John and I have our 5-year anniversary coming up. Sometimes it feels like 5 days (like when I learned last week that he was Lysander in his middle school’s performance of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream). Sometimes it feels like 50 years. Over the years we’ve talked about everything from my student debt to parenting, and likely have more ground to cover as we grow as partners.
We want a family one day but not anytime soon. When I learned about Modern Fertility—a hormone test offering a science-backed way to understand and track fertility—we immediately purchased it. As committed as we are to starting a family, fertility can feel like a black box. We knew where we stood in terms of our 401ks, but had zero insight into our baby-making abilities. We craved a proactive and effective way to understand our fertility and timeline.
I say “our” fertility because it’s an unfortunate and inaccurate tendency to put fertility entirely on the woman’s shoulders. John is part of the fertility equation from both a biological and a relationship perspective. According to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 40% of infertility cases stem from male factors, 40% from women, and 20% result in a combination of both. This means John and I are equal stakeholders in our fertility future. Since my fertility impacts our future (and vice versa), it was important to both of us that he pay for half of the test, and I chose for him to be in-the-know when I got my results.
Below are four tips that helped us have a productive and supportive conversation about my Modern Fertility results. Before I dive in, I want to emphasize the following: You do you. At the end of the day, that’s the best piece of advice anyone can give or get. These tips are not meant to be prescriptive, they’re simply what worked (and didn’t work) for our relationship.
Schedule a time to talk
This is my number one tip. During the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, John and I don’t have time to dig into important and meaty topics like fertility. When I received my test results, I frantically sprinted into the bedroom—where John was winding down for the night, laptop in tow. Talk about terrible timing.
First, he didn’t appreciate being bombarded with my nervous energy and terms like “ovarian reserve” at 11pm. Second, we didn’t have time to fully absorb the report and have a meaningful discussion before bed. I now also realize that I wasn’t in the right emotional state to begin a conversation about fertility—a difficult situation at work had me particularly on edge. As much as I wanted to pore over my results, I needed space to feel level-headed and less distracted.
Something as important as fertility deserves undivided time and attention. Though I experienced a sense of urgency when I got my results, we set aside a few hours on a Saturday to go through them in a thoughtful way. This also gave me a few days to manage the anxiety around fertility that came up for me when my test results arrived. I scheduled a morning yoga class before we sat down to talk, which made me feel relaxed and even grateful.
Set the stage
Before we bought the Modern Fertility test, I did some research on what the test could and could not tell us about my fertility. I learned that fertility is like a multivariable equation. There are many things that influence it, like general health, sperm, hormones, and fallopian tube and uterus health. For example, if a woman’s fallopian tube is blocked, it's impossible for a sperm to reach a fertilized egg without medical intervention.
Hormones are just one—albeit important—part of the fertility equation. Because Modern Fertility is a hormone test, it can’t tell you if you’re fertile or infertile. As John and I went through my results, he said, “You’re within a normal range for every hormone. Great. We’re good.”
Eh, not quite. The fact that I’m within a normal range for each hormone is a positive sign, but his remark isn’t necessarily true. I realized I could have done a better job setting the stage by letting him know that hormone testing—though significant and an excellent first step—doesn’t tell us everything. Ultimately, there is no “magic crystal ball” test for fertility, other than getting pregnant.
Watch your words
It was important to me and John that the Modern Fertility experience be about us, not just about me. To my earlier point, it can be all too easy to only associate fertility with the woman. Even though we’re both vital players when it comes to fertility, in this instance, the spotlight was on my health. I got my blood drawn and we were reviewing my hormone levels.
To counteract potential feelings of one-sidedness, guilt, or shame, we decided to use phrases like “our results,” “our AMH levels,” and “our fertility.” Though it felt awkward and a little corny at first, language is powerful. It reinforced the fact that we’re on a team and equally responsible for our fertility future.
Come up with a next step
The info we got from Modern Fertility was thorough and easy to understand. But information is only powerful if you do something with it. John and I came up with a next step and tried to name the, “So...what?” of the experience. Because I was “within range” for each hormone, we decided to purchase the test the following year, and even put a reminder on our calendars. We plan to track my hormone levels over time and use this data to make decisions, like when to see a doctor or when to start a more proactive family planning discussion. This is especially important because we know that fertility declines with age, even though my hormones levels are "normal." We are also looking for ways to be more action-oriented regarding John’s fertility, too.
Ultimately, taking action based on Modern Fertility’s information is what felt truly empowering as a couple and hopeful future parents.