The XX Factor

Where Does the New York Times Find These Women?   

Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images

If you search for the term “in vitro fertilization” on the New York Times’ website, you will find that there are 2,280 results in the past 12 months. I mention this because of the utterly baffling Times styles section article about women who look young externally, and so are shocked to discover that it’s difficult to get pregnant without medical intervention in your late 30s and 40s. Sample quote, from a 45-year-old woman: “Everyone in my life told me how young I looked for my age … I assumed it was the same on the inside as it was on the outside.” According to this article, seeing celebrity moms like Salma Hayek getting pregnant in their 40s makes civilian ladies think it should be easy for them, too. When I.V.F. has six times as many search results as there are days in the year, and the average age of an I.V.F. recepient at a typical clinic is 36, it’s truly remarkable that women who ostensibly took high-school-level biology do not know that your fertility declines as you age, no matter how much yoga you do.

Less than a year ago, there was a New York article arguing that the birth control pill allows some women to “forget about the biological realities of being female until it was, in some cases, too late,” to have children. I don’t want to minimize the pain of not being able to have children when you long for them, and I’m not denying the fact that there are some living, breathing women who are so uninformed about their own biological processes that it comes as a total surprise that it might take several I.V.F. cycles to get pregnant when you’re over 40 (the New York Times found several who were willing to put their names in print!). But pretending that this is something common, or trendy, takes away from the messy reality that most women who wait to have children aren’t doing it because they believe they are endlessly fertile. They’re waiting because they haven’t found the right partner, or they don’t have enough money, or they don’t feel ready, or a million other reasons that have nothing to do with female ignorance.