“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” — Aldous Huxley
When I started blogging from my kitchen several years ago about coming to terms with infertility, I never fathomed my experience would end up in a major national daily like Canada’s The Globe and Mail: When Couples Come To Terms with Infertility.
It was in finding the courage to openly discuss such a private and painful experience that I’ve discovered new connections, and an understanding that was once elusive.
Let’s be clear … those of us who admit to stepping away from the infertility clinic or looking ahead to a life without the experience of parenting don’t have an easy time of it. The pressure to continue treatment — we’re bombarded with messages to pursue parenthood at all costs — frequently leads to misunderstanding and/or a lack of support for our often disenfranchised grief.
That’s why I’d like to offer kudos to journalist Adriana Barton for writing about what couples face in The Globe and Mail. With more education about where the odds lie in fertility treatments and what’s involved with coming to terms with nature and science’s limits, we may be at a turning point — a new day when couples can expect more in the way of understanding. In researching her story, Adriana interviewed Judith Daniluk, a professor in counselling psychology at the University of British Columbia who acknowledges what few do: that despite medical advances, some individuals are unable to have biological children.
“People don’t understand that,” says Dr. Daniluk, who has worked with infertile couples for nearly 20 years.
One in six couples experiences infertility, according to the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society. Many end up at fertility clinics, but the chances of success plummet with age. For women aged 35 to 39 who undergo one cycle of IVF, the live birth rate is 26 per cent. For women 40 and over, the rate drops to 11 per cent.
In the age of fertility gone amok –from Octomom to Holly Hunter giving birth to twins at age 47, likely using donor eggs – there are no role models for couples who can’t have kids, Dr. Daniluk says.
Instead of hearing about infertile couples who create fulfilling lives, she adds, we hear ‘keep going’ and ‘50 isn’t too late.
And it’s just that kind of thinking (and societal pressure) that creates a unique set of challenges, as Christina, Stephanie, Kate and I discussed at length over dinner last Monday evening. To be in the company of women who could truly comprehend each others lives? It was, well, bliss — and novel in every way. Equally satisfying was seeing how much we each had grown and found new outlets for our experiences — the makings of role models you might say.