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Lizzie, Conceived Naturally At 44

The big news about Nicole Kidman becoming a mother at 43 through a surrogate is another welcome example of modern mothers’ liberation at the hands of medical science.

But, as the media popularize stories of celebrities conceiving through ART, are they inadvertently sending a negative message?

Should we stop trusting our bodies to conceive after 40?

Certainly, as we get older, our fertility continues to nosedive. Yet, does that mean getting pregnant naturally becomes about as likely as immaculate conception?

When I conceived naturally at 41 and 44 with a partner who was limited by fertility complications, it was both a miracle and an education in a cynical medical establishment.

Here is the story I wrote last year about my journey through natural conception–although often heartbreaking, the inherent message is of Hope:

Can it be possible that an estimated one billion Catholics—representing a scant one-sixth of the world’s population—actually believe that over 2000 years ago, a Middle Eastern peasant woman named Mary  conceived “immaculately”,  while supposedly retaining her virginity?

If so, why is it so  hard to arouse a modicum of faith in the modern miracle of middle-aged motherhood?

Today, the science of ART (assisted reproductive technologies) has virtually reinvented the concept of immaculate conception, and all but marginalized embryonic production of the more old fashioned, “missionary” kind.

In fact, when any woman over forty conceives the old fashioned way, it tends to be seen as the exception that proves the rule.

Frank and I met after being liberated from our first marriages—both childless. I was forty years old, with my statistical probability of conception plummeting like a two-ton elevator car with a busted motor from the top of the Empire State Building.

And Frank came complete with scrotal varicose veins (varicoceles), a natural form of birth control, along with the ‘comforting’ brochure he’d been fobbed off with at the fertility clinic, featuring a childless couple on an expensive sailboat, smiling blissfully into the sunset.

I wondered, then, if that was all we were:  the perfect postcard couple—for childlessness.

But I never took things at face (or fertility) value. Just as I knew Frank was going to be my husband from the moment I clapped eyes on him, I also knew he would be the father of our son.

“I see a little boy on you” I said, amidst the rosy glow of our blossoming courtship.

“That’s funny” replied Frank, laughing like Santa Claus during a prostate examination. “I can’t have children!”

I thought about this. But I could still see Alex, my boy who was meant to be.

“Yes, you can” I stated emphatically. “And I believe you will.”

But like everything else worth having in life—no pain, no gain.(Or, as in our case—no abject torment and suffering, no pink booties and bunting. )

And when it came to enthusiasm, Frank was a warrior, I tell you.

He would soon discover, however, that during the tender administrations of varicocele embolization,  resistance was futile.

Frank was a lamb, (if not downright eager-to-please) when they skewered him with a catheter through the jugular vein (http://angioplasty-vir NULL.com/index NULL.php?page=procedures&option=13)—like  the Borg (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Borg_%28Star_Trek%29#Assimilation) performing a nanoprobe assimilation—and whipped it down into his scrotum after a brief overture through the heart.

It was Cringe Factor 8, Mr Sulu—enough to make any red-blooded man highjack the nearest shuttle craft, to hole up on a remote mining planet in the Gamma Quadrant.

But my intuition was right. We conceived Alex five months later. When he was born, I was nearly forty-two.

Soon after that, we were trying for a girl. And just like that “deaf, dumb, blind kid” out of Tommy (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Tommy_%28film%29) with his pinball machine, I could sense her even if no one else did.

This time, however, we were in for the faith-rocking shock of our lives.

At forty-three, I miscarried. After that, I was no longer confident in my vision of a baby girl, nor trusting of my own instincts. The egg-timer was down to pinching out its last few grains.

There is a depth of desperation to which women can sink, where they are almost willing to barter a kidney, in exchange for being able to conceive a single, human life. And every aspect of every day is overshadowed by its gloom.

But everyone knows that—unless you are on the black market (and even then)—it’s rare to obtain the spark of life in exchange for human body parts.

So we were prepared to try everything else—from home pregnancy predictors, farmers’ almanacs, and divining rods—to work out the right body temperature, exact planetary alignments, location of meridian lines required to accurately forecast ideal conditions for sex-on-demand.

We might even have thrown in a pagan sacrifice if we thought it would have helped.

At forty-four, just before Christmas in 2004, I decided it was time for the Hail Mary play—a last ditched attempt at conception. And I had to at least consider the possibility of a scientifically-induced “immaculate” conception.

We were scheduled for an interview at a fertility clinic in January 2005. Just before the holidays, we did the triathlon of tests, including the one that had Frank racing across town with a vial of hot sperm in his shirt pocket, hoping he wouldn’t get nailed for speeding. (Yeah, Frank, explain that one to the nice officer.)

We took Alex with us to see a renowned specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility—“Dr Dick”, we’ll call him.

When we said we wanted to conceive with our own eggs, he jammed his coffee cup between his teeth—a token attempt to hide his knee-jerk contempt response—and then rolled his long suffering eyes.

When Frank (understandably) asked: “But what about my varicocele procedure?”, the surgeon glanced at two-year-old Alex (who was expressing familial solidarity by ripping Dr Dick’s office apart, one file at a time) with barely repressed disdain.

“The evidence”, he pontificated archly, “for the efficacy of varicocele embolization in fertility is only anecdotal”.

That was when it dawned on me that the man didn’t even like kids.

I kept a grip on it until we were given the bums’ rush, passing the line-up of women paying for their fertility drugs—the air so pungent with desperation, you could cut it with a scalpel—on the way out.

Once outside, I let go. I sobbed brokenly, like a kid on the morning after the murder of Bambi’s mother.

One month later, my period was late and I concluded that, on top of all else, I was menopausal. Two months later, when my breasts felt tender, I said “What the…?” and tested myself.

And that’s when, against the odds, the pregnant lady sang.

Lizzie was born—all pink perfection on a cloud of joy—shortly before my forty-fifth birthday. I had conceived at Christmas, the birthday of the child who had supposedly been borne by a virgin, as improbably as the goddess Athene springing from the head of Zeus.

But Christmas had been different. It had been the eve of the last resort when we thought it was all over but the fat lady singing, when we did it just for the joy and made love like it was 1999 (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=l9qQRoZtQxQ)….

It turns out I had already been two weeks pregnant during our visit to Dr. Dick.

“Let’s send Dr Dick a baby photo of Lizzie” said Frank, “and sign it ‘Anecdotally Yours’.

His suggestion set me to wondering how close “anecdotal” came to a downright miracle.

And could there any such thing as an atheist in a fertility clinic?

Notes for this blog:

Angel La Liberte is the founder of the website Flower Power Mom—The Truth About Motherhood After 40 (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/) (www.flowerpowermom.com (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/)), a regular blog featuring news, commentary, real mom stories and expert advice about motherhood after 40.

Refs:

estimated one billion Catholics (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Catholic_Church)—representing a scant one-sixth of the world’s population—actually believe that over 2000 years ago, a Middle Eastern peasant woman named Mary  conceived “immaculately” (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Mary_%28mother_of_Jesus%29)

6 Responses to Atheists In A Fertility Clinic?

  1. Cassandra says:

    Hope is nice, but statistics is a better guide, and there the news is not good. I “hope” your feel-good wishfulness does not deter any soon-to-be-midlifers from seeing an RE. The standard advice is after 35, if you are not pregnant after 6 months of unprotected timed intercourse, get thee to a specialist.

    • Angel (http://www NULL.flowerpowermom NULL.com) says:

      Hi Cassandra:
      Thank you for sharing your opinion. I agree with your recommendations. The point of the article was to restore a sense of balance to how fertility after 40 is perceived.
      Had I not already conceived my first child naturally after 40, I would have certainly sought out a fertility doctor much earlier for treatment, instead to seeking to get pregnant naturally as long as I did.
      What I suggest is that purveyors of reproductive medicine can sometimes have a tendency to foster self doubt (intentionally or not) in women over 40, many of whom are vulnerable to being made fearful. (See my next post.)
      I can give you many case histories of women who have conceived naturally after 40. My point is that it is possible and there are ways to enhance fertility.
      However, as I’ve always been careful to point out, women wishing to conceive after 40 should have their treatment needs assessed on a case-by-case basis. I completely advocate the use of ART.
      This said, women wishing to get pregnant through ART should “shop” for a fertility specialist who is a good fit for them–one who supports them through the journey.
      Ultimately, I’m a complete pragmatist when it comes to getting pregnant after 40: from natural fertility enhancement to all of the methods offered through ART–use what works best for you as an individual, consider at all the options! Your fundamental goal is to become a mom, whatever path you take to reach that destination!

  2. agirl says:

    Lovely story! My mom was told she couldn’t have children and that was not true.

    Fertility Doctors are out to make money. Like you said, many don’t like kids(or our kids)…and even worse many have agendas like the one who tried to abort me….

    The reason why the statistics are so bleak for older women is because so many women use to pill from their teens on. Well of course that will damage fertility!

    I would love to see the statistics for fertility on women who Have never used the Pill and Never Plan to.

    I put 10 bucks down right here and right now that for women who have never succumbed to peer pressure….Fertility in later life is not so bad.

    (and even if you were on the pill, I’m a big believer in detoxing and acupuncture and the like….it’s all a buildup of chemicals and the fertility industry just makes it worse)

    So that’s my two cents and I’m sticking to it. Back in the 1960s, before the pill…my mom’s aunt had a baby at over 47 years old (maybe even her early fifties….)

  3. Greta Hughes says:

    I’d like to report that my involvement with the Fertility Clinic was excellent. All the nurses and doctors were fantastic and couldn’t be more positive or encouraging. They insisted on meeting the twins when they were born and seemed genuinely exciting when they did!

    I’m really excited for your successful pregnancies and sorry for the one you lost. But lumping all fertility specialists into a stereotype based on your experience is surely as bad as what you’re accusing them of – putting you in the stereotype based on their experience.

    It should be seen as a partnership not an “us and them”. So if you don’t feel that with your specialist or clinic, go elsewhere. If you don’t have the option, say something! Sometimes intelligent people don’t have the best people skills. So saying something about how you feel when treated a certain way can sometimes come as a surprise to them. And can help for their next clients.

    Anyway, good luck to all. Happy and positive thoughts go a long way.

  4. Angel La Liberte (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com) says:

    Greta,
    I’m delighted you had such a positive experience with your fertility clinic. I apologize if you got the impression I was making a generalization about all fertility clinics–that would be unrealistic. It was a personal story about my experience and a reminder of how much fertility clinics with negative attitudes regarding age can really adversely impact the morale of patients. I’ve had hundreds of emails since launching the website in 2009 from women who have exited the doors of fertility clinics in tears because treatment was refused unless they agreed to use donor eggs. Many fertility clinics do not like to bring their success rates down by allowing women with reduced egg quality/quantity to try with their own eggs.
    However, the need for good fertility clinics is self-evident. Over the years, AChildAfter40.com has published many articles from fertility doctors and clinics, and have welcomed RE’s on our expert panel: http://achildafter40.com/our_expert_panel/. They play a critical role in the pregnancy success stories of many over-40 moms.
    If you take some time to explore the AChildAfter40.com website, I’m sure you’ll see plenty of evidence of our support of fertility clinics who provide a valuable service, and take a positive stance, towards women over 40 who wish to conceive.
    In my case, I had no need to keep looking for a clinic because I was already pregnant when this particular clinic told me there was little hope.

  5. Barney says:

    This is really hopeful.

    I am also trying to conceive. I am 44 yrs old woman. we decided in June 2014 to try and was pregnant in August and lost that pregnancy in October 2014…just shy of 2 days of 13wks. I was 43 then. I got my periods on time on Nov. 26 and then Dec. 25 and that was it. I have not had one since. I went to the fertility clinic and was told to call when I get my period…still waiting for it.

    I cannot even do the tests without periods but I am hopeful. I even think I may get pregnant before my next period.

    I have not thought about having babies in the past because I never met the right man. One thing I did was take care of myself and not be on the pill for a long time. I wished I was more forceful in my last pregnancy (though I know it was what it was)…but I did not see any doctors. I was rejected from risk clinic because I was considered too healthy…and I had not monitoring of any sort…I had a very easy pregnancy until the day of miscarriage.

    Posts like this are helpful to see it is possible for natural conception. Thank you

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