There is Courtney Cox, who has been open about her numerous pregnancy losses and IVF attempts. I was reading a recent issue of People (because, I'm not ashamed to admit it, I read People Magazine. And not just in my doctor's office. I read it at my house. And I love it. And I relish it. And I would shout it from the rooftops. I love People Magazine!) and there was a short article about her. The headline ran "Ready For Baby No. 2?" and underneath it was this insipid passage:
Courtney Cox, the star of F/X's upcoming series Dirt, has babies on the brain. On July 25, when asked about having a second child with husband David Arquette, she confessed to Insider, "We're hoping it will happen." Five days later, at the premiere of her animated flick Barnyard, the acress (who's usually not one for personal chit-chat on the red carpet) added, "We're thinking about it." Now the question is, how does 2-year-old Coco Arquette feel about an addition to the family?
No, the real question is how does she make it through the day with numerous reporters completely disregarding how hard she worked for the first pregnancy and rubbing her face into her infertility while she's trying to attend a movie premiere. Why can't they ask her in such a way that reminds the reader that her first pregnancy was a miracle? "Hey, Courtney, it was wonderful that IVF finally worked for you two years ago. Do you think you'll try to conceive again?"
And there is Brooke Shields who could begin robbing little old ladies and I'd still watch her because she uses her celebrity status to bring attention to two stigmatized conditions--infertility and mental illness.
Babyfruit has a post on celebrity miscarriages--some with quotes from the actress and some from tabloids. There's Kirstie Alley, Tori Amos, Valerie Bertinelli, Joan Crawford, Audrey Hepburn, Nancy Kerrigan, Jane Seymour, Emma Thompson, and many others. There are a few people on the list who admitted to using fertility treatments to get pregnant or using adoption to build their family. But if infertility is affecting 1 in 8 people, shouldn't we be hearing stories about infertility from 12.5% of the celebrity population?
Except that why is it our business? Well...it somewhat becomes our business when celebrities pick and choose what they reveal, creating a skewed view of their reality. When one does not admit to having plastic surgery after a tummy tuck (though they are completely open about other aspects of their personal life), they create a false reality for teens who look up to these celebrities and believe their bodies are naturally like that. And it's frustrating to see people in a position of power who refuse to use their celebrity status in order to draw attention to a cause (I think fewer people would have misconceptions about A.R.T. if celebrities spoke as openly about fertility treatments as they do about their bodies during pregnancy). And even more frustrating is that the hypocrisy upholds the stigma. If Elizabeth Edwards deems it "unladylike" to talk about infertility (though it's not unladylike to talk about other personal aspects of her life), she sends any advances we've made towards speaking openly about infertility back into the dark ages. It would be as if after women had fought long and hard for the right to vote if the next wave of women milled around shyly, refusing to enter the polling booths because it just wasn't ladylike.
People are entitled to privacy--and we're each entitled to decide how and when (and how much) we speak about infertility. But it's difficult when someone is open to speaking about other aspects of their personal life. When I mentioned my sliding scale a few weeks ago, someone brought up Julia Roberts. And she's someone who frustrates me because she spoke openly about her pregnancy and shared intimate photos of herself with her children with the world. She talked about what she deemed to be stigma-free discussion topics. But she would never be open about whether she conceived her twins through fertility treatments. And her lack of admission--one way or the other--points to the idea that conception is a stigmatized topic. It subtly plants that idea in a newly trying-to-conceive woman's head so that she too chooses not to be open about her infertility struggles. And then we end up where we are now. In or out.
How does a child process their parent's denial over their conception? Do they take a large leap and think, "mom is embarrassed about how I was conceived hence why she won't talk about it though she'll talk about the pregnancy itself?" It's something that I've always been careful about when I speak about my children in front of them. I want them to hear me tell people how they were conceived so that they never have any shame about their conception. I want them to hear how I'm proud of it--as proud of their conception as I am about the subsequent pregnancy. I don't want to murmur about fertility treatments and have my children think that there is anything less "natural" about them (since you know I think natural is only nice--not better).
So what do celebrities owe us? The intimate details of their fertility? The intimate details of their bedrooms? Nothing at all? It's a hard question because in part, when someone chooses a career in the public eye, they gain many benefits from being in the public eye. But those jobs also come with several drawbacks. And one of those drawbacks is the fact that people expect you to use your celebrity status for good instead of evil. And when you perpetuate a stigma, you're using your celebrity for evil. So be good, celebrities. Talk about your conception issues. Talk about your pregnancy losses. Make that 12.5% of the nation not feel so quite alone.