Dear Childless People (and Parents),
Let me start by saying that this letter is not going to make me very popular with anyone. There's a divide in our culture between childless people and people who are parents. It's been there for a long time and it'll probably be there for a while longer. But I'm not writing this to make a sanctimonious point -- just to make a point in general.
We need to support our parent friends more.
Sure. They can be annoying. I've heard "When are you going to get married and have kids?" more times than I've heard "How are you today?" I've heard complaints about sick children, dirty diapers, boring long days, and I've had jealousy and snark directed towards me because I can sleep in on weekends and don't have to deal with the kid alarm clocks at 5 a.m.
And it is annoying. I'm not making excuses for that. But I think we need to look behind the snark and annoyance to the real issue.
Parents often feel very alone. I was speaking to a very good friend the other day who stated that she didn't really have anyone to talk to about her feelings regarding her daughter going into daycare. That she was lonely, second-guessing herself, wondering if the choice she was making was the right one. That she felt she was betraying her daughter and that she wasn't making the best choice for her family.
And she had no one else to talk to about it, at the time, but me.
I think it must be very hard to be a parent. To work non-stop, through the night, often only speaking to pre-verbal people, not being able to confide in your partner because he or she works long hours, too, trying to support the family. Is it a choice? Sure it is, but choices are rarely 100 per cent amazing. There are pros and cons. And if we can complain about work and partner problems and our lives, why is it a bad thing that parents vent about their feelings and are honest about how hard it really is to raise kids?
Parents may appear to lose themselves in raising their children. But raising children is all-encompassing. With the severe judgement parents get for even how they birth their children, they're judged right out of the gate. Add onto that judgement for not choosing the right food for their baby, not choosing the right way for the baby to sleep, getting side-eyed for tantrums, wondering if they should have homeschooled their child with ADHD...it goes on and on.
And most of the time, childless people don't get it, because we're not in it. And it seems inconsequential to us, maybe even silly, to obsess over breastmilk or formula. But this is a new life that parents are shaping and it's important to them.
I have often thought that maybe my parent friends are overreacting and complaining too much. But maybe they feel the same about me. Maybe they don't want to hear that my three jobs are exhausting, or that I don't feel talented enough as a writer. Maybe they can't relate to any of that, but they listen.
In the end, it doesn't matter if you have children or if you don't. A real friend is a sounding board for their friends' vents, no matter what they are. A real friend is there to provide a listening ear and a fresh perspective. And if our parent friends appear to be drifting away from us, maybe it's because we're exuding an "I don't care" attitude towards them. Maybe we need to look at our body language and how we're responding to their vents.
Parents need to do the same thing -- I'm not going to say the problem is all on our side. But I think both sides are moving away from each other when what we need to do is look at what made us friends in the first place. It certainly wasn't the amount of children we have or don't have.
If this does sound sanctimonious, I apologize. That's not my intention. My intention is to remember that the parent who is up in the middle of the night with a screaming baby feels like he or she has no help or anyone to talk to. And if I'm up, too, the least I can do is talk to my friend who's in the depths of despair right now, even if I can't completely relate to her issues.
What are friends for, after all, if not to be empathetic?
I hope my parent friends realize that I value them greatly, even though I can't always understand where they're coming from. I hope I've never given off the idea that I don't care about their issues -- because I do. They're my friends, and I want them to be happy. I may not understand, but I do care.
I'd like to see more support on both sides. Maybe that's the answer to this "war" between the childless and the child-ed.
Hey, a girl can hope, right?
<strong>1. Your fertility is mostly determined by genetics, which influences how many eggs you are born with. </strong> Doctors believe that the number of eggs you have at birth determines the length of time you will remain fertile. At birth, women have about two million eggs in their ovaries. For every egg ovulated during your reproductive life, about 1,000 eggs undergo programmed cell death. Other things, such as smoking cigarettes and certain types of chemotherapy, can accelerate egg cell death and promote an earlier menopause.
<strong>2. Regular menstrual cycles are a sign of regular ovulation.</strong> Most women have regular cycles lasting between 24 and 35 days. This is usually a sign of regular, predictable ovulation. Women who do not ovulate regularly have irregular menstrual cycles. Those who do not ovulate at all may have a genetic condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
<strong>3. Basal temperature charting does not predict ovulation.</strong> An older method of tracking ovulation involves taking your oral body temperature each morning before getting out of bed. This is called basal body temperature. This method is used to spot a rise in basal temperature, which is a sign that progesterone is being produced. The main problem with using this method is that your temperature rises after ovulation has already occurred. This makes it more difficult to time intercourse at an optimal time for conception. A better method is to use over-the-counter urine ovulation predictor test kits such as Clearblue Easy. These kits test for the hormone that prompts ovulation, which is called luteinizing hormone (LH).
<strong>4. Most women with blocked fallopian tubes are completely unaware they may have had a prior pelvic infection.</strong> About 10 percent of infertility cases are due to tubal disease, either complete blockage or pelvic scarring causing tubal malfunction. One major cause of tubal disease is a prior pelvic infection from a sexually transmitted disease such as chlamydia. These infections can cause so few symptoms that you may be completely unaware your tubes are affected. This is why fertility physicians will order a dye test of the tubes, called a hysterosalpingogram (HSG), if you have been trying and failing to conceive for 6 months or longer.
<strong>5. In most cases, stress does not cause infertility.</strong> Except in rare cases of extreme physical or emotional distress, women will keep ovulating regularly. Conceiving while on vacation is likely less about relaxation than about coincidence and good timing of sex.
<strong>6. By age 44, most women are infertile, even if they are still ovulating regularly.</strong> Even with significant fertility treatment, rates of conception are very low after age 43. Most women who conceive in their mid-40's with fertility treatment are using donated eggs from younger women.
<strong>7. Having fathered a pregnancy in the past does not guarantee fertility.</strong> Sperm counts can change quite a bit with time, so never assume that a prior pregnancy guarantees fertile sperm. Obtaining a semen analysis is the only way to be sure the sperm are still healthy!
<strong>8. For the most part, diet has little or nothing to do with fertility.</strong> Despite popular press, there is little scientific data showing that a particular diet or food promotes fertility. One limited study did suggest a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, fish and legumes may help promote fertility.
<strong>9. Vitamin D may improve results of fertility treatments.</strong> A recent study from the University of Southern California suggested that women who were undergoing fertility treatments, but had low vitamin D levels, might have lower rates of conception. This vitamin is also essential during pregnancy. At Pacific Fertility Center, we recommend our patients take 2,000-4,000 IU per day.
<strong>10. Being either underweight or overweight is clearly linked with lowered levels of fertility.</strong> The evidence in recent years is that obesity is clearly linked with a longer time to conception. Having a body mass index less than 18 or over 32 is associated with problems ovulating and conceiving, as well as problems during pregnancy.
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