Column: Unintentionally Childless

©Collage / Oriane Baud

In her latest column, Paulina Czienskowski reflects on being unintentionally childless and why alternatives like in vitro are growing in popularity

Losing yourself in hypotheses is dumb – those attempts to answer questions for yourself to which you don’t have an answer for at all. It doesn’t work! Whats and ifs are a pure waste of energy. We all know that, but still many of us fall for it. Myself included.

Just recently the question clouding the rational part of my brain was about children. Would I really become a mother someday? Well, actually it was formulated somewhat more dramatically: Can I have children at all? For a long time, it was taken as a matter of course. Obviously at some point I would be a mother!

But, so obvious it isn’t. At least if you believe the numbers. In Germany alone, 1.5 million people are reported to be unintentionally childless. Medical models say that the best time for women is between 19 and 25 years old, after which female fertility declines. So, my best years are past me. What’s more, now you’re supposed to be fertile for just four to six hours of your cycle, when the egg is making its way through the fallopian tube.

So it’s uncertain if it will all work for me like it should, when I want it to. That is, when I believe I’m successful enough to afford a family and can renounce the ego-shooter in me. Maybe fate will leave me childless? In those moments of fear, I think that every life has its own rub, its own catch.

Fear is certainly poison to what, actually, is the most natural thing in the world; stress the killer of all potential babies. “Children choose their parents,” is what some say about it. And: “When it’s meant to be, it will be.” But in the midst of such wisdom, nevertheless I believe I can only be truly fulfilled once I have a child.

Recently there was something new in Berlin that made me aware of the fragility of plans for a family: a convention for unintentionally childless and homosexual couples. The crowd was enormous. It made me aware of the reality of my thoughts, but also gave me courage.

Reproductive medicine, for many, is the last chance. It can’t be expensive enough: A “classic” in vitro procedure costs up to 3,000 euros. And it doesn’t always work. More than half are left without a child after three attempts, they say. But you also see that it can work: Amal Clooney (39, twins), Pharrell Williams’ wife Helen Lasichanh (36, triples), Beyoncé (35, twins).

In 2015, more than 96,000 treatment cycles are supposed to have been carried out that either led to artificial fertilization through egg collection or the freezing of them. 9,140 new births through these means were registered in 2014.

To increase the possibility, an estimated 3,000 people journey abroad every year for procedures that are (still) banned in Germany. For example, egg donation or surrogate pregnancy.

Representatives from the USA, Poland, or Spain were nevertheless allowed to offer such methods at the convention. And therefore discussions were already taking place beforehand. Should the event be prohibited? The Ethics Council and Berlin regional chairman of the Professional Association of Gynecologists posed a critical question: Is this emotional topic being commercialized? Actually, it looked like a sales convention. Offers. Starter packets. Glossy brochures with “guarantees.” I also feel that it’s somehow inappropriate.

But what to do when nothing else works? When it will never work? The unfulfilled desire for children has broken many people, entire relationships. Because when the whats and ifs become reality, it will slay you if you don’t accept your fate. There only remains the hope not to be beaten in the middle of your hypotheses by your own pessimism before you even try.

It’s ringing in my ears: In vitro it is!

About the author: For Paulina Czienskowski Berlin is like a magnet: born there, she always returned to her hometown. At the moment, the qualified journalist and author works as a freelancer for publications like Die Welt, Zeit and Berliner Morgenpost.

Translation: Melissa Frost