Saturday, February 28, 2009

When to talk about Infertility

I don't normally post about what's on other people's blogs and I didn't really want to do that here, but I think this is an interesting topic worth discussing.

Hillary had an interesting post the other day about telling the youth group she works with about her infertility. As I understand it, Hillary is really trying to share her devotion to Jesus more than her infertility, infertility just happens to be the subject that she can use to share this. Like, I said, I don't really want to talk about her post, but I just want to explain that is where I'm jumping off of here.

I left a comment trying to explain why I didn't think it was a good idea. And from the other comments, I appear to be alone in my opinion.

Just to be clear, I don't think it's 'wrong' to talk about... I just wouldn't recommend it in this context.

This made me think back to my teen years and how very hurt I was that no one would talk to me about my fertility when I was diagnosed with PCOS. So the real question is when you should talk to kids about infertility?

In my case, it was very relevant and I was asking the questions. Someone absolutely should have taken the effort to explain things then. Most kids aren't in that situation and aren't asking questions.

It's not that I don't think kids should be taught about infertility... I think kids should be taught about infertility, but it should be learned on top of a solid understanding of fertility... which I don't think most kids have (I don't think most parents have one either).

I think our young women learn about puberty from those handouts made by the tampon and pad manufacturers. Their priority is to get you to buy their brand from an early age, not to explain fertility to you. Girls know that they should be prepared to bleed once a month but don't really understand the process that leads up to that. We talk about sex and getting pregnant, but not how it really happens. We live in a age where kids think that it's ok to get herpes cause there are all those pills on TV that you can use to treat it and as long as you use a condom you don't have to worry about it anyhow. Girls get birth control prescriptions without understanding what these hormones are doing to their bodies. (Oh, and incase you couldn't tell, I think abstinence only education is a big crock of SHIT designed by a patriarchal society to keep women uneducated, poor, and dependent on men... but that's another topic entirely.)

On top of that, we tell our kids to wait to get married and have careers before having children. That's not wrong, but ignores the very real threat of not being able to accomplish all that before the biological clock runs out. But whose going to tell their kids to get married to someone they don't love and have children before you're prepared? But kids need to have an understanding that their fertility won't wait around for them forever. And all those Hollywood stars having secret IVFs after 40 and lying about twins running in the family aren't helping out any.

But it still comes back to the fact that we don't talk about fertility enough for kids to really understand the infertility side of it.

Discussions about fertility (and sex) should start young and build up. Their's a lot to learn and these things take time to understand. You start with the basics and work up. Once you've started talking about sex, you start talking about reproduction, and then the details of reproduction and with these details, you eventually talk about if these thing don't happen correctly, reproduction doesn't happen. But you've got to make it age appropriate and relevant to the questions and curiosities that kids would normally be having.

Also, I think it's important for you to talk to kids about THEIR bodies, not YOUR body. You can use personal stories to relate experience to kids and make them feel more comfortable about their own body (ex. I used to get erections at school and had to carry a book in front of me to hide them), but if you start talking about your infertility to a kid, that's not something they can relate to back to themselves. Your just sharing personal information about your body... and talking about your adult body to a teen that is still trying to get a grasp on their own changing body and emotions, I think, would confusing or TMI to the kid.

Most kids have some concept of fertility/infertility. If you go to church and actually listen then you've heard that story about the parthenogenesis of Jesus or old Elizabeth or the world's most famous infertile, Sarah. So maybe they don't go to church, but they have probably heard of Octomom (world's second most famous infertile). I have no doubt that most kids these days have infertility on their radars, but they need to understand the whole of fertility before they can really understand infertility. Think about the Octomom story... to me one of the most inferiorating things about it is that people are hearing this story and judging all people that get infertility treatments based on this extreme case... they don't have any real understanding of fertility or infertility treatments and how majorly f-up that whole story is.

So this is getting kinda rambling, but to summarize, yes kids should know about IF, but it's a talk that is built up to spread out over time and delivered in a way that's relevant to them.

Ok, I officially regret this post, I don't think I explained my point very well, but I've spent enough time working on it that I don't care anymore.


Anonymous said...

I definitely see where you are coming from, and I agree. I'm probably really crazy, but I imagine conversations with my imaginary child about how I'll explain all kinds of things to them. Maybe it's the former preschool teacher in me, but I think it's important to build on their understanding and make it okay for them to ask questions.

I know my mom tried to be okay when talking about sex and reproduction, but it was very obvious that she was uncomfortable, and there was NO WAY I was going to ask questions.

I'm really going to strive to be the kind of mom that my kids can talk to me about anything. So many parents today fool themselves into thinking that their kid would never drink or do drugs or have sex at 13, and so they don't bother to educate their kids about things until it's too late.

Kitty said...

I enjoyed reading your post and appreciate you posting it. I agree with a lot of your points and thoughts. I'm still becoming brave enough to share my story with people that don't understand. It's hard, and it's like the situation you describe with children not able to relate and understand.

Hillary said...

Interesting post (and I don't think you should regret it!). I can see how my post made you think about these things, and you're right that I wasn't trying to talk about infertility but more about a struggle that just happened to be IF.

Toni Weschler (I spelled her name wrong), the author of Taking Charge of Your Fertility, has a relatively new book geared for teen girls so that they can fill in all the gaps of their understanding of their bodies. I haven't read it but somehow I think it could address some of the issues you brought up...?

But I think a lot of it comes back to what kids are interested in and want to hear about. I honestly wasn't interested in knowing that much more than I bleed every month until I became sexually active. And even then it was minimal until I wanted to have a baby. There isn't much context for them to want to learn about their fertility. For me, it comes back your point about how we 'build up' conversations about sex and fertility over time in a way that is relevant to them...?

Ashley said...

This was a brilliant post, and for the most part I agree with you.

Not sure how old you are, but I'm 24 and back when I was in high school people were VERY afraid of STDs and did their best to protect themselves. It was by no means treated as a big deal, but then again I've been out of high school almost 7 years (yikes!)

I agree, few people truly understand how fertility works, or even the basics of sexuality. It's really sad how many anatomy lessons I've given to "sexually experienced" people over my time, or the fact that I've had to explain to my "abstinent" 23!! year old friend why she can't get pregnant if semen gets on her leg and other reasons why her period could be late (like the fact that she's rather underweight and has been ridiculously stressed).

I'm not sure what I'll tell my kids about infertility, but they will most definitely be well versed in how fertility works.

And I can personally attest to how little women on the pill are told about it; I had no idea until AFTER I'd gotten off the pill that antibiotics mess with it. Luckily it was a non-issue for me, as I was only one antibiotics once when I was on the pill, and was way too sick to be doing anything about it.

The Wife said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'd be afraid of telling girls about IF because I don't want to panic them about the future. But I get Hilary wanting to tell about her struggle. I think awareness of it if it runs in the family should be there. I always knew that women on my fathers side had fertility issues and so that it might be a problem for me. The more I share with my cousins, the more I'm finding that they are having issues as well.