Janet Jackson is pregnant.
And we all want to know everything. That's ok, that's human nature. We're curious. Especially about people who are high profile, as she has been her entire life.
She's almost 50 and she's a celebrity and we want to know! We want to know if she used her own eggs, (doubtful), which doctor she went to, how many cycles of IVF she underwent, whether she wanted or tried to have children before this, whether she considered options. We want to know everything, because she's in the public eye and we're especially curious about what it could possibly mean for us.
Questions to ask ourselves.
Number one, does she deserve privacy?
All of us have signed HIPPA forms. We know the general guidelines, if not the particulars in each doctor's office. Generally what they say and guarantee, is that, as patients, we have a right to privacy and that our health care workers need to guard our privacy and put into place systems that guard that privacy. There are a myriad of reasons for this safeguard; including not being discriminated against because of a disease that we may have. This right to privacy- between a doctor and patient, ranks up there with attorney/client privilege and casting a ballot. It is considered absolute and it is enforced rigorously.
So we have that -- a right to privacy as a patient. Janet Jackson has that right to privacy. To share what she wants, with whom she wants, when she wants. She has not given up that right because she is a celebrity.
Very clear so far. And then it gets a lot stickier.
Next question to ask. Is it right or reasonable to expect celebrities to be open and honest about their treatment?
Doesn't that seem to belie that basic right to privacy? Don't they have the right to not say anything?
Of course they do, but in many senses, that's also making a statement. And whether Janet Jackson says one more word about how their baby was conceived or she does not, there will be speculation. There will be conversations in every media venue concerning this pregnancy.
If she never says another word, we will wonder. We will wonder if her silence signifies not wanting to share personal, medical details or if it means that maybe she didn't use any medical treatment. Most of us are going to assume, that at her age, there was some fertility treatment. But what?
And one very pertinent question is this -- how is it any business of ours? Another one is, is this really privacy?
If she chooses not to reveal what she did or did not do, that's her business. Just like it's yours or mine or our next door neighbor's business to keep our medical procedures and treatment to ourselves.
The sticky part is that we often assume that by someone saying nothing, they are saying a lot. If she doesn't deny that she used donor eggs, then she must have used them. If she comes out and says that she won't answer the question, we assume that she used them. If she attempts to protect her privacy by saying that she didn't use donor eggs, we assume that she's lying or it's the miracle of the decade.
Kind of a no-win situation for Ms. Jackson, no?
How to be truthful and maintain privacy?
Maybe it's impossible for a celebrity of her stature to expect that we will quell our curiosity and let this story die down. Reporters will investigate, they will report and we will read. Just as we do in most other situations. So whether she has a right to her privacy or not, likely she will not be able to truly have her privacy, even by saying nothing.
The next piece that comes up is that we judge, often and especially about age.
Why is that? We want to know about our celebrities and we want to judge them." Isn't she too old? Why did she wait until now?" And yes, we also judge "ordinary" people who are in fertility treatment about these issues. Ask any woman who is over the age of 35 whether she's heard comments made about her age and why she waited so long to have a child. They'll tell you, and especially if they needed to use fertility treatment, they typically do feel judged.
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine, a not-for-profit organization of reproductive professionals, have guidelines that state that women who have been screened carefully for underlying diseases and conditions, can safely become pregnant and deliver babies up to the age of 55.
So why the judgment about her age? Who are we to decide about someone else's time line? We wouldn't ordinarily be involved in anyone's baby making schedule except for our own. And we're not involved here. Because this is literally front page news though, we make judgments. We often call women who want to become mothers in their 40s and 50s (and sometimes even in their 30s) selfish. Or entitled.
Why not celebrate that she's ready to become a mom now? That she or anyone else her age, waited until they were truly ready?
Do we really want to encourage any woman to assume that they can delay childbearing until their late 40s or 50s? That's an emphatic no. Ms. Jackson was lucky that she was able to become pregnant. Even with all the resources at her disposal, this could have gone differently -- and she could have been unsuccessful in her attempt to conceive. And that's where it becomes sticky again.
We don't want women to look at this beautiful, talented woman and think, "if she could do it at almost 50, then so can I". Because that's simply not a valid argument. And, of course, we don't know what she had to undergo to become pregnant, because, guess what? It's still none of our business.
What we do need to know is that our chances of becoming pregnant as we edge our way into our 40s decrease. Dramatically. Using our own eggs make those chances decrease further. That is our business to know because its basic information about our reproductive systems and educating ourselves about conception can mean the difference between wanting to have a baby and actually having a baby.
To quote Dr. Joshua Hurwitz, (board certified Reproductive Endocrinologist from Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut), "Persistence and determination pay off in the end in terms of family building."
It's a great line. And it's so often true. Maybe that's another takeaway message from Ms. Jackson's pregnancy that doesn't intrude on her privacy and allows us to mind our own business.
We too, with persistence and determination, can succeed in building our families.
Notice the word easy is not in that phrase. And quickly is not in that phrase either. And always is not in that phrase either. Fertility treatments are not guaranteed to work, regardless of age, financial situation or diagnosis.
Congratulations to Janet Jackson on her pregnancy. There is every reason to be happy for her. Every reason in the world -- a new person is going to be born. This is a success. And for all out there still trying to build families, may her pregnancy bring a realistic sense of hope for your own success.