Those who have been through infertility know how lonely it can be. I had no idea how many millions of other couples were having trouble conceiving until we joined the battle ourselves. Not one little, itty, bitty clue.
And there's a good reason. It's because most people just don't talk about infertility. Particularly celebrities, who have the platform to enlighten the masses.
On July 29th, model and Hart of Dixie star Jamie King Instagrammed a photo with her 9-month-old son with this unexpected message:
"For all the struggling women & moms out there that think they are alone - This is the truth about conceiving my son and struggles after. 8 yrs of pain and undiagnosed PCOS & Endometriosis. 9 doctors until Dr. Randy Harris diagnosed me & saved my life from a severe ectopic, 5 miscarriages, 5 rounds of IVF, 26 IUI's, most with no outcome... worked until the day before I [gave] birth and went back after 6 weeks after because I was afraid of letting others down."
"For all the women who think you are alone in this #youarenotalone #ihavetobebravetosupportothers #realtalkthatterrifiesus."
King's story is one of infertility despair, but after a bitter struggle, ultimately one of happiness.
It was just a short paragraph on Instagram. However, with those few words, she offered remarkable inspiration to others who are silently suffering.
So why don't more celebrities share their infertility experiences? Given that as many as one in six couples have trouble conceiving, there must be more stars out there struggling like we are, right?
Here are four reasons why celebrities might keep their infertility woes a secret:
1. Infertility is personal.
Most celebrities have enough of their personal lives shared with the world without their consent. The constant press. The ever-present paparazzi. The somewhat crazy fans. It's completely understandable that they'd want to keep their secrets, well, secret.
Infertility is a very personal and private matter. Many women feel shame, failure or inadequacy about not being able to do what our bodies are "meant to do" -- bear children. Men don't have it any better. It's often a battle to decide to share the infertility secret with close family and friends, so telling strangers is a daunting request. But that's just what we'd be asking celebrities to do.
2. Infertility is taboo.
Infertility is just not talked about in Hollywood. It is a subject to be avoided. The why it isn't clear. It's almost as if they'll receive a scarlet "I" to wear on their chests forever.
A new Redbook video series, The Truth About Trying, is attempting to change that. The videos highlight familiar Hollywood faces talking about their fertility struggles and letting women know they are not alone.
Rosie Pope, star of Bravo's Pregnant in Heels said in her Redbook video, "It's crazy to me that this topic is still taboo. In Hollywood, you can talk about your drug addiction or divorce, but not infertility."
3. Infertility isn't exactly sexy.
Models and actresses are often pined over for their beauty and sex appeal. At the opposite end of the spectrum is infertility. There is nothing sexy about peeing on sticks, timing sex or getting your ovaries checked out with an ultrasound wand. When I envisioned getting pregnant, it certainly wasn't with the help of a turkey baster or a Petri dish.
4. Sharing isn't always rewarded.
In the past, several actresses have revealed their troubles with infertility. Were they thanked for sharing? Were they complimented for their honesty? Were they met with compassion for their grief and heartache?
No. They were criticized and attacked.
An excerpt from the Time article, Coming Out of the Fertility Closet, provides evidence of this:
To date, Hollywood stars having baby-making troubles haven't received much public sympathy, amid criticism of being able to "buy" their way out of fertility problems with expensive medical help that many Americans can't afford.
But the narrative turns extra nasty when other people's reproductive parts, such as rented wombs or donor eggs, are involved. When actresses Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicole Kidman revealed they had used surrogates, they were accused of hiring these other women in order to spare their own bodies from the ravages of pregnancy -- as if these women chose this route for cosmetic reasons, when both had publicly shared their battles with infertility.
It's no wonder most celebrities have chosen to keep silent on the topic. Especially after the condemnation Parker and Kidman received.
Keeping infertility a secret is a choice everyone should have. But let's praise all of the men and women who do speak out.
It's time to end the secrecy about infertility. With sharing comes education. With education comes understanding.
Tell your infertility stories on social media platforms. Join foundations like RESOLVE, that focus on fertility education and research. Participate in local infertility events that build awareness.
We can all do our part to spread the word, and help those battling with infertility know they are not alone.