Something has been bothering me for a long time. In the media for the past several years, it’s typical to see statistics about the rise in infertility rates, with one of the most common causes being that “women are delaying childbearing more and more,” or, “women are waiting longer to start their families.”
This royally pisses me off. Possibly this is irrational, but I’m taking IVF hormones and I’ve had a headache since last Wednesday, so I get a free pass. And anyway, I don’t think it is irrational.
Here is why I hate those phrasings:
1. It suggests that on some level women, all women, are totally shocked to realize we don’t have an unlimited number of childbearing years. Really? I’m sure there are women out there who think they can wait until they are 42 to have a baby and they won’t have any problems, but all the ladies I’ve talked to are fully aware that we should probably start our engines sooner rather than later if we want to avoid, well, this. And while, sure, it was a nasty surprise to discover that R. and I can’t conceive on our own for some unexplained, God-only-knows(-because-the-doctors-sure-don’t) reason, it’s not like I wasn’t aware that being in my 30s (as opposed to being 22 and fresh out of college) was not a factor in my favor.
2. It places all the responsibility on us, and none on our male counterparts. So men don’t have any say in when to procreate? Are we supposed to disregard their input and go off birth control ASAP, and if we don’t then it’s our fault for winding up in this IF situation? No, thank you. My husband and I made the decision together about when to stop birth control. It was later than I would have preferred, as it happens, and that’s water under the bridge now but I don’t appreciate the suggestion from anyone that I am the one who caused the delay. And besides, is anybody else seeing some mega double standards? Women who bear a child out of wedlock or a committed relationship get all kinds of societal flack, including a lack of institutional support to help them raise said child. But, if we do our best to create a situation in which we feel it is best for us to bear and raise a child – for example, find another adult who would be a good parent; earn enough money to support a kid; get an education so you can continue to support the hypothetical kid; or (I experienced this one) find a job that actually has health insurance; or let alone grow into the kind of person who can handle parenthood – then we, and only we, are causing delays that lead to infertility.
I don’t know what the solution would be to the problems I just listed. It would be nice if we could structure society so that a woman could somehow bear her child or children and if possible not suffer the penalties of having delayed education, career, relationships, and so on. I know, I know: that’s a tall order, so I hope you will all get started on that right away and I expect regular updates every Tuesday afternoon.
However, I do know a really good place to start: Stop using words that suggest that we as women, and only we, are responsible for our infertility.