Infertile Once Pregnant
I want to start this off by stating the obvious: everyone is entitled to approach and disseminate information about their infertility in a way that works for them. Some people speak about infertility early and often, and some people only mention it after the birth.
There are benefits and drawbacks to telling people before you know how things will turn out, just as there are benefits and drawbacks to only mentioning infertility after the fact. You’ll get a lot of support, but people will constantly bring it up. It becomes your Story, with a capital S. And yes, infertility is front and center in your brain when you’re trying to build your family and can’t; it’s the sort of thing that makes itself very difficult to forget about since it is happening in your body. But that doesn’t mean you want it brought up all the time.
So I understand why people don’t bring it up until they also have news to share.
I’m grateful when celebrities step forward and talk about their struggle with infertility, using their platform to help bring information to the general public. I am equally annoyed when the media runs stories about how so-and-so is sharing their struggle so people finally understand how hard to it can be to experience infertility.
(Excuse me, media, don’t you think that your prior negative spin on infertility coverage is part of the reason the general public believes what they believe? If they’re not getting their information from personal experience, they are getting their information from the media.)
But part of me knows that if a celebrity is opening up about infertility (vs. having the media speculate on their fertility), chances are, they are currently pregnant and simply not announcing yet. The announcement comes a month or two later, with a little bump and a due date a few months away.
I am happy for them — and to reiterate, I am grateful that they shared that not every family is formed easily — but the timing cements that wrongly-held belief that there are just so many options out there and one will work for you. Yes, there are a lot of options, and yes, hopefully one will work. But it’s not a given, and believing so belies just how hard it is — emotionally, physically, and financially — to undergo fertility treatments. I am so grateful they exist, but they are not easy.
The baby surrounded by IVF needles picture hits a little closer to reality.
It’s a blameless situation, yet it spreads a message through the general public. You announce your infertility, you have closure to your infertility, you move on to parenthood. That is their story; there is no other way to tell it because that is how it happened for them. Or, the only other way to tell it is to tell it based on someone else’s timeline, which isn’t fair. Yet clearly timing matters.
That truncated story of infertility to pregnancy becomes the story in the general public’s mind when they aren’t given a multitude of stories to follow.
I am grateful for celebrities who announce their infertility at all, just as I’m grateful for non-celebrities who speak about their infertility. Every story matters.
But I wish there were more people who began their story in medias res; in the heart of the unknown. I wish the media would follow their story, not to wring the tragedy out of it, but to serve as a realistic portrait — like that baby surrounded by needles — of the marathon of ups and downs the average patient experiences. That for the vast majority, there isn’t a neat solution waiting for them when they enter the clinic, but instead a series of tries — some successful, some not — that they hold their breath through month after month.
Maybe their story would end with pregnancy and birth, or adoption, or surrogacy, or living child-free. But the point is that just like the person experience infertility, we wouldn’t know until we know.