Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The great fertility myth

Like most Irish people of my generation, I was educated in a school with a strong Catholic ethos. The school I attended, although co-educational, was run by an order of nuns, but there were a large number of lay teachers on the staff, all Catholic. So as you can imagine, there was a particular slant to the sex education we received. I remember in second year, we were all hauled into the home economics room for “the talk” from a couple from the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council, the man was aptly named Willie, and the woman’s name was Mary. My older brother told me he remembered getting the Willie and Mary lecture, with Willie giving it the fire and brimstone approach, warning 14 year olds that “if you get VD you’ll die roarin’!”. By the time I was fourteen, AIDs was the STD du jour, so they must have figured that VD was the mild end of the scale at that stage.

The great pearl of wisdom I remember them imparting to us was “the best form of contraception is to say no”. Yes, very useful when you’re an adult on your wedding night and you don’t want to conceive just yet. Anyway, the thing that really stuck in my mind was that we were told it was frighteningly easy to get pregnant, and that it could happen on any day of your cycle. I think most teenagers were given the same misinformation. When we started on our ttc journey, I started to frequent a ttc message board on the internet. It’s amazing the amount of women on the board who keep saying the same thing, “I really wish we were educated about fertility at school, we were handed so much misinformation”. We were warned not to get pregnant, but none of us were told about the stats of one in six couples who experience problems trying to conceive. Basically, the policy was, keep your legs closed and your eyes open. End of.

I was talking to one of my in-laws (who is in her mid 30s) shortly after my first miscarriage, and she happened to ask me how we had enjoyed a weekend away in France three months before. I mentioned that that was the weekend we had conceived, joking that we would have to go back there to make another one. She asked with a slightly puzzled look “But how do you know when you conceived?” I didn’t want to go into the nitty gritty of it with her there and then, so I just mumbled something about “when you’ve been trying for a while you know”. The way she looked at me, I knew she hadn’t a clue what I meant, but I wasn’t going to explain that we were there for 3 nights, mid cycle, and I had a positive OPK and a rise in BBT while we were there, so let’s just say we made the most of the opportunity, the romance in the air, the champagne and the hot weather that puts you in the mood :o) I met her again a couple of months back, and she is now expecting her first baby. I reminded her of the conversation we had that night and she said “I know, it’s mad, I was always led to believe that you could pregnant any day of the month, I had no idea about ovulation times and fertile days or any of that”. Another recovering convent girl obviously!

The other weekend I had my oldest niece staying for an overnight visit. Like Xbox, I was hiding the ttc evidence that lay scattered all over the house. Two pregnancy books, a great big pack of HPTs, a book of baby names, and a book on preparing for birth with yoga, which I really must drop back to my osteopath. Not to mention the bumper pack of nappies still sitting in the under stairs cupboard (l know, but a girl’s got to keep hoping right?) It’s not so much her knowing that we might be trying to conceive (although it’s an image I’m sure she’d be grossed out to conjure up), but I didn’t want her seeing the evidence, and putting one and one together and coming up with two and a half i.e. another little cousin on the way. But afterwards I was thinking, she is probably being taught the same thing in school now that we were, it’s piss easy to get pregnant, and she’ll probably only realise the truth in maybe 15 years time or more. It’s not my place to tell her any different, I’m not her parent, but should this fertility myth continue to be perpetuated? Should all girls and women continue to be left in ignorance about the workings of their own bodies?

Those nuns have a lot to answer for!

PS I'm going for my monthly bloods this evening. If you have any "make the hormone levels good" dust to spare, please sprinkle it in my direction. Here's hoping the clomid is working it's magic this time.

16 comments:

Xbox4NappyRash said...

This really gets my goat.

Their job was to educate, and they didn't do it, and yet we (or ye, depending) still let them run the rule over the education system in Ireland.

But it's totally not uncommon, I have a sister who knows our story, yet when I have to go into ANY kind of detail regarding semen samples, ovulation kits, timing etc she hasn't got a clue.

4 children she has...

Xbox4NappyRash said...

Oh and good luck with the bloods, we have good bloods n'hormones n'stuff here so I'm qualified to send the vibes...

Jane G said...

Thanks for the good vibes! I should get the results tonight or tomorrow. I don't know what happened my bloods last month. I had follicle tracking, nice big 20mm follie, proven rupture, all looked good. But my blood results were really disappointing. The nurse I go to told me last night that she had never seen that happen before. So I'm a freak of nature!

Isn't it mad that the people with all the kids are the ones without the clue? At least 4 if not 5 five of my siblings have had an unplanned pregnancy, some of them even more than one. And then there's gobshites like me who have planned ones and can't hang onto them. It really sucks.

Xbox4NappyRash said...

That does sound odd, which levels were off?

As long everything else seems ok, a low level of progesterone can be treated fairly* easily.

Don't make me cringe, we potentially have a visitor next week, a pregnant young family member... pass me the bucket.

*As in by pumping your corpse with more crap, fairly.

Jane G said...

The hormones they are monitoring are progesterone and oestradiol. The text books might say that low progesterone is easily treated, but it's not happening in my case. This is my fifth cycle of hcg injections and my second of clomid, so we'll see what happens.

We're having a pregnant visitor in a couple of weeks time. Eight months pregnant to be exact. They are one of the nicest couples you could meet, and they are being very sensitive towards us about their fertility and our lack thereof, but I'm still going to find it a struggle.

Xbox4NappyRash said...

Jesus, that's strange.

Hope they get a finger on it.

How do you find the treatment, generally? In terms of how personable or caring they are regarding it, and their flexibility?

I will blog pretty much anything about myself but with ET and other people I have to be careful, so you won't find this on my blog. Literally DAYS after I wrote that post about my nieces getting pregnant before we do, ET's brother announced his girlfriend was expecting.

Unplanned, & unprepared, while they were backpacking Australia...

That's who we may have as guests next week...

Deep breath.

Jane G said...

Ouch, ouch ouch!!! I can definately feel your pain on that one. When I was pregnant last May, a friend of mine found out she was also pregnant and due around the same time. She and her bf had only gotten together "officially" about a month before, so obviously totally unplanned. She smoked heavily all the way through her pregnancy, told me she couldn't wait to get the baby out so that she could go to the pub. I felt like slapping her so many times. Life is just so unfair sometimes.

As for the care, I find it pretty good. I found with the gynae, she was more going through the motions of doing blood tests, but not really looking at results all that closely. The clinic we're with now are much more sympathetic to our situation, and it's a lot more hands on. I gave you a link before, you should really think about giving them a go. There is only one clinic in Ireland offering this treatment, but they have support "teachers" dotted all over the country. That's who I go to once a month for my blood test, and she is very supportive. They have also got me on the list for a lap and a hysteroscopy for later this month, which I would have been waiting a long time for with my original gynae. We're due back to the clinic next week, so we'll see what the plan is from there. The next step might be FSH based meds. I just wish we could get to the stage of being let ttc again. The months whizzing by and not being able to try is absolutely driving me insane at this stage.

Xbox4NappyRash said...

Yep, It's gonna be 'fun'. To top it off, he had contacted me and wanted it to be a surprise for ET... Can you imagine the kicking I would get if I'd let them arrive unannounced and pregnant...

The only problem with that clinic is that the group only have 1 person in all of Holland. 16 million people...

We will see how this monitored cycle goes, and at the end we will get in touch with her, and a couple of other alternative folk we've been given details of.

I have to say the personal care here so far is very poor, but maybe it's a culture thing.

Jane G said...

Jesus, if a family member arrived unannounced and pregnant into our house, I'd be carried out in a straight jacket. Go straight to Clonmel, do not pass go, do not collect £200!!

Shinejil said...

Welcome to the IF blogosphere! I hope you find the support and understanding that's lacking at work. Why, oh why, do adults think misinforming and terrorizing teens with incorrect fertility info will keep them from having sex? Has that ever worked?

I am so sorry to hear about your losses, and am sending balanced hormone vibes your direction...

womb for improvement said...

I left my catholic school after primary so managed to get the full sex education thing. But I have a mate who use to teach in a catholic girls secondary school and was told if asked by the girls about sex she had to tell them to say no and not mention contraception, even if she thought they might be sexually active. She left shortly after!

Good luck with the bloods. Sounds like you have a a good clinic and hope you get back in the saddle soon!

nutsinmay said...

Good luck with the blood test. Fingers crossed for no, absolutely NO, hormonal weirdness of any sort.

I am part-Catholic (it's complicated), and my convent-educated mother, who has three daughters and a grand-daughter, hasn't a clue about these matters. Honestly. Some of the tom-fool remarks she has made to me... For example, when I first mentioned to her that the clinic would be checking to see if I was ovulating or not on Clomid, she asked 'why is that necessary?'

Head, meet wall. And again now. Ow.

familyoftwo98 said...

Amen sister! Only our education (ha ha ha) was that you could ONLY get pregnant on CD 14! Oh and taht EVERYONE has a 28 day cycle...so imagine being in middle school and AF being a day "late" and wondering "can you get pregnant if you don't do it?" LOL...oh boy....what a naive life...

Jane G said...

@ shinejill and familyoftwo98 - welcome to my blog, and thanks for the words of support, they are very much appreciated.

This ovulating on cd 14 thing - I was told to have day 21 bloods done for the first time last summer. Now I hadn't a clue of the significance of cycle variances on this. I was told have them done on cd21, or cd20 if cd21 was a saturday (gp's surgery not open at the weekend). I normally have a 32 day cycle, and I ended up having bloods done on cd 20. The result came back with a progesterone level of 4. I said to my gp that I thought the test had been done too early, but he just said that I probably had an anovulatory cycle. He just didn't get that I'm a late ovulator.

@ womb for improvement - your friend's story was mad. There is no way I could go along with that school's policy, it's so wildly irresponsible. Good on her for leaving! Still keeping fingers crossed on the bloods, should get results in the next 12 hours.

@ nutsinmay - when I was a teenager, my mum told me and my older sister some really whacky things. Like french kissing gets you pregnant. I kid you not!! She didn't mean literally of course, but that the arousal factor could lead to loss of self control etc. In hindsight, all I can think is that Dad must have been a great snog in his day (Ewwwww, images I DO NOT WANT to conjure up!!).

Kathy V said...

Welcome to the blogosphere. I came from a family of fertile people so I never really gave it much thought. over the past year, especially after a miscarriage, anovulation, and rounds of clomid, I learned a lot. Now people ask me questions and I tell them information they never even heard of. They just look at me like I have two heads or something. There is nothing like telling your own mother about the date of conception because you know about ovulation. What is even worse is trying to tell her how you know about this and the fact that ovulation was a week off from the lmp date. Craziness. But you are right the eduation should be based a little more on fact and actual information rather than just keeping your legs shut.

Jane G said...

Hi Kathy, thanks for dropping by! You just reminded me of last month's ovulatory phase. We were visiting my parents for the weekend, and I had been having follicle tracking. We temporarily got the ok to try, and we were sleeping in my very single teenage bed over my parents' living room. Cringe!!! It would have been a good story to tell the kids, if any had resulted from our efforts!

Sorry to hear about your miscarriage. I wish you happier days ahead.