The more you think about women that undergo IVF in their late 30’s and early 40’s, the more you realise what absolute superheroes they are. How on earth do they fit IVF appointments and everything that goes with them, around their normal, hectic life? How do they square it with the sheer tiredness and to-do lists that exist when you’re a 38-year-old, responsible adult? How the hell do they even budget for it? Still, it’s surprising how many women and couples feel like the odd ones out of their friendship groups, family, or workplace.
IVF is an incredible miracle for those who struggle to get pregnant naturally – which is one in eight of all of us. It’s hard in all kinds of ways though. “Why don’t you just adopt?” say the people who know nothing about it. “Why don’t you just foster? Why don’t you just make life easier for yourself and build a time machine and go back to being 25 again?”
One of the things that makes it immediately awkward, is that a lot of people get pregnant naturally. Sometimes unexpectedly. Sometimes when they don’t even want to. When you’re dying to start a family of your own, or unsuccessfully attempting to get pregnant, those “Whoopsie! Forgot to take my pill!” moments from your best friend, sister or co-worker can cause some serious, if entirely unintentional, and shocking jealousy. Infertility is intrinsically unfair, and sometimes people that would make utterly wonderful parents can really struggle. Equally, some of the people that wouldn’t be so great at it seem blase about their fertility. It’s not a judgment from On High about your character, it’s just a medical fact – it’s easier for some people than it is for others, and it’s got nothing to do with your moral character.
“You can always adopt though, right?”
Sadly the huge numbers of children in foster care can attest to the fact that not everyone is cut out for this, even if they’re physically able. This unfair situation is perhaps why people suggest fostering and adoption to those who struggle to start a family, and if only it were that simple, but it isn’t. We’re not even going to bother to explain this, because if you know, then you know.
You might also know that Amy Schumer probably has a little more practical support than most of us, being an incredibly successful comedian, but she’s only human too. She recently revealed that she was “a week into IVF and feeling really run down and emotional” on her Instagram account. The star also revealed her painfully bruised belly after undergoing hormone injections. Asking followers and fans to share their IVF stories below the candid photo, the post was a fascinating & rare window for the public, into the mental, physical and emotional challenges of the IVF process. The times that IVF is depicted on TV or in books and movies, it’s often simplified and just a plot device, rather than the all-encompassing experience it really is. IVF is hard and awkward, and it’s just wonderful when someone in the public eye can be up-front about this.
Speaking of being up-front, you can’t do right for doing wrong in some people’s eyes. Have babies at 18, and people will say you’ve wasted your life. Concentrate on your career, folk will moan that your best years are behind you. We’re all just trying to establish ourselves and some semblance of a future. The time that women spend building their careers often overlaps their most fertile years, and it’s extremely hard to find a perfect balance. Did we say hard? We mean impossible! It’s absolutely impossible. That’s why there should be no shame or self-consciousness attached to egg-freezing, donation, or IVF whatsoever. It would be nice if someone sent that memo to bosses, mothers-in-law, super-fertile friends, and workplaces everywhere, so let’s just start pretending that they did. We have every right to be passionate and ambitious about our goals and careers during our fertile years, and we shouldn’t be feeling any awkwardness or shame about seeking IVF to help us start a family. Here’s to older and ambitious mums and the clinics that make their families possible!