Tears and fears aren't the only things that often accompany divorce. Most women in the process of ending their marriages fall victim to an evil attacker they can never seem to escape -- their racing minds. Young divorcées in particular have one common stressor: motherhood.
My nesting instincts began at an early age. I had every doll on the market -- from those with battery-operated heartbeats to newborns with lifelike gender parts. I even owned the pregnant Barbie knockoff, Judith, which came with a baby inside her belly. I've always loved pregnant women and anticipated taking weekly pictures of my baby bump.
But at 28 years old, I found myself lying awake at 4 a.m. and starring at the sky-painted ceiling of my old bedroom at my mother's house. I was in the middle of a divorce, and to make matters worse, had just lost my job. I was a nervous wreck about the state of my life and worried about how I would get back on track. I always hoped to be pregnant by 30 and could not see that happening when I was starting my life over from scratch.
I spent the following year focusing on myself, both professionally and personally. I found a new job and fell in love. All was calm until I turned the big 3-0 last year. Triggered by two of my best, younger friends becoming pregnant one month apart, my brain went into panic mode. I found myself lying awake at night once again.
Now, I agonize over when boyfriend and I will get engaged, how we'll be able to afford our dream wedding while saving for a house, and how old I'll be when I have our first child and hopefully, second. I fear I will need in vitro fertilization by then and worry about the financial cost of the procedure and raising the twins that will most likely result. I've even asked my boyfriend if we can have a baby before a wedding or elope to move along the process, but he rightfully vetoed both suggestions.
Call me crazy, but I can't help but look at the big picture. My biological clock is a relentless reminder that time is ticking and I have to conceive within the next few years if I ever want to make motherhood a reality.
Divorcing in our 20s is traumatic enough, but adding pressures -- both self-induced and from society -- to procreate before age 35 sends our adrenals on overload. Research shows that by age 30, we lose 90 percent of our eggs, and then if we're lucky enough to get pregnant in that decade, we're at a higher risk for having a child with Down syndrome. As if we needed to hear that!
While conducting interviews for my upcoming book, "Trash the Dress: Stories of Celebrating Divorce in your 20s", I spoke with participants on this topic.
Alyssa, a 29 year-old marketing coordinator from New York, fears "reaching my late 30s and still not finding Mr. Right and not having children, or having a child alone simply because I want to be a mom someday."
At first, Alyssa, who was married at age 25 and divorced by 28, didn't feel like she was falling behind in life. But then "there was a burst of friends getting married and having kids, and I felt like they looked at me like a wild woman, not settling down and following their path."
Nicole, a 30-year-old engineer from Massachusetts who was married at 26 and divorced by 28, found herself in the same scenario. "I feel like I'm playing that stupid 'Mother May I?' game from elementary school and I'm about 50 giant steps behind everyone else, but every time I ask to move forward the reply is simply, 'No, you may not.'"
It's three years after Nicole's big D-Day and she admits, "I fear never finding someone else and having a family. I want the option to be mine, and right now I feel like the decision to have a baby is out of my control. That really bothers me."
Lyndsay, a 28-year-old kindergarten teacher from New Jersey, told me, "My plan was to be pregnant by 30. Now, all plans are out the window and I am so afraid I will be too old when I have my first child."
Family members offering comfort will tell us we have plenty of time, or that Hollywood stars are having babies in their 40s. Our single friends, who were never married, remind us that they're in the same boat. But in reality, we're sailing on a different ship. We planned our weddings and all the tiny details of our lives that were supposed to follow. We thought we were on our way to getting everything we dreamed about since we were young girls. Then it got ripped away.
We don't want to be old parents. And we certainly don't want to hear others tell us not to stress about becoming mothers. We're smart ladies. We know everything happens for a reason and we'll eventually have our happily-ever-after stories. However, it helps to unite and share our fears with the only people who can truly understand what we're going through -- each other.