Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tick Tock

The American Fertility Association is launching an ad campaign to inform women that age plays a significant role in matters of fertility - the older you are, the harder it is to get pregnant.

As a veteran of fertility treatment myself, I think this is a good idea. I have seen more than one woman who has whittled away her fertile years thinking that Father Time will not adversely affect her chances to be come a mother. Just last night I was speaking with a friend about having children and found myself explaining how age can impact fertility. This woman is an intelligent, educated, professional who simply had no idea that waiting too long to have children might mean there would be no chance for children at all.

I'm all about women having the information that can help them make informed decisions. So I simply do not understand the negative reaction to this article. Some women are saying the focus on age-related infertility "smacks of paternalism and is unfair to women who are still in search of a partner" and "makes it look like doctors are on a mission to get women to have children". So, let me get this straight... we should keep women in the dark? We shouldn't tell them that if they want children they might want to make them more of a priority?

It appears so, at least from comments like this one from annieo8:

"Women - at least all the women I know - are *fully* aware of the ticking biological clock. We're already panicked about it - how on earth are we supposed to find time to establish a career so we can support a baby, find a partner with whom to have a baby, and have that baby - multiple babies, if we want more than one child - all before age 30? Forget finding personal fulfillment so we can be healthy mothers to those babies. Way to ramp up the pressure."

Forget finding personal fulfillment? Ah, selfishness rears its ugly head. I knew that had to be a factor in there somewhere.

From the other indignant comments I read, it appears none of the commenters have ever sat in a fertility clinic waiting room with a bunch of desperately sad women who have just found out that their ovaries have shut down permanently. I have, and it's a very sad thing. I have heard many times "I wish I hadn't waited so long. I didn't realize it would be so hard. I wish I could turn back the clock."

So while I can sympathize with annieo8 in her dislike of being confronted with information she doesn't want to hear, I firmly believe the rest of the female population should have access to this information. And what's with the delicate psyche routine, anyway? I thought women were supposed to be strong and powerful, not wilting like week-old flowers at the slightest mention of their aging egg supply. So why is it so politically incorrect to say that if a woman truly wants children, it may be better to put aside her personal aspirations for awhile so she can have them when nature intended? You can always go back to school or back to work, but you can't turn back the clock on your ovaries. I know this goes against the women-can-have-it-all mantra, but unfortunately we can't have it all. We must make choices, and sacrifices. That's just life.

I am not so insensitive that I can't understand how a woman whose life situation prevents her from having children might not want to be reminded by a trendy ad campaign, but for someone who truly does not know age is a factor, or is just putting aside children indefinitely to make Partner in her law firm, not realizing the consequences of waiting, it just might be helpful. And yet a bunch of professional, educated women are up in arms over being told some simple facts of life. It's too much pressure! Women will have children before they are ready! It's a male plot to turn women into baby machines!

I just don't get this propensity to hide the facts from people, as if they can't be trusted to make decisions for themselves once they have all the information. Like the abortion crowd who do not want women knowing that their "clump of cells" actually has a beating heart and fingernails. Because then, horror of horrors, they might actually keep the baby or give the child up for adoption instead of aborting it!

As to those who argue that women need to have established careers and a college fund for little Johnny before he is conceived, if you wait until you have fulfilled all your professional goals and have the money to have children, you will never have children. Children are expensive and time consuming, but somehow things manage to work out, if you are willing to make a few sacrifices.

But I guess that's just it. We aren't willing to sacrifice anything nowadays. We are told to pursue our own happiness without any thought to the purpose of life or the importance of having children. And if children are nothing more than trophies meant to glowingly reflect the accomplishments of their narcissistic parents, then why not wait, or just not have children at all?

I worry about the women who are in a snit over this article. I mean, if you are afraid of the truth, an ad campaign is the least of your problems.


Rizley Family said...

Just went to the website and read some comments. People certainly are so selfish. You can tell the opposition is really working on women these days.

Kristin said...

I read this article yesterday and I have to say I'm surprised that so many women seem to be up-in-arms about it. No one is saying you have to go and have babies when you're 22 (unless you want to), but what's wrong with trying to be sure women understand the truth about the relationship between age and fertility? This has nothing to do with making women feel guilty or panicked and everything to do with helping women make informed decisions. You can still choose to put off childbearing, but at least you are aware of what that may mean for you.

I could go on and on (I just deleted entire rambling paragraphs), but I think that's the main issue for me. It's about education, not pressure.

fiona said...

That was the saddest thing to me of doing fertility treatments... the large number of older, last-ditch-effort women/couples there. I don't remember ever seeing anyone as young as us, and when you get pregnant at 26, you're not exactly a baby yourself anymore.

I haven't read the article yet, but how dumb for people to be upset about it. Seriously, it's just putting the info out there for those who ARE interested. Just move on if it annoys you in some way, people! Sheesh.

Sara said...

How funny - I just blogged on this. A different take (I think it should be expanded to even younger women), but same thing - it's about education. It's about knowing your body.

And, I'm one of those people who have had close friends up in arms over the campaign - because it is throwing their biological clocks in their faces. But I've seen one too many clueless young women and an alarming number of clueless women in their 20s and 30s - "I have plenty of time!"

I am glad to see someone bringing women's health and reproduction into a forum where it's okay to discuss openly.

Oliver said...

I remember thinking as a moronic teenager that the Woman's Liberation movement was just about burning bras and hating on men. The more enlightened adult has seen that it is about giving women all the facts, letting them make the choices they feel best FOR THEMSELVES, and then letting them be happy about those choices.

That's what I hope for my daughter, at least.