A raw set of ideas preoccupied me as my oatmeal grew cold.
I focused all my attention on the computer screen hoping the blinking cursor would magically lead me to the right metaphors or punchy soundbytes. I’ve been sleeping fitfully lately while my subconscious busily searches for a set of ideas that can be shaped and packaged for mainstream consumption. Most are discarded. They can’t be too abstract, too trite or too heavy. And by all means, they can’t seem in any way preachy, snarky, bitter or shrill.
The angle needs to be fresh, insightful and engaging. One part triumph over adversity and two parts why someone should care.
Care about what you ask? It’s not so much as who (or is it whom?): the “black sheep” of the infertility community and society more broadly — those without children after running the infertility treatment gauntlet. Most emerge scarred — sad, angry, feeling betrayed. After we’ve finished navigating the stigma and shame that accompanies the infertility diagnosis, we then face the bumpy road of reconstruction. There’s no victory lap, not even a soft landing.
Since we often feel judgment or scorn, we make our way warily, careful to avoid ugliness or inflaming old wounds.
While we’re often characterized as the nightmare outcome, the failure scenario, there’s a different story to be told about us — one of communion,connection and catharsis. As we’ve discovered each other we’ve come out of the shadows and we’re finding a community that’s based on shared experience and understanding.
Since I’ll be in the media capital exactly one month from today as part of the RESOLVE Night of Hope Award event, my mind is working overtime to hammer out the right hook. It’s an opportunity to change the narrative and recast the conversation.
Now I need your help to get the ideas ready for prime time (and, if we’re lucky, find the right reporter eager to tell a story that’s not been heard before). Thoughts?
11 thoughts on “Getting Ready for Prime Time”
These were my thoughts over breakfast today that may relate to your quandry.
My husband and I were talking this morning about the value placed on women as Mothers by the media – there are countless stories in magazines and the news which focus on women’s roles as Mothers in society and how fantastic and enviable that role is. There are also countless stories about how difficult, horrible and limiting that role is. I usually respond to both characterisations of motherhood with grief and anger.
Then I realised that many of my friends with children respond this way too, for what I have always assumed are different reasons. But today I thought that maybe the commonality was that no-one likes to be defined in such a narrow way, where only one aspect of their being is valued. Apart from my own aching loss and frustration, I feel devalued by society for not being able to bear children, while some of my friends crave recognition for talents which go beyond their ability to raise children. If, as women, our talents lie beyond our collective womb, why should we (any of us – fertile or infertile), be valued according to it’s functional capacity. Maybe our collective uterus isn’t where we think it is…maybe it’s in our brains or hearts?
We need a celebrity endorsement to help us come out of the shadows. Nia Vardalos?
Good luck with working that out. (It is early, if this sounds snarky, i don’t mean it.) I hope all goes well.
I’m impressed, Pamela, that you keep at this. When you’ve published mainstream i’m amazed at the ugly, vile, & vicious comments other people make. I’ve read that this tends to be common practice in these forums, but i find them simply evil & it makes me discouraged just to read them. The attitudes behind them even more so.
Of course, we all run into some of that in life. (My most famous, minimal compared to others, was the lady who asked if i had children & i responded that God hadn’t blessed us this way, & she came back with, “If you don’t have kids don’t blame God. You can always adopt”!)
I know you are trying to make changes in such attitudes, & i appreciate it, but it does seem to be pushing a boulder up hill! Blessings on you, your work, & the upcoming conference.
Cath: Such terrific points. Thank you. There does seem to be a glorificiation of motherhood that is outsized these days (and one that can create heartburn on both sides). The media clearly have had a hand in creating and reinforcing the very milieu we find ourselves in today. All the more reason perhaps to turn the camera around. BTW: You have seriously interesting breakfast conversations! Can I join you sometime?
Your opener made me laugh. As for why I keep at it…I not sure where the drive comes from. It truly is pushing a rock uphill. Sometimes the work (and the responses) flatten me like a pancake. Other days, when I know someone has truly heard me, that I’ve helped to open up someone’s mind or heart even a little I’m more determined than ever to change attitudes. Without a doubt I’m a glutton for punishment.
As for the comment from the “lady” … she clearly wasn’t listening with her heart.
Yes! The more we can get on board the better…the challenge is that most of the women who have lived the experience aren’t easy to find.
Celebrities: If you’re out there, please make yourselves known.
I think Cath’s nutshell observation is something to take mainstream: One of feminism’s aims was supposed to be NOT defining women primarily on the basis of their reproductive utility.
This common theme applies to all women, is one that mainstream media can latch on to –put it in any “talking points” media package you’re sending out.
I think the issue in America is, when we publicly come out and say: I’ve got this problem, the collective well-meaning response of our “can-do” society is to offer a solution: adopt, try surrogacy, etc. That is just American for “I want to help.”
When we reject the offered solutions, we come off like fussy kids. They throw their hands up in the air and ay, “I give up! Nothing makes you happy! Stop complaining!”
The mainstream media’s formula for addressing any “problem” issue — as with the SELF piece, to turn it on the reader: What can you do to help? Resolve’s answer is: Cast your vote to make fertility treatments a mandatory part of insurance coverage. Then these poor unhappy women can join the Mom majority. No discussion at all of the need for society to consider the plight of nonparents “for whatever reason.”
As we all know — there are many reasons besides money that we have to stop: emotional exhaustion, marital strain, health risks, age. These are still not common knowledge to the parent majority.
We need to shift the conversation from “how to fix the problem” to “let me tell you what the problem REALLY is.”
Celebrities: The problem is a lot of them who are childless eventually won’t be. They have the financial resources to wait until the time is right, and use any means necessary.
A few years ago Cameron Diaz spoke out against celebrity baby frenzy — she didn’t come out as forever child free or infertile, but I’m glad she publicly said, “this thing is out of hand.”
Helen Mirren is happily child free with no regrets. But if you’re looking for a celebrity who’s on exactly the same page — did fertilities and stopped — you may not find her, because everyone’s story is a bit different. Diane Sawyer would have liked to have kids, but Mike Nichols was older and had several. In More she said at the end of the day she wanted Mike more than she wanted to have his children.
British comedian Ricky Gervais and his long time partner didn’t have kids on purpose, are extremely happy and successful with no regrets after all these years. I think the issue is to not get ONE celebrity to make this their identifier — but to collect examples and try to solicit comments from several?
You’re absolutely right, Christina, that we “need to shift the conversation from ‘how to fix the problem’ to ‘let me tell you what the problem REALLY is.’ ” As always, you’ve given me much to think about…
Well, I don’t have an answer for that, BUT I have faith you will find that hook you’re looking for. Look at what you’ve done so far!
I’m a big fan of keeping a dream journal in times of creative crisis. Even when my dreams don’t make sense or pertain to my writing, it helps.
Looking forward to hearing what you come up with.
Thanks again for representing us, Pamela!
It always amazed me when my friends started getting pregnant and becoming moms that huge portions of their individuality disappeared. All conversations turned to what pregnancy feels like, the best ways to bring up baby and sippy cups and play dates…..and on and on. What happened to just being ok as a women with talents and abilities outside of being a mom? Society puts a lot pressure on women in this area of their lives. If it isn’t all about their children then they are perceived as failures. Too many moms are willing participants.
I think this is one of the main reasons I feel so isolated sometimes. When your in that new group of ladies and they find out your a non-mom and magically either they or you start to disappear. It would be so refreshing for our mom-friends to realize it is ok to be just Jill around us and not Ben’s mommy. Although we love and adore Ben we don’t need to hear about every aspect of him. The conversation can turn to other topics of interest. Also, when they find out someone is not a mom, do not automatically assume we are selfish, uncompassionate, judged by God…etc, etc. Just to learn who we are as people and they might be pleasantly surprised.
The attitudes really need to change. I was disappointed recently in a Sarah Palin video when she said “Moms kind of just know when something’s is wrong”. Does that mean the rest of us (men and women) out here are just oblivious because we haven’t given birth? My great-grandmother had terrific advice; think ten times before you speak once.
You’d be welcome at my breakfast table anytime….next time you’re in Australia…