"The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism and the Reality of the Biological Clock"
Fertility and Age - A Big Lie?
How ironic that the day I write a blog about fertility and age, addressing fear and the emotions around NOT being old at 20, or 30, or 40, or 50, I read in Cosmopolitan about maternal aging. Otherwise known as, “why didn’t anyone tell me that I may feel young, I may look young, I may BE young in terms of my overall lifespan, but, and wait for drum roll; my eggs are not young”.
Tanya Selvaratnam had that experience, which she speaks about in her interview in Cosmo with Liz Welch, titled "The Big Lie About Your Fertility". Her response? She got mad. She got mad because she felt that once again, women didn’t know enough about their fertility or the true workings of their biological clocks. Not enough to make truly informed decisions about when to have babies. Or if they were deciding not to have babies without even realizing it.
On Motherhood, Feminism, and the Biological Clock
Here’s a little bit about what Tanya had to say about her book, The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism and the Reality of the Biological Clock.
In Cosmo, she answers the question about what The Big Lie means:
“What is the Big Lie?
There are actually several. The biggest is that we can become mothers on our own timetable. Another one is that we can manipulate evolution. There are some people who so badly want to believe that we can control the biological clock with science and reproductive technology. But that is only because we are not really aware of the statistics. As many as 77 percent IVF cycles fail — but we only hear the success stories. People don’t share their stories of loss as readily. I thought if I could speak publically about my story, then other people share theirs, too. These heartbreaking scenarios — of women who gave up after five failed rounds of IVF, for example — can balance the more optimistic ones. It’s not about making people panic. It is about giving them accurate information.”
I had two distinct and opposing reactions to reading this article.
My first was, bravo! We need for women to hear this message, for doctors to hear this message, for our society to hear this message. I particularly liked her idea about fertility charts in Obstetrician/Gynecologists offices. Just like knowing about pap smears and mammograms, understand your fertility. Absolutely. What an inspiring idea; a simple, direct and visionary way to change the way women are educated about their own fertility. The way that feminism was addressed in this article was bold. Tanya is clear and articulate about the play between motherhood and feminism. Here’s what she had to say about it:
"Has feminism played a role in this misconception that women can wait to become mothers?
Feminism advocates for a world where women can pursue their ambitions — it did not tell women to not become mothers. Instead, it told them all the things they could do aside from being a mother. It may have created a tension between feminism and motherhood, but it’s a false tension. If you look at the advances that feminism has made for motherhood — daycares at work, baby seats, breastfeeding education and more, these are all specific concerns women have around being mothers. One of the big lies I address is that we don’t need feminism anymore. We need it more than ever."
My second reaction was that we’ve been talking about this for years. Decades even. This is neither the first nor will it be the last book to discuss these very same issues. Wonderful that is being said again. I love that. I love more that the very issues that she says are not being talked about, I hear talked about all the time. Women, many women, are more and more clear about looking at conception as a time driven issue. In speaking to women in varied work fields, I find so many acutely aware, as early as in their 20’s, that conception is something to factor in. I often hear that there is not an assumption that conception will come easily and they are prepared for needing and getting help.
Making Plans and Understanding Choices is More than a Woman’s Issue
I’m glad this book is out there. Anything to help spread the word. And most especially, getting feminism on the side of motherhood and discontinuing that ridiculous idea that it’s one or the other. Just as careers and motherhood are not one or the other; neither are feminism and motherhood, one or the other.
We are women. We are multi-faceted, with many different interests. We all deserve to know the truth. We deserve to know it early; we deserve to know it accurately. We deserve to hear it from our health care providers so that we can strategize planning our families. I liked that a lot, that phrase. Strategizing having your family.
Making plans and understanding your choices is more than a woman’s issue. It’s society’s issue. Supporting women making choices, early and in time to avoid regrets is one of the messages that I got from this interview.
And for that alone, I will buy and read the book.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.