When my father picked me up at JFK on Friday afternoon, the first thing he did–after registering a couple of engraged complaints about the parking/traffic/bad driver situation, of course,–was ask me about the blog.
And then, he asked: “So, besides the blog, what’s new?”
I paused, worried that he meant what I thought he did. And then he did it: he actually asked.
“I mean, how’s your social life?” This, need I explain, is code in my family for “Have you met anybody?”
I tell you this not to make my father look silly, or point out–as I then did, of course–that when one writes compulsively on a personal dating blog, the state of one’s love life should be rather apparent.
My father realized the irony. But of course, he has hope. And it is with that spirit of optomism in mind that I will now ask to engage with you on the subject of fertility.
First, because–though I know I am young–it turns out that twenty-six is THE prime age of female fertility. So far I have felt a true, acute awareness of this exactly once; it involved chasing a curly-haired todddler in blue suspenders through much of Bryant Park and was scary on a number of levels we need not explore.
Second, and surely related, is that the subject keeps coming up with women my age. Yesterday, over tea with a few girlfriends from college, the initial subject–and the one they suggested I blog about–was the striking fact that the only couples we know who are currently serious about getting pregnant are lesbians. I’m not sure I have much insight into this, beyond the close-to-true statement that the only really secure relationships we know are lesbian, and the cliched stereotype that when two women get together things generally just move faster. It’s like Fox and Fox racing Fox and Toad: guess who’s gonna win.
Since the only wisdom we could glean from this was that we should probably also be lesbians, and we’re probably not, we quickly moved on. It may have been me who brought up the “Women’s Health and Reproduction” class a number of us took in college and the incredibly charming, warm and intelligent woman who taught it. (Girls I may have just remembered her name: Liz Jansen??)
Several things she said in that class have stuck with all of us in a major way. One, for me, was on food: “I always thought, as a student, that if food was free it didn’t have calories!” (I mean, right??). And the other was on the subject of getting pregnant.
She talked about the pyschological number that is done on women who try to get pregnant and can’t immediately: we are conditioned our whole young, sexually active lives to think that we are in control of our fertility–spending endless amounts of time, money and energy preventing a pregnancy. So imagine, she said, how difficult it is for women to accept when they finally want to be pregnant, that it it may not happen. Or at least, may not happen as quickly or easily as they’d like.
All of us remembered this speech. Because–as I often think about–what it makes you realize is that you have absolutely no idea how fertile you are–even, whether you are fertile at all–until you test it out. And that is a terrifying thing.
So terrifying, that I brought it up with my aunt A–a social worker whose patients often have fertility problems–at the end of Grandma’s party last night.
“Well if you really wanted to know…” she said. “Do you have a gynecologist?”
“Well you could go in and get your FSH levels tested. It’s not perfect, but it’s a pretty good indicator. If it’s below a certain level you know that your ovaries are fine.”
My heart started pounding. And what exactly would I do if they weren’t fine??
A looked at me sympathetically, and then giggled.
At which point I reminded her that I don’t even have a date–much less someone to hurry along in the reproduction process. I momentarily considered whether I could retract one of the emails I sent recently–to a guy whose extended lack of contact upset me but who I’m fairly sure would make a good child-rearing partner–and tell him, instead “Drop everything! Forget grad school! We need to have babies NOW!”
And then I decided that, as crazy as it seems not to know about one’s fertility before you try, it might be even crazier to actually know–before you’re ready to try.
NOTE: I’d love other thoughts on this. Would you single or unmarried twenty-somethings test your fertility if you could??