We Can Have It All…but It Won’t Be Cheap

[Originally posted on Jenifer Jernigan’s Dive Deeper website.]

If you’re like me, and you’re a Gen X-er or a Millennial, you’ve been told your whole life that you can be anything. Doctor, lawyer, financier, governor—you name it.

For us ladies, the sky’s the limit in the marketplace (if we can bust through that glass ceiling). Woo-hoo!

But motherhood? That wasn’t so popular with the feminists as we were growing up.

I was told in not-so-many words that motherhood was a waste of my talents and abilities. I wasn’t offered Home Economics in high school because they had me busy with college-prep courses. The education machine prepared me for undergraduate university, which prepared me for graduate school, which prepared me to be wildly successful (or so Harvard would tell you as you paid many-thousands of dollars).

It’s not that Harvard and the feminists frown on motherhood. They just don’t want it to get in the way of your work ambitions. They say, “Get your education, and get busy climbing the corporate ladder while you’re young! (Then you’ll have lots of money you can donate to us. Wink, wink.)”

What happens as this need to satisfy social milieus and our personal dreams pushes marriage and pregnancy into our thirties? Our forties? Quite simply, it’s going to be harder to conceive, carry, and deliver a healthy child.

The number of women facing this reality increases every year. The birth rate among American women in their forties has increased by more than 70 percent since 1990, and the birth rate among women between thirty-five and thirty-nine has increased more than 50 percent. Those increases reflect how many women are giving birth—not how many are trying to get pregnant. There is an obvious shift in the demographic of aspiring mothers.

This isn’t ageism; it’s fact. The longer you wait to get pregnant, the harder it will be.

Our bodies were designed to have children when we were in our late teens and twenties. Just ask those Disney princesses. Snow White, Aurora, and Ariel were fourteen, sixteen, and sixteen, respectively, when they married their princes and presumably started producing heirs. By the pre-Industrial Revolution timetable, we’re all dusty old maids before we graduate from high school. And you can forget about higher education.

Thankfully, as women have thrived in the workforce, science has done a pretty good job of keeping up with us. In their day, our Disney princesses might have been beheaded and replaced (à la Anne Boleyn and company) if they couldn’t produce heirs.

Today we have medical options that don’t run the risk of severing our necks. The two most common versions of assisted reproductive therapy (ART) are intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). (Barren 74-75)

The television exploits of Jon and Kate Plus 8 put IUI on the map. Often the first procedure attempted by fertility clinicians, IUI has a 60 percent success rate among qualified couples in the first six treatments; and it costs about $1,000 per cycle (including fertility drugs, hormone injections, and diagnostic ultrasounds which are not always necessary). It is noninvasive (meaning no one encounters a scalpel or an anesthesiologist), and it allows couples to reevaluate their family plans and finances on a month-to-month basis.

Mostly thanks to “Octomom,” IVF has gotten so much press in the last few years that it seems almost common. But the procedure is actually complicated and quite costly, boasting an average success rate of only 22 percent and an average cost (in the United States) of $8,158 per cycle. IVF is surgery. The woman must have general anesthesia when her doctor removes her eggs prior to their fertilization in the lab. The implantation procedure for the embryos is two weeks later and almost identical to that of IUI (they are inserted into the uterus via catheter).

So Harvard can forget about getting those donations as many of their female graduates sink many thousands of dollars into medical treatments designed simply to make our bodies do what God made them to do. But thankfully, most women who enter fertility treatments are eventually able to conceive. They get to have it all—the dream career and the dream family.

That’s a beautiful thing.

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