Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stop Sneaking Up On Me!

I was really proud of myself yesterday. Home sick, I watched Julie & Julia in bed and I didn't cry. Why would I cry during a feel-good movie about a beloved famous chef and a slightly whiny blogger in Queens? Because it is also a movie about infertility. It only shows up twice in the movie and it's subtle--the first hint is Julia's longing look at a baby buggy while walking in Paris with her husband. The second is the scene that had me sobbing in the movie theater last summer--Julia receives a letter announcing her newly married sister's pregnancy and dissolves into tears, snuffling into her husband's chest while trying to be positive, "Isn't it wonderful? I'm just so, so happy." That scene so accurately captures the conflicted feelings of getting someone else's pregnancy news--she really is happy for her sister but just gut-wrenchingly sad for herself. When I saw the movie the first time, we hadn't officially started on the journey but knew it was ahead of us. The uncertainty of what we were facing was what really made me so upset at that scene. I had no idea just how easy or difficult it was going to be for us, and putting myself in the shoes of someone who had no choices to go to a clinic and get pregnant scientifically was incredibly sad.

The book Julie & Julia actually has more infertility pieces to it, because Julie Powell has PCOS and is constantly talking about how she's going to die fat, hairy, and childless because of it (oddly, they left that out of the movie...). Which brings me to the amazing amount of books, TV shows, movies, etc. that have incorporated infertility into their plotlines. I should be really happy about this--more exposure means more conversations about it and more openness that will hopefully lead to better care and treatment. However, it would be really, really nice to be able to crack open a book or go to the movies or turn on the TV and NOT have infertility smack me in the face when I turn to those media for escape. I can't tell you how many books I have read that were not actually about infertility but were just infested with it. A few examples: The Know It All by A.J. Jacobs--a book about a man who decides to read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica -- also includes his struggle with infertility throughout the book. While I appreciated a book with the male perspective, I was not looking for a book on infertility when I picked that one up! Three Junes by Julia Glass--a book following a Scottish family through three summers where the main protaganist is gay--also includes the infertility struggles of a couple as a prominent subplot. The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer--a novel (admittedly ill-advised but a really good read) about different women's decisions to stay home with their children or work and the impact that has on their families and professional lives--one of the main characters suffers through infertility and adopts a child from Russia. Not one of these books mentions the subplots in their flap copy or reviews. I feel like I've been suckerpunched when this happens--here I am reading a book for entertainment and BAM! Infertility in my FACE!

Same thing with TV shows. I don't watch TV very often but love my Grey's Anatomy. Hot surgeons behaving like horny adolescents is just so much fun! And yet, in that world of hot sex in the on-call room and bizarre health conditions needing rare surgeries, infertility has weaseled its way in too. In the very intense, very scary shooter-in-the-hospital season finale, Meredith discovers that she is pregnant only to miscarry during the trauma of the day. Now this season has a steady subplot of infertility--apparently she has a "hostile uterus" and fibroids. No doubt she will go through various procedures and medications on the show, taking my completely unrealistic, sexy hour of escape and morphing it into more reality than I am really looking for right now.

Movies, too--there's been a slew of movies about choosing single motherhood, none of which I have seen and all of which piss me off. In these movies, the women figure out their sperm donor, go in for one IUI (intrauterine insemination), and POOF! Pregnant. Pretty irritating for someone who has sperm (albeit "special" sperm) at the ready and has done 6 IUIs and 1 IVF and still has yet to get pregnant. AND, through support groups, I know of a few ladies who have chosen this path of single motherhood by choice, and none of them have gotten knocked up after one IUI. Totally unrealistic. But I guess having J.Lo enduring tons of bloodwork and tests and attempt after attempt would make for an unentertaining date movie premise. Juno is a movie that I think handles the family-building topic well but makes me cry--I can't chuckle with Ellen Page's sarcastic pregnant teen because I am too busy connecting with Jennifer Garner's infertility and her hope that this adoption won't fall through like her previous attempts. I cry through the whole movie now. But at least with Juno and the other movies like it, the infertility aspect is up front and center--there is no sneak attack.

I think this is why Julie & Julia didn't make me cry this time around--I knew what was coming. The first time it was totally unexpected--I was going to a movie about food and Paris and accomplishing something before turning 30, not the brief but memorable tribute to Julia Child's pain over not having children. This time I could steel myself up for it. So while I am happy that infertility seems to be a "hot" topic right now, and it's getting attention and exposure, I'm also kind of not. I feel a little like there should be warnings (instead of S for sexuality or L for language, IF for infertility reference) so that people like me going through infertility aren't thrown off guard by the sneaky inclusion of a very painful topic in entertainment that's sought out for the purpose of escaping the emotionally-charged reality of treatment.

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