The following comes from a story dated June 26 on the website of Crisis magazine.
It saddens me to know couples in their late thirties trying unsuccessfully to conceive. The notion that it is easy to conceive at any age under 40—and perhaps beyond that—has taken firm, but mistaken, hold in our culture. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recently published a meta-analysis concluding that women’s fertility begins to drop significantly at 32 and drops rapidly at 37. This study reaffirms a similar 2008 statement by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Most have not heard of these studies. Many who know the general concept discount it. The broad postponement of parenthood rests on a series of dubious cultural notions.
Initially, the belief that one has at least until one is 40 to conceive probably gained currency because 40 is a round number. It provides a defined amount of prospective liberty to sample the companion field, develop one’s career, travel and pursue other personal interests. But the body is calibrated to nature, not round numbers or the fulfillment of bucket lists. Many of us procrastinate in many aspects of our lives. Americans manage conception as they do money or weight: they focus on the present and leave little margin for the future.
Americans have widely internalized the notion that, despite many millennia of human history, biology has recently changed and they are suddenly aging better than their parents; fifty is the new forty, etc. Our parents’ generation may have smoked more, eaten less carefully, not gone to the gym as much, dyed their hair less, not dressed as fashionably and listened to less hip music through their thirties than do their modern counterparts. But looking slightly younger, having Jay-Z on your I-Pod or being able to run 5Ks does not reset the biological clock or enhance reproductive function.
Further, most Americans are exceptionalists; we think that rules about risk and failure that apply to others don’t apply to us. Our books and movies foster the belief that the individual is the master of his/her own destiny, and that the force of will can surmount any challenge. Those who have heard of the biological clock think that they will have exceptional reproductive longevity. Or the exception can become the rule: some think that because their 41 year old neighbor—who has had her first child years before—is pregnant, a first time pregnancy is virtually guaranteed at 38.
Our culture has also developed the dubious notion that it is never too late to try anything. From the 80-year-old skydiver on down, the Man Bites Dog media feeds the notion that any age-based limits on conduct are intrinsically suspect. Mothers or grandmothers who hint at a fertility end date are dismissed as archaic and insensitive. But science bears out their concerns.
Our culture also encourages us to believe we can all have it all. Many men and women postpone childbearing in order to obtain advanced degrees in our formal education-intensive culture, build a career and save money. But doing so projects parental material desires onto kids, who are as happy playing with a kitchen pan as with a store bought toy and care little about the kind of dwelling they inhabit. Perhaps some money-making can wait. It may also be that we can have it all, just not all at one time. It may also be that we can’t have it all.
Perhaps most fundamentally, the willingness to postpone conception until one’s late thirties is based on the culturally encouraged, but mistaken feminist notion that women and men are equal. Laws and cultural messages can advance gender equality, but biology need not conform to these notions.
Though it seems paradoxical, because they were so widely touted as boons to women, synthetic birth control and abortion have placed women at a great disadvantage to men. As both Pope Paul VI prophesied in 1968 and as current Fed Chair/then college professor Janet Yellen chronicled in 1992, these technologies have given full, consequence free (save for STIs) access to multiple women’s bodies for decades. As long as women remain sexually available, men can outwait women looking critically for Mr. Right and cause her to accept Mr. Right Now in her late thirties. Men can wait considerably longer for Mrs. Right Now. It’s not fair, but this scenario plays out frequently.
When fertility is lost to time, Americans rely, as they do in other realms, on technology and public subsidies. But IVF is fraught with significant, glossed over problems, from the pain and risk of treatments to the complicated pregnancies, embryo surpluses—both in utero and lab frozen—eugenic embryo selection, post-implantation selective reduction, and increased risk of birth defects, as well as great cost to personal and societal medical and insurance resources.
And IVF often fails for those over 35. By then, a woman’s egg supply and quality have lessened. Thus, the process is ramped up: eggs are frozen, or harvested from well-pedigreed college students, who risk their health and may endanger their own fertility to enable older women to do what our society typically considers indecent: allow their husbands to have the child of another woman. Like many commercial processes, surrogacy allows child-bearing to be outsourced to low income women in the US and abroad.
Postponing parenthood is a high stakes risk. Americans should carefully examine the cultural notions and technologies enabling this growing trend.
To read the original story, click here.
Modern man is so diabolically ego-centric, proud, and foolish! He/she cannot humbly accept God, either– – nor kneel and pray to God, and ask His Will, regarding important life questions and problems!! And God always knows best!! Do people in the modern, “I have it all” era, even kneel to thank God, for all His many blessings?? What a horrible SHOCK these people are!! NO ONE, can possibly “have it all” except God, in Heaven! To “have it all,” is a deceptive, ego-centric, MATERIALISTIC MYTH, perpetrated on gullible people, by advertising agencies, selling their products under the label of “go get the American Dream!!” It is all MATERIALISM, they are selling— shallow, unrealistic, deceptive, and ridiculous!!
There is a good chance that if you “plan your family”, there is a good chance that your plans may not come true. It’s that the family you plan and the family you get may be two entirely different things.
Children are a gift from God. No matter how much you try, sometimes they come despite your efforts to avoid them. No matter how much you try, sometimes they don’t come despite your efforts to have them.
IVF is not the way…..
I have an issue with those who say that people consciously “postpone parenthood.” For many, parenthood isn’t even considered as an option. We’ve devolved as a culture to the point where young people are so focused on their educations and careers that family formation is way on the back burner. From “The Godfather,” there’s a touching exchange where Michael says to Kay after his return from Sicily, “I need you Kay. I want you to have my children.” What an odd thing to ask for now.
I agree Bob, and whenever I can I speak out about it. A niece was bemoaning the fact that she felt her son was marrying too young (25) and I said if anything it’s none to soon! The longer a person waits the more opportunity of becoming set in ones ways and having multiple sexual partners. By marrying fairly young you are still forming who you are and can adapt more easily, childbearing is easier and you still have the optimism of youth. Certainly it depends on the people involved but we’ve become so enmeshed in the materialistic view of marriage that young people are living together rather than marrying, postponing having children by using birth control, waiting to marry because they want a house, furnishings etc before marrying or achieving career goals before any final commitment …relegating marriage to an afterthought, as though it were secondary to everything else. Older posters will remember the sheer fun of having to be creative in living on a shoestring budget, of the joy of just being together and trusting God will provide. That’s hardly an option now. How sad!
Delaying pregnancy is far better than babies arrives in the teen years or early 20s, when econiimic saituaiton are not good and maturity and parenting skills even worse. Later is better, but after 40 is riskier, after 45 ill advised. But staying away from the teen years and early 20s is a social good. They’re too immature at that age.
I don’t agree. I married at 19 (my husband 21). And yes, like all young people, married or not, I made mistakes. My husband was my best friend and everyday was a great adventure. I never ever regretted marrying young, nor did my sister. Like in any life there is joy and sorrow, but by uniting and becoming one, early marriages are often what makes men become men. I think the reason so many marriages have failed is the lack of learning self discipline and moral values. To me, chronological age is relative.
Dana writes, “…early marriages are often what makes men become men.” That nails it.
Amen! Dana and Ann Malley.
Married at 18, baby at 19…….still married…..46 years!
God bless you both. Amen and Amen!
Anonymous, your opinions reek of materialism. :(
Most Catholics don’t consider IVF a bad idea, much less a sin that kills around 800,000 babies a year. When’s the last time you saw a Catholic Bishop praying or protesting outside an IVF clinic? My guess is never. It would upset the wealthy couples who can afford such a procedure.
What would really help a great deal, is to get rid of the “Death Culture,” and trashy Hollywood movies. Require good manners and morals, and dress codes, for our society. Teach young people lovely social ballroom dance styles, once again, as in days of old, and hire orchestras to play for these nice dances. Encourage talented musicians to write pretty love songs, once again. Young men must be taught gentlemanly chivalry, once again, towards the ladies, and to honor, stand up for, and protect, their womanly delicacy, beauty, femininity– and virginity! Young ladies must be taught to be graceful, poised, and womanly, and to carry themselves with grace, self-respect, and dignity.
I did not complete what I was saying, above! With lovely social dances, and beautiful love songs, as well as good manners, morals, etiquette, and dress– young people will again have a nice social way in which to meet, to encourage potential, mature dating, romance, and eventual courtship and marriage! Young people would be ready to marry and bear children, at appropriate ages, once again, as Mother Nature dictates. They would feel that their lives have much more meaning and value, and would feel more valued also- as men and women, the way God made them. They would have much better social skills, and more mature relationships. And they would have many beautiful memories, to cherish!