The Birds and the Bees Revisited

The moment you go from actively not trying to get pregnant to actively trying to get pregnant, your sex life changes. Often it’s not a single moment but a month or more of inactively not trying, the birth control equivalent of slowly stepping into a freezing cold swimming pool rather than closing your eyes and jumping. You pull the goalie then forget to invite the other team to play. Or the other team is so freaked out they don’t even try to score. Or they do try to score but don’t, and then you start to wonder if there’s something wrong with the other team, if they’re too old or too stressed out or smoked too much pot in college. That’s when you go from dipping your toes in the water to doing a running cannonball off the diving board—Geronimo, kids, it’s time to get busy.

Unfortunately, despite what the Lifetime Movie Network and your high school guidance counselor want you to believe, making a baby is not as easy as a six-pack of Zima and a rec room couch. I went to a progressive school that prided itself on a liberal and comprehensive sex education curriculum. I remember writing anonymous questions about boobs and periods in fifth grade, a particularly horrific slide show about STDs in seventh grade, and a series of heated arguments throughout high school about whether legalizing prostitution would empower or oppress women. At the age of 32, when my husband and I decided to close our eyes and jump into the baby-making pool, I could argue the constitutionality of abortion, gay marriage, and pornography. I knew how HIV was transmitted on a molecular level. I could recite statistics on the risks associated with advanced maternal age as they related to miscarriage, infertility, and chromosomal abnormalities. But I didn’t truly understand that I could only get pregnant on four, maybe five days of the month, and probably fewer, because I was a maternal dinosaur and my husband smoked a lot of pot in college.

That’s the annoying truth of it. While it seems like every teenager on reality TV can get pregnant 26 days a month, and you swear your best friend occasionally gets knocked up in the shower, you and your old “career oriented” eggs have only a 12- to 24-hour window to get fertilized after ovulation. Your husband’s boys may be able to survive longer, depending on whether your fallopian tubes resemble a mahogany-paneled man-cave with a built-in beer tap and 60-inch plasma television or a women’s studies class at Smith, but at most you have five days during which sex leads to baby. Five days is the best-case scenario, and let’s be honest ladies, at our age, we have to aim for the bull’s eye just to hit the target.

So if you’re done testing the water and you’re ready to dive in, don’t waste your energy shaving your legs the first day after your period ends. Start spritzing your fancy Versace perfume a few days before you think you’ll ovulate, and save date-night at your favorite martini bar for the day before. And if that night happens to coincide with a major sporting event or highly anticipated episode of The Walking Dead, you might as well throw on your yoga pants, open a bottle of pinot, and wait ‘til next month.

Written by: Kathleen

PS: If you've been doing cannonballs for several months and are starting to get antsy, or if you're just trying to be more precise in your baby-making so you don't end up with, say, a Christmas due date, I highly recommend and the accompanying app for more comprehensive information and tools to maximize your chances of getting pregnant regardless of who dies in the next episode of Game of Thrones.