Monday, March 06, 2006

The folly of youth

I'm back. We had fun. I'm not PG. More about the trip in a later post.

I didn't manage to meet up with Manuela while I was in the neighborhood. My schedule in Vancouver was pretty tight. I really only had one day of free time there. And of course on that day the area got snowed under. It's just too bad, since I don't think I'll ever get the chance again.

I'm afraid I said something rather stupid in an e-mail I sent to her.
"As infertiles go, I'm still young-ish. I'm almost 29. The only real advantage that gives me (as far as I can see), is that I can scorn anyone who suggests I started too late. Statistically, I didn't. I keep expecting my doctor to pull out the premature ovarian failure card though. Of course, the doctors are in no hurry to investigate what's wrong, since I 'still have plenty of time'. " To Manuela's credit, this didn't stop her from being very nice in subsequent e-mails.

A few days later, I had a little time to read a few blogs. That's when I read Manuela's post about ageism, and specifically about the IFs that reinforce judgements based on age. Now that could just be a coincidence or my comment could just have been the final straw, but ... Oh dear.

So what do I have to say for myself? First and foremost, I apologize to Manuela if I hurt her feelings. It wasn't my intention.

When I finished high school, I felt the urge to have a baby with my then BF (now DH). It was an instinctive urge, I'm sure of it. But I had to go to off to uni, you know to get a degree so I could become a productive member of society and to be in a position to provide for kids. After graduating, I decided to work for one full year before ditching birth control, not long enough to build a career, but long enough to get the hang of things. I had the ludicrous notion I'd get PG within a reasonable amount of time. Fast forward a couple of years, and here I am, a young-ish IF.

Manuela has a point about the small window of time that society apparently perceives as the appropriate time for a woman to have children or deal with IF. IFs in their twenties are told they're so young, they shouldn't be stressed because they have plenty of time.
IFs over thirty-five are told it's their own fault they started trying so late.

From what I've read about (in)fertility, I understand that there is a statistical decline in fertility as a woman ages. That's not what Manuela has a problem with, if I read her post correctly. The crux of the matter is that it is quite a leap from this statistical information to accuse any individual woman of waiting too long or reproach her for being unduly stressed, or do you have ultrasound-vision? It's unhelpful at best, cruel at worst, to latch on to one aspect of an IF women's life (her age) and judge her upon that basis.

"SOMETIMES, when I hear these kinds of arguments come up... I've heard the odd infertile here and there reply with a defense of their position based on the fact that they had started trying to have a child when they were much younger and are therefore exempt from judgment. THAT actually irritates me more than the person who's judging in the first place! Because it implies that there IS cause to judge those who waited until later in life."

Now read what I wrote again, and repeat with me, oh dear.

Do I mean to imply, a contrario, that an older IF can't scorn whomever accuses her of starting too late? Not at all (but you could read it that way). As a younger IF, I can take the easy way out by pointing out that they're not even getting the statistical argument right. Total cop-out, I admit. While an older IF has to deal with the statistical argument itself, by pointing out that age is only one factor. Manuela makes an excellent point that all IFs should beat the same drum when it comes to ageism, age is only one factor.

But I stand by the fact that this shortcut is one of the only 'advantages' I see in being a young-ish IF. Theoretically, I should be fertile, respond to treatment well etc. A shy-of-40 IF friend of mine has given me the plenty-of-time line more than once. Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. Where's my baby?
I constantly feel I have to prod my doctors to move ahead, and I'm not getting any younger here. ;-)

So, mental note to self: the answer is not 'I didn't start too late statistically', but 'how dare you judge me based on my age, IF is a medical condition in which age is only one factor'.

Live and learn.

Now I just hope I haven't misrepresented what Manuela wrote, if so I hope she corrects me. Erm, and I also hope there aren't 5 new blunders in here, otherwise I'm sure you'll all correct me. ;-)

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At 06 March, 2006 23:04, Anonymous Manuela said...

OH, honey!!! Don't be silly!!! Gosh, I wasn't REMOTELY offended or upset... I just got buried under snow the day you came through town is all... I missed your calls because we were digging out for two days! By the time I called back you guys had already left the country.

So sorry I caused you worry... you sweet thing!

At 06 March, 2006 23:07, Anonymous Orodemniades said...

But age is easy.

Being fat is easy.

Finding a cause, getting a baby at the end, that isn't easy.

What is easy is blame.

Btw, when I was dropped from the fertility clinic here in Aberdeen, the Director (may he rot in hell) told me that I had 'plenty of time'.

I turn 38 in June. I've never been pregnant. What do you think my odds are?

At 06 March, 2006 23:44, Blogger Mellie said...

I think we all understand where you're coming from. And I think Manuela's point about us validating others blame is real - and not one I had thought of on my own.

At 07 March, 2006 02:19, Anonymous Lori said...

It's never easy sorting out all this dicey stuff. As someone who is also on the younger side at 31 - I definitely get the "how can you be infertile if your not even 35" vibe from others. It just stinks all the way around no matter the age.

At 07 March, 2006 02:42, Blogger Ladybug Ann said...

I will be 32 in 15 days. The fact is, we all make choices based on our individual situations. We all try our best, maybe we are all naive in thinking that we will have our babies when we throw out our birth control. None of us expected infertility. Unfortunately, the tick tick ticking of the biological clock is now chasing me, as I race to try to get pregnant before the OBs declare me of "advanced maternal age".

Sorry, I think I am rambling here. We all make the choices we made, no point in blaming anyone for past actions. All done, can't be undone.

Welcome back!

At 07 March, 2006 05:35, Blogger Sparkle said...

Ageism is one annoying thing whatever end of the scale you are, my other hot button is sexism.
So many assumptions about IF always being about female fertility ...
Welcome back!

At 07 March, 2006 09:49, Anonymous thalia said...

The age thing is hard. The main thing I find hard is to say the right thing to younger IFs, as part of me is jealous that they aren't under the same pressure that I am. Of course if there's POF involved, it's a whole different ball game. But when I say that to younger IFs I understand that it's hurtful as the longing for a baby isn't any different. So it's just hard. But thanks for trying to make sense of it.

At 07 March, 2006 13:01, Blogger N said...

I am young-ish too, turning 28 soon, which doesn't make the last 4 years trying to conceive easier to get over and still not having a baby to show off. I have heard the "you are still so young" line many times by everybody, my mom, my gynecologist, my friends, everybody. It has given me at times a feeling of can I be complaining when there are 38 year old women who have much less time. I know I shouldn't have these feelings and I know that I am deserving a baby at least as quickly as they do. ABd conciouns for being young doesn't help anybody. And age really is only one factor. Maybe I will never ever be able to have a child, who knows...not now and not in 13 years when I am 40. But certainly I do understand that for now, time is on my side and for that I am very lucky.

Hope to hear more about the vacation...dreaming of vacation myself...:-)

Take care!


At 07 March, 2006 18:19, Blogger Just another Jenny said...

I am so glad you are back and dying to hear about it.

Sometimes I say/write things that I read after and worry about how people will take what I have said. It sounds like Manuela and you are on the same page though!

At 08 March, 2006 01:33, Blogger projgen said...

As a 40yo who really *is* running out of time, I say regardless of whether someone is 22, 32 or 42, complain all you want. Just because you're 28 and have "lots of time" doesn't mean your journey is any less painful and frustrating than mine.

To be honest, I'd prefer that to someone being 28, complaining, and then saying, "that's okay, I have plenty of time." Then I'd have to smack you in the face with a fish.

At 08 March, 2006 21:00, Anonymous Alexa said...

Welcome back!
The ageism thing annoys the hell out of me because you simply cannot win. There is no age you can be that will not net you criticism--whether it is "you have plenty of time, just relax!" or "Why did you wait so long?"
It seems like the transition from one to the other happens at the stroke of midnight on one's 35th birthday.

At 08 March, 2006 21:57, Blogger Ornery said...

Welcome back! This was a really interesting post, and shows how sensitive an issue like ageism can be. Thanks for writing it.

At 09 March, 2006 02:26, Blogger InDueTime said...

Welcome baaaaack! I miss you!

I understand the age thing. Personally I get all the time from family and friends alike. I am barely into my 20's myself so it really boggles others. I'm supose to just relax, I have 20 more years to worry about all this stuff.

Thankfully, time is at this point, on my side. Gives us time to save.. for that I am thankful, but it's still painful.

At 09 March, 2006 21:57, Blogger ninaB said...

I've found myself falling into the ageism trap too. It's usually a defensive reaction to those who are implying that I'm not pregnant because I waited too long, but I also find that I blame myself (and sometimes my husband) for the same reason.
And yes, I heard the same smart-ass comments from my doc when I went to see her (you're only 31, plenty of time..).
Hope you had a fun trip.

At 10 March, 2006 05:11, Anonymous statia said...

It's funny, I never really thought of my fellow infertiles as too old or too young. We're simply all in the same boat. We want a baby, we're infertile. I think for me, it erases the age line. Meaning, I don't think of them as older than me, or younger than me.

At 10 March, 2006 05:19, Blogger Mony said...

I think along the same lines as Statia. I never categorise my infertile friends...the tubal girls, the Pcos, the miscarriers, the endo gang, the high FSH' know, we are all one. Infertile.
I do however worry about offending my sisters with comments occasionally, you know, hitting that "Post" button with your heart in your mouth! Being infertile is one thing, being a lonely infertile without her sisters is something MUCH worse!
I think you are a darling for worrying that you may have offending Manuela. She's definately one you want in your corner. And look at her comment! Not offended at all.

At 10 March, 2006 14:47, Blogger Dream Mommy said...

I'm only 26 and been trying almost 2 years! I'm so sick of hearing how much time I have and am I sure I'm ready for children!

At 12 March, 2006 18:16, Blogger Mary Ellen and Steve said...

As a young IVFer (24 years old), I hear things like "but you are so young!" and "you have so much time" all the time. I have even had people suggest to me that my doctor doesn't know what she is doing because she is willing to do IVF with us.

We don't have a choice. It's either IVF or no baby, and there is a strong no baby possibility even with the IVF. Regardless of our age, our pain is all the same.

Thank you for posting about this issue. It seems that ageism, whether you are earlier or later in your child bearing years, and sexism are both issues when dealing with IF. As if we didn't all have enough to deal with already.

At 12 March, 2006 22:50, Blogger Lut C. said...

Thanks for all your comments. :-)

For the record, I never thought that this had anything to do with our not being able to meet. The region was totally snowed under, as I saw with my own eyes. Many people were stuck at home.

I am grateful for Manuela's reassurances. Discussions are fine, but I don't want to drive my support group away.


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