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Biological Clock or Time Bomb: Fear & Self-Loathing Do Not a Fertile Female Make

By on June 19, 2013

New “Make Britain Fertile” ad campaign by First Response features “heavily pregnant 70-year-old” in order to “alert women to start thinking about their fertility at a younger age.”

Exploiting Fears of Childlessness Might Be Slick Marketing, but Will It Make Us More Fertile?

Fear and self-loathing won’t make us more fertile. But turning the biological clock into a time bomb by exploiting fears of childlessness makes for an effective marketing tool. The more panicked we are the more money we’ll spend for expert help. First Response, and the rest of the dream team that thought up the eye catching Make Britain Fertile campaign clearly understand that.

There are many ways to put your brand in the limelight. Attempting to boost sales by fueling the collective hysteria of the last good egg in the vulnerable population of aspiring mothers, speaks either of an utter lack of integrity or an impaired aptitude for engaging on more than a superficial level with the complex, emotionally charged subjects of fertility, pregnancy, and motherhood.

The idea of time as a woman’s greatest  enemy is pervasive not only in the fertility world but in our culture  in general, and it’s a no-win game.  Telling ourselves that we are falling behind schedule is hearing  the roar of the fire-breathing dragon of self-loathing. We can choose to feed this dragon or  attempt to understand, as compassionately as we can, what it is that keeps us from moving forward in life.

The caricature of an “old pregnant hag” sends a shaming subliminal message to women of all ages.

For those in their late thirties and early forties it fuels fears of childlessness, propelling them to seek saviors in state-of-the-art clinics, where they’re sucked into the black hole of devastating statistics the minute they fill in the DOB box. Many of them then turn to expensive and far from benign procedures, before they even give nature a chance.

The message of this misogynistic campaign does a similar disservice to the younger generation, presenting graphs of declining ovarian function while perpetuating the notion that they are nothing more than a collection of parts that corrode with time.

Depending on who does the testing and how they interpret and communicate the results, testing hormone levels may or may not be useful .

Daryn Art is one of the countless young women told that she might never conceive a biological child, based on tests and the medical dogma of the day. Today, Daryn is the mother of three, all conceived naturally after choosing a less travelled road of self-care rather than the synthetic stimulants that might have further impaired her ovarian function.

The wisest and most courageous thing I’ve ever done was to resist societal pressures to marry and have a child before I was ready.

Julia Indichova, pregnant at 44

Doing so did not turn me into an old hag. It’s true that at age 42, I, too, had been diagnosed with so-called irreversible infertility. But rather than telling me I was infertile, my diagnosis was a call to realize I was more fertile than I ever imagined. It allowed me to use the myriad gifts I have been blessed with and birth the not-yet-born Self that could not have been born any other way. It allowed me to acquire the wisdom and skills I needed to, as Bob Dylan put it, “stay busy being born,” rather than busy dying.

Today I’m the wife of the most wonderful man I’ve been married to for 24 years, and a mother of two glorious daughters. The first one was conceived naturally at age 41, and the younger one, also conceived the old fashioned way, was born a few months before my 45th birthday.

I’m a woman in my fiercely fertile and sizzling sixties, doing what I can to contribute to a saner human community. In my work I aim to point the women who seek my guidance toward a most life affirming path to parenthood regardless of their age, their health challenges or any other circumstances. For close to two decades I’ve witnessed the astounding resilience of the human organism. I’ve seen women like Louise Lawson conceive naturally and give birth at age 44, after 5 failed IVF treatments. I’ve celebrated the birth of her daughter with Gen G., who also conceived naturally at 40 and after tuning in to her body’s cry for help.

If assisted reproductive technology is the road we choose,  we want to insure safe travels. We want to do what it takes to  prepare for that journey and start it when we’re ready and not because  we’re bullied into such a choice by a scary commercial.

To the younger women who wish to someday parent a child I say: Harness that wish as you learn to be exquisite mothers to yourself first; get to know your body and heart, the beliefs imprinted in muscle and marrow; use your energy in a way that enlivens you; pay attention not only to your lifestyle and the food you eat, but more importantly, to the ideas you choose to ingest. Learn to hear and stay loyal to no other master than your own deepest truth. And when in doubt, speak out loud these words of that supremely qualified fertility specialist, Walt Whitman:

“…Dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body…”

30 Responses to “Biological Clock or Time Bomb: Fear & Self-Loathing Do Not a Fertile Female Make”

  1. thinkpositive says:

    Dear Julia, i read this post tonight even though it is not the newest but mostly because i attend to my shame orphan nowadays.
    my journey towards a second child evokes old feelings of “have not” as a girl who wanted so much to win the superior status of her older brother that she was determined to reject her gender at all costs.The shame of feeling damaged good returned on my first visit to an ivf clinic. I say ivf clinic since that was the only healing protocol offered to me due to my “old age”.
    I refuse to relive old rejections and disapproval of mommy and daddy through my shame orphan. Reading your post is a healthy reminder to attend to her, and make sure she does not walk into an ivf clinic only to look for approval not to mention self love. im 42.4 and i am a cool mamma planning to have a second. And yes, it took me a while to fall in love with my gender before i decided to have a child. Blame my big brother if you want or my patriarchal education, but i am determined to find happiness by living my life as i envision them. Yours, ‘too old to listen to statistics’

  2. Katherine says:

    Dear Julia
    Tank for you for this wonderful truthful article. It brought tears to my eyes.
    I think it is so shameful how the whole reproduction industry tries to panic us about statistics and chances.
    Your work has really helped me break away from that system, to see that I am far more than that number on my blood test results or far more than the biological age that the doctor is “seeing” in me….
    My challenge right now is to keep my hope alive and my commitment to engage in the practice.
    I am looking forward to the next series in September !

  3. RachelBT says:

    do you think you rprogram is appropriate for a woman of my age??? 50???

  4. RachelBT says:

    This has been the most inspired I have felt in months. For the first time, I feel hopeful. I am 50 years old and just started trying to become pregnant—I had tests done a year ago and my DR was hopeful that it could happen. I am afraid to be tested again because of what the results may be.
    I will continue to follow this blog for hope and inspiration.

  5. Buffy Owens says:

    Absolutely Wonderful Julia,

    This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart right now. In many ways I believe the very mechanism behind this cultural pressuring for financial gain is the beast that dis-empowers women as they move towards labor, birth, and into motherhood.

    Even though I know intellectually that much of the cultural hype is just that, I still struggle with all the hype that has wormed its way into my subconscious over the years. As I read your words here, my heart sighed.

    Thank you.

  6. Kay says:

    Thank you so much Julia, this is just what I needed to read right now. Your work, our work is vital. I especially love the photo of you with your glorious bump. Kay

  7. Emma says:

    Julia, thank you so much for this important article. I believe this pressure to be ‘fertile’ in an incredibly narrow and proscribed way is one of the myriad of conflicting ways women are shamed, bullied and taken advantage of (often financially) in our culture. The ad is just wrong on so many levels. Thank you for the important work you do challenging this mindset.

  8. Hope says:

    Bless you.

  9. Saba says:

    What a great blog Julia!
    Just like you I think the wisest thing fot me to do was to wait for the right man, resist the pressure of family and society to marry and have children early. I didn’t want to settle down with someone that didn’t feel right, I didn’t want to be a signle mom. I just had to get ready to mother myself first and than to mother my future child.
    I’m not saying waiting is good – but it’s life and not everything happens on schedule. Sometimes it turns out to be a blessing.

    • Thank you, dear Saba,
      For me, the “sometimes it turns out to be a blessing” attitude is not enough. I want more for myself and more for you and everyone else wrestling with this challenge. We must walk toward our blessings. You certainly have done that since I’ve known you.
      We can’t wait for it to “turn out to be a blessing.” The only sane choice is to do what we must to turn it into a
      blessing. No matter what.

  10. Jean says:

    The ad might be displaced, but assisted reproductive technology has helped a lot more women to get children (and out of despair) than the very few and exceptional instances of succesful “less travelled road of self-care” by “stay[ing] loyal to no other master than your own deepest truth” mentioned above…

  11. RachelSF says:

    Thanks for posting this Julia. This type of marketing is shameful, and I am appreciative that you and this community is taking a stand. I just read this excerpt below, with another example of creating hysteria and taking advantage of the vulnerable.

    “14. Fertility Myths Still Abound
    For the last decade, women have been bombarded with warnings that fertility falls off a cliff after age 35. Now, though, it turns out the panic might have been overblown. In The Atlantic, Jean Twenge writes that when she scoured the medical literature, she found that “statistics on women’s age and fertility—used by many to make decisions about relationships, careers, and when to have children—were one of the more spectacular examples of the mainstream media’s failure to correctly report on and interpret scientific research.” Take, for example, the oft-cited statistic that one in three women between 35 and 39 will fail to get pregnant after a year of trying. It turns out that it’s based on French birth records from 1670 to 1830. “In other words,” she writes, “millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics or fertility treatment.” There are surprisingly few well-designed studies of 20th-century women’s fertility, but those that exist offer reasons for optimism. “Fertility does decrease with age, but the decline is not steep enough to keep the vast majority of women in their late 30s from having a child,” writes Twenge.”

  12. Madhu says:

    Beautiful blog Julia !!
    Its not just fertility clinics but also several other ppl like acupuncturists, yoga studios etc. When I was told I had less than 1% chance,I was ready to do any and everything. I found this yoga place.The lady charged 30-40$ for so called 1.5hrs of yoga and I signed up for 4-5 classes. Out of 1.5 hrs, she used to talk for 1hr15min and 15min was for yoga. I literally felt like crying and felt so helpless. But a very good marketing technique as it attracted weak minded people easily. Thankfully I am not in India, things are even worse back their. Every other person has interest in your life and wants to give their free advice or pass on sarcastic comments. When someone says, you are running out of time, human tendency is to get pressurized easily. In fact my own parents mentioned this to me after my marriage saying, you cross 30 then its gonna be a problem as you will have to retire by 60 and your kids will still be young and its going to be a great problem.
    I just wanted to get pregnant because that’s what should be the next step of marriage. But now I can see how many orphans I have in me, which first need a mother. What is the point if I can’t mother my orphans but on top of it have a child? I could turn into a terrible mother. Whatever has happened so far is for my own good…..Julia credit goes to you as an year back, I would have not even thought of uttering such words :-))!!

  13. Nicole says:

    I am 39 and pregnant with my first, I am bombarded with messages about how unhealthy and deformed or developmentally challenged my baby will be. Yes it’s true the health statistics change dramatically after age 35, but so do those for divorce, bankruptcy, depression, suicide, and poverty rates.

    Be brave ladies, you can grow and birth your babies.

  14. Kim says:

    Look, there’s hope, one can still get pregnant at 70!!! I love that you are exposing the marketing angle. I also got the doom and gloom talk from the kind ladies and gentlemen at the fertility clinic. I was devastated at my 2% prediction of getting pregnant without the help of the fertility gods! (later the prediction turned to 0%! imagine that)Is there any better way than fear to get someone to re-mortgage their house, borrow money from banks,empty retirement and savings accounts etc.? Yep, assisted reproduction is definitely a booming business and there are many industries with their fingers in the infertility pie and making LOADS of money. So there definitely is a vested interest in a dismal diagnosis, oh yes, and of you doing the procedure more than once! (Repeat customers).
    For me, using reproductive technology felt like i was forcing something to happen. I felt such resistance to it although I did buy into the fear
    and was torn (but not enough to give the clinic 10+thousand for a little bitty chance of pregnancy). Nope, thanks society for your input about when, where,why and how I should conceive but this one is up to God and what efforts that I can use that feels right to me and and that honors my God, pocket book, sanity and my marriage.

    • Dear Kim, thank you so much for this thoughtful comment. Just one note since some of the comments on our FB page show that some people misunderstood my intent. The photo of the 70 year old is a shaming caricature. I’m not sharing it to encourage women to wait till they’re 70. I am speaking of the exploitation you so vividly describe in sharing your own story.
      Thank you again and I hope our community can be a source of support for you!

  15. Katy G says:

    seriously, where have you been all my life? I cant believe I just found you a monthish ago.

    I am in the medical field as well and I feel such nonsense at that “hurry up and do it now, b/c I said so” kind of way physicians act today. even in oncology not just fertility. statistics say one thing but I tell some of the patients that I see that statistics will not tell them how they personally will react to chemo and I try to keep that in mind in my fertility journey.

  16. warmthnspirit says:

    I am from NY and lived in California, where science is doing cutting edge research in all sorts of areas, fertility included. I currently live in Ohio, where I have encountered some of the most childish, insulting and exploitive people who shame older women for even wanting to get pregnant. Granted, these are not the best people in the state – but their existence is a reminder that there are so many places in this country where the media’s obsession with youth (especially when it comes to women) is still considered to be the norm. This angers me as much as it does you.

    What is even more insulting is that this ad perpetuates the myth that women don’t think about or are responsible about their fertility! I remember someone actually telling me when I was 23 that I had better hurry up and find a man! My own grandmother told me that at the age of 14 (but she had dementia, God rest her soul). The idea that a woman is no longer attractive to a man as she ages and therefore must get pregnant as soon as she can – has led to countless insecure women doing desperate things to grab herself a man – including getting pregnant. Having a baby should be about the baby, not about grabbing a man. In my older-than 40 mind, I see that my child is infinitely worth more than any man who would easily trade me in for a younger and sexier version. What kind of a father is that? Many of us over-40 “choice moms” do regret not pursuing motherhood earlier, but it isn’t because we didn’t think about fertility. We were putting what we thought were the best interests of the child first – namely having an established career, good solid relationship with a worthy father-to-be and a little wisdom to be a good mother.

    What our culture has historically failed to look at is the culturally sanctioned man’s right to have sex with the youngest and sexiest woman he can find without any strings attached. And while these men pursue their “conquests”, many young women have held onto these relationships in hope that these men would mature and become responsible, good father material. But many of them don’t. These kinds of men have perpetuated centuries of public health hazards, including (but not limited to): pornography, prostitution, teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, children in foster care, etc. Many women used to put up with such men for the sake of their children who were created because they were trying to desperately catch a man (or by “accident”). Only then they learned too late that these men were horrible fathers.

    The desire to provide a safe and good home for a child before you bring one into the world is a good thing. If we lived in a world that respected and valued women – at any age, not only would relationships between men and women be better, but our daughters would learn to value themselves and their God given fertility with a greater reverence at an earlier age. Women would be rewarded in their careers at a level that is par with men and be able to provide for the children they want to have at an earlier age with out feeling that they need a man to help provide financially.

    Often women late to motherhood do have some regrets – but they are often about the relationship choices they made earlier in life when they didn’t know any better as well as the physical, emotional and financial expense of assisted reproduction being so costly. But these mothers make much wiser mothers and the children we bring into the world come in knowing they are extremely wanted and yearned for. Isn’t that what parenthood ought to be about?

    • Thank you for this, P.! Really important points you’re bringing up. And thanks for making me laugh!
      Love this:
      “What is even more insulting is that this ad perpetuates the myth that women don’t think about or are responsible about their fertility! I remember someone actually telling me when I was 23 that I had better hurry up and find a man! My own grandmother told me that at the age of 14 (but she had dementia, God rest her soul).”

  17. Kicianna says:

    Hello Dear Julia,

    this is Anna from Belgium, your old fan. I had to comment on this blog as I developed goose bumps reading it. Just last week I met a woman who told me she gave up trying for no 2 because…. she just turned 35 (!!) and her daugther was already 6….. and the doctor told her it would be too difficult and anyway it was too late to do anything… I smiled back at her and said quote: ‘I am a very young 42.5 year old. My older son is 11 and the baby is 1.5…. I FEEL mega fertile despite 7 years of infertility, endometriosis, multiple losses including a second trimester loss…. Never giving up did not make me a hero but it did make me FEEL fertile. I have this permanent fertility feeling inside now to the extent that I am audaciously considering a no 3. I just could not believe that she was sooooo young and that she gave up on the longing.
    Anyway, I was so shocked that such a young girl gave up on her longing already. There was sadness and lack of aliveness in what she was saying.. I mentioned you and your work of course (I always do). Opposite me there was another woman sitting. I lent her your two books two years ago because she had two or three failed ivfs. She has one daughter who is 5 now… She never read your books and she gave up too… Now she is moving back to the States and I asked her to return the books. I looked at these two nice, young, healthy girls and wanted to wake up the ultimate mom in them, wake up their inner authority so that they be alive again. With much love from Belgium, Anna. Ps. Jan is 1 year and nearly 6 months now and his favorite words are ball, book, and flower. He repeats them obsessively… He is the feistiest little spirit you can imagine and a total handful. VERY high maintenance in the nicest way!!! I always think about you and still visit your website practically daily. xxx A

    • So nice to hear from you, dear Anna! Thank you for sharing the story of the young woman you met. We do have to change the conversation but not
      by displaying scary pictures.

      Great to hear about your two gorgeous boys. Thank you again for keeping in touch.
      sending love to the family,
      Julia

  18. RR says:

    Julia,

    This article is SO powerful and should be required reading for every couple embarking on the fertility journey. I, for one, wish I would have read something like this 5 years ago! Keep up the great work.

    RR

    • WE will keep up the great work, R., because we are both powerful and our work is needed.
      Sending love to you and your beautiful country!
      Julia

      • RR says:

        Hi Julia,

        I’ve made amazing progress in the last couple of weeks. I feel very content as I feel I’m doing everything I can physically. It’s an amazing feeling to not have any pressure right now from doctors or other naysayers. As the days pass, I feel more capable of reaching out to my orphans and really embracing them with motherly love. I had previously gotten to a point where my life was controlled by thoughts of reproduction and I was holding myself back from opportunities to grow and develop in ways that I felt were important. I’m currently taking a 10 week parenting course and have signed up for another 10 week course in home management, and instead of looking at these as distractions to getting pregnant, I view them as tools toward becoming the best me possible. Would that be the Ultimate Mom??

        All the best,
        RR

  19. Openhearted says:

    Beautiful Julia! Since starting this practive my own panic of getting pregnant and statistics has slowly taken a smoother more calm road rather than an windy and fast pace. I also love your words about learing to be exquisite mothers to yourself first. I continue to work with this, but feel in the last 18 months I am finally hearing my orphans and visionary and making the best decisions inregards to those voices!
    Blessing



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