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 they‘re 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.