Should women think more carefully about age and fertility?

Here is an excellent, controversial, interesting post from Robert Stacy McCain. He critiques a feminist who has postponed becoming a mother, and she is now age 33.

Excerpt:

It is one of the bitter ironies of the Contraceptive Culture: Many women spend years scrupulously using birth control — making what they have been told was the only safe, responsible decision — only to discover that when they decide they are finally ready for motherhood, they can’t become pregnant. Unknown to them, their fallopian tubes were so badly scarred by some long-forgotten infection during their youth that, for many years, they have been as sterile as if they had undergone tubal ligation surgery.

“Chlamydia . . . can go undetected for years and can cause permanent sterility. The top four [sexually transmitted infections] that affect fertility are Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and HPV. PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), caused by STI’s will cause more than 100,000 women in the U.S. to experience infertility annually.”
American Fertility Association, “Infertility Prevention Handbook”

The genuinely important thing to realize is that the ways we think about sex, romance, marriage and parenthood are shaped by our culture and society. And the dominant ideas associated with the Contraceptive Culture have become so deeply entrenched in our society that most people (especially most young people) are incapable of understanding how profoundly unnatural these ideas are.

Postponing marriage until you are 30, and then imagining that you have plenty of time to wait around deciding when you want to become a mother, is not a natural way of thinking. To a greater extent than Rachel Birnbaum or her young readers may understand, this way of thinking is an artifact — or perhaps we might call it a side-effect — of the Contraceptive Culture, which fosters the belief that the procreative process is infinitely subject to human control. Yet while it is true that childbirth can always be prevented, by contraception or abortion, the logical obverse is not equally true: Pregnancy and childbirth cannot be magically conjured up in compliance to human will.

Ideas have consequences, and the ideas of the Contraceptive Culture result not merely in attitudes, but in lifetyles reflecting those attitudes. How many thousands of Rachel Birnbaums are out there, living their 20s and early 30s with the idea that they want to become mothers eventually, but not now? And how many of these women are destined to discover that, when they finally decide they are ready for motherhood, the decision has already been made for them by their own bodies, and that the decision is an irrevocable ”no”?

Whenever I write about subjects like this, it provokes strong reactions, many of them from people who accuse me of judgmentalism, or of trying to “tell women what to do.” Such responses – and they are often quite vehement — indicate how firmly rooted the ideas of the Contraceptive Culture have become. People simply are not used to hearing these ideas examined in a critical way and, having become accustomed to thinking and living in accordance with such ideas, feel that any criticism of the ideas is a personal judgment, a moral condemnation of their lives and beliefs.

I like Mr. McCain’s blog because, like me, he isn’t afraid to take on these cultural issues, and to attack feminism. And yet his blog is enormously popular. On so many blogs that are popular, the authors just find news stories and make these short comments about the news. But with McCain’s blog, you get long form essays that don’t shy away from controversy. Like it or not, it’s worth reading. And I couldn’t agree more with him about this essay – it never hurts to think ahead and take into account these limitations.

28 thoughts on “Should women think more carefully about age and fertility?”

  1. I would like to hear his take on men that become first-time dads after forty, which is also a huge trend. Men have been trained to not get tied down in their twenties. I think many women who have children later in life have not had a husband who is ready /wanted to have children.

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    1. With all due respect, that’s nonsense. There are many, many, many men who will marry, but girls just want to have fun, fun. Why, they say, would they want to be tied down to some boring guy when they’re hot and young and fancy-free and want to see the whole wide world?
      I can guarantee you that in the wild 20s, many women interact with guys who would give up everything to settle down with them. The girls wouldn’t be caught dead with these guys however, preferring the company of alpha males, singers in rock bands, “bad boys.” The list goes on.

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      1. And there are a lot of nice girls willing to settle down, be responsible, and have children in their twenties. But since they don’t look like Barbie dolls, the guys who want to settle down aren’t interested in them. They are too busy chasing the unattainable Barbie dolls who are chasing the unkeepable alpha males.
        Also, there are many, many women who do start having children in their twenties. Why Wintery wants to focus on the minority, I’ll never figure out for sure. Though I have my guesses.

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        1. Where are these “nice girls”? None of the data supports this claim you’re making, Mara.
          Looking like a Barbie Doll is not the problem, first because the number of “Barbies” out there are miniscule. Most women are “normal” looking, the vast majority. Guys understand the facts of the matter. I’ve heard many guys say: “She’s out of my league” over and over. I never hear girls say the same about guys. Never. You know why? That entitlement complex that makes these girls think they stay crunchy even in milk. Yes, they will get to sleep with the Quarterback, once. That does not make them quality women. Unfortunately, they don’t realize this until they’re 35 years old and bitter.
          Again, you’re pulling some highly suspicious information out of thin air, Mara. The data does not support your assertion about many, many, women having children in their 20s! I suggest you start somewhere like the Census. Then maybe I’ll start to give your wild assertions any credence.

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          1. The statistics about women choosing to marry and have children later are right here:

            Click to access Women_in_America.pdf

            Fewer men and women marry today than they did a few decades ago: about 15% of women and 20% of men have never married. In 1970, those figures were 7% and 9%, respectively. Nearly twice as many women have never given birth today than in 1976. The average age of childbirth is now 25, compared with 21 in 1970.

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          2. Not pulling it out of thin air. I’m observing life. Okay, Barbie doll might have been too strong a word.

            But here is life.

            If a man is ugly and/or overweight, he can fall back on pretty much anything else. Brains, talent, great personality, etc
            If a woman is ugly and/or overweight, she’s sorry out of luck. She might have friends but few in this catagory will ever get married no matter how bad they want to. And to the men who make the rules, write the songs, movies, and tv show, that’s quite all right. Stories abound where ugly and/or fat men get the girl. But it’s always a pretty one. If an ugly woman gets a man, it’s because she went to the spa and the gym and weight watchers and had plastic surgery and wasn’t fat and/or ugly anymore.

            You can just look at singers and actors in movies and tv shows.
            A female singer who is beautiful doesn’t have to have much talent. A talented ugly girl will be beaten out by her every time, period. And it is the same in relationships

            Ugly male rock stars abound. They abound. Not so female ugly ones.

            I’m going to tell you a true story, but will start a new comment for it.

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          3. Back in the eighties, my best friend had a close friend named Candy. I knew Candy and was nice to her, just like everyone else in our youth group. Candy was overwieght, had stringy hair and a lazy eye. She was a nice girl, generous, and all around decent.

            Sometime after my best friend and I graduated, my friend gave me an update on Candy. Candy had a boyfriend, but he took advantage of her and she paid for their dates.

            My friend scolded Candy and told her that she was better than that and that if the guy couldn’t treat her right, he didn’t deserve her.

            Well, in tears Candy told her, “If I looked like you, then I could have a decent boyfriend. But because I look like this and come from the family I came from (she has a father in the home btw), I’ll never have the kind of happiness you can have. Leave me alone. I’m getting the only kind of happiness that is available to me.”

            A few years back I saw Candy in a waiting room at a hospital. She had a child in tow. She actually looked happy because she had someone to love her.

            Do I agree with Candy’s choices?
            Absolutely not.

            But I don’t feel very judgemental. I just feel very sad. The cards are stacked against her. Society values beauty in women. It overvalues it and makes men turn away from very good women and turn toward spoiled women with entitlement complexes.
            With her heart of gold, Candy would have made a wonderful wife for someone, even an overweight, homely man who also had a heart of gold. But no decent-hearted man would give her the time of day. The only ones that came around were the users who took advantage of her situation.

            And as I live and go through life, I have met many more ‘Candys’. Women who knew they would never get a decent men. They settle because our society claims that you are nobody until somebody loves you. And beyond that, if you are a little below average in looks or less or even down right to homely, AND female, you might as well eat dirt and die because you have not value. And the message from the church isn’t much better (even thought God’s message is completely different)

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          4. Wintery, according to your statistics, men are the leaders in never marrying. Back in the 70s and today. Women can’t marry if men don’t want to.

            And obviously a lot of men don’t want to. I wonder how many of those men would rather have their girly magazines and take viagra in order to improve their alone time.

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  2. Great article, couldn’t agree more. 30 is the new 20 and 40 is the new 30’s… I guess women figure if they make enough money in their fertile years they can afford IVF when they are too old to get pregnant themselves. While this may fit into their schedule, what cannot be ignored is the scientific reality of a woman’s older body with regard to significant;y increased chances the baby will have down syndrome, and many other complications that directly affect either the mother’s health or life during pregnancy as well as that of her unborn child. It’s selfishness, pure and simple.

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    1. I know that many studies show there is an extremely hard line at age 35, after which pregnancies become extraordinarily more complicated, dangerous, prone to birth defects, etc. It is precisely this 35 years of age hard line that I was referring to in the below post– what most of my unmarried female peers are fretting over. So I would say we are all highly aware of that particular “end” date.

      As for when fertility *starts* declining I don’t know that. I would guess the safest time biologically for pregnancy would be between shortly after the girl becomes fertile, to maybe her mid to late 20’s. We are strictly talking biologically of course. A 15 year old may be perfect physically to bear children, but that doesn’t account for her psychological preparedness.

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        1. I looked it up after typing my reply (I didn’t want to “cheat”), and that’s what I saw too. Which pretty much lines up with my guess “mid to late 20’s”, which itself was rooted in a logical conclusion from knowing the hard end date of 35 (knowing that fertility has declined dramatically by age 35, one would assume it would start to decline several years before that).

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          1. It doesn decline A LOT from 27 to 35 – just from 40% to 30%. Then it totally goes off the cliff. After 27, it just starts taking a week longer to conceive for every year past 27.

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    1. I had the same thought.

      Anecdotal evidence, I know, so take it for what it’s worth (very little), but all the ladies I know (all in their mid 20’s) are * extremely* aware of their ticking clocks, and at a loss about where to look. For my circle of friends at least, it seems like if you didn’t manage to find your husband in college, you’re in for an uphill battle.

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      1. I’m going to writing a post on this… basically, women need to choose a man who has a need for them in their capacities as mothers and wives. A woman needs to think ahead to the time that she will be 45 and 55 and 65 and find out 1) what kind of man will need her at those ages 2) what tasks will he need her for, 3) how should she find that man and 4) how should she prepare now for those future tasks. Good looks will only last until age 30-35. After that, a woman needs to be ready to become Jennifer Roback Morse or Jennifer Marshall or Michele Bachmann, because that’s what men love into the ages of 40 and 50 and 60 and 70. And women need to prepare for that man and choose that man, if they expect lifelong married love.

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        1. But most of that doesn’t really get to the heart of *where* you’re supposed to meet the men. Say the hypothetical young lady has done all that you suggest to prepare herself for a loving husband. What now? This will not make the appropriate husband for her magically appear in her life. There just aren’t a whole lot of venues for meeting appropriate spouses once college is over.

          I’ve seen many posts on 1, 2 and 4. I’ve never seen anything on from you on 3. I’m curious to see what you have to say on that.

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          1. The best places to look are in the apologetics aisle of the christian book store and in churches that hold apologetics events. Also, you need to be on Facebook and be friends with all the apologists and conservatives, and post stuff that shows that you have thought a lot about marriage and parenting. And of course you need to start a blog and a Twitter account, and post a good picture of yourself playing a sport or washing your car, and then write about the things that interest men (see below).

            You must write about a positive vision of men and marriage. Post the story about the daughter who took her father to court to get a grounding overturned. Complain about taxpayer-funded IVF, corporate taxes and no-fault divorce, and complain about how it discourages men from marrying. Bring up marriage related topics like school choice and homeschooling. Engage in debates on people’s walls, but always be feminine. There is one woman I am friends with on Facebook who has completely mastered my style – she can’t leave a single comment without linking to evidence to prove her point. You are not aiming for activism, like holding up a pro-life sign or posting bible verses. You want to be seen as safe for a man to come near. And that means arguing rationally and having a thoughtful view of men and marriage. Instead of blaming men, talk about their quirks and likes and emotional needs. Asking men to do things for you is an excellently way to make friends. You need to communicate what problems you are facing – get into debates with people and let the men come rescue you.

            And of course when courting, you have to imagine yourself at 40 and 50 and 60 and to choose a man who can provide for you, who has a long-term plan where you fit in with multiple arenas. I will be writing a post about this shortly. Blogging has been crappy lately, because I am 6 pounds overweight and need to exercise.

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    1. Hi Fred,

      I may be wrong, but I think all Mara’s trying to say is that, while the data show the populace is tending to get married later, there are still plenty of good, marriage/family minded women (men).

      It’s very true that men are attracted to beauty women to status, but we need to fight those urges and search for character. I think that our culture is saturated with the narrative that female beauty = female virtue. It’s not just Hollywood-it’s been around for centuries in our fairy tales (both Eastern and Western).

      It’s equally obnoxious to see good women passed by because of acne or 20 extra pounds as it is to see good men passed by because they don’t have a nice car and aren’t witty at cocktail parties.

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      1. Em, very true. However, I do have a different opinion of what counts as a good woman. If you take a poll of women in the church on things like politics and apologetics, you are not going to find high levels of engagement and ability there, on average. When women think of marriage, they are not thinking of budgets, policy and apologetics, typically. Of course, all the women I know are into it, but they are a minority.

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  3. I have witnessed many long term marriages breakup due to career women changing their mind about children and having dropping the ‘baby bomb” on their partners. Both parties agreed on “no children”.

    This is a amendment of the original marriage agreement and blames the man and uses the excuse “people change”.

    People do change and will but having your spouses present between divorce or having children is not a fair choice. What I seen common – the guys were good husbands but turned out to be terrible fathers – they were simply to self centered to change.
    In addition, raising children in your 40’s isn’t a great idea either. The energy level isn’t there.

    What is most interesting, is the women expected the men to be sacrificial. I had to explain, this contradicts all reasoning and is a unreasonable request. Why ?
    Because, if they didn’t want kids to begin with(no demand of parenting), what is going to make them change and take up the demands of parenting just because you want it ?

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    1. That’s why you have to ask women during the courtship two questions. On the first date, ask them “NAME A MAN AND A WOMAN WHO YOU ADMIRE”. And then after the first book has been completed by her, ask her “WHAT IS YOUR PLAN TO MAKE YOUR CHILDREN LIKE THE PEOPLE YOU ADMIRE? AND WHAT HAVE YOU ALREADY CHOSEN AND DONE TO ACHIEVE THOSE GOALS?”. Expect a mix of previous choices and actions and future plans in their answer. Most women are going to hate questions like that. Only marry the ones who push you down into a chair and then proceed to talk for an hour about what they’ve planned and what they’ve chosen to reach those parenting goals. People like that don’t suddenly decide that they don’t want kids.

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