If You Don’t Have a Baby, You are Going to Diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie
This is simple science: parenthood brings about immortality. What? No? I misunderstood the headlines this week? We’re all going to die but parents live longer? Oh… so infertility if you don’t reach parenthood is like your uterus smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, shortening your lifespan. That little reproductive punk.
Yes, I read the headlines this week announcing that if you don’t have children, you may want to purchase a coffin now to be on the safe side. If you thought that the stress of infertility was quite enough, think again. Scientists have just served you up a heap of new devastation to add to that heady stew of failed cycles, financial woes, and self-administered injections: early death. And at first I snorted the milk from my Special K (the cereal, once again) at the study. With so many factors that can’t be controlled in the study, the results become ridiculous and the study itself becomes pointless.
Do more children mean more time on earth? Is Michelle Duggar going to remain vampire-like, still here centuries from now, protected by her large brood? The study looked at soft numbers without interviewing actual people — how do they even know what they’re interpreting? How do they know who has chosen to live child-free and who is still resolving their infertility? They looked at an 11-year period of time (1994 – 2005): how many people actually died in that group? If we’re looking at people who were utilizing IVF as recently as 2005, all the people in that group would still be fairly young.
And by “fairly young” I mean, my age.
Oh, and in case you were wondering if the media was reporting this study as a giant fuck you to the very viable option of choosing to live child-free after infertility, they are. The Daily Mail answered that one quite clearly with their report:
Scientists say the study throws new light on the age-old question of whether life fulfillment provided by children can actually extend your years. The answer appears to be yes – but only compared with people who want children and are unable to have them. In these circumstances, adoption may reduce the risk of early death, according to Danish scientists. But their investigation did not look at whether couples who choose to be childless are likely to have shorter lives as a result.
Hmmm… is someone worried about fertility rates? Because the fearmongering feels a little Handmaid’s Tale-ish. It’s almost as if someone in an office was pacing around saying, “we can’t appeal to those women who never wanted children in the first place; they’re not going to have children to boost the population. But what about those people who wanted children and couldn’t have them? YES! Those women are the ones we’ll guilt into remaining in the vortex of infertility for as long as they can stand it! They’ll either give us more children to boost the population, or they’ll die trying!”
In other words, they didn’t study women without children. They studied women who wanted children, couldn’t have children, and chose to resolve their infertility by living child-free (or, since it isn’t clear from the study and the time span for it is fairly small, perhaps also women still treating their infertility).
As the days passed, my stomach started twisting about the reporting of this study. It’s not just the new stupidity that could be unleashed at your Christmas dinner (“So when are you two going to start having children? Did you know that if you don’t have a baby you won’t be here for future Christmases and we’ll have to take time away from staring at the Yule log on television to visit your grave?”). It’s all the other implications in the articles. For instance, the scientists looked at what effect adoption has on your life span. If you resolve with adoption, will you live just as long as someone who resolves their childlessness with fertility treatments?
Luckily, you can take the magic pill of adoption and cure yourself of early death. The child literally becomes the medicine. No pressure there, kids.
And then there was the brainstorming of why childlessness could lead to early death: “Among possible reasons for early death rates are risky behaviours, such as more drinking and drug abuse, depression and psychiatric illness, and physical illness linked to their infertility.” In other words, living child-free after infertility OR simply being in the throes of infertility but not having built your family yet, will turn you into a boozy, cocaine-snorting, OHSS-addled fiend. Though the Atlantic reports that “The death rate for childless women was 4 times higher than for women who had given birth. Women who had adopted had two-thirds the likelihood of dying prematurely… All of the deaths were attributed to circulatory disease, cancers, or accidents.” So, I’m sorry, not a boozy, cocaine-snorting, OHSS-addled fiend, but a vascular-impaired, tumour-ridden woman who falls down stairs at the drop of a hat. Sound familiar? Isn’t that how every childless aunt dies?
I once again need to ask, what is the purpose of this study? To convince women who are already considering parenthood to consider it until they reach it? To bump up the population — are 7 billion people on Earth really not enough? To account for early death in child-free-after-infertility women? — again, to what purpose? So they can be watched closely for circulatory disease and cancer (and accidents — Josh suggests that we wrap all women in bubble wrap to protect them from all the falls that occur from not having children) after resolving their infertility? Are doctors going to take this study and monitor their child-free patients more carefully? Because if they don’t, I really have to ask again: WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS STUDY?
Fine, let’s just say that all of this is true: infertility is going to kill you unless you can reach parenthood (and fast!). Why don’t we have more governments standing behind the importance of making fertility treatments affordable to all people who wish to utilize them? Why isn’t mandated fertility coverage and adoption aid part of the Affordable Care Act? Why are we still making infertile women jump through hoops to utilize the technology that exists? Why aren’t we doing more to help and less to condemn?
Because that doesn’t make a snappy headline?