Monday, 22 April 2013

The Sad Part

I get so many emails from women in their early twenties worried that they will never get married that I find myself saying again and again, "You can become too old to be a mother, but you will never be too old to get married."

This is meant to be bracing and comforting, but it also reluctantly points to a harsh biological fact. You can become too old to be a mother, and so far there is no test to tell you exactly when that will be. And this can be very sad. It is certainly very sad for me, as I am in the not-sure zone between 35 and menopause.

There are young married couples out there who have infertility problems. And often they don't find out about these infertility problems until after they are married and months pass and the bride never gets pregnant. But infertility problems are more likely to happen the older a couple are when they get married. (Naturally I am talking about couples not using abstinence or contraceptive methods.)

I am thinking about this today because although I am absolutely terrified of the British medical system, I have just made another appointment to talk to a doctor. It has taken me almost two years to get up the courage again. Two years. And it's not like I am normally a coward. Last week I submitted a column on Margaret Thatcher that I knew would rile up readers who hated Thatcher. The week before I whacked a man with my handbag. I used to box. I'm learning Polish. I cook Polish food for Polish people. Ergo, not coward. But terrified of the British medical system all the same, not to mention the phrase "reproductive health", which most of the time has nothing to do with "reproductive health" but is merely a euphemism for ab*rtion.

At times like this, I really, really wish I were back in Ontario, whose medical system I am completely familiar with, or in a Catholic country, where I would not have to explain to one stranger after another in a semi-apologetic tone that I have deep ethical and  religious objections to various reproductive tests, technologies and practices. Or a city like Toronto or Dublin where there are lists of NFP practitioners as long as your arm.

My greatest regret is that I did not go to my own decent, familiar, Canadian family physician before I got married. I could have said "I want someone to look at my insides," and--without a mountain of paperwork and borderline offensive letters --someone would have looked at my insides. I could have said, "I want a test for this," and I would have been given a test for that, either on the spot or half an hour later downstairs in the lab. I could have said, "I'd like you to actually look at me while we're talking and spend more than five minutes with me before chucking me out of your office," but, actually, I never, ever had to say that. My family doctor was a "Hey, how are you! How's your mum doing?" kind of lady. I didn't realize that not all doctors are like her. And so I took her for granted and left Ontario serene in the misunderstanding that if I had any problems I could just consult a local Scottish doctor, and it would be completely the same.

Ah ha ha ha.

But, anyway, just like I have made myself lose ten pounds and made myself read the first chapter of Harry Potter in Polish, I have made myself call the clinic. Somethings we cannot control but with grace we can at least control ourselves. And we must all remember that although the expression "reproductive health" has been cheapened and basically ruined by the ab*rtion industry, we still should take seriously the concept of fertility care.

Update: Lest I look like I am poking unfairly at poor old Scotland, I will admit that the pure irrationality of my level of fear points to Migration Angst. Anyone who leaves their country (especially a richer one) to move to another country in mid-life is very fortunate indeed if they do not hit a wall of Migration Angst. Many Catholics are going to feel uncomfortable with doctors when it comes to reproductive/fertility issues, so when you throw migration into that--! And it's not like I can go to the Canadian Mass and meet other Canadians who can tell me where I can find a Canadian-speaking doctor.


Magdalen Hobbs said...

I shall keep you and BA in my prayers, Seraphic.

I was crying a little the other day that I might not ever have children (I was reading blog posts by Catholic women who have 5+ children), because, as you so rightly touched on, that's what I'm really worried about, not that I won't ever get married.

Anonymous said...

Well done you! Congratulations on taking this courageous step. I have also had to overcome my deep aversion to the UK medical system. My worst is when I register with a new GP and the entrance interview with the nurse always involves questions about my sex life. The nurse invariably greets my answers with such incredulity that I am tempted to lie so that I seem more ‘normal’.

I too am in the over 35-menopause phase. On Saturday I accompanied a friend who is 4 months pregnant to her midwife appointment as her husband is abroad. I had the great privilege of hearing the baby’s heartbeat which brought tears to my eyes, because of the wonder of new life, joy for my friend and yes also sadness that I may never experience this myself. Fighting the fear of my biological clock running out is a constant battle. I just remind myself that with God all things are possible.


Seraphic said...

Now that I have calmed down a bit, I have reminded myself of my nephews and nieces, so all is not lost. There are still children in our lives.

Meanwhile, Sunnysaeffer--ew. All that PC training, and yet nurses still manage to make us deeply uncomfortable for our religious beliefs. (Don't know what colour you are, but I suspect that although the NHS does not turn a hair when brown women live sexually conservative lives, it shocks them senseless when white women do, which--when you think about it--would be a form of racism.)

Sophie Miriam said...

I hear you...I moved to Germany a few months ago, and I had to get up the nerve to go to the doctor for what turned out to be acute tonsillitis. So it wasn't even an invasive exam! But I was still terrified.

(Also, I just found this site a few days ago. Is it for single as in not married women, or single as in not dating women?)

Seraphic said...

@Sophie. It's "Single" as in not married. This can mean never-married, once-married-now-annulled and widowed. Women who are dating are still Single.

Women who have boyfriends are also still Single, unless they are living and sleeping with those boyfriends, in which case I'm not really sure what category they fit in. They probably aren't going to like my blog, though.

Domestic Diva said...

Prayers for a happy outcome, Seraphic, from a reader just about your age.

Mrs. Pinkerton said...

Prayers and blessings for your health, Seraphic.

MaryJane said...

Oh, Seraphic, I wish you could find a nice Polish Catholic doctor who migrated to Scotland with her/his wealth of NaPro knowledge... and who would offer you all kinds of wonderful options. Prayers for you.

Leah said...

Even getting married at a young(ish) age doesn't guarantee children, either. :) My husband and I were married at 26 and 25 respectively, and expected to have no problems getting pregnant, and now almost 3 years later and no babies. I'm lucky to have a good Catholic doctor, but despite a battery of tests we have no answers . . . which honestly at this point is almost worse than finding out for sure that we can't get pregnant. I'm trying to steel myself for the possibility that I might spend the next 15 years or so of my life having hopes dashed every month, although hopefully at some point people will give up asking me when it will be my turn to have a baby shower. And I've known people who have gotten married in their late 30's and had kids with no problem. You never really know! God sends babies and husbands when and if He wants to, even if we can't always understand.

Prayers for your appointment, Seraphic!

Kate P said...

Yes, what is UP with the derision we get when we answer those uncomfortable questions honestly???

It does come down to asking for the grace to handle things, doesn't it?

Seraphic said...

@Leah. I'm sorry. And I really hope people stop asking about a baby shower for you. I find that such comments, although affectionate and well-meant, usually hurt. My response is usually something on the lines of, "I really don't know! Please pray for us."

Anonymous said...

Seraphic, I hope for the best at your appointment. They say infertility is 1/3 of the time due to a female issue, 1/3 of the time due to a male issue, and 1/3 of the time due to unknown causes. Sometimes there are issues that can easily be corrected, so don't lose heart! Be courageous. I can see you with a baby. It would not surprise me. I had babies in my late thirties and early forties. I wish I had been able to start earlier, but we cannot plan out our lives. That job is for God. Best of luck, Seraphic!! Lisa