When Infertility Professionals Get it Wrong.
September 18, 2012 | By: Liz
You know it’s not that often that I see glaringly offensive comments or information from professionals in the infertility world. Most of us know to be very careful with the language we use so that we don’t inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings. Today I was surfing Facebook and someone to whom I was connected (I am no longer “friends” with her) posted a comment about egg donation, adoption, and infertility. I thought at first she was referring to a blog and was hoping she was quoting someone else. Alas, I was very wrong and the link she posted was to an egg donation agency based outside of the United States (thank goodness for that — didn’t want to be running into her at any upcoming conferences lest I let her have it to her face) and the post was pretty much designed to bring attention to her agency. I am not a big believer in the old adage that any attention is good attention or that negative publicity is still publicity. In this industry, offending people is the kiss of death and well let’s just say I’ve been kissed.
I really don’t like the word “barren”. It’s an ancient reference to women who were unable to conceive and it dates back to a time period when women had no rights and would sometimes be replaced by another woman if she was unable to conceive a child. The Sixteenth Century this is not and I would have hoped that in the Twenty-First Century we would be a little bit more aware of appropriate terminology. I guess not because this FB poster (who shall remain nameless even upon kiss of death) seemed to think that all women who are having difficulty conceiving should be considered BARREN.
I don’t think so. Having difficulty conceiving does not mean we are barren. The word barren actually has many definitions (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/barren ) including “lacking inspiration” or “lacking charm”. For the record, I don’t consider any of my infertile clients, and certainly not my own bod, to be lacking in charm. Some of my clients are downright amazingly gorgeous women with incredible resumes and great personalities. In this case they are hardly barren are they? They also usually go on to become mothers which would seem to indicate that they are in fact capable of producing offspring (please note Miriam-Webster dictionary says nothing about those offspring needing to be biological children — at least its editors “get it”). But the word was used nonetheless in this FB post. The fact that the post tried to be “neutral” and present all sides of debates as they pertain to third-party assisted reproduction was totally lost on me by virtue of the selection of this word to describe me. Because that is who she is describing, me. The last time I checked I am still considered to be infertile.
The other problem was that this poster and her choice of words — and barren was by far the least offensive of them — revealed her own underlying belief that women who have difficulty conceiving, women like me who are infertile, are somehow lacking, less than other women, and are desperate. While she notes that “an element of respect” should be offered to these women, in and of itself that remark too is offensive. I am only entitled to “an element of respect”. 7 IVF Cycles, 9+ miscarriages (I stopped counting but there were more), three adoptions, and I am only entitled to “an element of respect”. Seriously?
Additional comments were made about whether decisions to use an egg donor were interfering with the “divine plan” for that woman’s life; and that what transpired to finally bring this barren woman to the point of actually considering using another’s genetic material could only be understood by the woman herself. Here I do agree with the post. However, I would prefer that she had not characterized the decision to choose egg donation as an act of finality, desperation, or somehow jumping off of the cliff of normalcy. Families are built in countless ways and all of them are normal.
Egg donors also were attacked for their decision to share themselves with other people. Let’s be clear that egg donation does not involve any kind of “sharing”. Egg donation agreements are clear that when a woman donates her eggs she relinquishes all rights to the resulting embryos and/or children. Egg donors do not share in the day-to-day life of the intended parents’ pregnancy, or their life as they raise their child. And let’s place the emphasis where it belongs, on “their” child, not the egg donor’s child. If this woman is counseling egg donors — and I fear she may be — then she is sending the wrong message to these selfless and generous women who donate their genetic material, their ova, to an infertile couple. They ain’t sharing those eggs or themselves with anyone.
Let’s not even discuss the offensive descriptions attributed to adoption. I will have a stroke.
I understand that this woman was trying to raise a debate, trying to draw attention to her business and what she does. But the choice of words she used as a professional in this industry was astonishingly rude and clearly revealed her own underlying biases. She is entitled to those biases. But as a professional she had a responsibility to keep them private and not mislead egg donors or intended parents. I also think it was a poor decision to use such inflammatory language if she was trying to promote her business. In all likelihood she sent potential clients running in the opposite direction.
I hope that the other people who read this post are wearing running shoes; they need to run as fast as possible. Most likely the very charming, inspirational women who read this post pulled their flats or sneaks out of their gym bag and took off their Jimmy Choo’s, and headed in the direction of a more sensitive egg donation/surrogacy agency, a therapist (I may need a session), shopping (in which case maybe they should leave on the Jimmy Choo’s), or a glass of wine and some Oreos.
For all those who read that post and felt in any way diminished as a human being because of their infertility, let’s get one thing straight: anyone who can get through this stuff is one tough, rockin’ mama. Emphasis on the word “mama” because that is what you will one day be called.
Filed under: adoption, Current Affairs, Deadly Silence, Egg Donation, Faith and Infertility, I'm Just Another Angry Infertile Woman, In the News, infertility in the media, IVF, Personal Musings, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Thoughts on Choosing an Egg Donor, Thoughts on Donor Egg Recruitment