Misleading and Judgmental – Can’t We Do Better Than That?

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misunderstood

Oh how I hate it when a good opportunity goes unrealized or worse. Just once I’d like to read a story about infertility and the people struggling with it that didn’t take a sensationalized tone. Mel shared the link to a story in the Globe and Mail about infertility bloggers. I was eager to read about the fellowship aspect but then I saw the headline: “Baby-desperate moms share every detail online.”

While I am happy that Mel’s quote concerned fostering a community of support, information and friendship, what I take issue with was the overall implied judgment that we’re semi-crazed exhibitionists who are competitive to a fault (you’ll have to read the story to understand the competitive element).

The comments that resulted include the usual “why not adopt?” and “maybe you weren’t meant to have kids, so move on” suggestions (ugghh – thanks for the informed opinions — NOT!). Here’s what I wrote:

“With all due respect your headline needs a rework. First, not all women who write about infertility are “moms.” While that’s the desired goal, not all of us succeed.  In my blog Coming2Terms I write about living with infertility in a fertile world after both biology and science failed — despite our early, best, and determined efforts. Second, I believe the word “desperate” sends the wrong message about infertiles. While we are in the unenviable position of having to rely on unnatural acts to get what comes easily to others, “desperate” is patronizing and far from empathetic. I’m convinced that “fertile” people would go to the same extremes if they suddenly learned that their children were not a given.

And that gets to the heart of a bigger matter… from my firsthand experience if infertiles received the support and understanding in real life they crave, they wouldn’t need to rely so heavily on the online infertility community. That said, the more appropriate headline is: “Couples who desire children look online for support missing in their real life.”

UPDATED: Thanks for your comments. Gabrielle (below) makes excellent points in response to the story as well.

And this, coincidentally, ties nicely to JJ’s suggestion that we take a moment “to think back to the first blog we found and read that made us really feel like we weren’t so alone.” I’d like to recognize and thank Bumble who is now happily pregnant.  I still drop by and read about her progress. Her blog has since gone password protected but suffice to say she and her blog are a great example of the camaraderie and welcoming nature of the infertility blogging community. This is for you Bumble!

 

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24 comments

  • Bea

    Well I missed the comments the first time around, so of course I had to go back and read them.

    I must say, over the course of this year those sorts of “just adopt” pieces have really started getting pretty water-off-a-duck’s-back. They just sound so… ignorant. And immature. I almost feel like smiling indulgently at people who hold those views, as if they’re five, or they come from a time long past and they’re saying something like, “Well of course the Earth is flat – look at it!”

    Bea

  • Well done, Pamela Jeanne. Excellent points.

    I owe Bumble a thank you :).

  • I missed the comments the first time around. Yours was well done. I felt like cheering when I read yours after a few of those very insensitive ones.

  • chicklet

    I skipped the comments fearing exactly what you said was in there would be. Damn them all. But good for you for explaining it so clearly. Nicely done.

  • ursi

    I totally agree with you about the word ‘desperate’, which is used so often in media stories about infertility. It is not only patronizing. It is also ignorant. Most infertile couples have complex discussions about whether or not to continue with treatment. Many give up after a single ivf cycle, when they could have done more. If we were ‘desperate’, we would all be continuing with treatment until biology and/or finances made it impossible.

  • I read your comment, and really appreciate you stating in a thoughtful way how that piece didn’t end up portraying infertility women in a very flattering manner. I was also a bit perturbed by the article’s “competition” suggestion: while we all like to get good readership, I don’t feel like bloggers are in competition with each other; rather we support each other. The advantage of the blogging community is that it’s a big place and perhaps unfortunately there’s a lot of people out there to provide support. Not every blogger is going to be able read every other blog, but we still think of ourselves as a community.

  • Great points. I certainly don’t consider myself a mom — desperate, maybe…

  • While I liked the article overall & was excited to see it in my morning paper(especially when I realized I “knew” some of the people in it!) — I agree, the headline made me wince, as did some of the subsequent comments (although, sadly, I’ve come to expect those whenever I see any story about infertility in the media). Yours was very well put.

    As for JJ’s “blog you very much” initiative, thank you, PJ, for being an inspiration to me — as well as to many others, I’m sure!

  • Yodasmistress

    PJ your comment was EXCELLENT!!! You summed up EXACTLY what I was thinking! I was so glad to have the article talk about our community but that title left a REALLY sour taste in my mouth. Thank you!

  • annie

    I read that article too and looked up these blogs as a result. I went through about 2+ years of ttc, and then IVF during my first marriage. Our infertility ended up being a symptom of the disease that would eventually kill my husband in early 2006, but we were fortunate to have a successful IVF on the second try and had a daughter. The article is typical of the fertile world, I think. Interesting that it brought up the pain of that again for me despite my “success”, I still think of myself as damaged in that respect.

    It’s not easy to be different from what is the perception of “normal” although as I have come to learn, there is no normal and often the arbiters of what is standard don’t fit their own definitions.

    Kudos to those of you who blog and share your journies. I wish I had this kind of thing eight years ago.

  • I am glad that you take action like this. Your letter was very well written, I hope that the paper takes it to heart.

  • I’m so glad you responded to them-you put it perfectly!

  • Vee

    Well said Pamela. Your new title is MUCH better.

  • Thanks for sharing this — you bring so many awesome things to my attention!

    I did sorta laugh (wince?) when I saw the headline “Baby-desperate moms share every detail online” and realized I DID post a picture of my uterus on my blog today.

  • I couldn’t agree more. I cringed at the headline too. Great response!

  • Gabrielle

    Pamela Jeanne,

    I, too, took offense to the title and the idea that we are “competitors” rather than allies. And that was before the comments started to appear. What’s even worse is that both Mel and Julie DID stress activism and community when they spoke with the journalist and those pieces never made it to print. I blogged my anger out. You took it one step better and addressed the source. Very well done. Kudos to you.

  • So I will basically be agreeing not only with you, PJ, but also with these commenters. I, too found the title to be negative and a bit condescending. I also winced visibly when reading we are “competitors”. I have found this community to be anything but competitive.

  • Oh so very true, I like your title better. By the way, you can send the booze, overnight (I’ll pay postage) and I can be drunk before Ugly Betty is over. Things aren’t looking as bleak today, but thanks for reminding me that all my feelings are justified. I have a hard time finding anyone in real life who agrees with me on that.

  • Well said.
    Your headline was much more appropriate.

  • Nicely done PJ. I missed the comments the first go-round, but hated the title. When I went back and saw your comment I was just itching to give you the well-deserved pat on the back. I didn’t bother to comment since you said it so well.

    Nice re-write of the headline too (and I briefly was a copy editor, and headlines are the toughest job)!

    I’m glad I have all these ladies, and I’m sorry there are so many who are ignorant of so many things in this world.

  • Oh, heck yeah. As soon as I saw the phrase “baby-desperate” I nearly clicked right out of the whole article. It’s just so insulting, and together with the competitive crap described later on, made us sound like a bunch of half-crazed petty scribblers, despite Mel’s best efforts to describe the supportive smart bunch we actually are. They just brushed right over her positive comments, and focused instead on the lame-ass issues with the redbook readers. GRRRRRR.

  • JJ

    Thanks so much for doing this=)

  • LJ

    I made some comments on Mel’s blog when I first saw the article, but just want to write kudos to you for submitting your comment to the author. Some days I’m offended, some days I’m resigned to the ignorance of others. It’s just a shame either way.

  • Being judgmental even though you’re supposed to understand better – it’s alive and well and living in my family! Hopefully we can change this “thing” in our world one person at a time.