Infertility can be heart-wrenching, isolating, devastating, and come with incredible shame. When one woman or anyone comments to shame another struggling with infertility, the words are distasteful and horrific.
Reality shows are supposed to be raw, mean-spirited, and over-the-top to maintain good ratings, but those qualities are sometimes unacceptable and in poor taste.
I have seen my share of mean on reality TV, but I was stunned and horrified when I heard two Housewives negatively comment on another castmate’s struggle with infertility. No matter how much you dislike someone or want high ratings, medical conditions should be off-limits. It is never okay to make fun of anyone struggling with any medical condition.
A few years ago, I was watching my guilty pleasure show on Bravo when, to my horror, one of the casts made an offensive comment about another cast member’s struggle with infertility. I was disturbed to hear one woman speak of another woman’s struggle with infertility so callously and flippantly. I was grateful that I didn’t know these women personally.
A Teachable Moment
Recently I heard a friend speak of another woman’s infertility with the same flippant callousness. I was sitting outside with three friends when an older couple and their teen son walked by. We said our hellos and the family made their way to their home. Shortly after, one of my friends asked, “Is that their son, is he their miracle baby?” The question seemed innocent, but one of the ladies I was sitting with appeared to jump at the chance to gossip, responding, “That is not her child; she used an egg donor.”
Yes, my friend was jumping at an opportunity to be mean, but I also believe she spoke out of ignorance. By ignorance, I mean that she did not appear knowledgeable about the science surrounding third-party reproduction or the psychological impact of infertility on individuals. I knew that I could make this a teachable moment rather than one that involved shaming.
I turned to her and said softly but firmly, “No, we’re not going to do that.” She repeated what she had said. I responded calmly, “That is her child. She brought that child into the world; it doesn’t matter; she carried him. We’re not going to do that.”
The Stigma Around Using Donor Eggs
There is a stigma surrounding the use of donor eggs. Never has someone uttered the words “she used donor eggs, so that is not her baby” in a supportive way. In the case of the TV personality and my acquaintance, these statements were both mean and insensitive.
The trauma associated with infertility is long-lasting and impacts you physically, emotionally, socially, and financially. Suffering through the pain of infertility is when we need to surround ourselves with people who are supportive and sensitive to our needs.
Are You Biologically Related To Your Baby If You Use Donor Eggs?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines epigenetics as “The study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence.”
Research in epigenetics has shown that even though donor oocytes (immature egg) do not have the gestational mother’s (recipient) DNA, her womb plays a much more significant role than carrying the baby to term. The most crucial time in embryo development is in the mother’s womb because the environment will shape how the genes develop and function.
In other words, much like our environment shapes our development and upbringing, the womb’s environment shapes the embryo.
Whether one uses donor eggs or another means to become a parent, we must recognize that parenthood is not defined by biology only but by love, nurturance, and guidance. How a person chooses to become a parent is a personal and powerful decision that should be respected and free from judgment.
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