When someone raises the topic of fertility, my reflex is to either figuratively or literally cup my hands over my ears and say in an obnoxious sing-songy way, “LALA LALALA CANNOT HEAR YOU, HAVE NO INTEREST, LALALALA CHECK PLEASE.” Because talking turkey about fertility, with anyone, at any time, generally falls into two buckets.
The first is the Hyper-Vigilant Bucket. Fertility talk in this bucket is usually about timing and regulating and monitoring and waking up to check temperatures and peeing on PH sticks and charting and doing all manner of things that make me nervous. I’m nervous talking about this vigilance about fertility because it seems competitive. Like a biology lab report on which one is trying to get an A. Yet, I understand that many, many men and women are forced to become hyper-vigilant about fertility because leaving it to chance has not netted the desired results. I get this and I am sensitive to it. But I wonder if all of our resources, online and otherwise, have not created a more vigilant than necessary monitoring of fertility and ovulation and ultimately serves to make us more nervous than we ought to be. By nature I am not a list maker, an organizer, someone who knows where to find a ruler, someone who refers to charts or maintains them unless forced to do so. Hyper-vigilant Fertility talk gives me agita because it is anathema to the way I choose to do things.
The second is the Hocus Pocus Bucket. Fertility talk in this bucket is based on nonsense. Old wives tales. Research conducted before electricity, before birth control pills. Fertility talk herein is treated as something that one can control by avoiding certain maladies, like sitting on a cold bench or floor, or eating too much cheese.
The day I turned 26, I cried the entire day. There were brief interludes where I stopped crying. I spent the day in fetal position convinced that I was going to have a very difficult road to getting pregnant.
The pathetic truth about my 26th birthday is that I had not even tried to get pregnant. I was just convinced, based on my health history, and based on the ninnies at church who looked askance at me, married for a whole year and not yet pregnant, that I was going to be an epic fertility fail.
Six months later I was pregnant. I do not wax boastfully about my fertility or good fortune. If anything, I grieve continuously with those whose fertility journeys have been challenged or anguished by very real struggles. I know the private pain they carry is often too heavy to bear, to face the cruelty of another day. Conception and pregnancy have not been complicated ordeals for me, except in my own head. I was convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that I would be cursed. Based on what the Fertility Buckets had poured into me.
I have grappled with the nuances of Fertility Talk on my own until I read this article in this month’s Atlantic Monthly. Absolutely everyone who is poised to have a baby or have a conversation about having a baby should read this article. The author goes to the raw source of data that has informed much of our fertility knowledge in the industrialized world. The data will astound you. After discussing the article with a friend who is in in her early thirties, she said, she felt so relieved and so much more peaceful about the future. And oddly, so did I. Even though my fertility journey feels over. At least for now. I felt more peaceful because of the truth of the article and because of the lack of competition it fostered. Fertility is not a sport or a magic trick. It is a blessing from which many more blessings may flow, and possibly for many more years than was once thought.
If you read the article, what did you think?