“When are you going to have kids?” The question that EVERY woman is asked. But why? Is it our innate tribal nature that has formed this born-to-procreate society? Is it prewar gender roles forced on us upon birth? Men work, women have babies. Is it decades of media showing women running ragged, stains on her blouse, kids tugging on her arms and dinner on the table? How does all that make women who have chosen not to have kids feel?
And what about those of us who are dying to be moms? Has being asked when it’s going to happen ever felt good? It’s time to change the dialogue, and Refinery29 is taking steps at doing just that.
On Tuesday morning I had the pleasure of being a fly on the wall at Studio3B at NBCUniversal where a panel of inspiring, thought-provoking women – all who have experienced their own struggles with conception – discussed the launch of Fertility Spectrum, Refinery29’s new initiative – the path to parenthood (or not), reimagined.
A discussion that started with R29’s Co-Founder and Global Editor-in-Chief, Christene Barberich, explaining that their platform has made a conscious effort not to use the word “infertility”, as they believe that the negative condemnations surrounding it, leave women immediately feeling broken, labeled and judged.
As I sat in the back of the dark room at a cafe table seated for two, I started thinking about my own diagnosis and how it made me feel. Did the word infertility cause me added grief in an already emotional time? Perhaps. Did I consider myself hopeless and less-than once it was decided we were infertile? Not exactly, but that’s not to say there weren’t moments of doubt. If we started referring to the challenges of infertility under the “fertility” verbiage, would it help? I couldn’t help but think it may. I know for certain that it couldn’t hurt.
Amy Emmerich, R29’s President and CCO, added that other long over-used words such as “Geriatric Pregnancy” and “Advanced Maternal Age” when referring to a woman 35 years or above, send women in these categories into a panic based solely on the way we define them. A panic that could be alleviated should the issues at hand be addressed using a gentler, more modern approach.
Secondary Infertility was also a hot topic as Dylan Dreyer, co-host of 3rd Hour TODAY, shared her struggle with trying to conceive her second child. Dreyer opened-up about the rarely discussed guilt she felt when exposing what she was going through, as she realized many men and women were not yet able to achieve one successful pregnancy. Was it okay for her to be upset about not achieving a second?
YES. Secondary Infertility should be treated with the same sensitivity and support as those going through it the first time. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there are more than 3 million women reported to have had trouble conceiving their second child. When asked if other friend’s pregnancy announcements upset her, specifically Jenna Busch Hager’s pregnancy, of TODAY with Hoda & Jenna, who was revealed on the same day as her infertility story broke, she answered with nothing but grace. She explained that differentiating the two allows her to be happy for those around her experiencing good news. “This is my story and this is your story” she said, her take on accepting that everyone faces their own challenges at varying points in time.
And what about women who feel pressure to reproduce but aren’t sure being a mom is for them? Morgan Radford, NBC News Correspondent, and Cynthia Simpson, co-host of “Gather“, expressed the need for equal support and educated options for women who decide to delay their journeys to motherhood, or to not embark on them all together. Simpson saying that all of her friends are single and bring a different perspective when asked for parenting advice (by her).
So how is R29 preparing those of us on the road to parenthood, and those of us who aren’t sure it’s the road we’ll travel yet? Aside from all of their wonderful content that is changing the narrative on an age-old issue, a great place to start is by arming yourself with tools like their Fertility Cheat Sheet and by visiting sites like FertilityIQ that allow you to research doctors, clinics, data and insights.
They say “knowledge is power” and most of us know that when it comes to our fertile futures, the more we know (as soon as possible), the better prepared we can be for whatever this journey throws our way. Thank you Refinery29, Gather and NBCUniversal for helping us get there a little quicker.