Being OK with My Declining Fertility as a Single 30-something—and Planning for the Future I Want with Kindbody
As a single woman in my mid-thirties, fertility is something I think about daily. There are reasons for this outside of the proverbial “biological clock ticking.” I’ve had health issues with my ovaries and uterus, and I have watched many of my friends birth children as well as struggle with pregnancy and pregnancy loss. It doesn’t help that every time I am home for any holiday (and to be honest anytime I speak to her on the phone), my mother asks me when she’s getting grandchildren.
“All fertility declines over time.”— Dr. Sasan, founding OB-GYN of Kindbody
I’m 36 years old, a cisgender WOC, currently unpartnered, open to love, and have two sisters—both of whom are partnered. Whether or not they want to extend their families is not a factor in my mother’s comments: “I expected my middle daughter to be married first. And I expected to be a grandmother by now.” While she means well, she does mention it—and often. Luckily, it doesn’t exactly feel like overt pressure because I am accepting of my circumstances.
Instead of critically discussing the sociological brainwashing that would have me believe that I am not a valuable contributor to society for being single and childless, I want to spend time on the fact that (for the most part) I am OK with being partnerless and childless. For now. I’m OK being where I am and I’m OK wanting both of these things.
I largely attribute my OKness to my meditation practice, but it goes deeper than offering loving kindness to and acceptance of the present moment. It took a very intentional practice of choosing to believe something different than sociological programming and my mother’s or family values. I’ve learned to appreciate where I am while also honoring my desire to have a family. I hold both. Without shame. Without blame. Without pity. I hold both with hopefulness and excitement.
But the reality of living in San Francisco is that my rent is high, there are few families with young children around me, and I am not sure if this is where I would even raise a family. I feel very privileged to live here—a city that prides itself on its views of non-traditional living and acceptance of differences. As a non-partnered person living in SF, I need to be realistic about honoring the vision I have for the future—one that includes children, or at least one child. For me to do this, there are some questions that I need to honestly ask myself, rather than longing for something I am not sure will be mine.
Do I want children and if so how many?
Do I want to be pregnant?
Am I willing to adopt?
When do I want to expand/create a family?
Am I willing to raise a child without a partner?
What would I need to change in order to create space for this?
Recently, in my process of getting honest, I stumbled upon a radically new way of addressing fertility. To launch their San Francisco office, Kindbody set up a popup clinic, where they held free consultations and AMH (anti-mullerian hormone) testing. AMH is a substance produced by granulosa cells in ovarian follicles. I learned that my results would reveal an aspect of my fertility health and serve as the first step in this process. From there, I could begin planning for egg freezing.
Considering I thought I would be partnered and have children by now, egg freezing is something that I never would’ve imagined for myself. As with most things—and especially romantic relationships—we can never know how things are going to go or which significant relationship will be the one that lasts. And because of this uncertainty, I never thought that I would be thinking about options outside of a partner.
Until now. The three conversations I’ve had about egg freezing were with a fellow unpartnered friend a couple of years older than I am, who is going through the process, my older sister, and a group of female doctors.
Simply put, the conversation isn’t a casual one among the women in my life or in my friend group. I would dare to say it’s not a conversation that health educators are having with middle and high schoolers. It’s not a conversation doctors are having with teenagers when they give them birth control. It’s not a conversation on college campuses when giving out free condoms. Nor is it a conversation when women are getting mammograms or pap smears.
But it was a conversation I was ready to have. I felt brave enough not to wait for a partner to think realistically about becoming a parent.
And what I realized is that there are not many safe spaces that are as informative as they are supportive of helping a woman in my position. I needed a one-stop-shop to navigate the many questions that come with the health of my fertility and all of my options.
Kindbody is one of the few health care centers that help women navigate their fertility options holistically. By putting the “women” in women’s health, they (as a community of healthcare providers and fertility specialists) are women who get it. With a vision to democratize and de-stigmatize women’s health and fertility care, they are making it accessible, intuitive, and empowering.
I spoke with Dr. Fahimeh Sasan, Kindbody’s founding OB-GYN, to understand more about the company and how they support women on their fertility journeys.
NN: Why did you create Kindbody?
Dr. Fahimeh Sasan: We created Kinbody with a mission to provide women with comprehensive gynecologic and fertility care in one place, to reimagine and improve the delivery of women’s health care, and to empower women with access to information and options so that they can optimize their reproductive potential.
NN: Why Kindbody? Why now?
Dr. Fahimeh Sasan: Women across the country are waiting longer to have children, and as a result, the number of women experiencing fertility issues is rising. We want to educate women about their reproductive health and empower them with options. These options include a simple fertility assessment to learn about your ovarian reserve, egg freezing to prolong and preserve your fertility, IVF and infertility treatments, and help and support to become a single mom by choice and helping women navigate every step of the journey.
NN: What do you feel is the most important thing a woman should know about her fertility?
Dr. Fahimeh Sasan: The most important thing a woman should know about her fertility is her ovarian reserve, how many eggs she has and how that number affects her family planning goals.
I urge every woman to do this exercise:
- How old are you today?
- How many kids are in your ideal family?
- At what age will you realistically have your first child and at what age will you realistically have your last child?
It’s important just to take a moment to have an honest heart to heart with yourself or with your partner about your fertility and your plans before coming to see us and explore your options.
NN: How will Kindbody change the current conversation around fertility?
Dr. Fahimeh Sasan: First and foremost I am proud that Kindbody is STARTING a conversation about fertility. The sad truth is fertility and women’s health are often spoken about only behind closed doors, and many women are left feeling alone with no trusted place to turn for answers. The more we talk about fertility the less scary the topic becomes.
Second, it’s never too early or too late to learn about your fertility options: I want every woman to feel she can walk into a Kindbody clinic and learn everything she needs to know about her fertility and reproductive health.
For too long, our healthcare system has been very reactionary in regards to women’s health. We wait for a woman (or couple) to have a problem (i.e.: not able to conceive for over a year) before we offer to explore their fertility and options.
At Kindbody we want to give women the option to be proactive and preventative about their fertility in order to optimize their fertility potential!
My Fertility Takeaways
I am so grateful for the work that Dr. Sasan and her colleagues are doing. Spaces for education and supporting women that provide accessibility around fertility health and fertility care are so important.
The top three things Dr. Sasan recommends for someone in my position or anyone with the same curiosity are:
- Be the healthiest version of yourself—do everything in moderation (and quit smoking if you smoke!), exercise and maintain a healthy weight, take care of your mental health, and don’t ignore nutrition
- Get a fertility assessment to find out the truth about your body
- Be an equal player in your fertility care process. Work with doctors and practitioners so you can make a plan together
My OKness with my fertility happened when I shifted my perspective from waiting on a partner to seeing what was possible and when. Not knowing is actually scarier than knowing the truth. Knowing my options is everything.
With these incredible resources available, we no longer have to be nervous or anxious about what don’t know. We don’t have to put off the knowing or leave things up to circumstance.
We are empowered by information and choice. This is how we will make the best decisions for ourselves. My best decision? I am planning to have a child in my 40s—with or without a partner—and I am excited by this future. My mother is, too!
For those located in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, there are Kindbody locations where you can go for your fertility planning. And for those in San Francisco, there are two events happening in September—the evenings of 25th and 26th.
Interested in getting started? Kindbody is offering Blood and Milk readers a super special gift. Receive a discount of $100 off your Fertility Assessments using the code: “BloodAndMilk.”
Author Bio Nkechi Deanna Njaka, MSc. is the founder of the creative agency NDN Integrated Lifestyle Studio as well as the co-founder of Sitting Matters, a mindful + creative lifestyle brand. She is also a meditation teacher and a 2017-2018 YBCA Artist Fellow. Nkechi majored in neuroscience and dance at Scripps College and went on to complete an MSc in Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. With a background in neuroscience and dance, she has spent the majority of her life investigating the relationship between the brain and the body and has always felt the significance of their integration. For several years, Nkechi worked as a neuroscientist as well as a professional modern dancer and choreographer. Through this work, she discovered that mindfulness and creativity are crucial for sustaining individual and global wellbeing. When not exploring mindfulness and other wellness practices, Nkechi spends her time discovering ways to participate more fully in the arts and travel. She currently lives in SF. You can find her here: IG: @ndnlifestylist.