So Wrong on So Many Levels

tantekFirst Response, that purveyor of hope and warm fuzzy images of normal fertile ladies, has a new product on the market that tests a woman’s fertility.  Apparently, it “accurately” measures your Day 3 FSH giving you a picture of the quality and quantity of your eggs.  I’m not going to address the fact that FSH is in some circles considered to be an inexact measurement of a woman’s egg quality (note that I didn’t say fertility – a woman can have the eggs of an 18 year old and still be unable to get pregnant due to other issues such as tubal blockage, uterine abnormalities, hormonal issues, etc) nor am I going to address what I consider to be First Response’s blatant use of this product to freak women the f*ck out and make them think that if they have a high FSH, they are permanently screwed. 

No, I’m going to address how they have marketed this scare tactic because it is a real smack to those of us who are fertility challenged.  They have put together a commercial for which I was not able to find a link, but that has been transcribed here

artnooseMy blood started to simmer at the first line, “The moment we pass from womanhood to motherhood, we cross a threshold“.  At least it could be read to include women who become mothers through adoption or even women who provide additional parenting as aunts, etc.  But, what is this magic threshold? Does that mean that you cannot be a mother and a woman?  Or, is it like the field in Iowa where you walk into the corn never to be seen again? What of those women who cannot be mothers or choose not to? Are we left behind in womanhood never to cross this magic Rubicon?

If only that were the top of the mountain.  Instead, it was only the tip of the infuriating ice berg. Here is the real blood boiler line:

Fertility is a woman’s most sacred birthright.”  What. The. F*ck.  Are you shitting me?  If this is the case, then I’ve been totally cheated!  I want my money back!  I’m going to call my parents and tell them that they really screwed this one up. 

 I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around how ridiculously awful this is.  It’s as if the most important thing that a woman’s most prized possession is her ability to reproduce, to repopulate the species.  (Notice that there is no mention of man’s most sacred birthright (or as the commentary so eloquently put it, “[s]trangely, I never see Viagra commercials arguing that knocking people up is a man’s most sacred birthright.” That would be sexist, right?)).  And, what of those of us who are infertile? We apparently lack that most sacred of birthrights, and have little else that can be nearly as important as this. We are, in essence, lesser people because of it.  Is it really necessary to beat on infertile women to sell a product?  Have we reached that low?

As unbelievably an eye-roll inducing a statement as it is, I know in my heart that my fertility, or lack thereof, is not a measure of me anymore than it is a sacred birthright.  I cringe at the word birthright anyway because it has so many connotations of people getting things that they have done nothing to deserve, although, frankly, I’ve thought this about quite a few fertile ladies in my day, so many they aren’t that far from the mark.  No, fertility is no more a sacred birthright than expecting that you will have blonde hair or blue eyes.  First and foremost, it is a choice, one of many that women get to exercise now that we have moved out of the Dark Ages.  Women can be mothers, but, they can choose not to be and still have fulfilling, non-spinsterly lives. 

So, shame on First Response for trying to repackage fertility into something that should be seen by women as a thing that they are entitled to or, by extension, must exercise.  

images: upper left – tantek; bottom right – artnoose, both used through Creative Commons.

Open to Debate

I have given a lot of thought about posting this particular entry because it is bound to raise tempers, spirits, passions, and heckles within the IF blogging community.  I think in the name of support, there has always been an unspoken rule that we do not talk about questions of IF Etiquette.  And, for the most part, I think this is a good policy.  But, tonight, I want to talk about it – politely, intelligently, delicately and evenly – with my fellow IFers. 

I was spurred into action by BabyChaser’s request last week for reading material for her RE’s office staff because – and I’m still shaking my head over this one – there is at least one nurse Who Doesn’t Get It.  In the general population, this is understandable and accepted. But, at an RE’s office filled with women who are doing extraordinary things to do that which most people take for granted as happening in the back of a car after a few too many, it is unacceptable.  Is it too much to ask for the staff to be caring, compassionate and not tell an infertility patient that a negative is maybe God’s way of saying to take a break? Apparently, Virginia, the answer is yes.

Anyway, in my quest to help, I found this page on Resolve’s website, designed to be given to people who have not dealt with infertility and have not been hit with the Enlightenment Stick to help them see the error of their words.  There are a lot of good suggestions covering everything from What Not to Say to an infertile couple to What Not To Ask an infertile couple. 

Re-reading this list, though, I saw something that piqued my curiousity.  There is the very understandable and laudable Commandment “Thou Shall Not Complain About Your Pregnancy”. It’s a no-brainer that a fertile lady who is about to pop should not complain to her infertile friend about how Junior keeps numbing her left leg or how she can’t wait to get rid of her fat ankles.  That is just not cool.  I’m pretty certain the edict was written for the woman who is so fertile-my-husband-just-has-to-look-at-me-and-I-get-pregnant who has no idea how hurtful it is for someone who longs to experience even a twinge of pregnancy to hear about how much of a pain the miracle of pregnancy is.

But, what if the person complaining is an infertile who has spent years trying to get pregnant and is now pregnant?  Talk about a hornets nest. 

On the one hand, there is the argument that these ladies have fought through enough crap that they have earned this Rite of Passage, perhaps above all other Rites.  How many times have they had to endure other women complain? How many times have they had grit their teeth from not saying something incredibly hurtful (but really satisfying) to the lady in the next cube yaking about yakking? They went through all of this to get pregnant, and they are going to get the full experience that they paid for. 

On the other hand, are those other ladies who still are not pregnant or who have experienced loss.  Regardless of who is doing the complaining, I bet there is at least one amongst the infertile ladies who still thinks, “I would kill just to have one minute of morning sickness or I would give anything to have fat ankles if it meant I had a baby growing inside of me.”  But now the person doing the complaining is not a clueless fertile myrtle friend (who, I’m afraid can be easily dismissed on this basis) but someone who has been through countless procedures, experienced disappointment after disappointment to get to this moment.  

So, here’s the question: should the Commandment apply to any woman who is pregnant – regardless of the road that she took to get there – or should it be limited to those who have no clue how difficult even getting knocked up can be? 

Tough question. I have excused myself from having to answer so don’t expect any wisdom out of me on this one.  First, I’m tuckered from writing the post and second I want to start a debate, not preach from a pulpit (which as an Atheist would be exceedingly difficult for me to do anyway). 

So, dear Reader, speak up!

image:  Articulate Matter