Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Join the Movement: Second Class Infertile

It's National Infertility Awareness Week. As usual, I'm overwhelmed with work, back issues, and a volatile three year old. For NIAW, I want to talk about age related infertility. It been on my mind a lot lately as I've been practically tearing my hair out reading messages on a listserve I belong to for women in their 40s who are single moms by choice, or attempting to become moms. The denial is through the roof! Another blogger and I have been emailing off list, and occasionally responding as voices of reason. So many women are convinced (or want to be convinced) that the odds don't apply to them. That the EXTREMELY rapid decline in fertility once a woman passes 40 can't really be true, because their grandmother, aunt, and Halle Berry, are proof that it's possible. Possible, yes. Likely, no. But we are blessed to live in a time that offers older women options. But with those options comes the need to really examine and choose where to use your resources.

Advanced maternal age. AMA. That’s what it says on my chart.
That’s my infertility diagnosis - the same diagnosis that blames the patient. I must have been too busy with my high-powered career while my fertility declined month after month. I must have crazy, unrealistic standards for a husband/father of my child, and that’s why I was pursuing fertility treatments as a single woman in my 40's.
Every time the New York Times runs an article on infertility, the comment section is filled with comments about picky career women who wait too long to start their families. We are not worthy of insurance coverage, they say. We are not worthy of treatments, they say. We should accept that time has passed us by.
Honestly, those comments don’t bother me much. The ones that get to me; the ones that sting, are the comments from other infertiles. They proclaim proudly that they are not like me - they are young and infertile, not like those women.
I could explain my long history of bad luck with relationships, but there’s really no point. Suffice to say, I’m very grateful that none of those men is the father of my child.
When I was younger, I assumed I would marry and have a child by the time I was 30. In addition to the pain of failed relationships, there has been the sometimes agonizing longing for a child. Trying to have a child on my own in my 40's was hard - really hard. I went to all my doctor appointments alone. After each failed (or cancelled) cycle, I cried alone. I did every single injection myself. I researched treatments and options myself.
I did finally succeed - I became pregnant at the age of 45 with donor embryos, and gave birth to my daughter when I was 46 years old.
When I read the defensive comments on NYT articles and elsewhere from younger women dealing with infertility, I want to say, “We’re not really so different.”
Infertility hurts. Let’s not allow the media and ignorant commenters divide us.
I have been so lucky to have received so much support from women in the ALI community, yet I have never seen a young woman defend an older infertile woman when the barbs fly in the media. I may not know how it feels to be told in your 20's or 30's that you’re infertile, and you may not know how it feels to long for a child as long as I did, but we all know infertility sucks balls.
Can't we support each other, regardless of our stories?
For more info about infertility and National Infertility Awareness Week, check out these links from RESOLVE: