I'm a young infertile. That is, youngish. I'm not as young as I used to be, and I'm not as young as some. I have crows' feet, it's true. But unless I'm terribly unlucky, I still have a good decade left in my reproductive organs. So - young.

Want to know what I'd do if you walked up and told me to be thankful for that?

Well, I'd grit my teeth, and I'd smile a brittle little smile. And then I'd put you on my grudge list. Because it's really irritating to be told that. It's irritating because it seems to ignore the fact that, old or young, there's no guarantee. It's irritating because age isn't the only, or even the primary reason most of us move on. We move on because we can't keep going - emotionally, financially or rationally... and on the odd occasion, physically. If anything the older couple has greater emotional and financial stamina than the younger couple. And rationally - well, we'll both reach our "99% of couples your age should have conceived by now so you should move on" point sooner or later, and getting to that 99% mark sooner because I'm young won't make it easier if I'm left in that unfortunate 1%. It's irritating because when it comes to infertility being young doesn't count for everything. Not nearly as much as people like to dismissively suggest.

So I'll smile my brittle smile and if I'm feeling sarcastic I'll remark in a scathing tone that we should thank God for eensy, teensy, tiny, miniscule, "quick Bob bring the really really powerful and expensive electron microscope", more infinitessimal than any particle as yet discovered by science, very small mercies.

And then I'll go home and I will. Sincerely. With all my heart. Because, you see, it counts for something.

It means the luxury of taking a break, if we want. It means moving to plan B at our own pace, without the distracting sound of that loudly ticking clock. It means hope for new discoveries, new treatments, new technology, new solutions. It means choice, options, opportunities. I remember this sometimes, and I'm thankful for our youth.

I'm exactly as thankful as I should be.

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Summing Up

After reading through all the comments, I felt like making a concise summary of my now clarified viewpoint:

Saying, "Oh well, you're still young," is like saying a) don't worry - the problem can be solved given enough time (can it?) and b) it could be worse (thanks for that). One of a long list of things you can say to dismiss or diminish the experience of being infertile.

(In addition, in some cases it also implies that infertility is a wholly female issue, with no relevance given to the age of the father.)

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Since this has come up again, I'll add this. I'm supposed to start screening for breast cancer in 2007. This is because of a family history. Now, I may not get it at all, or I may not get it for years, but I'm nearly at the age where I have to start screening and it's giving me a bit of a ticking clock sensation. I think it's making me slightly more sensitive to being told "well at least you're still young" or, in other words, "never mind it could be worse". That said, I think I'm in basic agreement with Thalya.


17 Comments

Ellen K. said...

I have the same mixed feelings about my comparative youth (I will be 30 in 6 weeks)... although no one is telling me the clock is ticking, I want to scream when people say "You have YEARS ahead of you!" Do they honestly think this is how I want to spend the next decade? But at the same time, I do have those years; I have time to change my mind, settle in for a long adoption process, etc., and that is some relief.

Bea said...

Bloody hell that was quick! I think it's the unspoken, "so there's nothing to worry about" that gets me.

Bea

Piccinigirl said...

well at 36 I don't have those years ahead of me but people still tell me I have "time". UGH.

Bea, this post was beautiful and I have tears in my eyes because you said it so well. We are all as "thankful" as we should be.

Happy New Year sweetie!!! Hoping 2007 brings us lots of good things.

My Reality said...

Youth is so over rated in the big picture of infertility. My clinic has told me numerous times that I am young, not to worry. Like that calms my mind. It only made my blood boil. And you are right, I am somewhat thankful that I am in my early 30's and not much older.

Beagle said...

Whether you spend three years at this in your twenties, early thirties, or late thiries it's three shitty years (or one or two or ten). Though there is a certain sense of painic in the latter scenario. FOr example when I (at 38.5) think how long adoption can take for example. But just because someone like me hears a really loud clock is no reason for the world to minimize your pain by pointing out that time is on your side. Like you said, who wants to spend their time like this at any age!!

(But if you hear us oldies whine and panic about age, that's our own stuff, it's not an indication that we think young'uns have it made . . . just wanted to clarify that for my own sake because I whine about advanced maternal age alot. I also resent having THAT pointed out to me at every turn: that time is AGAINST me!)

In summary: it all sucks.

Lut said...

I must be your age, I'm just shy of 30.

Even the new GP I met a few days ago said to me 'you're still young'.
Being young didn't stop us from getting total fertilization failure.

But you're right about being able to move at our own pace.

'Exactly as thankful as I should be' - I've got to remember that one.

C said...

I love the way you put this. I got the "don't worry, you're still young" comment so many times I thought I was going to hit someone. Even my very favorite doctors said it at one point or another, at which point I either gritted my teeth and reminded them that I'd still been trying for far too long or just burst into tears. Either way, they shut up fast.

Josie said...

I too am young - soon to turn 29 and I HATE it when people tell me we should slow down our treatments becasue we have "TIME". Thank you for writing this post - I may have to link to it in my own rant about what not to say to an infertile.

Vee said...

I'm an old infertile at 38, yet I am still greatful I have a couple of years on my side.
But I still feel the pressure of the body clock ticking. I think each cycle would be a bit less stressful knowing I had time on my side.

Bea said...

I do think you're right, Vee. That's where my thankfulness comes from.

Bea

Jules said...

I get the "don't worry, you're still a baby" comment all the time.

FFS I may only be 28, but I'm the only one that I know, from my high school class, that doesn't have kids. Do you know how that makes me feel?

Your post puts it perfectly Bea. It doesn't matter at what age you are, IF is a tough road.

Meg said...

Yeah - the age thing. I am 30 next September, and people said it to me all the time. I didn't like to point out that my husband is FAR from 30 - for some reason, that didn't seem to count.

ellie said...

I think someone told me I was young and had plenty of time when I started this process-- hmmm, I don't think it is an age thing because there is such a range in the ages we are-- I take comfort in that because I have actually had people tell me I should have started sooner. I am not sure they meant it in a nice way-- but heck who knows. I kind of think that the folks that tell you not to worry ought to be smacked on the head-- I am cranky today- and well- it's just plain not ok to place one persons values onto another person. Because they think you have time- doesn't mean they have to place that parameter on you.

VanillaDreams said...

I couldn't agree more, Bea.

My local clinic said the same thing to me during our FIRST consultation: "MY! You are so YOUNG! Only 27! Most of our patients are MUCH older than you before we see them!"

Riiiiight....and I just turned 29 this month, and *looks around* I don't see a baby anywhere?!!?!?

Age makes no discrimation in infertility. WTF does your age matter, when a "young" woman could have NO FALLOPIAN TUBES, or NO OVARIES AT ALL???

Age is only relative at that point -- sure, you might have more "time" to go through years (and years) of treatment. But, damn -- when perhaps your goal was to be a relatively "young" parent, that doesn't provide much consolation, does it?

One of my aunts told me after my last (blighted ovum) miscarriage that I "should take a break from treatment...FOR A FEW YEARS." I said, "Well....Gee....I don't really consider that an option for myself considering my original goal was to be FINISHED having kids by the time I was THIRTY. And since, I'll be LUCKY to have even ONE kid by the time I turn 30, I don't think taking YEARS off from treatment is really going to help me fulfill that goal."

She shut up about that pretty quickly. ;)

Happy New Year, Bea and Mr. Bea!

xx
Nilla

K77 said...

I hear you. I am a few weeks away from 30 and get this crap now and again. With all the IF probs I have being "young" is little consolation. Like EllenK I'd rather not spend the next decade unpregnant.

Sassy (sassy@kimsplace.net) said...

I was sent here by Lut and must say bravo on a really well written post. I'm disgustingly young and because of that we've had a lot of trouble getting a doctor to take us seriously.

We planned to have one or two kids asap so I could then start my career instead of negotiating a break later on. I was 20 planning to have a career by 30. Now I'm about to turn 23 and realising I'll be at least 24 by the time we do have a baby. And what about if it doesn't work for us? How many years of ART will we stand? How many more years would adoption add? Will I be 30 with no career and no baby?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not fixated on being a young mum, it's just not what I thought was going to happen. And that stings.

Margo said...

Very well said Bea. I get so sick of hearing "you're so young" and "you should take a break." Hell I don't even think that my clinic takes me seriously, and we have some serious issues. I am grateful that we still have time though.

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