While waiting to see the midwife a couple of weeks ago, I read a magazine article which suggested that having four or more children is, in certain circles at least, regarded as a symbol of both wealth and status. The author of the article interviewed several women who were married to high-earning bankers or lawyers, and who commented on how lucky they were to have been able to afford to have a large family without having to continue to work themselves. The article went on to contrast their situation with that of 'most women', who choose only to have two or, at the most, three children, for primarily financial reasons.
Reading this article, I realised how alien the whole concept of 'family planning' now feels to me. When you are dealing with infertility, you hold tight to any possibility of having a child, no matter when or how that possibility comes along.
I was reminded of this article over the weekend. My old friend from university and her fiance came up to visit (let's call them Jane and Patrick). The four of us went out to dinner to celebrate Jane's 37th birthday, which was on Saturday. Over the meal, our conversation turned to the topic of children. Jane and Patrick are 'definitely' going to start trying for a baby in around eighteen months or so. First, however, they want to get married and then move to a bigger house. Jane has a very successful career as a lawyer, and also wants to try and make partner before she has to go off on maternity leave.
I have another friend, Victoria, who is around the same age as Jane and myself. Victoria is an academic, and about to publish her first book. She then wants to secure a promotion at work and apply for a period of research leave. She thinks that she'll probably start a family after that, once her second book is well underway.
It strikes me that both Victoria and Jane have fallen for one of the great urban infertility myths: that it's OK to wait, because even if things don't happen naturally, there's always IVF. Over dinner, Jane made a comment about wanting to 'get it all over in one go', by having twins or possibly even triplets.
But it seems to me that my friends are taking one hell of a risk with their fertility. I want to grab them by the shoulders and tell them that, at the age of thirty-seven, their fertility is already in decline. I want to tell them that IVF is by no means a guaranteed treatment, and that success levels fall rapidly once you are in your late 30s. I want to tell them about my own diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve, and about how, after two poor responses to stimulation, I was forced to think long and hard about whether it was worth continuing with assisted conception.
But is that perhaps the equivalent of someone with no apparent fertility problems suggesting to me that I should simply relax?