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That Sound Was My Head Exploding Again (or Why Sites Need to Take Responsibility For What They Post)

We still don’t have power in 2/3rds of homes in our area, though plenty of businesses have gotten power again and streets have been cleared.  So since I have time on my hands and the ability to recharge this battery, you get my thoughts on the Carla Bruni post on The Stir.  And yes, I am falling right into their link-bait trap, but I’m cranky from a perfect storm of shittiness beyond the power outage, and I think this post is the best example I’ve seen lately of the ABSOLUTE LACK OF RESPONSIBILITY of online sites.  Because yes, if you’re positioning yourself to be a major site of news for women, you should probably take a little responsibility of what you put on the Web.  But that is a sentiment that extends to every single site on the Internet — from the personal blogger to online magazine sites such as The Stir or Jezebel or Huffington Post.

Especially starting a post like this:

I’m going to get a lot of flack for saying this, but that’s okay. I think there is a big infertility myth that goes on with women over 35.

The bold is their emphasis, not mine.  Anyone who begins by saying they are going to get flack pretty much puts up a flashing neon sign that says, “I am so desperate for page views that I’m going to put up something really crazy/offensive/off-putting in order to get people to click over and read it.  Look at meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”  And yes, as I said, I did fall into their link-bait trap by posting this, but unfortunately, there was no other way to point out this stupidity without giving you the opportunity to see it in all its glory.

She then goes on to hem and haw about how there’s a chance it may be harder to get pregnant and there may be more risks, and yet still states, “I believe it’s easier for women over 35 — or even 40 — to get pregnant than they think it is.”  So science has it wrong, but Kiri Blakeley who writes about celebrities for publications such as Forbes and The Stir knows better than doctors.

And her evidence?  She like totally doesn’t think that Carla Bruni did fertility treatments (Valley-girl emphasis mine because… come on):

Did Carla use fertility drugs or IVF to get pregnant at 44? It’s certainly possible — but I don’t think so. Here is why. Carla gave birth to her last child, daughter Giulia, only nine months ago! Plus, it’s reported that she suffers from postpartum depression. And since her husband lost the election, she wants to return to her former career as a pop singer.

Additionally, Carla doesn’t sound like she enjoyed pregnancy too much.

Super sleuth Kiri Blakeley* — think of her like the female Shaggy — sniffed out the situation and realized (without needing to resort to using Scooby snacks) that it was not likely that she used any assistance at 44 because apparently you can only conceive naturally if you just gave birth recently.  Additionally, postpartum depression precludes the ability to utilize treatments.  Did you know that?  PPD means you can’t do treatments; you need to conceive naturally.  And then there’s the fact that Bruni wants to be a pop singer.  Pop singers absolutely never take hormones.

But not only that — she deduces that just because Carla Bruni conceived naturally, it means most women who are 44 can conceive on their own too.

And she knows the culprit, who would have gotten away with it if not for those pesky kids: fertility drug companies.

So why would there be an “infertility myth”? Sure, much of it is NOT a myth. Your chances of getting pregnant do decrease with age. But they don’t necessarily decrease to zero — or even decrease to the point where drugs are needed. Let’s think about how many millions of dollars the fertility industry makes — and whether or not it might be to its advantage to perpetuate difficulties beyond what might actually exist.

Or clinics.  Or your friendly neighbourhood RE.  Wait!  It’s the whole ding dong industry!

I understand that The Stir wants page views.  Most sites want page views, so I don’t fault them for wanting them.  I fault them for how they’re trying to get themBecause yes, it matters what you put out there.  It matters what I put on my personal blog, and it sure as hell matters what you put on an online magazine site such as The Stir.  It matters the exact same amount in both places; people need to take responsibility for what they put out into the universe.

* Her bio reads: “I like to tell it like it is, almost as much as I like cats. I know a lot about celebrities and nothing about my neighbors.”  Really, is this a person you want doling out medical advice or talking about fertility drug conspiracy theories?  Seriously, The Stir?

Apologies to Kiri Blakely: I’m sure you’re a lovely person, and I’m sure you write celebrity pieces well.  But your editor should have never run this post.  And if you want to read up on the subject of age-related fertility, I’d suggest you start at ACOG — the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.  No one has ever said zero, but they have recorded deeply reduced fertility after 35.


1 a { 07.01.12 at 12:15 am }

The older I get, the more embarrassed I am about how little I knew when I was in my 30s. I mean, I knew I was kind of stupid when I was in my 20s, but in my 30s…well, I thought I had it all together. I was very wrong. I’m thinking this dingbat will look back on this piece someday and be so thoroughly hamstrung by her own foolishness that she’ll never be able to write another sentence. Unfortunately, it’s probably going to take another 10 years of her putting out crap like this before we get there.

As an aside, having looked up her bio…well, I think it’s more like “Please tell me it’s a myth that fertility decreases with age, because I’ve already had some kind of shitty cards dealt to me, I’m afraid of relationships, but I’d still like to have a family someday and I don’t want it to be totally out of the question. Please.”

2 Lollipop Goldstein { 07.01.12 at 12:18 am }

A — you know, if she had written it with that tone, I totally would have had a softer reaction. A piece where the person is longing for fertility to be intact long into her 40s — I can get behind that longing.

3 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 07.01.12 at 1:38 am }

There are absolutely women out there who assume that they will have trouble conceiving because of their age or some other factor, and then end up conceiving easily (not the readers of your blog of course, but someone somewhere, including several friends and relatives of mine). That is huge, ignorant leap to make from “some people think they will have trouble then don’t” to “it’s totally a myth.”

4 Mali { 07.01.12 at 1:50 am }

Boom. My head just exploded too. The article is infuriating. (Yes, it is the tone of voice.) And the comments are just dim. (Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have read the comments). (Well, except for a few who clearly knew a lot more than dopy Kiri). Do none of these people have even the remotest understanding of odds/statistics/maths?

Just because it isn’t impossible for every single woman to get pregnant after 35 or in her 40s doesn’t mean the myth is exaggerated. Sure, women do get pregnant right up to menopause. But they’re the exceptions. Not the rule. I’m the rule. My sister – who conceived naturally at 41 after over a year of trying – would probably be held up as a perfect example that it’s “not as hard as they say it is.” Arrrgh!

5 Kristin (kekis) { 07.01.12 at 2:22 am }

Told you that whatever you wrote would be much more eloquent than my response. 🙂 I think the article is crap and she needs a strong does of STFU, but what do I know? Oh yeah – I know. I’m a 44 year old infertile. 🙂

6 Mina { 07.01.12 at 4:02 am }

This comes on the wake of a talk I had with a 36 y friend who wants a child and is starting to get frustrated it “does not happen as they said when I was a teenager, when it was enough to sit on a public toilet”. She always thought she had enough time.

Anyway, first, I am bothered that they can’t leave poor Carla alone. Really, eversince she came out in the public eye, and especially since her very publicised marriage, the most vicious articles I have read about her were written by women. I can’t understand that. Because she is rich (an heiress), she is beautiful, she wraps and tosses men around her little fingers at will, and has worked as a model and singer (not your usual 9-to-5 cubicle job)” that is enough to make any woman hate her. Now she is married to a very feisty and formerly very important man, who is certainly making her life interesting and more importantly he is obviously very much in love with her. So she is pregnant again at 44. Well, why doesn’t anyone say “Well done, girl, good for you! You’re not in for an easy ride, but you are having another child with the man you love, and that makes it all worth the pain”? If she had fertility treatments, than more the power to her. Plus this means this child is way more wanted than your average oops, I thought my apendice gave me trouble, but no, that was a 20 weeks old pregnancy I had no idea about. S she may have had a tad too much botox – that is her own business, not the world’s.

And now let’s get down to THIS article. Which illustrates quite plainly what is wrong with “journalists” these days. ANYONE can write ANYTHING without assuming liability for their words. This is hardly a person who shapes opinions of the public and who is looked up to and she’s not even skimming Hedda Hopper’s (vicious) ankle. But even if one woman reads this and thinks “well, it IS true that there are loads of pregnant women over 35 so there must be some truth here, and this could be a myth made up by doctors to milk money from patients and hence, I should not worry and just relax for the next decade”, than this is wrong. The fact that this is not backed by any medical fact, just her reasoning and amazing powers of deduction looking at a handful of examples which are hardly representative makes it even more dangerous. And why is it that there are more articles like this drivel than sound, fact based, pieces written by reasonable people? Why is it that negative buzz around garbage like this has become acceptable and even the norm for journalism nowadays? Why have we allowed tabloidism to take over our news reporting?

Now, I am stepping off my soapbox and go deal with heat and humidity and a snotty toddler. Way more lovely than getting my blood pressure up by reading “the newspapers online” (you know what I mean). 🙂

Wishing you all a lovely Sunday!

7 Tara Dawes { 07.01.12 at 6:57 am }

Seriously, it is too damn early for this crap. I don’t know which is worse the idiotic author or the people in the comments talking about how easy it is for older women to get pregnant or how most infertility isn’t biological but a timing issue. Yeah, that’s totally why my husband and I have no children yet, we just can’t screw on the right days. Some days I really really hate people, this is one of those days.

8 Stephanie { 07.01.12 at 7:20 am }

Awful. Not just the message – which made my almost-35-year-old head explode as well – but the WRITING. Of course, by her logic, since a 44-year-old got pregnant, then at least I know that I’m GUARANTEED to get pregnant at 44. I just hate the fact that I’m going to have to wait so long.

9 Her Royal Fabulousness { 07.01.12 at 8:23 am }

Oh crap, that’s my brain oozing out my ear. That is nearly as annoying as people saying that if you are young you shouldn’t need any treatment because everyone knows that young women NEVER have fertility issues. Yeeahhh….that’s why I needed 2 IVFs. WTF is wrong with people?

10 JuliaKB { 07.01.12 at 10:38 am }

I am guessing this woman went to college. And somebody somewhere gave her a grade for a course where she was supposed to analyze and represent data. I sincerely hope that grade was a C-. Because this? This is ignorance on display. Proud, self-satisfied bravery of ignorance. And this goes double for her editor.

Who the hell told her she’s a journalist? As far as I am concerned, generalizing from anecdotes, not to mention gossiping about others without the slightest attempt to figure out whether her conclusions are justified, in a fair world that should earn her a two year stint in a local paper where she’d learn something about responsible reporting by having to cover events within the community and people who can walk right up to her and get in her grill for misrepresenting them or things important to them. But this world isn’t fair, and as you’ve noted, all she’s likely to get is more page views. And some women desperately crying in their bathrooms years from now over another BFN because she told them it would all work out. Hell, special place, all that. Grrrrrrrrrr….

11 Io { 07.01.12 at 11:28 am }

Oh, why did I click over? What an idiot. (Me and the writer of that assinine article)
My favorite bit was her idea that age related infertility is pretty much just a conspiracy created by REs. That’s just so nuts that it’s kind of awesome. How exactly does she think that works?

12 Cristy { 07.01.12 at 12:55 pm }

I saw the Prompt-ly post on this while I was at the hardware store and literally walked into a stack of gardening supplies while reading about Ms. Blakely’s “Infertility Myth.” First off, I’ve met 4 yr olds who can pull together more intelligent sentences. And her rational? For realz? I can imagine the title of her next article including something about unicorns and so-and-so being a meanie.

Look, I get it. It’s highly unpopular to bring up the fact that you has a limited period in their life when they can reproduce. Top off the fact that fertility takes a major dip after age 35, and I can understand why many women would be upset. But it is a reality. We all have a finite period of time on this planet. And it is completely irresponsible for a bubble head to be spreading lies that it would be otherwise based on hypotheticals and not facts.

13 Emma { 07.01.12 at 1:07 pm }

OMGoodness, you’re right. The editor should have known better. I’m visualizing some 20-35 year old who reads trashy magazines and websites more instead of actual news… She’s reading that article and thinking, “Oh, I have time! If *so and so* can get pregnant at 44 then I will too!”

It just goes to show you how much more education there needs to be on the subject of reproduction and fertility.

14 Kathy { 07.01.12 at 1:41 pm }

Preach on Mel! I was frustrated when I read that uninformed article you sent the link to on the Promt-ly Listserve yesterday. I really appreciate your thoughtful and educated reply.

15 KeAnne { 07.01.12 at 3:09 pm }

Thank you for this! I saw her article in my news alert on Friday evening and stopped what I was doing to read it. I hoped it wouldn’t be as bad as I feared from the title but alas, I was wrong. I can only believe that many women prefer to remain deluded about the reality of their fertility & aging.

16 a { 07.01.12 at 3:37 pm }

BTW – I had to go deep into backstory to come up with my interpretation of her wishing that her little essay on the myth of infertility over 35 was true. She wrote a book about her 10 year relationship and engagement which was ended when her fiance confessed that he had been cheating on her with other men. I surmise that she is not much more than 8 years younger than me, which puts her right at 35. So, using my crack PI skillz (and certainly not the words in the article), I am putting together that this little blurb is a whole lotta wishful thinking…

17 Jen { 07.01.12 at 6:10 pm }

I had a totally different interpretation of her reasons why the pregnancy had to be unassisted. All the reasons the author listed make it sound like she didn’t think Carla WANTED to be pregnant, therefore it must have been an accident and not assisted. Which just goes to show how shallow and selfish her view of motherhood is. I’m sure there are lots of people, both infertile and fertile, that don’t enjoy being pregnant (I am certainly one of them, yet look at all the drugs I took to get this way). But what she doesn’t get is that they would do anything to have a child, because that’s what mothers do. Either interpretation really rubs me the wrong way.

18 Geochick { 07.01.12 at 8:37 pm }

I just threw up in my mouth a little. What an asinine article.

19 Stupid Stork { 07.01.12 at 10:48 pm }

Okay, that’s just funny.

20 Elizabeth :: Bébé Suisse { 07.02.12 at 4:13 am }

While I agree that websites that have any degree of concern about journalistic integrity should not be pumping out crap like this, I also think that readers have a responsibility not to read it (or to read it but not to take it seriously). There’s a lot of drivel out there, and readers should know how to distinguish wheat from chaff. Nothing in that article suggests a basis in sound medical or biological facts. Anyone reading it for such should quickly find out that they’re making a mistake.

21 k { 07.02.12 at 10:45 am }

I don’t think I can even click over and read this. I’m pretty sure my head would explode. God forbid anyone do any, you know, actual RESEARCH.

22 Ann Z { 07.02.12 at 10:57 am }

Gah! The article and comments just grate enormously. Makes me want to post over and over, ” The plural of anecdote is not data!

I also love the assumption that older women are somehow duped into taking fertility meds. As if we just all head to the doctor when we want to get pregnant and demand the treatments rather than trying for months and years and finally accepting that we will need help.

23 Pale { 07.02.12 at 2:24 pm }

Holy ****, Mel.

‘She like totally doesn’t think that Carla Bruni did fertility treatments’

Like shooting fish in a barrel, isn’t it?

“No one has ever said zero, but they have recorded deeply reduced fertility after 35.”

To say nothing of the reduction documented after 42, or the documentation of (the lack of) IVF success (with your own eggs) after that point.

And of course we won’t bother even mentioning how none of this is anyone’s damn business, except insofar as … the number of highly publicized celebrity pregnancies at an advanced age ~do~ create a very problematic false impression, a false sense of security & faulty assumptions about fertility as you age, which makes it harder (impossible?) for the under-informed to make solid choices and avoid regrets.

Way to illustrate the point, Kiri! You’ve just won the IF Blogosphere Darwin Award; by all means, wait until your mid-forties to begin building your family ….

My own OB told me (after my oldest was born) that her recommendation was to try and finish family building by 42. She wasn’t giving me guarantees, she was ball-parking it. (The fact that I already had a child probably influenced her advice, nevermind there were indications of subfertility even then). And of course, we went through secondary IF when we started TTC again at 38 …

I would recommend to anyone for whom having biological children is important — or who thinks it ~might~ be important someday — that they be very proactive on their own behalf about being informed and understanding all of your options. Possibly even going so far as to have their FSH levels tested at an early age. Especially if they are tempted for any reason (and there are thousands of really good reasons) to delay beyond their late 20’s/early 30’s to get started. Of course all that proactivity may NOT be necessary, but you NEVER know until you know and it’s different for everyone so looking to your neighbor for a glimpse of ~your~ future is about as reliable as counting on a fortune cookie from last night’s take out. Better safe than sorry. I’d also add that you need to be careful upon whom you rely for advice. Going straight to an expert like an RE is worth the trouble and the price you pay.

The media needs to get the **** out of the misinformation game.

24 loribeth { 07.02.12 at 2:34 pm }

I didn’t read the comments, but I can imagine. :p Articles & attitudes like this one are a big reason why it’s so hard to get anyone to understand what infertility is like and what we go through. :p

I agree with Jen — just because Carla looks like she’s not enjoying the pregnancy, it’s not necessarily an oops. :p I know lots of women who desperately wanted their babies but did NOT enjoy their pregnancies, for both physical & emotional reasons.

P.S. Thank you to Cristy & Kathy for mentioning Promptly. Your comment made me realize I hadn’t had an e-mail notification in eons. Went over & there are scads of posts from the last few weeks/months I have somehow missed. I think it has to do with a change in the Google Groups. Grrrr….

25 Pale { 07.02.12 at 2:45 pm }

I should say, looking to your ~neighbor~ (your sister, your cousin, your co-worker, so-and-so’s friend of a friend) is an unreliable predictor of ~your~ personal fertility fate. Looking to ~PEOPLE magazine~ (and the like) for a glimpse of fertility “reality” (HA!) and as a source of scientific validation … is beyond foolish. Most of those folks, by definition, have options and resources available to them that the rest of us Jane Does can only dream of in our wildest fantasies. But I guess if you have to explain that to people, they are already in trouble on a couple of fronts ….

26 jjiraffe { 07.02.12 at 4:23 pm }

Clearly, good old-fashioned facts don’t allow our fearless cub reporter to “tell it like it is.” So, no need for her to actually check into the likelihood of an actual 44 year old giving birth to a live baby: the average woman over 40 has a less than 5% chance of getting pregnant each month and a 44 year old woman has a 60% chance of having a miscarriage. Her editor and Cafe Stir is ultimately at fault for publishing this mess.

27 Dora { 07.02.12 at 5:05 pm }

Mel, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! I. Just. Do. Sorry I missed wishing you a happy blogoversary. You ROCK!

That article! GAH!!!! (Sound of head hitting desk.) So very irresponsible. Of course there are exceptions, but that’s exactly what they are. RARE EXCEPTIONS. There’s woman who sometimes comes to my SMC meetings with her son and tells her story. I always cringe knowing others ware listening and hanging their hope on her beating the odds. After MANY failed IUIs and IVFs, at the age of 44 she was on her clinic’s list awaiting an egg donor. Because she had the financial resources, she chose to do some unmedicated IUIs while waiting to be matched with an egg donor. And at 44, became pregnant with her son. I cringe because the fact that statistically she is an outlier gets lost in the message of hope. Add in the fact that most of us don’t have the financial resources to keep trying to be in that 5% of 44 year olds who will get a take home baby, with their own eggs, with treatment. Meanwhile, I’m the pessimist who says no when a 42 year old asks me if she should try unmedicated IUIs.

28 Bea { 07.03.12 at 8:08 am }

Ok so… I couldn’t bear to read the article. So I’m making some assumptions… But obviously there is a balance to the argument, because fertility doesn’t end at 35 or 40 (or even 45) any more than endometriosis or pcos spells the absolute close of your chances at unassisted pregnancy. So, if that’s the message, then fine. But omg let’s get a little balance going please because actually being over 35 or 40 (and especially 45) has a significant impact, much like having endometriosis or pcos (and similar to those can have more impact on some than others). And that’s the truth.

29 Chickenpig { 07.03.12 at 9:31 am }

From the wording, I take it this celebrity had other children before she had a child at 44? Most of the women who are able to push out kids until menopause didn’t start having kids when they were 35. Having children extends your fertility, so if you drop 15 children, or even 3, before you turn 44 you have a decent chance of being able to get pregnant. Compared to a woman who is still trying for her first. As someone else here said, fertility doesn’t END when you hit your 40’s, especially if you’re a ‘fertile myrtle’…but good luck getting your fertility STARTED at that time.

30 k { 07.03.12 at 11:50 am }

FYI: I found the authors facebook page, where she then posted a link to an essay about a woman who devastatingly lost twins after reduction from quads. On her facebook page, she posted the link with this as the lead in: “he latest on my other site, dedicated to the essays rejected by Modern Love. This week: She was infertile for years, and then…. quartetuplets!” I pretty much had enough. Posted to her: “Quartetuplets? Really? This essay is heartwrenching and your headline makes it sound like a party. I came here because I was pointed to your “article” on the Stir where you called infertility a myth. Clearly your characterization of this piece shows how little you know about infertility. Getting pregnant with quadruplets after fertility treatment doesn’t make this woman any less infertile. And you might want to warn people that this essay has MAJOR triggers in it for women battling infertility.” After she posted that she was sorry I have trouble and basically not taking any sort of responsibility I pointed her to this post and said: Read your headline up there. “She was infertile for years, and then…quartetuplets!” You did “treat” the essay. You’re setting a tone. I am not having a difficult time. But maybe you should check out this: https://www.stirrup-queens.com/2012/06/the-sound-was-my-head-exploding-again-or-why-sites-need-to-take-some-responsibility-for-what-they-post/ This is the community of women you unknowingly speak about when you take on infertility. Maybe they can help you find some sensitivity.”

I hope she learns something from all of the wonderful women here.

31 Shelli { 07.04.12 at 8:35 am }

There is so much wrong with this spew of bullshit. Irresponsibility at its finest. I hope Kiri finds this feedback.

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