Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't

It never ceases to amaze me the phenomenon of conflicting public opinion. It is well documented in politics where people state that they want one thing and vote for the exact opposite and there is no clear reason as to why. In the complex arena of family planning, women are given mixed messages everywhere they turn, doctors, society, their friends, their family.

Mixed Message No. 1: don't wait too long to have babies! You never know when your eggs are going to go kaput! And, remember society begins to lose empathy with women who put off child bearing until their late 30s because - oh the horror - they wanted a career and end up having trouble getting pregnant. (Need to rent a uterus? You shouldn't have waited!)

Mixed Message No. 2: what do you mean you're 25 and trying to get pregnant?! You should get your career started or you'll be stuck at home with wailing babies and the entire workforce will pass you by! This mixed message was amply demonstrated in a Washington Post article yesterday about women who have careers but are having their children in their 20's. The girls were being villified by their friends and society in general.

In the end, the only message to listen to is your own. Women should start trying to have a baby when they are ready, not when society tells them that they should. And it is nothing more than Monday morning quarterbacking to say that someone should have done things differently.

5 comments:

Lori said...

Good observation. I had never juxtaposed these two MMs before.

I've often thought that IF will show a spike for women who spent their fertile years in the post-feminist era. The ones who thought they COULD have it all. Do the career in your 20s and 30s. People have babies in their 40s all the time. Don't they? DON'T THEY??

I wonder if IF rates for post-post feminist-era women will now recede.

shinejil said...

This is a really good point, Madame X, and I thank you for linking to two articles that illustrate this point so clearly.

When I contemplate my own life, I know that there was no way in hell I would have been happy about having children until my late 20s, and at that time I had no partner with which to do so (my first marriage had ended in divorce). I contemplated becoming a single mom by choice. When I did meet the man of my dreams, I was 30. Did I "wait too long" because I couldn't find a man I thought would be a good father? Why doesn't anyone ever look at the male side of the equation: that many young guys in their 20s are very immature and still feel like kids themselves? Note: many, but not all.

Mrs.X said...

Ladies, both of you have excellent points. I think a lot of the current age-related infertility (as opposed to PCOS, tubal problems, male factor, etc) can be correlated to the post-feminist era of you can have babies whenever you want! I hope we are seeing the tail end of that hype.

And these messages don't take into account that many people make conscious and well-researched decisions not to have children until later because of finances, or careers. It's not selfish to want to a child when you are ready. Isn't the abortion rate an indication that not enough people are making that choice?

Pamela Jeanne said...

Amen to that! I was whipsawed by the mixed messages through my 20s and 30s. Unfortunately the opinions then lacked much of the detailed information about the myriad factors that can interfere with conception and delivery success at all ages. I think more accurate and wide ranging info delivered without fear and judgment is the only way to objectively help -- starting with biology in high school. That's where the fallacies begin that we're all breeding machines. Why would we think otherwise? Then shock and disbelief set in for the 12.5% of the child bearing population that learn otherwise at the doctor's office.

It's hard to make an informed decision when society is leaping on and off their bully pulpits and twisting subjects to meet their political agendas. As I've always maintained, what gets completely obscured behind all of the arm-waving and pontificating about reproductive rights is the millions of couples who simply want to conceive and deliver a baby.

Let's hope the next generation gets a clearer picture so that they can plan their lives with greater clarity about what awaits them.

shinejil said...

Well said, Pamela Jeanne, as always. The mystification of this subject is, well, mystifying.

One other important piece of the puzzle is policy: Young parents need to have better access to affordable quality childcare, reasonable parental leaves, etc. Who knows what decisions young couples would make if they actually had the support of society behind them?