Actress Marcia Cross is best known for her role as Brie van de Kamp on "Desparate Housewives," but she's also spoken widely and openly about her experience with infertility. Most recently, in the March issue of the British magazine Easy Living Cross stated, "Your 40s is not the time to be thinking about getting pregnant."
It's easy to imagine other woman trying to conceive over 40 resenting this statement, not just because they don't want to give up but because Cross didn't either. She ultimately had her twin daughters Eden and Savannah at age 44. She was successful -- why pass judgment on her own choices or anyone else's?
What makes Cross' statement hard to swallow is that it really is difficult to get pregnant in your 40s, more difficult than some women may admit. According to NPR, a 2011 survey conducted by bio-pharmaceutical company EMD Serono that found women drastically underestimate the extent to which their fertility drops with age. While the chances of a 30-year-old getting pregnant in one try are under 30 percent, the women surveyed thought it was up to 90 percent, and "For a 40-year-old, many assumed up to a 40 percent success rate. It's actually less than 10 percent."
Cross woke up to the reality gradually, she told Health in 2008:
Before I hit 30, I was already longing for kids. But for years, love and marriage eluded me. In my early 40s, I considered adoption, and I tried getting pregnant on my own through a sperm donor, but neither worked out ... It's very, very difficult to get pregnant in your 40s. It's costly and tough on your body and your relationship."
So while her comment that no one has any business getting pregnant in her 40s might sound judgmental, Cross seems to be mainly sharing her own reality -- that it was hard even though she succeeded; that women's reproductive goal and career trajectories aren't in sync; that a woman who wants a baby is often going to do whatever she can to make that happen, even if she's older, even if it's expensive; and that if a baby ensues, while she will love it to death, even that baby can't take away the feeling of it all having been really, really tough.
It's hard not to appreciate that honesty.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly spelled the name of the pharmaceutical company EMD Serono.