Thursday, August 12, 2010


I sometimes feel like a bit of a fraud in this online community because it is hard for me to think of myself as truly "infertile," even after all this time.

I understand that the textbook definition of "infertility" is TTC for over a year without success.  By that definition, we are definitely infertile.  But although we are "unexplained," the most likely reason for our infertility is simply that I waited until I was too old to start TTC.

To me, the label "infertility" is used to describe a medical condition and is more correctly applied to issues such as endometriosis, PCOS, premature ovarian failure, low (or zero) sperm count, and other physical barriers to conception and successful pregnancy.  Because all of our testing is normal and neither of us has any diagnosed problem, "infertility" doesn't seem like the right word to describe our predicament. 

[I must note here what my sister has correctly pointed out to me on more than one occasion: because I never tried to get pregnant before I was 37--and in fact, tried NOT to get pregnant--I can't truly know that age is the problem.  But it seems logical and very likely.]

Perhaps I feel this way because I hesitate to call something which is a natural part of the aging process a disease.  After all, won't EVERY woman be infertile after a certain age?  Certainly that age may vary from woman to woman, but being too old to produce a good quality egg at 37 (when I started TTC) or at 39 (now) hardly qualifies as premature ovarian failure.  Just as there is much individual variation in when a woman will spot her first gray hair or wrinkle, perhaps so it goes with egg quality.  We all get old, only the rate at which that process occurs varies.

So I feel like a bit of a fraud, someone masquerading as having a real illness when what she really has is bad luck and poor planning.  

And because of this view of myself vis a vis my lack of fertility, I actually feel a little guilty when I consider using methods like DE IVF to achieve a pregnancy.  Is it right for me to avail myself of such technologies (at great expense, I might add) simply because I am now too old to achieve pregnancy on my own?  I have long been of the school of thought that just because the medicine or technology exists for something, that doesn't necessarily mean that I agree with using it.  (Example: I would never want to be kept alive on a ventilator or  via tube feeding for more than a few days, even though people can actually live this way for years if necessary.)

I read the blogs of many other women who are in the IF morass with me, and many of them are much younger than I and struggling to get pregnant.  Shouldn't the use of ART be reserved for people like them?  Women who are infertile not because they put off having children (as I did) but through no fault of their own?

Having said all this, I make no judgments of women my age, and even older, who have undergone any type of fertility treatment.  This thoughts are directed at myself alone, not to the world at large.

One more thing for me to feel guilty about.


  1. I always find you posts so thought provoking. You are a great writer and I admire your ability to capture profound topics so eloquently. I, on the other hand am about to write a rambling comment in response to all of the thoughts you have conjured up!
    On some level, I can relate to not completley identifying with the IF moniker. Before my thyroid and fibroid diagnosis, which may or may not contribute to my sub-fertility, I was considered "unexplained". Even though I have gone through 2 surgeries and 3 medicated IUI's, I still resist believing I am infertile, call me crazy. I prefer sub-fertile if you want to be choosy about symantics.
    It is interesting to ponder whether or not you should pursue ART b/c of your diagnosis and age. Meeting the love of your life when you did is not for lack of planning. I think more people should be thoughtful about their choices rather than doing what's next or what your supposed to. Could that lead to more infertilty? It calls to mind an old post you wrote about divorce rates vs. age related-fertility.
    Being able to make the choice to use ART is a fortunate blessing, IMO. I don't think one should be denied the chance to procreate b/c life didn't go according to normal societal plan. Comparing end of life care to ART is completlely different! Whatever you and Mr.S choose to do, I am confident it will be a well-thought out decision. It seems to me that you would make a terrific mother. But, I support you and whatever decision you make.

  2. I feel like a fraud because I was able to acheive pg twice without ART but both pg's miscarried - and then it spun out of control to the fact that we made the choice to never try IVF with my own eggs and jumped straight to donor egg IVF. And quite frankly I believe my "guilt" is rather ridiculous much like the guilt you feel. It's not your fault that you made life changes down the road - in fact they should be regarded with pride. My own grandmother got married at 39, baby at 41 and baby at 42 so there are many stories of women in their forties who conceived without any help. The fact that you share the same torture that infertility creates, makes you a member...but I wish you weren't.

  3. To me, unexplained does not = waiting too long. It means that dr.'s just don't know. It could be that you waited too long or it could mean that there is some hormonal imbalance or genetic anomaly or some chemical in the environment that caused this that dr.'s don't know about yet or it could be a combination.

    I really don't think that because you waited for love and to be ready that should mean that your chance at a family should be taken away. So you were responsible, got an education, found the man you could spend your life with and didn't just pick Mr. Right Now, and well, now that should just be enough for you? That doesn't ring true to me. Also, it's not like by you taking advantage of fertility treatments that you're taking space from somebody else, well perhaps if you and someone else wanted the same donor that could be true, but overall there's plenty of treatment to go around. I really don't think this is one thing you should be feeling guilty over.

  4. It's hard to know (for me, also) whether the problem is age, or something that doctors cannot yet define. I think they sometimes rely on age as an easy answer, based only on statistics that make infertility treatment more difficult as a person gets older. I have conflicting thoughts about age and infertility, though - while I don't in any way judge other people's choices, for me, I don't want to pursue treatment if it's my age that's preventing me from getting pregnant. If I'm too old, then it feels different to me somehow than having something specific to "fix." I know that a lot of other people have a stronger desire to become parents, though, which is why I think it's such a personal decision. I wouldn't fault anyone for pursuing treatment due to age - it's just not personally for me. I don't think you should feel guilty about it either way - just make decisions that are right for you.

  5. Let yourself off the hook--no need to feel guilty! I was one of those younger (it's relative I guess) women who started trying at 31...but I'd had a suspicion of endometriosis at age 26 before going back to school for my second career. I went to the doc, asked him what he thought--specifically asking if I should go ahead and try to get pregnant--and he laughed me out of the office, saying he wasn't going to scope me on a suspicion and that I would have plenty of years to try to get pregnant. So if I had followed my own gut maybe I wouldn't have ended up infertile at age 34? Who knows. In the end, it doesn't make any difference. We do what we need to do to get through this. So be kind to yourself...

  6. I'm not sure if your questions are rhetorical, but to me, if there are technologies available to people who want something, I see nothing wrong with using them. Does your RE base his "old eggs" diagnosis on anything concrete, other than he's not sure what else it could be because all of your tests came back fine?

    Plus, I wouldn't see your life as "poor planning"! You've accomplished quite a bit.

  7. Wow this is certainly a lot to think about. I get your point and I think we all know that age does play a part. I often think what would have happened if I started this process at 25 (I am now 35). You can call it whatever you want, but you deserve to acknowledge that you are going through something hard and emotional and you deserve to be treated for that. I agree with you that i would never some medical technologies out there, but I am very glad that ART exists for us both.

  8. i dislike the term infertility. to me it sounds like a permanent inability to get pregnant. however, many people deemed "infertile" have gone on to have successful pregnancies.

    you are not a fraud and your struggles ttc are no fault of your own.

    i agree with the first comment- your posts are always thought-provoking.

  9. I too am one of the young ones. I started ttc at 27 and still at 30 I am childless. I don't think you are a fraud. Not everyone who is older has difficulty conceiving. You are infertile and therefore, why shouldn't you use the technologies that are available to you.

  10. Be kinder to yourself. The pain that you feel is no different than the pain that anyone else feels who is trying very hard to have a baby and can't. There are plenty of 37 year olds who get knocked up with no problem, so there IS something going on besides age. And feeling guilty about life choices? Don't beat yourself up that way. You waiting to have a baby until the time was right for you to have a baby, and no thoughts of "guilt" or "fault" should enter into the discussion.

    You did nothing wrong -- you don't DESERVE infertility because of your choices. It just sucks no matter how you got here.

  11. Stop it with the guilt. Just...stop it. (Easier said than done, right?) You didn't do this to yourself, and you don't have to "deserve" ART through some specific diagnosis. That is all.

  12. I'm late to comment and everything I wanted to say was well said by the previous commenters - but I just wanted to let you know that I thought this was a very well written post and I totally don't see you as an IF "fraud". We all have different stories but the bottom line is the same, we want to parent and can't.

  13. Wow. I was just listening to this on NPR this morning. Let me go find it....

    I got so riled up, I wanted to call up NPR. Alas, the price of being a hot head. Hate it.

    He suggested something about IVF being cheaper. Huh, check again buddy. Sure, if you hit the mother lode on the first shot.

    The bit about "all these children needing homes"... well, sort of. Many of the adoptions I know of through friends most waited a year or more. Lately, I have heard of some going through quicker, but they were few. I frankly am speaking out of turn. I am all ART so far, adoption is next, so I have no direct knowledge (but plenty of opinion, right??).

    He sort of made me feel guilty for ART. He doesnt know I cannot go to China (by the time we are married long enough, my husband is too old). He doesnt know a lot, but sure bugged me out.

    I would have told you that I thought you were (kindly) out of your gourd if I had not heard this today. I get it a little. We waited. Do we deserve to interfere with the natural progression of our bodies?

    Hell, yeah, we do.

  14. Thank you so bad for your email. I promptly broke into a cold sweat when I sent my comment. I feared it would come out wrong.

    Ahhhh.... thank you.


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