This year Janet Jackson announced she was pregnant at 49. Immediately following the announcement came the bashing of her age. I don't want to spark a debate about her age at conception, but it was interesting how many people started playing social worker or doctor in regards to how old is too old. Nevertheless, I trust Janet Jackson made an informed decision on her reproductive health.
Anyways, shortly after the announcement, the blogs & articles trickled out with speculating theories on how she achieved pregnancy in spite of her age. Did she use IVF? Did she use an egg donor? Furthermore, a reoccurring opinion naturally followed the speculations via the comments section on social media: Janet Jackson (and other older celebrity moms for that matter) owed us an explanation on how she was able to get pregnant.
I sat for the past few months on my unpopular opinion.
Janet Jackson doesn't owe us any clarification on how she achieved pregnancy despite her medically classified advanced maternal age unless she wants to divulge it. If she utilized ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology), she's entitled to the same patient confidentiality any of us common folk are if that's what she wants. She is a human being that should be allowed to have personal, emotional, and medical boundaries in regards to disclosure.
Some celebrities are frank in discussing abortions, terminal illnesses, or other health issues--that's perfectly fine and I applaud their courage, but to expect every older celebrity mom come out and say how they achieved pregnancy against the odds is an unreasonable expectation.
However, I must clarify that benevolently wishing or hoping some celebrities come forward in the future (at a time that is emotionally suitable for both the parents and children) to support discussion on infertility/fertility awareness as part of the global initiative on women's health is reasonable.
Otherwise I don't know where this public sense of entitlement came from. Scrutinizing older celebrity moms for not disclosing their infertility struggles is insensitive and it further enables the potential harm done by our intrusive media culture. Do I need to name off celebrity/public figure tragedies that can be attributed to lack of privacy and the prying media?
In regards to infertility you may be wondering how public admission through means of public pressure and/or constant media speculations could cause harm. One, we are denying personal boundaries; we are indirectly saying, "You are wrong because you don't want to talk about it", and we the public are putting a timeline on "when is right"--because let's face it, we almost always want the explanation once the pregnancy is announced or the children are born. Moreover, we are prohibiting them from having their own parental timeline in regards to disclosure with the children, because we would know before the children know.
Let's make the assumption Janet Jackson used an egg donor. If this was public knowledge from the beginning, the children have the potential to find out how they were conceived via the unforgiving and ruthless media rather than their parents. Can you imagine if your child found out from another family member rather than you as a parent?
Some couples who utilize egg donors never disclose the truth to the children and some do. Many people advocate the method that donor disclosure should occur slowly with age appropriate language from the beginning so children never have a traumatizing memory of the day they found out. In doing so, being a donor conceived child would be "normal" because it's all they have ever known, therefore, less emotional harm inflicted upon the child and parents. I believe this theory/argument supports initial privacy for all forms of ART. The emotional well-being of ART patients and their offspring should be a priority, not the public's need for an explanation to feel better.
Then there is this idea that celebrities are misleading women when it comes to the age to start motherhood--I disagree.
Recently, there is an ever growing movement to start discussing infertility in hopes of eliminating the shame associated with this topic. Let it be known I fully support this movement. Many people feel this starts with celebrities. I believe it should start with our doctors. I believe it should start at our first ObGyn appointment and continue throughout our yearly exams. Women's health isn't just birth control and abortion. Education on women's health should include all aspects of family planning and teaching us, starting at adolescence, about our fertility. We need to educate women on the pros/cons to delaying pregnancy and we need to discuss in detail the associated risks to various options as well.
In conclusion, I believe we should stop expecting celebrities be the way we make decisions about our reproductive health. I believe we should not rely on entertainers for knowledge to make important choices in regards to our bodies that impact us as parents and our future children. If public figures make the decision to advocate for a particulate health issue and team up with credible medical experts--fantastic and let's appreciate them for their support. Instead, let us put the expectation on the masters of knowledge (i.e. our doctors and educators), and most importantly ourselves--ask questions and seek knowledge, because knowledge is power and it allows us to make informed decisions.