If you're part of the 10 percent of couples who have taken a ride on the infertility bus, you know that it's not easy having a reproductive system that doesn't do so good at the "reproductive" part. Hell, there are spiders out there that can make hundreds of babies while one of them is eating the other, and here's your evolutionarily advanced self struggling to produce a single human child. Unfortunately, being unable to name your firstborn "Norsehammer Thunderslap" is just the first of the problems you'll have. There's also stuff like ...
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In some parts of the world, infertility is still considered a literal curse. Then again, in some parts of the world they arrest goats for witchcraft, so I don't think we should put much stock in their medical theories (modern science has proved that 98 percent of ungulate witchcraft cases are caused by donkeys). But even in a supposedly modern country like America, the existence of babies still comes with a whole biblical theme park worth of religious issues. Maybe it's because of the pro-life movement always sticking pictures of babies everywhere. Maybe it's those reality shows about fundamentalists with 125 kids. Maybe it's just a holdover from a time when nobody understood reproductive science very well and all children were considered literal blessings because you could use them as labor on your subsistence farm and then maybe do a bit less starving to death.
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Babies: can also be taped together and used to store grain.
Whatever the reason, there's still this weird idea, even among secular people, that the inability to conceive children is not simply a medical problem. Rather, it's a clear sign that you're being judged by an angry deity. Articles and books on the subject assure readers that infertility is "not a curse," whereas it's difficult to imagine similar articles having to tell people not to worry because their restless leg syndrome is not caused by nightmare demons. And then there's those stickers people put on their cars telling everyone that "Children Are a Gift from God."
You don't see many bumper stickers saying "A Healthy Spine Is a Gift from God" or "Not Having Crohn's Disease Is a Gift from God," and that's because they're dickish things to say. People with terrible illnesses are having a hard enough time already. They don't need to know that the guy who just cut them off in traffic thinks they're sick because God is picking them last for his Health Dodgeball team. But when it comes to babies, the attitude is somehow still acceptable. I don't want to pick on American Christianity here, because pretty much every belief system is equally bad about this. Practitioners of Eastern religions will tell you you're barren because you haven't been meditating enough, Satanists will tell you it's because you're doing your black mass all wrong, and so on.
"Dammit, Phyllis, did you even BRING a goat?"
And even non-religious people give bad advice, because ...
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Infertility is one of those things that medicine just doesn't understand well. Even after couples go through all the expensive tests that science has to offer, about 20 percent of them will still be told that their infertility is officially "unexplained." Doctors are often completely baffled as to why babies sometimes happen and sometimes don't.
But while reproductive endocrinologists will at least usually admit that they don't know why your or your partner's womb resembles the dry barren plains of Mars, some non-doctors lack such humility. These laypeople once read something about infertility in an email forward they received 15 years ago, and by God, they are going to repeat it to you. "It'll happen if you just relax!" is one of the most common advice-prizes these people hand out, because of course if you look back in history, you'll find that all those women ravished by Genghis Khan conceived children after he gave them a soothing battlefield bubble bath and a nice back massage.
And his "Free Mustache Rides" T-shirt.
An even better one is: "You should adopt a child, it's easier to conceive naturally after that!" This cure-by-adoption happened in a Sex and the City movie recently and was presented as an established medical fact, even though it's about as effective as trying to impregnate yourself by shooting a Civil War-era cannon into the nearest guy's junk and hoping the ricocheting shrapnel will pierce your uterus. And even if it were true, I'm not really sure about the ethics of adopting a human being for the sole purpose of one day scoring another baby.
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"And if you have another baby after that, the others will have a donor if they ever need a face transplant."
Over the years, a few people have asked me: "If you want kids, why don't you just take in some foster children?" I'd usually say that I didn't think I was a good enough person to be doing that, because children with difficult or traumatic backgrounds would do better with a foster parent who doesn't get mad when the fizz takes too long to go down on a soda fountain drink. Inevitably I'd get disapproving looks, and sometimes even the implication that I clearly wasn't worthy to be any kind of parent at all.
"Destroy the heretic! Her choices shame us all!"
Now, I should point out that every one of the people who made this suggestion had biological children of their own that they'd conceived easily, and that none of them had ever considered taking in a foster child themselves. This didn't stop these people from judging me (and all infertile people) for not doing it, though. And hey, it's understandable: There are plenty of people out there who are happy to exhort others to do things that they know they'll never be obliged to do themselves.
This kind of thing happens a lot, especially online. If you choose to use infertility treatments to help you conceive a child, you'll soon come across plenty of people whose typing fingers are itching to call you selfish for not adopting, because there are "so many needy children in the world who need parents."
Now, don't get me wrong, I think adoption and fostering are great things. But as I've said before, the adoption process is far more difficult and expensive than most people realize. There simply aren't as many international orphans in need of American rescue as people think there are, and adoption is an extremely limited option for a lot of people (you'll have more trouble adopting if you are single or gay, have medical issues, or have any kind of criminal record). But much more importantly, fostering and adopting are things that potential parents should want to do, not something that they feel obligated to perform just because some people on the Internet think that it's their duty.
This attitude might have something to do with why ...