news item: are you represented?

I am an expert on one thing: my life. I know what my experiences have felt like because I have lived them. I know how infertility has shaped my personality, my tolerance for stress, my anxiety level, my grip on rational thinking, my fears… most of me. Infertility is not who I am, but it’s densely intertwined with my daily experience of being myself, which includes being a wife, mother, and a person desperately holding on to fragments of sanity (and sleep). I know my infertility, and because our overlapping experiences are just enough for us to form a community, I know a little bit about yours, too.

But infertility, like anything else, is subject to translation. We can write our own blogs about who we are and how we feel, but journalists and other writers who do not know our struggles might paint a different picture of our experiences (which, admittedly, are wildly varied).

I recently read JJiraffe‘s post Are You Infertile? The New York Times Thinks You Are Rich and Whimsical. It’s not a recent post, but it’s one of her best. She noticed the trend in the New York Times to write about the outlier experiences of infertility, like surrogacy, selective reduction, and other expensive elective procedures that do not reflect the far more common “IUI, IVF, FET, all when we can afford it and when our accrued vacation days allow for down time” experience of treatment and the “desperately saving up for either adoption or one more crack at IVF” financially risky decisions that most single women and couples have to agonize over.

Well, it happened again yesterday– this time in the Boston Globe, in an article called Pregnancy Between Friends: A Bond Formed in Childhood Leads to a Baby Born to a Gestational Carrier.

Now, this story in itself is actually very sweet– a woman offers to be a surrogate for her lifelong friend, who has a chronic illness that would make pregnancy dangerous and potentially fatal, and through all of the necessary procedures and a relatively uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery, a healthy little boy was born to an overjoyed mom and her friend who considers herself something of an aunt. A family gets a child and everyone is happy, their friendship is stronger than ever, and a few sentences are thrown at the recognition that such events are still taboo and we should talk about them and accept them.

Stories like this don’t do much of a service to the infertility community, though. For one, the woman in question wasn’t typically infertile– certainly, she suffered like many of us do with the knowledge that her body was unable to safely support a pregnancy, but for the reader it’s not the same. The biggest issue with the article is that surrogacy is again, as JJiraffe pointed out, it’s an outlier. Every time a story about surrogacy is told, it’s likely that five more stories about couples shaking change from their sofas to pay for treatment aren’t being told. Those stories are incredibly common, and therefore less dramatic and newsworthy (though I would argue that there is plenty of drama to be found in even the most average infertility experience). Having not experienced any of the range of adoption experiences out there, I can’t speak to that, but I imagine adoptive parents might have some qualms, too, probably starting with Annie and moving on up.

As much as I say all of this– I’m a guilty consumer. I love the movie Baby Mama (about a single woman who failed to conceive with donor sperm via IVF and who hires a gestational carrier, hilarity ensues, etc) and I’m actually kind of excited about The Odd Life of Timothy Green, an upcoming movie that has a lot of people’s knickers in a bit of a twist over its fanciful Disney-ified lighthearted “safe” view of infertility. I also cry every time over the first few minutes of Up (this is a Youtube link and will play video) and will generally devour almost anything even referencing infertility because, well, I want to connect. So I may not be as discerning as necessary to boycott the things that don’t do our community a service.

It would be wonderful to see more of our stories in the media alongside stories like the above family’s, so that I could be pickier and less desperate to relate to infertility experience wherever I see them. So I ask you…

* * * * *

Do you feel represented in the media (news, TV & movie plots, books) when it comes to adoption and infertility stories?

What stories out there do you connect with?

Are you a “guilty consumer” like me?

What is important to you when you see the media weigh in on ALI issues?

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