Are you ready for some creative math?
When I first visited my fertility clinic
last spring, the nurse practitioner I met with told me I had a 5% chance of a
successful outcome (e.g. taking home a baby) at my age - which was then
40. She actually took back the paper she
had given me earlier, with all of the general information about IUI
(intrauterine insemination), and dramatically crossed out the printed 20% and
scrawled "5%" above it. She
didn't want me to get the idea that I might be as fertile as someone who had
the good sense to come in at age 27 or 33.
A few weeks later, after all of my lab results showed no menopause in
sight, she increased the probability to 8%.
Now there are a couple ways you can look at
this. You can think, even if I put some
top-notch sperm right up close to my egg at the most fertile moment possible,
there's still a 92% chance that I won't be able to have a baby. Here's what I say to that: unacceptable!
Let's try again...
Okay, even a normal, fertile, young couple
supposedly only has a 20% of getting pregnant in any given month. According to a lazy Google search, The Bump says that by the time you reach 30, the odds go down to 15%. The vast majority of healthy children that I
know were born to mothers in their 30s, without much effort. I'm going to embrace this availability bias
and decide that 15% is not bad at all, in real-world terms. Given that decision, I'm only half as likely
to get pregnant as a 30-year-old, right?
53.33% as likely, in fact. And
even if you take my advanced-age eggs into account, which decreases the odds of
viability by about half, that's still over 26%.
Which is a happier number than 8%, by far. Are you still with me? Who says math can't be fun?! The point is, look at all the millions of people in the world having babies left and right, many of them unplanned. And the odds were only 15%!
Sometimes I think data, facts, statistics,
and even reality are overrated. But if I
do consider them, that also means I have to take into account all of the
factors that haven't been calculated into that 8% by the medical
professionals. They never asked me about
how healthy my diet is or how often I exercise or whether I'm taking vitamins
or how much emotional support I have or whether I suffer from anxiety or
depression or delusional optimism or anything else. All of those are bound to have some affect on
When it comes right down to it, making
predictions and assigning probability to a particular outcome based on what has
happened in the past is a dodgy game at best.
As Philip Tetlock has shown, expert predictions on average tend to be only slightly better than random
guessing. Of course, the kinds of
predictions his experts were making (about politics and world events) were
different than medical predictions. But if
anything is as complex and mysterious as the modern political landscape, it
might be the creation of a new human being.
How many times have you seen something
happen that you never would have predicted?
Just this morning, I came upon a flock of ten
chickens in a neighbor's yard. I've been
passing this yard every few days for the last ten years on my neighborhood
walks and I have never seen anything other than a stray cat or a squirrel. It is actually illegal to keep more than
three chickens within city limits. These
chickens totally shouldn't be here! Yesterday,
nothing could have convinced me to assign a high probability of finding ten
chickens in this spot. And yet, there
And this: I am the kind of driver who
always uses her turn signal. I could be
driving along a country road at two in the morning with no other cars for miles
and I would use my signal purely out of habit.
But the other day, I made a last-minute lane change and flicked my
signal on only momentarily. And wham,
out of nowhere, a motorcycle cop zooms after me and hands me a $136 ticket for
not using my signal. I'm not gonna argue
with the guy, so I take the ticket politely, fuming internally. But then I thought, "This just proves
that crazy, unlikely events can happen out of nowhere even though there is no
logical reason for them!" If
annoying unlikely events can happen, then miraculous and wonderful events can
You just never know. The world is full of the unexplained, the
unexpected, the never-thought-it-would-happen.
Impossible things are happening every day! Today, whether its realistic or not, I'm choosing to believe I'll beat
Sending good luck charms and wildly optimistic predictions to all,