By Karen Malone Wright
The women who leave a comment on this site, or a guest post, share positive and negative realities of their lives without children. Often, their stories reveal dimensions within our tribe: niches within a broad category. My mind keeps returning to a NotMom commenter who wrote with emotion about the loneliness of being both childless and single…with middle age on the close horizon. Her challenge to find a NotMom like herself is more complicated. She also said that when I write about my husband, who I dubbed ‘HubbyMine’, it only serves to reinforce her otherness.
Her comment came back to me when I saw this headline on the web about a groundbreaking Danish study:
“IVF Hidden Heartbreak: Failed Fertility Treatment TRIPLES the Risk of Divorce”
Lead researcher Trille Kristina Kjaer explained: “Earlier research has shown that fertility problems and its treatments are major stressors…especially if the treatments are unsuccessful, we did not know how many of these couples actually decide to split up if they did not get a child.”
So, now we know. Thanks?
The Danish team surveyed women (average age: 32) who sought medical help for infertility between 1990 and 2006 — 47,000 of them. Following up years later, the researchers found that 57% of the women had at least one child post-fertility treatment and 43% did not have any children. The childless women were three times more likely to have divorced or separated from their partner.
How many divorced/separated women are we really talking about? In the US? Around the world? You don’t have to live in Denmark to feel the truth of this study under your flag, too. IVF success rates are always a little sketchy to me, because each woman’s age, cause of infertility and other factors raise or lower her odds. How many break-ups occur after expensive IVF treatments don’t work? Sadly, I think the numbers are high.
There is good news in this study. Physicians believe in studies and evidence, and this may change how medical professionals counsel and follow-up with IVF patients before and after treatment. Ms. Kjaer said, “The individual couples and also the medical staff that work with these women can initiate proper interventions earlier and hopefully prevent some of the break ups.”
As for my commenter, with hugs all around, I thanked her for a needed reminder on the many aspects of non-motherhood. I hope I let her know that I understood that for her, reading about couples and couples’ stuff — even childless couples — hurts. This blog is for every type of NotMom there is, so I can’t ignore those with a life partner, or deny that my own reality includes a husband of 20 years. But, I can remember our single sisters more often, and I can stop calling Andrew “HubbyMine”.