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a blog by Pamela Jeanne
Pop culture and mainstream media have fixated for some time on parenting sitcoms, parenting challenges and parenting writ large. The message by association for infertile couples is if you don’t parent, you don’t exist.
Turn on the TV or pick up any magazine and we infertiles can’t help but feel, at times, like an alien from another planet. That’s why in recent years, my TV tastes have run to documentaries, indie films and historical dramas. Toss in some Brian Williams, Jon Stewart and 60 Minutes and I manage to stay up to date. Apparently, though, there’s now a plethora of programs obsessed with not just families, but super-sized families.
A recent TIME magazine column called "Extreme Parenting on TLC," noted no less than three reality TV shows focused on larger than normal clans. The reporter writes, “Today TLC's shows make literal a cold truth: that deciding how many kids to have is about not just love but also money.” What he (and most mainstream media) forgot to mention is that not all people get to “decide” how many kids they want to have.
For a slice of the population it’s never been a question of deciding, but hoping that science and nature will find the key to unlock an infertility mystery. Furthermore, the costs to start a family make maintaining families seem pretty reasonable, cheap even! I still marvel that we paid nearly $50,000 to try to create our family and all we got were some pharmaceutical logo’d pens and a lot of surreal memories.
The day after reading the Time piece, my People Magazine arrived with Kate Gosselin on the cover. I had read about her ever-growing family empire in previous issues. Seems she was the queen of fertility treatments. She not only succeeded where I hadn’t in the doctor’s office, she converted her fertility victory into a documentary, a two-book deal, and TV-reality show extravaganza complete with buckets of money, speaking engagements and still more money raining down on her. She was the belle of the ball. She seemed to have it all – or so it seemed.
Now, as any of us who have had to face infertility knows all too well, our marriages get tested to the extreme. What couple who has had their private bits tested, prodded and second guessed endlessly for large fees hasn’t felt the stress and strain of wondering if they had the stamina to stay together? In addition, there’s the emotional stress of family, friends and strangers asking sometimes painful questions about plans to expand our tribe. When what is supposed to come naturally doesn’t the foundation of a relationship gets shaken like an earthquake.
Turns out when it comes to marriage, I was one of the lucky ones. My guy not only made me feel beautiful, desirable and wanted (barren or not), he helped me understand that our tribe of two could live our own happily ever after.
Our story may not fit mainstream media’s idea of the perfect plot, but then I’ve learned I don’t need a reality TV show or magazine cover to feel like a success story.