Monday, February 22, 2010

The Many Faces of Infertility

Too often infertility is thought of as an "invisible disability." This is because couples, at least initially, often are reluctant to divulge an infertility diagnosis. To those individuals and couples, infertility may represent failure, it may feel like an insult to their sexuality, it definitely feels daunting with its uncertain outcome, and for most people it is their first time on this new journey and they're not sure how they feel about sharing this part of themselves with others in their lives. My next several blogs will depict the many faces of infertility: "coming out," secondary infertility, social factor infertility, pregnancy loss, prenatal diagnosis issues, and deciding when "enough is enough." For today, I want to feature a well known face, Celine Dion. She was recently featured on Oprah and in People Magazine, as she spoke of her infertility experiences over the years.

As I looked at the photo of Celine Dion on the cover of the Feb 22 People Magazine, I was heartened to see a much-admired person openly proclaiming infertility as an ongoing issue in her life. Clearly with the financial means to seek the very best treatment, she also takes a deep breath as she says, "It's not 'Oh, poor Celine,' but it's a lot." I found myself thinking how much I appreciate her public "coming out" as she faces the many lost hopes and disappointments of this current infertility experience that no amount of money can soften.

Celine's hope for children is undoubtedly rooted in her own family, where she grew up with 13 siblings. Her one child with 68 year old husband Angelil, is nine year old son, R.C.,who was conceived on her first IVF attempt. Now, after four recent IVF attempts, she is planning for a fifth. But she and her husband, unlike many couples with infertility, have the comfort of a birthchild in their lives, which enables her to say quite convincingly..."One way or another we're going to be good." And in her sensitivity to R.C., who is well aware of his mother's IVF attempts, she says "But honestly I'm more than blessed with my son. He is everything for me."

So this very public figure is depicting for all of us in a very public way the various balancing acts that infertility plops into our laps: how/when to disclose and how much to disclose; the emotional and physical challenge of ongoing treatments; the sadness as those treatments don't result in a healthy pregnancy; and the juggling act of career and treatment.

How familiar do these quotes sound and feel? "We go crazy waiting for the results" (Angelil speaking ); "sometimes Dion cries for no reason at all;" "The hormones that help make a pregnancy possible also bring a tidal wave of emotions;" This month's publicity certainly puts a public face on what often is regarded as a fairly private matter.

With that in mind, stay tuned, as I explore in future blogs the faces of infertility that we often don't think of when that word is added to our vocabulary. We may not have celebrity faces to add to each example, but each reader knows this expanding vocabulary all too well.

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