Eggs All in a Row

Fertility is a funny thing. It seems something akin to watching water boil – the longer you stand there staring in the pot, the more the water refuses to reach boiling point. Of course, there are also people who have no idea there is even water on the stove, and only realize the water is boiling when it’s already roiling hot. It seems hardly fair that those who really, really want a baby should struggle and wait, while those who have literally no interest in a child at that moment end up pregnant. If there is a deity up there somewhere, she certainly has a strange sense of humor.

Then there are the ladies that are told they can never have children who end up sporting a baby bump six months later. The ones who give up completely and achieve the same results. The couples that use fertility treatments to help the process. And those who are forever unsuccessful. Then there are the 25% of women of child-bearing age who don’t care either way. That’s right. They are simply ambivalent to having or not having a baby. I’m not even talking about women who know they don’t want a child. A recent study came out saying that there are women out there, not on birth control, perhaps in a committed relationship, perhaps not, who are fine with either outcome.

Maybe I’m overstating this, but that seems slightly insane. The difference between having a child and not having a child seems to be significant enough that it would elicit more than a “Meh, whatever.” But I guess that’s just another part of fertility: it’s a funny thing.

Kind of like when women get their “tubes tied” and it turns out that they’re pregnant a few years down the line, or women who have no problem getting pregnant, but somehow the baby never makes it out of the first trimester. In fact, a new study shows that women with multiple miscarriages have a much higher risk for heart attack later on. And then there are those who get pregnant and have a baby anytime they want.

So why am I, someone who is clearly trying to not have a kid, interested in fertility? Probably because it seems so random, so fraught with uncertainty, and sometimes, even cruel. Ever since we have been able to control our reproductive capacity effectively with the Pill, I feel like the gains women have made in education, work and all spheres of life have been amazing. Yet to actually, 100% determine whether or not we will have a child still eludes us.

Despite my not being a medical doctor, I have my theories as to why. First, in terms of getting pregnant while not trying to I attribute to human error. The pill was not taken on time, someone forgot to wrap it up, or perhaps the hormones for the new method hadn’t kicked in yet. Then there is biology. We are programmed to make babies. This is why new couples often spend way too much time glued to each other. Our bodies release all those hormones, making us want to get naked at every opportunity, precisely because it wants a pregnancy. Other research shows that it takes 4-5 years for the love high to wear off, right about the time the baby has made its way safely into the world and daddy isn’t necessarily critically needed to help mommy anymore.

This could be linked in converse to trying to have a baby. Some people let it happen as it may, but other play a game of numbers. They chart their ovulation cycles, take their temperature, and make sex a function of reproduction, not seduction. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing to do, but it tends to mask our natural impulses to get it on when the getting is right. It also tends to raise stress levels, and we all know stress is bad for you, but it also maybe bad for getting pregnant.

Yet despite prognosis all over the world, things like endometriosis, PCOS and other potentially fertility-threatening conditions, women have managed to still have babies. So instead of stress, or physical factors (there are of course some that are clearly irrefutably not conducive to pregnancy, like a hysterectomy), I like to look at environmental factors.

We live in a toxic world. From our shower curtains and cars, to the wood in our furniture, the crap in our cleaning products, to our beauty regimen arsenal, there are dirty, fertility-encumbering chemicals lurking everywhere. For instance, if you visit www.SkinDeep.com, you will find that a lot of  lotions, creams, and make-up have at least one ingredient that inhibits fertility.  And since fertility is such an individual experience, it may make a big difference for some women to switch to avocado oil over Aveda.

Then there’s diet. I was reading a Newsweek article a while back about the science of diet and fertility. It was what you would expect: whole grains, good fats, lots of veggies, less meat and more beans, whole milk products,  exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, and absolutely no smoking. I was on that diet, yet I was decidedly not trying to get pregnant. I decided that perhaps my new form of birth control should be eating at KFC on a regular basis: lots of trans fats and meat, meat, meat!

But the fact is, even if you worked out, making sure that you had a heavy dose of anti-stress moments in there, ate right, got rid of all the chemicals in your house, and had sex every day because that’s what you wanted to do, I’m not really sure that it would guarantee pregnancy. I think the odds might be better, but like I said, fertility is a funny thing.

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