Friday, October 15, 2010

infertility is the new black

Yes, I'm still watching Grey's Anatomy. I know, I know: it's not as great as it used to be. But it satisfies my "nearly end of the week, needing something I don't have to think about much" Thursday night dilemma. And I still love Dr. Bailey. So there.

Last night, Meredith and Derek went to a doctor to check out their baby-making potential. (My DVR description of the show says they visited an "obstetrician" - I'm hoping that, given their whole "being doctors" thing, it was an RE, but nobody mentioned any names so it probably doesn't matter.) Meredith had a miscarriage at the end of last season, in the midst of a shooting spree at the hospital, in case you didn't know.

The doctor came in with a somber face and said to them, "well, we have some things to talk about." And all we learned after that is that Meredith has a hostile uterus. Apparent diagnosis: infertility.

Meanwhile, as I was waiting for my hair cut yesterday, flipping through the pages of a recent Entertainment Weekly, I came across a description for this season of How I Met Your Mother, indicating that the married couple in that show are going to start trying to have a baby and experience fertility troubles.

And, as we know, there's always Giuliana and Bill. And the often dubiously-correct (or, flat-out, wildly incorrect) fertility storylines on Private Practice, although those have been in mercifully short supply lately.

I used to wish that infertility got more coverage in the mainstream media. You know, besides things like Octo-Mom and reality shows featuring high order multiple families. And the occasional patronizing article in the New York Times.

But now I'm not so sure. The big advantage of secrecy is that you can keep things accurate and manageable. Okay, nobody understands infertility: but at least they don't go around with half-assed information, trying to act as if they do. Full-on ignorance is sometimes preferable.

I remember reading reviews of Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, which - while acknowledging that they are both remarkable movies in many ways - also pointed out that seeing a movie about something as horrific as the Holocaust, or as traumatic as D-Day, is no substitute for the real thing. That having people come out of a theatre saying, "now I understand what that was like," is truly insulting to those who survived those events. No, you don't understand, said the reviewer (a WWII vet). No movie, visually stunning as it might be, can give you even a glimpse of the reality it portrays.

Believe me, I'm not suggesting that infertility is on par with D-Day and the Holocaust. But there's something similar at work here, in that publicity about something - anything - can lead people to believe that they really understand it, without ever having experienced it for themselves. That gets really aggravating when you've been through it. There are no shortcuts for pain.

But, then again, there's great value in bringing things into the light. Acknowledging that the pain is real. Beginning to educate people who have made all kinds of inaccurate assumptions.

So, is it good or bad if infertility is the new black? What do you think?


  1. I think it is great that they are finally starting to discuss it on tv, but at the same time I wish they would do their research first. Follow a couple going through it. Be there when she starts and bawls her eyes out. Show the struggles in the marriage, financially and emotionally. I think they are being rather insensitive about how "Infertility" really is for us.

  2. Maybe we can see this as a good step. Like, mental illness is another thing that is portrayed with stupid, harmful inaccuracies in TV and movie fiction. Boo. But meanwhile the stigma attached to mental illness has gone way down in recent decades. So maybe that'll happen with IF anyway. It would be nicer to break the silence with ACCURATE info, but maybe this is better than secrecy.

  3. I have mixed feelings. It's good to have it out there and to see that it's not like on most tv shows where you get pregnant like whoa. But on the other hand, I watch tv as an escape and when I saw the commercial for GA, I was like "Oh great. Just what I want to be watching right now..." I also worry about the inaccuracies... but I guess they are in all shows- it's why my husband won't watch cop shows!

  4. I'm with the girls above- maybe it's good, maybe it's bad. Infertility needs to be talked about and the public needs to be better informed. But the media isn't necessarily doing a great job of it right now. Soooo, I guess I don't really know what I think about this. Following a real life couple during their struggles and showing the good and bad would be a start...

  5. Derek's reaction drove me crazy. He was so blase about the whole thing. Yeah, maybe we'll have a baby, maybe we won't. Maybe you'll have a million miscarriages, whatever. As long as I have you my life is complete. Not exactly how I remember receiving the news of my diagnosis. So not so realistic, but I'm interested in seeing where they'll take this.

  6. I'd have to go with the old rule that there's no such thing as bad exposure. I mean, the media does a terrible job of covering all sorts of topics, like say - what makes a good show, what is news, what the hell the weather is going to do. But I think the more it's out there (it being IVF), even if it gets sensationalized on some level, it still creates issue-awareness.

    And if it means there's one less individual that asks someone "why don't you have any kids?" then we all win.

  7. Very good thoughts, there. I mean, yeah it's good that it's not so taboo and "we don't talk about that in polite company." but at the same time the "I know what it's like because..." is definitely frustrating. And the incorrect information - and therefore the people perpetuating it - are really irritating.