Raise your hand if you want an international dialogue about infertility

I was psyched to read Amalia Rosenblum’s argument against the glorification of biological parenting in Ha’aretz yesterday. One of her several provocative points is that we’re too disconnected from the natural world to be attuned to our biological clocks, if those much-ballyhooed things exist at all.

She asks, “How is it possible that, in every cultural context, most people aspire to have the exact number of children that will raise their social status without deviating from what is considered the bounds of good taste?”

She’s right, of course, that fertility rates are dictated by historically and socially specific conditions. In many parts of the world–like Gaza, to take an example from Ha’aretz’s region — the average woman will bear six or seven babies in her lifetime. It’s about needing kids to work, to take care of you in your old age and the reality of high child mortality. Ending Israel’s economic blockade of the strip would probably impact fertility rates more than making IUDs freely available.

By the same token, privileged westerners tend to have fewer kids. We usually wait longer to conceive. When we run into obstacles, we spent the gross domestic product of Kerala state on high-tech treatment and build a blogging career around our experiences. (Who, me?)

Seriously, though: Infertility impacts people everywhere. It must — even in places like Gaza where fertility rates are breathtakingly high. Maybe the causes of infertility are different. Maybe residents of fishing villages who eat a lot of mercury-laced seafood, for example, have different types of fertility problems than Manhattan women who delay childbearing because of their careers.

How do rural Cambodians deal with barrenness? What happens to Himba boys in northern Namibia who are born without testicles? Maybe they have something to teach about how to deal when you just can’t biologically produce “the exact number of children that will improve your social status,”  to use Amalia Rosenblum’s words. Or not. But I would like to know either way.

When I Googled “infertility blogs Cambodia” I got a bunch of adoption sites targeted at Westerners. Argh.

The year 2011 saw some exciting developments in the online infertility community — Redbook‘s “The Truth about Trying” campaign is just one. I hope that in 2012 we can make this conversation more international and inclusive.


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