"Too late": ambivalence about motherhood, choice, and time

J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 2003 Fall;51(4):1181-98. doi: 10.1177/00030651030510040701.


This paper explores a particular constellation of fantasies and defenses that in some women leads to the delay of childbearing. Destructive wishes towards the woman's own womb and her mother's lead to behaviors that sabotage fertility and pregnancy. These wishes and behaviors meet up with an unconscious belief in and commitment to time standing still, and with cultural tropes and trends that obscure intrapsychic conflicts and denials about motherhood, aging, and time. Analysis, like childbearing, is constrained by the reality of time, and the complex untangling and connecting of these three not obviously related threads may not occur until it is, for the woman who wants a child, too late.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy / psychology*
  • Psychoanalytic Interpretation*
  • Psychoanalytic Therapy / methods
  • Self Concept
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Time Perception*
  • Unconscious, Psychology