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Thanks for the Torture, Tabloids.


a blog by Pamela Tsigdinos

I have a few guilty pleasures. One involves gossip magazines. Some days I’m disciplined and look the other way when outrageous headlines leap off the cover in the supermarket line, others days I buy and dive in. The tamest of them all, People, gets delivered weekly to my house. Some issues entertain me, but one, in particular, makes me gnash my teeth: The editors’ seemingly endless fascination with celebrity “bumps” and carefully airbrushed angelic first family portraits.

I can’t help but wonder if the editors have ever given a passing thought to how much such seemingly innocent photos torture and mock those for whom pregnancy and delivery are elusive. Infertile readers must not be a large part of their reader demographics?!? My infertile brethren must be attracted to higher brow fare. ( Note to self: Raise your reading standards!)

Ah yes, pregnant celebrities. When twins are born to 35+ year-old celebrities, it’s only natural for IVF veterans (and those in the know) to surmise that a top-flight team of endocrinologists and embryologists played a part in the successful bundles of joy. What’s rarer than a snowfall in the middle of summer is when the celebrity -- who has no qualms about breathlessly gushing over of the amazing experience of greeting their little ones – goes on the record to acknowledge that a little extracurricular lab activity played a part.

In the vast majority of cases, celebrities who invite reporters by for post-delivery interviews and photos indignantly decline to answer if fertility treatments played a role, calling it a “private matter.” Among the most recent high profile cases were Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie and Molly Ringwald. Seems they want it both ways – publicity when it serves their ambitions, privacy when they worry certain disclosures could detract from their perfect image.

Is it any wonder fertility treatments remain veiled in a shame and stigma?

I struggled for years with intense and unexplained shame about my inability to conceive and, until recently, felt compelled to hide my infertility out of a sense of disgrace. No one else was talking about it so it must be bad. The logic seemed sound, but it still bothered me that the topic remained so perniciously mysterious. And then a light bulb went on …

My revelation came in a recent New York Times piece on the return of the series “Mad Men” (one of my other guilty pleasures). In the words of one reporter:

    “[The new season] lead[s] viewers to look back, aghast at, and enthralled by, a world so familiar and so primitive. Characters on ‘Mad Men’ struggle in shame and secrecy with the very things that today are openly, incessantly boasted and blogged about: humble roots, broken homes, homosexuality, unwed motherhood, caring for senile parents.”

Ah ha! Although there are quite a few bloggers chronicling their infertility challenges and journeys, the experience is hardly mainstream fare. The vast majority of the blogs are anonymous or password protected. Clearly many women and men are still struggling with infertility in shame and secrecy.

Until we have a more open, honest discussion led by role models and high profile examples, we’re likely to continue living our own modern Mad Men.

We may have come a long way since the 1960s but we still have a long way to go . . .

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