About the Author

Cheryl Miller

Former New Atlantis blogger Cheryl Miller is a writer living in Washington, D.C. A 2007 Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow, she is also the editor of Doublethink magazine. She can be reached at cmiller [at] thenewatlantis [dot] com.
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Cheryl Miller’s Latest New Atlantis Articles

 Donated Generation” (Summer 2008)

 Blogging Infertility” (Winter 2008)

 The Painless Peace of Twilight Sleep” (Fall 2007)

 

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From our Winter 2008 issue


Cheryl Miller discusses her new article about infertility patients who have turned to blogs for medical advice and emotional support.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Questions for Jodi Panayotov, “In Vitro Fertility Goddess” 

Part Two: Having It All, Happy Endings, and the Infertile Community

Part Two of my interview with Jodi Panayotov. For Part One, click here.

You talk about the “having-it-all” myth, the idea that women can combine a successful career with a family. Do you wish you had done things differently and pursued your career less determinedly? Do you think women should be encouraged to have children earlier?

JP:
You know, I have had a teeny bit of regret there. After Nina was born, I had a miscarriage on her first birthday then three failed rounds of IVF and I’ve since had a full hysterectomy so there is no chance of giving her a sibling. But I am so thrilled and blessed to have Nina that I don’t look back and say “What if?” or anything as I realize how lucky I am.

Of course I do think women should be encouraged to have children earlier but I don’t think it’s that simple. There are plenty of women who do try earlier and still have problems and there are so many reasons for others postponing children. For instance, not being able to find a partner who doesn’t dribble and who has evolved beyond Cro Magnon man, or a career structure that requires you to spend your fertile years climbing the corporate ladder if you are ever to reach the heights.

And don’t get me started on the women I know who were in long-term partnerships and the male kept saying, “in a couple of years” to the baby question till all of a sudden the women were in their late thirties with still no commitment. So I think men should be encouraged to start earlier too if that’s the case.

Start looking to K-Fed rather than Rupert Murdoch or Paul McCartney as role models. Well, maybe not K-Fed but more of a functional high-profile male who started early in having a family.

So many books about infertility are written by those who have gone through treatments or adoption and emerged out the other side with a child. Do you think the book would have been published if you weren't successful ?


JP: My agent was adamant that you can’t have a humorous book with a sad ending. But I do know of some Repro Lit with not-so-happy endings. I think both are important as both represent the two sides of the reality of infertility.

How has infertility changed your thinking about motherhood?


JP: As a mother I’m probably more anxious than I’d otherwise have been. I spent so long worrying when I was trying to conceive then I had a troubled pregnancy and I haven’t stop worrying since. It’s become normal to me to worry. If I don’t wake up worried it worries me and I have to find something to be anxious about.

Has infertility changed your views on abortion and stem cell research? I've talked to many infertility patients who were once strongly pro-choice and pro-stem cell research, but now feel much more ambivalent about these issues. Have you seen a similar change in your views?

JP: Definitely. Once you’ve viewed an embryo or blastocyst at close range you have a different perspective on where life begins. Although I still believe in abortion because I think a child should be entitled to the best possible upbringing and clearly there are situations where there would be no chance of this.

Do you still consider yourself part of the infertile community?

JP: Whatever that means, as there are a lot of different groups that make up the “infertile community.” Some may question whether I am as I now have a child, albeit through assisted reproductive techniques. But without a uterus and ovaries I’d say I qualify.

I definitely think the same as I did before I had Nina—I still get infuriated when I hear someone moaning about their pregnancy or how they didn’t want to fall pregnant right away or whatever. Recently I had a go at a shop assistant who was carrying on about her “poor” sister who found she was pregnant for the fourth time.

Restraining myself from saying her sister was clearly stupid if she already had three kids and didn’t know how they got there, I said, “Isn’t it funny how for every woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant there’s another out there who’s trying desperately and can’t fall pregnant?”

She went all red and didn’t know what to say but hopefully I made her think.

What misconceptions do people have about infertility?

JP: Well, one that comes to mind is it’s always the woman who has the problem when almost half of couples can’t conceive due to a problem the male has. Another is that a woman is to blame for her infertility and the most infuriating one for me: If we just learned to relax we wouldn’t be infertile!

What do you think is the most important thing a person can do to help a friend or family member currently undergoing fertility treatment?

JP: Plenty. You can refer to my site and check the article “Tips for Friends and Relatives who Wish to Remain Friends and Relatives.”

posted by Cheryl Miller | 3:30 pm
File As: Assisted Reproductive Technologies, In Vitro Fertilization, Older Mothers/Fathers