Planning Like a Mutha: Fertility, Family Planning & Divorce After 40
An intimate & revealing personal story of one woman’s family planning journey after life changes.
by Victory Jones
I’ve always wanted to be a mom. For as long as I can remember… even before I understood what that meant, or even really knew why. Something inside me innately yearned to be a mother, and I never questioned it either. I come from a large family (14 on my dad’s side and 9 on my mom’s side with 3 generations and over 35+ cousins). I am not sure how much of an impact this had on my desires. However I do know that as girls; we are generally socialized to want things like love, marriage, family, etc. So whether my deep-seated desire was driven by instinct, destiny, karma or social programming; it’s something that I’ve never relinquished, and still want to this day.
“I believe giving birth to a child is the ultimate act of creation & love.
A miraculous occurrence that transforms the mother and her life forever.” @srvj
When I married my former husband, we talked about having a family early on. From our first date, there was talk of children and how we both loved them. As we began to fall in love and plan our lives together, the talk deepened to actual family planning options, that served not only the lives we envisioned for ourselves independently but for us as a couple too. It felt like a fairytale. I was In love with an amazing man, building a life together, learning how to love myself in the process and then ultimately planning for a family in which our love, would be amplified and personified in one of the greatest miracles: a child.
But then we somehow hit a wall years later. As a lot of relationships do, and things unraveled. We still loved one another, however, things were changing. We were changing, and somehow our commonalities of desires seemed to be diverging. And no matter how hard we tried, there was always the elephant in the room: he no longer wanted a family, and I did. I was devastated. Saddened. Disappointed. Angry. Resentful. I felt betrayed by the person I loved most. Not only was my marriage failing, but I felt betrayed and my heart was broken. It felt as if my dreams of a family, were crumbling and vanishing before my eyes. So I withdrew. Only as much as I could though because as my relationship was shifting, I was being called to serve in other ways beyond my personal situation. Specifically co-founding The Colored Girl.
We separated and I began a long, deep and introspective healing process. Unlike anything I’ve ever embarked upon before. Little did I know, my tests would later become my testimony to inspire and support others in their healing journey too, and that I and countless women, would be transformed, together by the work we would do. My brokenness eventually led to a breakthrough that led me to rediscover my true power & identity as an abundant being of light and love and the ability to manifest my heart's desires. Which is great in the spiritual sense. But in the material world, I was nearing 40, separated and wondering if my dreams of a family would ever come to fruition.
Having a family is a deeply personal and life-changing decision.
There seems to be a new trend of women giving birth later in life. We see celebrities on tabloids getting pregnant & giving birth well into their 40’s (and eve 50’s - hello Janet Jackson!). This is not the norm, historically, and we don't really know the details of how these women are womanifesting the families of their dreams either. Viability of successful & healthy pregnancies without a host of age-related complications lowers as we age (specifically from 35 and up) according to most doctors. Western medicinal doctors will scare you with statistics about age, fertility, the viability of family planning, etc. It can be scary! Especially for a woman who is 35 or older. I know because I went to see a fertility specialist prior to the separation with my husband (a reproductive endocrinologist), and my sister is also a doctor. She is reluctant to speak about the situation, given what she knows as a practitioner of Western medicine. So we tend to only speak about the topic when necessary (her bestie is also a reproductive endocrinologist as well).
Meanwhile, here I am 41 years old, freshly divorced, no prospects and so far from the maternity ward, it's not even funny! But I am not going to sit by idly and wonder if my dreams will ever come true. Nope. I am a proactive kinda gal, and I am on a mission! To extend my fertility take the best care of myself possible to optimize my health and longevity. Still, it can be a lot to process. I figured it’s best to get all the information needed and fully assess my health to know what I am working with. So I decided to get tested to see what’s happening with my womb and what that can mean for my family plans.
Going to a specialist is great, but there are other - at home - options before that too. - @srvj
You can still have a fulfilling life without children, but why not do everything in my power to make my dreams of being a mother happen? I had considered egg freezing at one point, but the cost, viability and not having a partner deterred me. I recently began looking back into it as an option. I thought “ let me revisit this as there may be other options!”. So naturally, I took to Google & Instagram. Without failure, due to the magical algorithm of Instagram, tons of motherhood and fertility accounts started to populate my feed. I was inundated! And a bit overwhelmed, to be honest. But then I came across a few fertility testing pages and thought maybe that might be a great first step. To get the needed information and actually know and understand what is happening with my reproductive system in order to plan accordingly. (Can you tell I am a planner?) Yeah… So, I recently took a fertility test by Modern Fertility.
At home fertility test
by Modern Fertility
My experience was seamless, easy, convenient and amazing. I received the test in the mail within a few days of ordering followed by a confirmation email complete with a Slack support group and access to speak with professionals (nurses and reps) if I had any questions, during the entire process. Taking the test was super easy. The instructions (which included pricking myself to draw a few drops of blood - which would be tested for various hormones) were simple. Once I was finished I mailed the test back in a stamped sealed medical envelope and received my results within a couple of weeks.
I hadn't revisited this topic in a while and was actually nervous. Well, I think anxious might be a better fit. But the results came back within normal range and everything looked good, but my ovulation was slightly out of normal range. So I scheduled an appointment to speak to one of the affiliated registered nurses and we had a great talk whilst reviewing my results. She was so warm and friendly, it felt like I was talking to my own doctor or someone trusted whom I’d known for years I appreciated that. Especially since I had some emotions come up during the review as I recounted my breakup, the journey and how I ended up taking the test. She recommended I get further (deeper testing) and see a specialist in my area to fortify my plans and strategize the best options.
I never thought I was infertile. However, I just think it’s best to know what I am dealing with. According to Women’s Health Magazine, infertility affects at least 12 percent of all women up to the age of 44, and studies suggest Black women may be almost twice as likely to experience infertility as white women. Yet only about 8 percent of Black women between the ages of 25 and 44 seek medical help to get pregnant, compared to 15 percent of white women. Cost is a major obstacle on top of cultural norms and racial discrimination amongst many WOC when it comes to how we communicate with medical professionals about our health. A historical general distrust of the medical profession by POC and lack of representation may also be a deterrent too. Although I have never been shy about my (reproductive) health, the Women’s Health survey showed that Black women were more than 50 percent more likely than white women to say they felt uncomfortable talking to their doctors about fertility.
Having agency over our bodies is imperative. However, having the knowledge and tools we need to be able to move when ready, can seem like a luxury. But there are a range of fertility tests, trackers and also family planning options available to us, depending upon where we are in life.
If you need support on your quest to understand your reproductive journey and fertility, you are not alone. Despite my life taking an unexpected turn and being single in my early forties, I feel empowered to know that I can take my family planning to the next level. Partner or not. As easily as we can fall in love and things can fall apart, sometimes we discover things along the way as we mend, from the broken parts that aid us along the way. So as I rise more deeply in love with myself on this part of my journey alone, I see this as an opportunity for me to learn more about my body, what it can do and also how I can actively prolong my health to become the mother of my dreams! In the meantime, I enjoy the next best thing: being a proud aunty of two wonderful nephews, whom I love dearly.
Grateful to be a proud aunty meantime…
WHILE PLANNING FOR A FAMILY OF MY OWN SOMEDAY.
Victory Jones is a Co-founder & EVP of The Colored girl
For more information on family planning options see below.
Family Planning Options
Egg freezing viability hovers around 4%... according to Extend Fertility, the new form of freezing, called vitrification, is significantly more effective; studies demonstrate that 90–95% of eggs frozen using vitrification survive the freezing and thawing process (compared to just 61% of slow-frozen eggs)
The effect of age on egg freezing success rates:
Here, we can look back to our friends at SART for help in determining egg freezing success rates. In their 2010 Clinic Report National Summary, SART reported IVF success rates (in terms of the percentage of IVF cycles that resulted in live birth) by age: 41.5% for women under 35, 31.9% for women 35–37, 22.1% for women 38–40, 12.4% for women 41–42, 5% for women 43–44, and just 1% for women 45 and older. The same document also reported that live birth rates for egg donor cycles—which typically use eggs from young, healthy women in their 20s—are close to 50%, regardless of the age of the woman carrying the baby.
“When these kinds of programs and services were initially rolled out, even the marketing, the advertising for fertility treatment did not contain women of color,” says McCarthy-Keith. “So if you were a woman of color who was having trouble getting pregnant, you didn’t even see yourself reflected in the services that may be able to help you.”
Generally, there seems to be a widespread belief that black women are highly fertile. Perhaps due to the hypersexualization of our bodies for so long throughout western history and also due to the disproportionately skewed representation of the black women having babies as single mother’s unequipped to take care of their children by various media outlets in the past. These stereotypes pegging black women & men as hyper fertile baby-making machines are persistent, harmful and untrue.
In addtion, to egg freezing, there are other options for family planning available for women today, such as Ovulation Induction, Invitro Fertilization,
IVF - According to a recent study by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Black women have lower IVF success rates than white women — and researchers aren’t sure why. We have a lower pregnancy rate and are more to suffer from pregnancy loss… black women responded well to ovarian stimulation medications and had an equal if not greater number of eggs retrieved and embryos created, which, statistically speaking should’ve meant they were better set up for IVF success
IVF involves combining eggs and sperm outside the body in a laboratory. Once an embryo or embryos form, they are then placed in the uterus. It can also help with problems with ovulation.
According to WebMD… What Can I Expect From IVF?
The first step in IVF involves injecting hormones so you produce multiple eggs each month instead of only one.You will then be tested to determine whether you're ready for egg retrieval.
Prior to the retrieval procedure, you will be given injections of a medication that ripens the developing eggs and starts the process of ovulation. Timing is important; the eggs must be retrieved just before they emerge from the follicles in the ovaries. If the eggs are taken out too early or too late, they won't develop normally. Your doctor may do blood tests or an ultrasound to be sure the eggs are at the right stage of development before retrieving them. The IVF facility will provide you with special instructions to follow the night before and the day of the procedure. Most women are given pain medication and the choice of being mildly sedated or going under full anesthesia.
During the procedure, your doctor will locate follicles in the ovary with ultrasound and remove the eggs with a hollow needle. The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes, but may take up to an hour.
Immediately following the retrieval, your eggs will be mixed in the laboratory with your partner's sperm, which he will have donated on the same day.
While you and your partner go home, the fertilized eggs are kept in the clinic under observation to ensure optimal growth. Depending on the clinic, you may even wait up to five days until the embryo reaches a more advanced blastocyst stage. Once the embryos are ready, you will return to the IVF facility so doctors can transfer one or more into your uterus. This procedure is quicker and easier than the retrieval of the egg.
For women of all ages, the pregnancy success rate is 29.4% with the odds of live birth between 34 and 42 percent over three cycles.
A woman over age 40 has an 11.5% chance. However, the CDC recently found that the success rate is increasing in every age group as the techniques are refined and doctors become more experienced. On average it costs about $12.4K
Increase success chances by
Maintain a healthy weight. ...
Optimize sperm health. ...
Partner with an excellent doctor and embryology laboratory. ...
Reduce your stress. ...
Quit smoking. ...
Look into taking supplements. ...
Ensure you have adequate levels of vitamin D.
Adoption - In US could cost between $25,000 to $60,000
Fibroids - Common problem in black women, unbeknownst why to doctors
For those who may be a bit shy or reluctant to discuss fertility with a physician, according to Women’s Health, resources like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ physician database, Resolve's state-by-state database of fertility doctors, and our tips on how to talk to your doctor about fertility are good starting points.