life, love, and maybe babies

Monday, January 4, 2016

With All Due Respect: A Response to a Misguided Infertility Article

If the infertility community had a dollar for every inaccurate, misleading, or just plain ridiculous article about infertility, we'd never have to pay for our daily Starbucks fix again. 

Then again, caffeine caused us to be infertile.

(Oops, there's another dollar.)


Last week, @gotnosperm tweeted a link to an absurd article that appeared on The Huffington Post. It immediately lit a match within the infertile Twitter community, and I feel like a response to the article is needed. 

Our voice should be heard.

Here's the article. When I saw the title, "Infertility: The Important Missing Piece in Health Education Classes" I thought, "So true! This is a conversation we should be having with teens. It's not a fun convo, but we can prepare them for what might be coming and where they can go for help if it happens to them."

Then I started reading - and got all kinds of angry.  Right away I noticed that the subject of infertility as it pertains to the health education curriculum is only discussed as an afterthought. The article disguises itself as a conversation starter, when in fact it is simply a vehicle to get the real agenda across, which is hating on adoption and surrogacy. Infertility is just collateral damage. The gist of the article is this: infertility is totally preventable, infertility doctors and clinics are just trying to get your money, and surrogacy is just a bunch of exploitative assholes looking to screw you. 

Oh, and "adoption" is just a code word for sex trafficking.

This article should have inspired a dialogue surrounding if/when we should inform teens about the possibility that they will experience infertility in their life. Instead, the facts and statistics are so random and twisted that the original subject gets completely lost in the alphabet soup. What we're left with is a distasteful and flawed sermon that places the blame for fertility squarely on the sufferer's shoulders.  Here's a disturbing quote:

"Infertility affects both men and women, is devastating, heartbreaking, and often extremely expensive, and many of the risk factors are rooted in behavior that begins in adolescence."

Is this true? Well, it's truth adjacent. Infertility has certainly been linked to age, obesity,  alcohol, drugs, etc. But so has cancer. And headaches. And depression. 

Do we tell people with chronic headaches or cancer that it's their fault for eating too many candy bars in high school and doing too many Jell-O shots in college? No. We do our best to give them love and support and remind them that this random life curve is in no way their fault.

Because it isn't.

Infertility is no different. Of course there are factors that could increase the chances of fertility problems later in life, but it's hardly responsible to tell young teens that if they maintain a healthy lifestyle they can avoid infertility. That's writing a check that nature can't cash.

A large number of infertility issues are unexplained. Mine was, and after four years and the birth of my son, it still is. Besides, infertility can be linked to many sources. An obese woman who loses 60 pounds isn't suddenly guaranteed a pregnancy. She could have been obese with un-diagnosed PCOS. A woman in her 40's might easily get pregnant where a woman in her early 20's struggles. Every single case of this heartbreaking disease (yes, I said disease) is different, and it is never the person's fault that is suffering.


This ridiculous article even sights that riding a bike and wearing constrictive underwear can cause male infertility. And therefore, "it is important for young people to know that their present behavior may cause them heartache later in life when they are ready to have a family."


So you heard it here first, kids. Stay healthy and get plenty of exercise, but oh yeah, steer clear of riding a bike, mmmk? And actually, excessive exercise can cause infertility, so maybe just be lazy. But wait, obesity will cause're just screwed, so best of luck with procreating.

The most disturbing part of this article for me is the focus of blaming infertility on women who choose to wait to begin a family. 

"First pregnancies over 30 are more difficult to achieve and maintain and also add to increased risk for the health of the baby.", and shortly after, "Since it is never too late to pursue higher education and career, it is worth considering delaying those pursuits instead of delaying childbirth. The infertility industry in America has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry profiting from these preventable behaviors."

What in the actual hell? So we should encourage women to go ahead get pregnant (ready or not, partner or not) because, hey, you can always get your degree some other day. Besides, the infertility industry is just getting rich off of your ridiculously selfish feminism, you Melanie-Griffith-Working-Girl wannabe. Stop trying to break through the glass ceiling and make make your husband some stroganoff, please.


No no no no. This is all SO wrong and such an ass-backwards approach to family planning. When and if a woman chooses to have a child should be her decision. I don't want anyone (especially an impressionable teenager) being told to give up their dreams of a career in favor of popping out a kid. Hell, why even finish high school? You should just get pregnant now! Your junior varsity quarterback boyfriend Tommy will surely be who you spend the rest of your life with. And if he isn't, oh well, at least you'll have your baby before your eggs scramble!

(My eyes are rolled so far back they can see my hardly-ever working ovaries.)

At the conclusion of the article, we finally uncover what the true agenda is: hating on adoption/surrogacy. In fact, surrogacy is described as, "a controversial practice that is Illegal in most of the industrialized world because it exploits low-income women in the US and overseas." 

What bothers me is how broad a brush is being used to paint surrogacy as this seedy, underground machine that's turning underprivileged teenagers into baby-making slave laborers. I'm sure surrogacy has its problems like almost all large organizations do. But frankly, for some people, surrogacy is truly the answer. For lesbian and gay couples, it's a way for at least one of them to have their DNA in their child. For other couples, it's the only option for them to have a child that is biologically their own. To solely focus on the negatives of a potential path to parenthood is simply irresponsible and dangerous. 

With regard to adoption, the article shares goes for the throat, claiming, "because the demand so outstrips the supply, the adoption industry is plagued by corruptiontraffickingand scams, all with little oversight or regulation."

Hey lady that wrote this article, your bias is showing. 

Like surrogacy, adoption isn't problem free. But it isn't all cloak and dagger awful, either. I can count on more than two hands the number of people I personally know who would be childless had it not been for the selfless and beautiful act of a mother choosing adoption for her baby. I understand that there are those who have had bad experiences, but does that mean we shut the whole system down? Hardly. I mean, I had a shoddy cavity fill in the 9th grade. Do I just let the other cavities that I get rot in my mouth until I look like a cast member for Duck Dynasty? Um, no.

To close out her glass-is-half-empty-and-also-probably-filled-with-cyanide diatribe, Mirah Riben ends with this uplifting thought:

It is vitally important for our youth to be made aware that their behavior may cause them grief and costly, risky treatments later in life. Health classes need to include this important information.

The truth is, the "this is all your fault" approach isn't going to help anyone. I'm all for educating young people on infertility, but let's do it from a standpoint of support and information rather than accusation. After all, when we know better we do better, right? Would it maybe be better to educate kids about healthy living across the board, rather than make empty promises about avoiding infertility if we just stop having an extra doughnut or drinking a soda? 

I think so.

So there.

XOXO, my infertile friends. Just remember, you've done nothing wrong. You are beautiful.

PS: Here's the author's web page. It's pretty clear what her agenda has been from the get go. Maybe Huff Post Education should choose someone else to write about infertility. 


Empty Arms, Broken Heart said...

Kudos to you for reading the whole article, I had to stop after the first few paragraphs. A HUGE AMEN to everything you said plus the idea that young women should be ENCOURAGED to have a baby early is so preposterous! Unfortunately, I know some young girls who have babies and it isn't easy I can't believe this was actually published it is such a load of bullsh*t! For the record, I've been diagnosed with PCOS and there is nothing I could have done as a teenager to avoid this disease, it's something I've always had much like so many, many other issues that relate to infertility - it has more to do with genetics and less to do with ALL the mumbo-jumbo blather she prattled on about. It's a shame that such a poorly written diatribe is even out there for anyone to read!

Ashleigh said...

This article is bullshit. Thank you for your post.

Anonymous said...

There is lots of BS in the article but it is a plain fact that fertility of both men and women deteriors with age. I have no problem with it being stated in the article and people should consider this when planning their future. I myself have had harder time trying to conceive after age of 30. I wouldn't have done it differently because I just wasn't ready but it is good to be aware of what postponing a pregnancy into thirties might bring on the table. I was a bit too naive, honestly. :)

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