Tag Archives: celebrity infertility

Celebrity Infertility: Their Struggle is Our Blessing

Less than six months ago, Bill and Giuliana Rancic made headlines when they publicly acknowledged their attempts to conceive through IVF.  They didn’t wait until they had good news to share.  Instead, they chose to cast a spotlight on the struggle that’s so rarely openly discussed.

When their story appeared in an October 2010 issue of People magazine, I called it a paradigm shift for the publication that’s often considered a social barometer for America, saying:

“Typically, People magazine stories reinforce the myth that celebrities conceive effortlessly – implying that those of us who don’t and can’t are somehow ‘less than.’  That false narrative causes pain and reinforces feelings of failure among many infertile couples.”

Well, now it seems as if the dam has truly broken.  More and more of the stories behind the baby announcements are being shared publicly:

– Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban announced the arrival of their second daughter, born via surrogate, and implied that struggles with secondary infertility had led them to a gestational carrier.

– Celine Dion openly discussed her five failed IVF’s, and her decision to keep trying to conceive despite her Catholic upbringing and the Pope’s condemnation of assisted reproduction.

– Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo fathered a boy via surrogate, revealing his international sex symbol status did not equate with fertility.

– Openly gay stars Ricky Martin, Elton John and Neil Patrick Harris used egg donors and surrogates to conceive their much-desired genetic offspring.

Maybe it’s just my enthusiasm for transparency and full disclosure, but it seems like there’s a pattern emerging here:  lots of people struggle with infertility, and more and more of them are willing to say so – or at least, to let us put two and two together.

Why is that so exciting?

Because, in hindsight, I’m convinced Bill & Giuliana’s story in People magazine did more than unveil the truth that conceiving isn’t always easy.  Their revelation signaled the beginning of the end.  The end of secrecy and stigma and shame.  The end of fearing judgment and rejection, of doing everything possible to avoid exposure, and of lying about the real story behind the façade of effortless conception.

Have celebrities’ normalized the very common experience of infertility?  Not fully.  But with every story, there’s a little less gasping and pointing, and a little more compassion.

How do I know?

Well, look at letters to the editor of magazines like People.  If theyre any indication of the public consensus, the vast majority of Americans understand the desire to create families, and they feel genuine sympathy for those who struggle to do so.  Celebrities’ open acknowledgements of the reproductive hurdles they’ve faced – and the joy they’ve experienced in surmounting them – is making this taboo topic less and less taboo.

I think that’s a blessing that’s long overdue.

There’s a wonderful verse in Isaiah that promises:  “I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

Who knew we’d be claiming this promise, in part, through the likes of Celine, Elton and Nicole?  Truly, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

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Why Celebrity Infertility Matters

The October 11 edition of People magazine tells Bill and Giuliana Rancic’s story of infertility, IVF success, and the heartbreak of subsequent miscarriage.  The pair will discuss the ordeal and air footage of their experience when their reality show returns in a few weeks.

Why should you care?  How does that affect you at all?

Here’s what I think….

The story represents a paradigm shift for People, a social barometer for America.  Typically, the magazine’s stories reinforce the myth that celebrities conceive effortlessly – implying that those of us who don’t and can’t are somehow “less than.”  That false narrative causes pain and reinforces feelings of failure among many infertile couples.

This story invites readers to reconsider that perception.  By pulling back the curtain on their unfolding drama, Bill & Giuliana allow those who don’t understand infertility to witness its challenges, feel connected to a couple (and share their emotions) in the midst of the journey, and then pull for them as they make their way toward parenthood.  That’s not the typical “baby bump, baby joy” pablum – which is a long-overdue breakthrough for People.

It’s also a blessing for couples facing infertility.

How so?

The Rancic’s are educating the public by sharing their struggle.  They are creating awareness of the statistics, procedures, hopes and heartache we know so well.  The result will be a new level of public understanding, which paves the way for empathy.

By telling their story and allowing bystanders to witness its unfolding, they invite them to care.  That teaches readers and viewers that compassion is an appropriate response to a couple’s infertility battle.

By modeling honesty and openness, they are helping reduce the stigma of infertility that makes infertile couples feel isolated and apart from everything “normal.”  They have chosen to risk a negative response in the hope of receiving genuine support – which would help them (and could also help you).

Most importantly, they are revealing their fears, their doubts, their anger at God, and their realization that “God has a plan for us” – the messy, chaotic, emotional journey of infertility.  By enabling strangers to observe their progress as they move from uncertainty to joy to failure to renewed hope, they model one way to make room for God and to trust Him on this journey.

Bill & Giuliana honestly and fearlessly reveal the truths of their story, and their faith in the God who walks with them as they make their way toward parenthood.

Is any part of their public disclosure self-serving?  Undoubtedly.  They want viewers for their program, just like other celebrities do.  But, I feel confident this is not a ratings stunt they would have chosen.  They are using their visibility to do what few others have dared to, and that sets them apart in a powerful and meaningful way.

If nothing else, I believe we owe them our gratitude.

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Read 10 inspiring stories of non-celebrity couples who experienced infertility and are now parents in Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.  To order, click this link.

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