Recently, I read this in an issue of Today’s Parent Magazine:
“I barely know where I stand on the topic of fertility treatments and suddenly I have to make a big decision. Up to this point, I’ve always believed that if you can’t naturally conceive a child, do the world a favour and adopt one. So many kids need homes and it seemed selfish and expensive to go about starting a family any other way.”
Now, the article was about a 24 year old who was facing chemotherapy and was suddenly having to decide whether or not to freeze her eggs so I can cut her a tiny bit of slack. But, the fact that she felt this way – and strongly enough that she felt it was ok to put it into an article in a national parenting magazine – and that the magazine felt it was ok to print it, made me wonder how many other people see couples choosing to use ART (assisted reproductive technology) to start a family as selfish, making poor financial decisions and as folks who chose not to ‘do the world a favour’.
I realize that is a long sentence, but you must understand that when I read it the first time, I was hopping mad. Like, run on sentence for 15 min at my husband mad. Like, tearing up mad. I sort of felt like I was judged to be of bad character simply because my husband and I, after struggling to conceive, looked to modern medicine for help starting a family.
After I calmed down, I decided it was more important to educate others about some things you only learn when you find yourself unable to have a child naturally, than it was to seethe silently.
So here goes.
1. It is true that there are many children out there that need homes. It is also true that every day couples who have no trouble conceiving choose to have a child the old fashioned way rather than donning a rubber and ‘doing the world a favour’ and adopting. For us, given our ages when we realized we weren’t gonna have a half a bottle of chardonnay, a dinner out, quick romp and then a baby shower some months later, adoption was not an easy road. IVF, despite it’s challenges, was our best bet to start a family. I believe we did the world a favour by bringing our lovely children into the world as we did, but I’m biased.
2. Starting a family is selfish business. This is true for everyone who does it. One might see submitting oneself to countless medical procedures, sacrificing trips, nice clothes and dinners out to save the funds and bearing the emotional strain of the whole process so you can give life to another human as selfless. That’s a lot of work to make a tiny human. But when it works, it’s worth it.
3. Yes. ART is expensive. So is a BMW. And a purebred dog. And a designer handbag. And a trip to France. The nice thing about money is, once you make it, it’s yours to spend how you wish. When you consider the latest figures have the lifetime cost of raising a child at over $600,000, the cost of fertility treatment is a drop in the bucket. Oh, and people should mind their own beeswax.
4. It’s just not the same. When you try for 3 months and don’t get pregnant, you don’t “know how it feels” – as in “before Baby What’shisname, we had neg tests for three months in a row. I totally know what it’s like to not be able to get pregnant” or “My sister’s husband’s cousin’s friend’s aunt tried for ages. I think it took like 6 months. I totally know what you mean” or “This one time when I had chemo and I had to have my eggs extracted and it was really hard and then my husband and I got pregnant after three months of trying after I’d had chemo and was supposed to be infertile bt wasn’t…but the freezing part, that was hard, I totally know how you feel”. NOT THE SAME. Yep, sounds harsh. But sometimes the truth is harsh. I don’t know how hard it is to have cancer and chemo. It sounds like hell to me. I’m truly sorry you had to learn what that is like. I am really truly sorry. And you should know that finding after not 3 months, but years of trying to have a baby that it’s not possible, then having to go extreme measures in fertility treatments to hopefully achieve what other people do every day is also a kind of hell. As is coming to terms with idea that having a child isn’t part of your future. Hell. I totally get that some hells are worse than others. I really do. But please don’t try and make me feel like you’ve been to my hell when you have not and I won’t pretend I’ve been to yours. Let’s all just acknowledge we all go though our own versions of hell and leave it at that.
5. Just because people don’t have kids, doesn’t mean they didn’t want to. And if that’s the case, there’s a good chance it’s a pretty touchy subject. So if you’re ever in a situation where you ask if someone has kids and they say no, just move on. If they want to talk about it – they usually will. If they say, “Nice weather”, or “Can I get you a drink” just keep the conversation moving in another direction. If you pry you might force someone to be more direct. And no one wants to be pushed to the point where they are forced to say “It just wasn’t in the cards” or worse, “We tried but we couldn’t” or the showstopping, “No, I’m barren”. No one.
6. When you say “have you considered…having sex standing up, adoption, IVF, dancing under the moon with a monkey wearing a fertility amulet,” please know the person has likely considered everything you can come up with and more. If they clam up, don’t be offended. Everyone has a limit. Maybe they’ve reached it. And if that’s the case, unless they are your bestie (and even if they are), there’s a good chance they just don’t want to talk about it anymore. Like ever.
7. IVf and other baby-making interventions may give you the heebie-jeebies. But I gotta tell you, picturing you and your partner making a baby makes me feel the same way. I’m unlikely to say that to your face. And I’d appreciate you keeping your words to yourself. ‘Cause, that’s my kid you’re talking about.
7. Baby showers make people who can’t have babies feel sick. They even make people who couldn’t have babies but then found ways of having babies a little sick. Gracefully allow them to send you an nice gift and their regrets if they suddenly come down with a case of the infertiles.
8. Saying “Don’t worry, it will happen” to someone who’s been trying for ages isn’t a true statement, and you just say it to make yourself feel better.
9. “If it’s meant to be, it will happen” isn’t helping either.
10. You can take your “just relax” and shove it up your ass.