Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I'm Glad I'm Not a Royal

I have a subscription to People magazine. It's my guilty pleasure, my mini escape, and the reason why I finally won a game at a shower of any kind (match the celeb baby with hinty blurb to the correct celeb! I scored a 100). Occasionally it can backfire as an escape--when there are pages-long tributes to all the celeb babies born this year, or specials on nursery decorations (why do all these people put chandeliers over cribs? why?), or specials on pregnant celebrities. Especially when it's people who either a) got pregnant accidentally and are so thrilled or b) are the most irresponsible human beings on earth and they can get pregnant while I can't. Sometimes, though, People does a great job illustrating different family-building pathways and celebrities who have struggled with infertility and were open about it. I believe that even when you choose a very public career you should have the right to privacy, but I so deeply respect celebrities who use their access to the media and the public's obsession with babies to inform people that babymaking is not always easy. Celebrities like Marcia Cross (very open about doing IVF and conceiving her twins post-40 through that route), Mariah Carey (also very open about IVF and, I love her for this, how progesterone in oil shots make you chub up like mad), Sarah Jessica Parker (surrogacy), Nicole Kidman (surrogacy) and Guiliana Rancic, who has been incredibly open and honest in her infertility journey and subsequent fight against breast cancer. They, and others I can't recall at the moment, make up for the scads of over-40 (WELL over 40) actresses who miraculously have twins seemingly spontaneously. Not to say that it's not possible for 45 year old women to get pregnant without help, just unlikely in the numbers that you see in Hollywood. And twinning does happen more frequently after 35 naturally, without the aid of drugs that increase your egg output, but again...the large number of twins born to celebrities of a certain age is interesting.  I also love features on celebrities who choose to build their families through adoption--like Kathryn Heigel, Sheryl Crow, Sandra Bullock, Charlize Theron, and the Pitt-Jolies. I especially appreciate when these stories highlight how adoption is a process--Sandra Bullock was very open about the length and breadth of the process she undertook for the domestic adoption of her son. It helps educate people that like infertility treatment, adoption is not instantaneous and it is a long, difficult process. But both pathways can have amazing outcomes and tremendous rewards.

But back to my People Magazine. They, like any other tabloid-type publication, have constant Bump Watches. Constant stalking pictures of celebrity midsections. "Is she pregnant?" is often a burst or a caption on these stories. I feel for the celebrities in question--not everyone wants to announce a pregnancy the second you pee on a stick. Celebrities are not immune to miscarriage. But at the same time, sometimes these celebrites ARE NOT PREGNANT. This happened to one actress, who responded to tabloid pictures of a slightly puffed out belly and allegations that she was knocked up and trying to keep it secret with the comment, "I'm not pregnant. Just fat." I have been the subject of the belly glance (although no one posts pictures of my tummy on unflattering days and speculates if I am pregnant), and it's not fun as a normal person. Unfortunately a lot of the drugs that I take make me look a little pregnant, as my midsection puffs up and my boobs swell up a bit (always fun, as I am not exactly petite in the bustular area). People who don't know what we are going through know that we've been married for a few years now and we're not exactly spring chickens and so...shouldn't there be a bump there by now? People who do know what we are going through but not exactly where we are with things sometimes do the quick tummy glance to see if I am holding out on information (this happened a few weeks ago when I ran into a former coworker at a restaurant). It's fairly innocent, it's only super upsetting if I've just experienced a negative or a loss of some kind, and it's human nature to want to know if you should be congratulating someone or offering water retention prevention and/or wardrobe advice, politely of course.

What's got me all worked up is my cover of my recent People. It's a picture of William and Kate, with "IS SHE PREGNANT?" smeared across the front. Their one year anniversary is coming up, and everyone has been buzzing as to whether or not they are expecting or planning to be expecting. This isn't the first article on this topic. They are constantly under reproductive scrutiny. It was even mentioned in the article that it's common for royals to birth their children before their first wedding anniversary, like Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth did. Somehow these crazy kids are behind the eight ball when it comes to popping heirs out. I feel so bad for Kate. Now, granted, she married a royal, and as the Prince's wife her number one duty is to produce some heirs, pronto. It's not a secret, it's a tradition that goes back centuries. So you can't go into that not knowing that every time you put a purse in front of your tummy in a photo shoot or order ginger ale instead of stout, people are going to talk. And there was a 6-page spread of talk--she's skiing, so she can't be expecting, she wore something camouflage-y, so maybe she is, but then she had a glass of wine, so she probably isn't... blah blah blah.

All this makes me wonder... what happens if the newest hot royal couple struggles with infertility? Would it be hushed up? Would they use their fame and public following to forward the cause of infertility treatment and research? (Somehow, I doubt it.) The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if before you marry a royal they do a Clomid challenge test or something to determine your ovarian reserve and/or test you for other issues like PCOS. Would that disqualify you as a royal mate in these more enlightened times? And what if there's male factor? There's a long history of women being blamed for the lack of progeny when most likely it was male factor at fault. I don't know if any of that actually happens, but I can't imagine that the royal family would be publicizing trips to the Crown Reproductive Endocrinologist. I don't wish infertility on anyone, and I certainly have no idea if that would even remotely be the case here, but it's interesting to think about how that would be handled.

The other possiblility is that, like so many other couples in their late 20s/early 30s, they don't want to have kids quite yet. They are enjoying their marriage sans babies for now and  don't feel the need to immediately reproduce. It's not like there's a rush. It's not like there's some other royal family aiming for the throne--Queen Elizabeth is still going strong and I think next up is Prince Charles, so this hypothetical heir isn't even second or third to the throne. And does the throne really even matter that much anymore? The thing that gets under my skin here is that when contemplating this possibility, that the royal couple just aren't ready for kids yet, the overwhelming attitude that the media takes is, "When they are ready, they will make their decision and everyone will know." Like somehow as a royal you say "I would like a baby now" and BOOM! You are pregnant, pronto. This feeds into the common misconception that even as a reproductively healthy adult pregnancy happens instantaneously. For some lucky bastards it does, for sure. But the average timeframe for conception is approximately within 6 months for couples under 30, then a year for over 30, and up to a year and a half for over 35 (although most medical professionals suggest that if you haven't conceived naturally within a year under 35 and within 6 months over 35, you should hightail it to a fertility specialist for testing to make sure nothing's amiss). But even so, it can take time even when your ovaries and testicles and uterus are perfectly pristine and free of any defect. So the assumption that somehow royal conception is different than everyday conception irritates me, and puts out misinformation that makes the general public think that conception should happen instantaneously to them, too.

The upshot is, I am so glad I am not a royal. This poor girl has so much concern surrounding her reproductive tract. There are people actively betting on when their baby will arrive (apparently bets are slowing for 2012, because there's pretty much days left to get that December baby underway). She probably goes to the grocery store and is assaulted by both people's actual roving eyes to her midsection and her face on the newsstands, slathered with conjectures of her possible pregnancy. There is no escape. Talk about pressure. I guess I should be grateful to only receive the belly glance occasionally, from past acquaintances and neighbors only.

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