In honor of National Infertility Week, I’m hijacking my own blog to talk about a topic seemingly unrelated to novel writing: infertility. Although, if you like to see infertility as a metaphor for writers’ block, or vice versa, it’s not such a leap.
The infertility-awareness and advocacy group RESOLVE has asked bloggers to “bust a myth” about infertility this week. So here’s my myth: Young women aren’t adequately aware of their waning fertility, and if they’d just read the statistics and snag a mate as soon as possible, they wouldn’t have to suffer in the future.
There are a few reasons I think this myth, which I often see voiced or at least implied in articles and news stories about infertility, is hogwash. Sure, there may be studies showing that young women in their twenties and thirties underestimate when and how steeply fertility begins to decline. But who the hell are these researchers surveying? Don’t these women realize we’re supposed to live up to the stereotype of being desperately aware of our biological clocks? My counter proof is purely anecdotal, but by the time I had an opportunity to try to get pregnant, at age 33, I was scared shitless that I might have trouble conceiving.
And that leads me to another reason this myth is silly: It’s not like every woman has a suitable baby-daddy lined up by her mid- to late twenties. At 28, I’m pretty sure I was “ready” to have kids — if only it hadn’t taken me another five years to find and marry the right guy. And the myth makes it sound like women, all on their own, are postponing child-bearing, when in reality — well, you know what they say about the tango. Men are postponing what sociologists call “family formation” too, for whatever reasons.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog that my novel was a lifeline during my struggles to conceive. And so were my friends and my social life, and my job, and the co-workers who kept me sane and crossed their fingers that my fertility treatments had worked and sent me chocolate when the treatments repeatedly failed.
The novel and the career and the social life weren’t impediments to my starting a family. And I suspect a lot of women are like me: We build a good career and single-person life because there’s no opportunity to have kids in sight, not the other way around.
And even if I had — as some people do for a variety of solid reasons — actively decided to have kids at a certain, later-than-30 age, that wouldn’t have made me or my husband to blame for our unexplained infertility. Doing stuff with your life before you have kids is not a medically proven cause of infertility.
In fact, as others have pointed out, a good percentage of infertility has causes other than the woman’s age. Also, people in their twenties suffer infertility, while others have no trouble conceiving at 35 or 40. And there’s no way of proving that those of us who “waited” till our thirties or forties and did have trouble wouldn’t have gone through the same thing if we’d started trying earlier.
I’m not disputing the fact that women’s fertility decreases with age. I’m just saying being aware of that fact doesn’t make infertility go away, or make it suck any less when it happens.