Thank you all for your comments from the last post. It’s nice to know I have such great friends out there praying for us :)
I’ve heard (and read, by scouring every website that comes from googling “average time to conceive” over these past months) that a couple is not considered infertile until a year of random intercourse has gone by without conceiving. For those practicing fertility focused intercourse (read: correct timing based on NFP knowledge) the time is reduced to 6 months.
Doesn’t that seem a little harsh to anyone else? After 11 months you’re not infertile, but after 12 months you are. Surprise!
Dictionary.com (aka source of all things official) says infertility is “the state of being unable to produce offspring; in a woman it is an inability to conceive; in a man it is an inability to impregnate.”
Again, rather harsh to have this arbitrary and empirical cut-off of 12 months, huh? Especially considering many women trying to conceive are recently coming off hormonal contraception which clearly affects your fertility (not in my case, but still).
And I’m really not just harping on this to make myself feel better for where I’m at! Just trying to define the difference between infertility and reduced fertility (or sub-fertility).
The term “infertile” should be solely saved for those without wombs and castrated men. There are people like this out there and they have no chance to conceive. Ever. As much as I’ve gone through, I cannot imagine the pain these people feel at the loss of what never was and never could have been. However, all of us with these parts intact still as at least some chance at fertility, however diminished given each of our situations (and some people do have significantly lowered chances). [Can you even put yourself in their shoes and imagine how insulting it would be to one of them to hear a woman with everything intact complain about being infertile? Essh, I’m so guilty.]
All the rest of us else are just playing an odds game. Some have higher odds than others. Some people get pregnant as soon as their husband looks at them! And some have every medical reason stacked against them. As Joy commented after my last post, someone has to be on the other end of the bell curve. Someone has to be there to bite that statistical bullet.
I think I have the only husband in the world who actually thinks that the longer we try to conceive, the higher our chances of conceiving. (Yes, I almost smacked him the first time I heard that.) But (once I calmed down) I started to get where he was coming from. Does anyone remember probability density functions from stat class? (Or am I really the only engineering blogger out there?) Given a certain probability to conceive, the more times you flip that coin and don’t get your intended result, the more times you have under your belt and closer you are to getting that result. We just don’t know how far away that result is.
He’s always been a half-glass full type of person.
I drew a little graph to illustrate (I know, I’m a nerd). With every month you don’t conceive, you’re one month closer to the end goal because as impossible as it seems for us to conceive as an individual, the stats out there show that about 95% of people that try to get pregnant, will eventually get pregnant (85% will get pregnant within a year, and increases slowly from that).
The only catch is that while 95% of people do conceive, 5% never will. I have to be the negative voice echoing in my husband’s ear that the asymptote doesn’t end at 100%, it ends at 95% because not everyone who wants to gets pregnant. If only! And I think that’s the crux of all the anguish women have who are trying to conceive, the waiting part. At least people who are truly infertile do not suffer in that “what if?” purgatory. Am I in that 5%? I already won the 15% lottery, why should I not win the 5% too?
And I personally believe this is why we see all those “Just adopt and you’ll get pregnant!” stories. There wasn’t really anything magical about adopting, those people were just on the tail end of the bell curve, and they decided to pursue other paths to parenthood than just wait it out. My neighbor (appropriately named Sarah) didn’t conceive until she was in her 40’s, after years of trying and eventually giving up! These people are who God uses to perform miracles, however improbable.
And while I know that a lot of good can come out of reproductive endocrinology and doctors who try to understand what’s preventing our bodies from conceiving and helping us (they have helped diagnose and treat very serious problems!), here’s where I think the infertility industry and mostly artificial reproductive technologies really do us sub-fertile women a disservice: By claiming that you’re infertile after one-year of no pregnancies. You KNOW they know I’m out there googling that and freaking out! If it really is stress that’s preventing conception from happening – like so many people claim – do you think it’d be a good idea to put a time limit cut-off on something so huge as one’s ability to create life? And I don’t just place blame the industry, they’re providing a service that our contraceptive culture is ultimately at the root of. I just think the fertility industry is particularly evil for capitalizing on women who buy into their temptations of motherhood (with lots of cash!) by taking advantage of women in their most vulnerable states.
I may sound really confident that its all going to be OK for sub-fertile women and that they should wait it out, but that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m really just trying to spread a little hope. Its hard buts its an individual decision to wait it out, contemplate life, come to their own new conclusions in their altered life plan regarding how long to wait, decide which (moral) treatments to pursue, and whether or not adoption or fostering is viable path for parenthood for them. As Sarah wrote, just because you’re told “it will happen eventually”, doesn’t mean that it gets any easier in the meantime (plus, we all fear that 5%). But unfortunately this is something that each person has to work out between themselves and God. The scariest part is that there isn’t anything anyone can do or say to take this suffering away. This is our cross and believe me, its heavy, we could just do without this lifelong label of “infertile” to stress us out even more!
I’ll stop here and save why I think contraception and the contraception mentality does a disservice (in general, but especially) to subfertile women, for another post!