Thursday, September 6, 2012

nothing but a number

I thought someone was playing a practical joke on me last week when I received an email from an MTV producer about the filming of a new True Life episode on infertility. I'll admit I was a little taken back by the idea of MTV producing a show on such a serious and sensitive topic - especially one that already receives such negative press. But I was excited to learn today that RESOLVE has given MTV guidance on how to approach it.

That excitement quickly disappeared when I began to read the comments on RESOLVE's Facebook post about the show.

There have always been discussions about age and infertility. In fact, I did an interview a few months back with The Huffington Post on this topic and very few of my comments were included in the article - likely because I didn't give them the responses they were looking for. My argument was, and still is, that age doesn't matter. And not that age doesn't matter just from a physical standpoint. I mean that age doesn't matter from an emotional standpoint, either. Infertility is infertility. Whether you're young, old, black, white, brown, green, rich, poor, man, woman, or otherwise, this disease is a struggle. One journey is no more or less difficult than the next. One person isn't more or less worthy of parenthood than the next. Infertility just IS. And it sucks equally.

So imagine my surprise scrolling through and reading comment after comment from women who are upset over MTV's age requirement for the show (18-29). Women who don't think couples that young should be featured on the show. Women who don't think couples that age should be trying to have a baby. Women who don't think couples that age have it as bad as couples who are older or who've been trying for longer.

It's one thing to have people outside of this community stereotype infertility as a disease related to age. It's another for people inside of this community to do it. We are supposed to be a team. We are supposed to fight this together - the disease and the stereotypes that aim to keep us down.

MTV's age requirement doesn't surprise me. The ages they've invited to participate in this show meet their demographic. They're smart. They know that if a teenager turns on MTV and sees a 40-year-old woman speaking about infertility, that teenager will turn the channel. But if that same teenager sees a young woman talking about her struggle, she's more likely to tune in. She's more likely to hear the message.

And that's what this should be about. It should be about the message we are trying to get across, not the age of the person sending that message. This is about getting infertility out there to a new audience. This is about bringing awareness to more men and women regarding a disease that it so often overlooked and so often placed into a box. I'm disappointed in the women who took this news not as an opportunity to share our stories, but as a chance to divide us by numbers that make no difference in how we deal with this disease.

I was diagnosed with infertility at the age of 22. I'd barely reached adulthood when my doctor told me that I may never carry a child. It was devastating - just as it was devastating for those of you who were diagnosed in your thirties and forties. Am I less worthy of a child because some of you have lived longer? Been married longer? Been trying longer? I would like to think that this isn't the case. I would like to think that we all deserve what we've worked so hard to achieve. I would like to think that we all can recognize, understand, and empathize with the struggles others have in trying to build a family.

And I would like to think that we will all tune in to support the young, brave individuals who choose to share their stories with MTV. Thank you to anyone who steps up and becomes a voice for this community.


AnotherDreamer said...

I heard about that, but didn't know anything about some of the commentary on it. That is so sad.

I did get a lot of flack early on from doctors, family, and even from some people on the internet, about how young I was. I spent my entire early 20's pursuing fertility treatments and having miscarriages... it was hard. While I did get a lot of support, I also got a lot of people brushing me off, telling me that at least I still had plenty of time.

Thank you for this post. The age issue is obviously very sensitive to me.

April B said...

I was shocked at some of those comments too. We really need to have a united front if we want infertility to really be recognized. I got a lot of similar comments on Resolve's online community so I stopped sharing my age. The same thing happened with was like people thought I was stealing a baby from someone older or who waited longer. Such a sad and silly arguement when we all just want babies. I think it is great for MTV to do something on this topic!!

triedandtrying said...

Interesting. I think you're right that they're focusing on their demographic, and I think the added benefit will be that it will show that infertility isn't something that is only due to age.

My first reaction to seeing the age range wasn't as positive, only because it sometimes takes years for people to actually realize there's a problem. While some people, like yourself, are warned that they may have problems conceiving, there are many who aren't, and they may find out at a slightly older age (on average). Hopefully, they'll find a good mix pf people who have a variety of experiences that fit within the demographic.

Either way, I hope the commenters didn't mean that it isn't as difficult for those dealing with infertility at a younger age. I think it's hard no matter what! My guess would be that it didn't occur to them - as it didn't to me - that some women are warned of possible difficulties or even told that they will never have children at an early age.

Sarah said...

Well, I thought the MTV pitch I got was just a hoax too, but appaerently not!

I was 23 when I found out I had endo. I was 27 when I started fertility treatments and 29 when I had Henry. Your 20's can be just as consumed by infertility as your 30's or 40's.

Emily said...

I agree that MTV have to reach out to their target audience, and a teenager tuning into the show would probably not be interested if the people on the show were late 30s or older. I was surprised when I saw the age requirements, but only for a second until I realized that it was MTV - it totally makes sense. Infertility hurts, no matter what age someone is. Young people can have just as many fertility issues as older people. I hope the show will help to educate people about infertility - getting the word out is so important.

polycysticinside said...

I actually think it might be a really positive thing that the age range is so low. I think a lot of people don't think about their fertility, don't realize that you CAN have trouble conceiving at any age, that infertility is not just due to age-related factors. I guess I was a rarity among my friends who was thinking about PCOS and fertility when I was a teenager, even though I wasn't married or planning on having kids the near future. (Never getting your period kind of makes you wonder if you'll be able to have kids! At least it did for me!)

True Life isn't really a show aimed at all audiences, it is aimed specifically at that age range. If I were an 18-29 year old who hadn't thought about my fertility watching a show about a 22 year old struggling to get pregnant, it might make me more likely to ask my gyn about it at my next appointment.

So-Called said...

This is a great post, Katie. We are in this together, we are a team. Our infertility forums--Twitter, blogs, Facebook--is a judgement-free area for us to vent and cry and laugh about the struggles we've gone through. I really hope this documentary brings awareness to this issue. And I'm really proud of you if you do decide to do the show. I think you're a fantastic spokeswoman for infertility. We need people like you. xo

Jen said...

This is very interesting. I obviously don't fall into the younger demographic discussion here, but I like that MTV is doing a series on this. Life is not all "16 and pregnant" and "Teen Mom". There is a whole other spectrum out there that needs attention, and younger women need to focus on their gynecologic health to make sure they DO have the optimal chance to conceive, even if it isn't until they are older. Your post is very well written. (as always).

Michaela said...

I agree that age shouldn't matter and in that case then the opposite should be true. They should include all ages and not separate the same way the comments did.

SRB said...

"I would like to think that we all deserve what we've worked so hard to achieve. I would like to think that we all can recognize, understand, and empathize with the struggles others have in trying to build a family."

Thank you for saying this - for saying all of this. I was diagnosed at age 26 and was told not everyone (doctors, family, friends) not too worry because I was "still young."

I am very interested to see how this show turns out and what the reception is like, both here in the ALI community, and with the audience at large. I am also very nervous about it, given the tone of current coverage and prevailing attitudes.

Wife of a Wounded Soldier said...

I didn't start trying until I was 29 but now I am 30 and wouldn't be able to share my story on the show. I agree that they doing this to suit their demographics. I am OK with that. If I had known I would suffer from infertility I would have started trying earlier.

Brittany said...

Thank you for posting this. I was 26 when we started trying, and 31 when I finally had our child. I know women much older than me going through infertility, and I know women in their early 20's going through infertility. You are absolutely right in that age does not matter. At all. Everybody's struggle is different, but the pain is all the same.

From a marketing standpoint, you are right. I don't know many 40+ women who watch MTV (I mean, I'm in my 30's and don't really watch it anymore. Not to say that there aren't people out there that do). That age group is their demographic. It's not TLC or Bravo. It's MTV, who is still very much catering to the younger crowd. I think the fact that they are highlighting this AT ALL is amazing. I say Kudos to them and Kudos to RESOLVE for guiding them in the right direction!

someday-soon said...

Awesome that you were selected to help tell our story! It seems that some people are just bitter and want to bitch about something. I am 37 and I have NO problems with any age person speaking up for our IF community. Go forth and conquer =)

Adrianne said...

I'm sorry but what 18 year old girl is concerned with infertility?


I am truly shocked that they would limit the participants in this way. What about us 40 year olds who are struggling?

Well, at least they're getting the word out.

Also, I love your blog. :)

If you'd like to check mine out here it is:

Meredith said...

I agree that your struggle is no less because of your young age, but there is a level of urgency to us older IF ladies. There are both biological and sociological time clocks. Obviously success rates for treatments drop with age, but also adoption profiles for older couples are less frequently viewed and typically require longer wait times for success. And in International Adoption, many doors are closed after age 40. I have felt a connection with your blog not only for your insight, but also because we began the adoption process at the same time. I am thrilled for your success, but at 35 years old and my husband 38 years old, we are still waiting even though we are working with 3 agencies and I imagine we will be for a while. Lifetime or OWN seem like better venues for this topic. :)

Kristy said...

I was diagnosed with PCOS at 25 and started TTC at 27. Infertility happens to all ages, and sticking to that age range makes sense for their demographic as others have said. I like True Life, but I don't think I watch anything else on MTV.

nobabyruth said...

I agree completely! The important part is getting the message out there at all, and the age limitation is just a byproduct of the MTV demographic. Not the issue here, people!

Dawn said...

Infertility sucks at any age. When you are younger people think you have plenty of time. When you are older people think you should have started trying earlier. I'm happy that MTV focused on a younger demographic. Hopefully it will bring attention to the disease. Sadly, I think I would have brushed it off in my younger years thinking I didn't want kids anyway. I guess nobody thinks that IF will happen to them.