The Sexist

Your Decrepit Ovaries May Be Sabotaging Your Career

As a 24-year-old woman who hasn't yet hit the dreaded Fertility Death Zone of life after 30, perhaps I'm not in the position to be amused by this Washington Post headline:
babies

. . . But allow me to ignore the cries of my soon-to-be decrepit ladyparts for a moment in order to re-write this headline to reflect a few possibilities that reporter Carolyn Butler omits from the accompanying story. But first: What's with these ovaries anyway, and why are they so darned stubborn?

Butler's story is a tale of modern career woman v. nature. In it, women who are busy pursuing their professional dreams in their 20's may be dangerously ignoring the silent extermination occurring within their own bodies—according to Butler, "women lose 90 percent of their eggs by age 30"—until it's too late. But don't "start freaking out," Butler tells her readers, who, being women and all, are almost certainly doing just that.

Onto the science: "Society has changed," fertility doctor Robert Stillman of Rockville's Shady Grove Fertility tells Butler, "but the ovaries will take another million years or two to catch up to that."

Stillman's evolutionary perspective prompts this strange analysis from Butler:

Since we don't have another million years to wait, many women thinking of having children are left with the predicament of balancing the personal, primal urge to partner up and procreate with worthwhile social goals such as pursuing higher education and a successful career—not to mention economic stability.

As someone whose personal, primal urges have always been telling her to learn stuff and use her brain for stuff, not to make babies, I am left confused by the idea that my impulse to start a career is seen exclusively as a "worthwhile social goal" that is somehow at odds with my "personal" interests. But then again, there's a lot I don't identify with here. Possible alternate headlines for this story that I would be more likely to get down with:

Adoption agencies have adjusted to many women's decision to delay having children. [Seriously, Butler does even mention this possibility].

* Robert Stillman of Rockville's Shady Grove Fertility has adjusted to raking in tons of cash from many women's decision to delay having children.

* Ovaries indifferent to what you do with eggs after they pass off responsibility to fallopian tubes, uterus

* Ovaries privately concerned that women will end this whole society v. nature charade by just delaying having children until death

* Ovaries confused as to why the decision to have children is presented exclusively as a concern of women in this article

* Ovaries going through particularly rough time right now, could use a couple million years to adjust

Comments

  1. #1

    I'd say there is a difference between "personal" interests and biological interests though. While we as conscious beings create meaning for our life, biology gives us only one meaning, to spread our genetic material to the next generation.
    We can choose to ignore that or delay it, just as we make other choices that go against our animal instincts.I find the use of moral judgment about these choices to be irrelevant.
    The important factor to me is knowing that I have a choice before me and then making that choice.

    Biology treats men and women differently. We can naturally(save the Viagra discussion some men don't develop ED depending on diet/health) produce children well into our 80's, women cannot. That is an inescapable fact.
    Thankfully, science allows us to freeze eggs and have surrogates such that an 80 year old woman could raise a child of her own.(Ideally she'd pull an opposite Hefner deal and have a 20 something man as the father.) So this as well as adoption leaves men and women with a choice about careers and family.
    I see nothing wrong with stating that such choices exist, better that men and women are aware and make these decisions in a timely manner before they have fewer options.
    However, applying pressure to men and women or leading them to think that they have "failed" to make the correct choice is wrong. The only wrong choice one can make is doing that which will not leave them happy and give their life meaning, in whatever way they choose to create such meaning.

  2. #2

    Honestly, I didn't entirely get the point of the Post story. I hadn't presumed our ovaries had repositioned themselves to drop slower as our decisions to start families moved to a later point in life.

    All it did was freak me out–thanks for the reminder that there's never enough time and we're all going to be barren. They should've added a video to the Jesse Spano Saved by the Bell freak out clip.

  3. #3

    Forget what my ovaries are thinking, my JEWISH MOTHER is so anxious that I haven't reproduced, that recently, she told me that even if I'm having sex with a guy "who's just a friend, you know?" and we have some sort of "accident" that she supports me continuing the pregnancy so that she can move here and help me raise it.

    This is me, giving my ovaries and my mom the middle finger.

  4. #4

    40-something eggs demand Federal stimulus?

  5. #5

    Thanks for the paper bag (editorial) to keep me from hyperventilating. At 32 my decrepit ovaries need all the comfort they can get. ;)

  6. #6

    @jules, your mom is hilarious. everyone wants grandbabies for some reason.

    Anyway....why did that article even get published. Breaking news...you can't stop the aging process. Really...didn't know that!

    Work can too be a personal goal...I'm not worrying about being socially judged, I just always dreamed of having a job I was passionate about. That's not true for everyone, but a lot of people would agree with that idea.

    Children can too be a social goal...when it seems everyone else is having them, you can feel judged for not having them.

    I'm 23, my boyfriend's sister is 33 and she just had her first born. Just a reminder that babies don't sleep, which is all the incentive I need to hold off on that idea.

  7. #7

    That is becomes more difficult to re-produce the older we get is hardly news. I've always thought that there were other things to think about when it comes to having kids though, beyond 'if I don't do it now I might not be able to later.' Things such as, who you would like to have children with and you know, their feelings on the matter, or even *shocker* if you want to have children at all!

    I see so many articles about having children, most of them are warning me that as a soon to turn 30 year old woman, I may be leaving it too late. Weirdly, I'm already aware of that and I do want children one day, I just don't feel like I want them right now. Which is useful really as my partner doesn't feel ready to become a parent yet.

    Mind you, that 'all us women really want children and shoud be careful we don't run out of time' is only one problematic assumption that this type of article makes. Others include the idea that only hetero-normative couples want (or should be allowed) to make babies. Or that when or even if to have babies is a choice we all get to make.

  8. #8

    LOVE the alternate headlines where Ovaries have an opinion! Smart and hilarious as ever, Amanda!

  9. #9

    WOW! THE TITLE OF THIS COLUMN ALONE IS A TRAVESTY. PLANNING YOUR CALANDAR SEVERAL YEARS DOWN THE ROAD TO HAVE CHILDREN IS NOT THE ANSWER. WOMEN SHOULD PREPARE TO HAVE CHILDREN NOT PLAN TO HAVE KIDS.

    THE 20 YEAR OLD SOMETHINGS WHO DECIDE THAT THEY MUST GET THEIR CAREER OR WHATEVER IN ORDER FIRST BEFORE THEY THINK ABOUT HAVING CHILDREN WILL BE THE VERY ONES WHO SPAWN CHILDREN THAT WILL HAVE THOSE SAME SELFISH ATTITUDES.

    THEN THAT LEADS YOU TO THE 30 YEAR OLD SOMETHING THAT WAIT UNTIL THEY GET TO A CERTAIN POINT IN LIFE BEFORE THEY THINK ABOUT HAVING CHILDREN. WHEN AND IF SHE DOES SHE WILL HAVE CHILDREN THAT WILL BE LAZY IN NATURE.

    IF YOU ARE 40 YEARS OLD FORGET ABOUT IT. SORRY LADIES!

    SO THAT IS WHAT WE HAVE NOW. SELFISH, LAZY, GOOD FOR NOTHING CHILDREN RUNNING AROUND HERE STICKING THE MIDDLE FINGER UP AT THEIR MOM AND WANTING MORE SLEEP. HOW PATEHTIC.

    HUMAN BEINGS REPRODUCE. THAT IS WHAT WE DO!

  10. #10

    I'm laughing at the sensationalism of the headline too. Just some food for thought though: I think this having kids "early" vs. first having a career is a false dichotomy that doesn't serve women particularly well. Contrary to popular belief, you can have kids in your twenties, for instance, and still pursue a worthwhile career simultaneously. It takes a lot of support and teamwork, preferably, between two mature partners -- but it's possible. My wife and I are both 32 and we have three kids -- the oldest is 6. She is a freelance writer and will be getting her Master's degree in a few months. Women shouldn't have to face an either-or scenario from social pressures or the workplace structures in our society -- the real problem in my opinion.

  11. #11

    Ugh. The "aging ovaries" talk. I got almost this exact spiel from my (male and sexist) Genetics lab instructor a few hours ago.

    "Now, ladies, I want you to listen because this is something I would tell my own daughters too. Many young ladies today are putting off having babies and instead having careers until well into their thirties, and then they find out that they can't have kids because they waited too long."

    Yeah, I know his daughter and if he said that to her face, she'd probably smack him in the mouth.

    The worst part is, he snuck it into a (factually incorrect) lecture on Down Syndrome. At the same time that he was going on and on about how Down Syndrome risks go up with age (from .1% to about 1%), he misrepresented the genetic mechanism to suggest that Down Syndrome is always the result of a faulty egg. For the record, it doesn't; sometimes it's the egg, sometimes the sperm, occasionally a mutation occurs after conception. According to my instructor, though, it's always the lady's fault. It's science.

    He was wrong and we knew he was wrong because our professor, a lady PhD with enough IQ to fill his head twice over, had given us the correct mechanism just a few hours before. But, knowing this didn't stop me from spending the entire lab period wanting to strangle him.

    In short, it would be nice if everyone would acquaint themselves with the science. It would be even nicer if the people responsible for teaching the science would acquaint themselves with the science.

  12. #12

    "As someone whose personal, primal urges have always been telling her to learn stuff and use her brain for stuff, not to make babies, I am left confused by the idea that my impulse to start a career is seen exclusively as a “worthwhile social goal” that is somehow at odds with my “personal” interests."

    Mark me down as another of these. My 'personal interests' have never involved physical reproduction. Ever.

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