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Monday, April 23, 2007

Do they owe us?

How many times have you heard someone in their thirties say that they want kids but just not now, that they're planning on trying at some stage in the future, and look at Madonna/Geena Davis/Holly Hunter/Marcia Cross, they didn't have their first child until forty-something?

Does Hollywood perpetrate the myth of fertility into your forties? Is this lulling women into a false sense of security? Do these celebs owe us anything?

Obviously celebrities are human beings (really!) and should be allowed to live their lives as they choose, and if that means keeping the details of their fertility treatments private then we should respect that. But what if they give interviews where they gush about how they've always worked out and looked after their body and that is why they were able to conceive no problem with their own eggs at fifty? Does this level of irresponsibility deserve to be outed? Don't women have a right to know that their eggs have a use-by date?

What do you think? I am writing an article for the Irish Times about the myth of fertility in your forties and would appreciate your views. Do you think celebs have a duty to be honest about their fertility treatments? Do you think they have a duty not to lie about them? Or should we respect their right to lie as much as we respect our friend's right to lie about her IVF? Do you respect a celeb more because she talks about IVF? Who do you think should be responsible for spreading the truth about infertility - the government? the medical profession? the media? us? Do we have as much of a duty as celebs to be open about infertility?

I'd really appreciate your feedback on this. I hold my own views, but am open to new ideas. And you've always been a pretty thought-provoking bunch!

25 Comments:

At 3:04 AM, Blogger DD said...

I don't think they owe us in the way that means making a public announcement at the same time they announce they are pregnant. At no time would I expect a friend to tell me (if she were pregnant) that they were having sex on the stairs when the conceived. Why would I think that a total stranger, a celebrity, owes it to me to announce she conceived on the RE's table?

However, I would agree they shouldn't lie...but whose business is it to ask? Not mine. Not the media's.

I take responsibility for being open about infertility, by choice. That's where it should start, with each one of us - in our own time, and in our own way.

 
At 5:00 AM, Blogger Adrienne said...

I'm of the school of thought that it's nobody's business but my own, and of course I extend that to celebrities as well. But...and this is a big But...if they lie, then all bets are off. They should be outed.

When I say that it's nobody's business but my own, I don't mean that I won't talk about it. Exactly the opposite. I'll talk about it to anyone who stands still long enough. But the only one who can talk about me is me. Does that make sense?

 
At 5:24 AM, Blogger Bumble said...

Of course they have a right to their privacy but I must say, I myself appreciate it when someone in the public eye comes out and tells the world that they conceived through IVF (or other fertility treatments). They're normal people and of course they don't have to tell us, but they have the unique opportunity of reaching out to others like themselves even though they may never meet those people. And also of educating the rest of the world that the problem of IF is far more wide reaching than they probably suspect - as they sit in their fertile cocoons, it affects women (and men) everywhere rich and poor, famous or not.

 
At 8:05 AM, Anonymous deeda said...

I think that they have a responsibility not to lie and claim that they conceived naturally when they didn't - and tbh, if they do lie, I think that it is fair if they are "outed" by the media. However an "I would prefer not to comment on that" should also be respected.

I have a lot of respect for any celebrity that acknowledges to their public any fertility/pregnancy issue - be it IVF (donor eggs or not), miscarriages or PND (a la Brooke Shields). Am I wrong in thinking that Marcia Cross was open about the fact she used IVF?

Presumably with donor eggs many are not inclined to admit to using them as they probably wish to control themselves when (hopefully not "if") the children find out - while it may seem evasive to us, at the end of the day there are real lives and real children impacted. I would imagine it is a difficult concept for a child to get their head around so timing and approach would have to be sensitive - they shouldn't read it in a magazine or hear it in the playground...

All this said, there are plenty of women who do conceive naturally in their 40s (how many "later" babies do you know of in your own life? I can think of 5-6 immediately and could probably come up with more, even going back to my granny's time) and as twins are more likly as you get older, I guess some of the cases may be just natural good fortune.

D

 
At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Discreid said...

A good post Deeda. I think Deeda has covered it just about perfectly for me too. I'm open in my real life, so far I haven't not told anyone I've conceived through IVF - I got a few quizzical glances when I piped up -Oh yes, IVF!!! There are still a few to tell but it hasn't come up so I didn't mention it yet iykwim. As far as celebs lying about it - and perpetuating the myth. I think the myth is as much about us wanting to believe it as it is about anyone keeping it alive.

 
At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Artblog said...

The only thing that bothers me is when an older celebrity pretends all went smoothly when really, you know that the fact that they waited so long probably caused the delay. There are very few older celebrities who haven't had to resort to treatments or donor ova or sperm. It's like they're afraid to admit waiting all those years while they concentrated on their careers didn't affect their fertility. That's when young women, who look up to them, get the wrong idea.

But its like everything else, for example anorexia. Can you really blame it on ultra thin celebrities? I know they have such a heavy influence but at the end of the day, young people should make their own informed choices.

However, they need to know the facts for them to be able to do that.

Personally I think the responsibility lies with the medical profession. It's for them to be more honest about the rise of infertility in both men and women.

For example the rise in male factor problems. I've seen from experience young men who truly believe that infertility is mostly the fault of the female. They don't realize that men lose sperm quality and quantity as they get older too. So they're happy to wait around with the unrealistic thought that even if they get older, they can always marry someone younger and have kids easily. No one in the medical world ever comes out with the hard facts.

Of course the same is true for female infertility, although I have noticed more media attention to this plight, so maybe they are starting to come out with the facts more.

Either way, I really believe the medical establishment hold the responsibility and I don't think they do enough.

 
At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because I am going through fertility issues I always find myself reading interviews with expectant mothers hoping that maybe they went through the same as I am and if this is the case seeking solace that they came through it at the other end. Mriam O'Callaghan’s honest account about having fertility problems and last weeekend’s interview with Marcia Cross explaining how she had to go through a few ivf's to reach pregnancy did give me hope. However, I do not think that anyone should have to divulge their private fertility lives to anyone. I certainly have told only a few trusted friends. I also hate reading anything about the pressure of age on fertility as I started trying at what I consider a normal age and now feel like time is just running away from me. These articles and discussions such as the one on the late late awhile back just serve to increase my anxiety. Furthermore, armed with the knowledge that it is better to start trying for a family earlier in life gives little hope to single friends of mine in their thirties. In fact these articles serve to frighten men away from any women in their thirties who feel (probably rightly so) that all they are looking for is someone to settle down with and have a family.
Why can’t I read articles outlining the outrageous costs of infertility treatments the monopoly the fertility clinics have, the long waiting lists. The stigma women feel if they have fertility problems and maybe an exposee on some of the clinics which seem to use one formula to suit all and the lack of investigation that takes place.

 
At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m not sure that celeb’s lives impact on our lives that much.
Does anyone really believe, hey, Madonna can do it, so I can too??
Ok, when you’re grasping at straws, and you see someone, anyone, celeb or not, who manages to have a baby in their 40’s, it gives you some sense of hope. As Discreid said, its all about us wanting to believe.

Celebs lie about all sorts of stuff, trivial stuff like whether or not they’ve had botox, etc. Do we really hang on their every word, and believe all we read?? I don’t think so. If anything, I think we tend to disregard them as ‘not living in the real world’.

That said, it would certainly help if they were more upfront about difficulties encountered. They are in a unique position to get a message across.

NewLad.

 
At 11:37 AM, Blogger Feebee said...

Thanks for the replies girls.

NewLad - I think when we're used to seeing pregnant 40-something celebs on magazine covers it does give the impression that technology and money can sort out all fertility problems. I know loads of 30-something couples that haven't started having kids "yet". And I've heard the Madonna argument too many times. I also read an interview with Demi Moore (who at 43 is constantly dogged with pregnancy rumours) recently where she said that Geena Davis had her first child at 48 so there's plenty of time for her yet. If I'd known I was going to be infertile at 35 (and that the odds were reasonably good) then I'd have starting hassling DH as soon as we met!

Anon - some really good points there about fertility clinics and the lack of support for women. I am writing a book at the moment that will address many of those issues.

Artblog - you're right, most people don't think of male factor. I have to admit that when we found out about DH's problems it was a shock as we had assumed my dodgy cycles were the culprit. And then I had to endure months of assvice such as you should eat more fish/greens/dairy etc.

 
At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I get angry about in most articles/media discussions on this subject is that it is nearly always presumed that many women trying for babies in late thirties early forties 'waited' too long because they 'selfishly' put their careers first and that therefore any age-related infertility is their own fault. In most instances the simple fact is that they didn't find the right partner till their late thirties.

 
At 1:01 PM, Blogger Thalia said...

I wish they would talk about it more, but I don't think we can expect them to be public abuot it if they aren't comfortable. Having said that, i can't understand why the stigma about IVF. Wanting to be private about DE, that I can understand, as you want to contol how your children grow to understand the issue.

What I find is that I respect Marcia Cross more because she has been utterly open about the IVF, and pretty much announced she'd used DE - not in the most recent article but back when she got pregnant.

I think the issue is that needing fertility treatment has a stigma attached, and celebs suffer just as we do. Some of us choose to out ourselves, to try and end the stigma and because it's just easier to be honest, others feel uncomfortable with that. it will take a lot of different actions, not just by celebs, to release that stigma.

 
At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody 'owes' us anything in my opinion. That's like saying that I'm entitled to private information on your life. I'm not entitled to anything. As far as I'm concerned, I'm my own person and if I postponed having children for my own reasons I can't blame anyone else for getting pregnant if I don't. My life is mine... their's is theirs. Some people are not comfortable imparting private details of their lives, and why should they? They are as entitled to their privacy as any of us... would any of us like our innermost private thoughts, and suffering splashed over the papers? Here we all hide behind a username... why should our chosen profession determine that we have to share our pain and suffering with people who are just basically being voyeurs? Chosing to give information is one thing, but to me, anyone who thinks they are 'owed' has some serious boundary issues and needs to come to terms with their own issues and not project their bitterness towards others.

 
At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Amber said...

I think many celebrities lead such different lives to us 'regular' people that most of us would not look on them as real examples for anything other than things like fashion hair ideas etc.

I think a lot of the reason women do not have children earlier is not meeting the right person, this can happen to anyone celebrity or ordinary person!

Before I had my first child I never even thought about fertility one way or another just assumed it would happen when I chose.
Not sure I would have taken any notice of any celebrity or regular person until I was actually interested in becoming pg myself.

I think we should be given more information on fertilty from our own GP's but then would we like to be told when we should be trying for babies!

I think fertility like everything is only relevant when you are in the time and place of looking at your own fertility.

Like when you are trying to loose weight say and suddenly take notice of all diet related issues..

For me I am simply not interested in the personal lives of celebrities other than glancing at the pretty air brushed pics in Hello.

 
At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm one lucky lady, thanks to all of you for making me see that

 
At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hiya feebee,

Not sure if celebs owe us anything but they can help on the awareness issue.

We like everyone else though hmmm now is a good time how ever little did we realise it would take so much heartache and many many years.

If I'm not mistaken Julia Roberts had fertility treatment? correct me if I'm wrong and I think people thought more of her for being honest.

Best of luck with your article.
(Roz)

 
At 11:00 PM, Anonymous Discreid said...

Roz, Julia never admitted to fertility treatment.

Anon @ 2.06pm, what do you mean by your post? I'm confused, you say "I can't blame anyone else for getting pregnant if I don't" I don't see your point? Did someone say anyone was blaming a celebrity or anyone else for becoming pregnant? Was anyone displaying bitterness? I'm just wondering where you got that from? I didn't see it myself. The question raised is the perpetuation of a myth for the ease of attaining pregnancy at advanced years, not whether anyone was getting pregnant or not in the first place.

Dealing with infertility can make you bitter alright, but whether or not someone has to deal with that is not for anyone else to decide - certainly not a stranger on a noticeboard.

 
At 6:05 PM, Blogger Keri said...

I don't necessarily think they should talk about it but I wish they would. I think we should all keep talking about it and learning from each other.

Like you, if I would've known it would be so hard (& spendy) I would've done things much differently.

 
At 7:08 PM, Anonymous Les said...

I don't think it's a question of OWING anyone but they certainly help no-one by perpetuating the myth of stress free senior superstar motherhood!

I'm always grateful when anyone shares their own experience and hearing from the likes of Emma Thompson about her experiences with IVF really helps you feel you're not alone and even with all the money in the world and access to the best dosctors, it just doesn't always happen.

But, hey, when the likes of Posh Spice and co assure us that they eat what they like ... what are the chances of them telling us about IVF & DE???!!

 
At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But even trying at an earlier age does not guarantee getting pregnant

 
At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feebee,
You have me thinking now!!
I suppose the onus is on us all to be upfront, and not just the celebs. Demi Moore's quote saying she had plenty of time smacks of something I might have said to deflect attention. I certainly didn't want anyone to know I was having 'problems'. It galled me to think that something so personal might be idle chit-chat for someone else (oh, yeah, newlad and her dh can't have kids - they had all the tests, you know, how sad.... ). In that respect, I'm sure people in the public eye can't be blamed for trying to preserve some privacy.
As I said, maybe if we all talked about it more, there would be more awareness.
(NewLad)

 
At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be with deeda in that they have a responsibility not to lie about things but if they don't want to discuss it then that is their business.

I am constantly amazed at my 30-something friends who are holding off on having kids as "they want to enjoy life" a bit first, I am stunned at how complacent they are about their fertility and think they are taking huge gambles in delaying because they just arent aware of fertility issues in general. ( I am also stunned at how they think that having kids will in some way stop you enjoying life, admittedly your enjoyment comes from different source but ultimately you have got to be enriched in some way by having kids) Hopefully your article will raise this in peoples minds as it is defeinitely something not discussed as openly as it could be.... best of luck and can't wait to read it...

Sadie

 
At 3:55 PM, Blogger Feebee said...

NewLad - now you have me thinking! Maybe Demi Moore is trying (she is a newlywed) and is using Geena Davis to deflect attention. Or maybe she is alluding to the fact that, as everyone assumes Geena Davis used donor eggs, that she may be going down that route too.

The pressures of fertility treatment must be extra hard if you're in the public eye and I'm not suggesting that some poor woman who has to go through IVF deserves our wrath just because she lies to the press about it. But then the rest of us suffer - the IVFers because it remains a taboo subject and others because they think that more and more women are having children naturally in their forties. But then even when someone chooses to talk about it, the press say that she has "admitted" to it as if it was something to be ashamed of. It's not illegal you know! We've still a long way to go.

On the subject of privacy, I realise it is easier for me to be open as I already have a child. I'm not the poor childless woman that everyone feels sorry for. In fact by far the most common comment I get is why can't I just be happy with the child I've got, which I suppose is more irritating in its lack of understanding than it is directly hurtful.

Sadie - there's such a fine line between telling your 30-something friends of the risks and sounding like you're projecting your own desires onto them. I also don't want to pressure friends who aren't ready for children yet for whatever reason. I've no problem telling the general public though, they can make their own minds up.

 
At 5:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're used to hearing things along the lines of "Oh, this old thing, I just threw it on. You mean you like it? Oh really? Gosh thanks, I have it ages. Can't even remember where I picked it up - some second-hand shop I'm sure" while people stand there, dolled-up to the nines! And as for "No, I've never let a scalpel anywhere near my body". Or "I just eat healthily and do the odd minute of exercise".

These are NOT real people, but I think we don't need to hear "My stylist arrived with a number of outfits for me to pick from" or "yes, I've had my boobs lifted, by ears tucked, my lips injected, my face peeled" or "I have a full-time-live-in chef who can make things that are both delicious & good for you, but he does cost a fortune" or "my personal trainer drags me out of bed and forces me to run for miles" etc etc.

They're not real people. We look at them and wonder why can't we do all that. But we also know that it's not real, it's just hard to remember that sometimes too.

But they are selling a product - themselves. So, I think they'll keep all this, and everything else, including fertility experiences, to themselves. And it's very unrealistic to expect them to do otherwise.

It's rare for anyone in the public eye to even admit to having had a bad day, let along be honest about things that could impact how we, the viewing public, see them.

 
At 6:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just so we are clear..of course I would never presume to actually comment directly to my friends on their choices and in fact it often occurs to me that it could be a cover for people that don't want to discuss their TTC plans/difficulties. I have always been pretty open about my life but can see why others don't want it the subject of conversation..


I guess if people were more honest about TTC and how it was going for them then we might have a more real idea of how many women have difficulties (mm is great for that spectrum).... I do however think that infertility is seen as a "flaw" and people don't want to reveal it, especially true for celebs who as above said...are marketing a product and even if the issue is unrelated to their celebrity it still could be perceived as tarnishing it... am rambling now but if people were to be upfront about their ttc plans/issues then it would obviously impact their lives in other areas. - career being the prime area and I suppose unless you are purely famous for being famous then getting pregnant could jeopardise that...but in truth about historical facts should be the norm (but its not)..

Sadie

 
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