new pieces of ourselves in the process.

Four years later, I’m a mother and partner, fully immersed in a family of my own. It doesn’t look like the family I imagined. My son’s father and I stumbled from non-exclusive dating into sudden partnership and parenting in a matter of months. Our road to becoming parents together, and eventually a family, has been a winding one, but we are a family nonetheless. We rallied to bring our child into an environment of love and laughter and kindness and mutual respect. Along the way we had to get to know ourselves, each other, and a new vision for what the rest of our lives would look like. We are still growing and fumbling and learning every day but we are among the most devoted parents you’ll ever meet. 

And now, I find myself planning different travels, collecting different stories, working on a different book.

One recent weekend, my partner packed me up and sent me off to my cabin in the country on my own so I could write, refresh and connect with the land where I grew up. While I was there, a neighbour invited me to pick apples from her tree. I picked a huge bag full and then brought them back to the city, to my boys, and made a lovely apple tart. It was an offering of thanks for these two magical souls who have become my accidental dream come true.

The author and her son in 2023.The author and her son in 2023.

Natasha Dworkin is an agency founder, strategic storyteller, and midlife mama. For more than 20 years, she has helped her purpose-driven clients tell their stories, amplify their impact, and change the world. She now leverages her professional expertise with her personal experience becoming a first-time mom at the age of 46, to help other midlife women make transformative change in their own lives and communities. Connect with her through her website, natasha-dworkin.com, on Substack at natashadworkin.substack.com, and on Instagram at @midlife.mama.

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