Thoughtful Thursday: Publicity

June 18, 2009

Thoughtful ThursdayOn the heels of my previous post about revealing my infertility to a crowd of people, let’s think about revealing on a bigger scale — because it’s come up in my own life.

Remember the Thoughtful Thursday a few weeks ago when, to illustrate my husband’s penchant for civility, I described his professional behavior. I happened to use a metaphor that my husband was actually Kirk Cameron circa 1986. Continuing the metaphor, let’s pretend that Kirk has proposed a Very Special Episode of Growing Pains all about infertility, closing with Kirk talking directly to the camera: “Infertility affects millions of people, including me. My wife and I have spent the past 7 years dealing with fertility treatments, miscarriage, and heartache. To learn more about infertility, visit your local library.”

My husband is not actually Kirk Cameron, but he does have a job in the public eye. He would like to use his platform to discuss infertility publicly, using our experiences as an illustration. Part of his motivation is that so many people are so secretive, especially us, and he wants to bring this too-common experience into the spotlight. He also thinks it would be nice to make some money off of something that has eaten all of our disposable income and most of our savings. My husband is particularly enthusiastic about this project, and it seems to mean a lot to him.

So far, I have said that he can look into the feasibility of a project and see if it’s something that might actually happen, but I have reserved my actual approval until a later date.

To be honest, the idea makes me quite uncomfortable.

Part of the problem is my blog. I’ve minimized identifying information, but I’ve given all sorts of specific details about infertility because no one in real life knows these details. If the details (such as conceiving on Perfunctory IUI #7) are highlighted on the Very Special Episode of Growing Pains, it might become too easy for people IRL to find my blog. Will I have to redact information from past blog posts? Or perhaps password protect a bunch of posts? I wouldn’t take down this blog completely; it’s too important to me, and there’s got to be a way around things. But, I think that my blog would have to change in some way after the Very Special Episode.

We realize that the project would “out” us to all of our families and friends, and we’re both okay with that but know that it will cause some conflicts.

Probably the biggest problem? The assholes. Articles like the New York Times piece on Pamela Jeanne tend to get all sorts of negative reactions in addition to the neutral and positive reactions. Announcements such as celebrities expecting via surrogate lead to accusations that they just didn’t want to mess up their bodies. I just can’t see myself finding the energy to deal with ignorance and vitriol — from anonymous strangers and loved ones alike.

Many people in the blogosphere use real names, and some have gone even more public than that, appearing as the subject of newspaper articles or television programs, or even writing their own books. Others don’t use real names, usually for a reason. Whatever your current status, what would you do if someone wanted to make you famous for being infertile? What if the person trying to publicize your story was the person you love most in the world?

Help!

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26 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Publicity”

  1. jill Says:

    Yikes – this is quite a situation. I don’t think I have much to say on the subject except, I don’t think I could do it. I’m way too sensitive about what people think and say about me to ever be able to deal easily with the aftermath of being “outed” publicly.

    However, if there was a way to do it anonymously I would be all for that. Is there any way some key details could be altered slightly to keep your identity more private?


  2. First of all, I think it is very important that there is more general understanding for IF, and those annoying misconceptions and prejudices are taken away, and of course, we, as IF-ers, have a role to play in that, because we can tell an ‘inside story’, and add a more human aspect to whatever the medical establishment can tell from the scientific side. But the big question is, to what extent…

    In your case it would be a very dramatic switch from being very secretive about it, including not even sharing it with family and friends, and then suddenly making a 180 degree turn and go really public with it. This would be very difficult to do, since you would be skipping many steps in coming out, and also especially for you because it will have consequences for your blog.

    Personally I would not be willing to give up the safe environment I have created with my blog – this is my sacred place (and I know this is the case for many among us). Although some IRL people know of it (because I sent them the link) I wouldn’t want it to become a public/recognizable blog all of a sudden, and if it would, I probably would stop blogging.

    I would try to maybe find a compromise between the two extremes – it is possible to raise general awareness on the topic of infertility without completely giving up your own privacy. I think you could even find a way to be ‘inspired’ by your own story without sharing it completely with the world. You could maybe mention that you have struggled many years with infertility, but don’t go into much more detail than that. Combine it with other stories of infertility (maybe of people you know in the blogosphere who are already very open about their story and wouldn’t mind sharing), so it won’t be just all about you and your story.

    Another path you could take is making the publicity completely anonymous and detached from your own story (just take examples from other IF stories you know or keep it even more general). The impact on the listener/viewer/reader, however, will probably be less effective, because I think people always warm more to a story if it affects the storyteller him-/herself…

  3. WiseGuy Says:

    My first reaction would be ‘Ouch!’… Or I would actually say –

    ‘Tumhara dimaag kharaab ho gaya hai kya?’ i.e. Have you gone crazy?

    I think there are very negligible chances that my husband would ever have an idea of that kind…

    If such an occasion ever came, I would not be readily agreeable to it, that is for sure…there are too many people who are too sure of their IQ anyways, and I hate people who pass judgements without facing the fire themselves….

    And to open up publicly like that would cause the horses and the mules to come on the same line of the receiving end. I would much rather communicate well with those whom I know and are actively seeking information….

    The truth ultimately is, that I am not in the same position, so hypothetically if I were, I would turn down the thing unless anonymity was assured.

    Or maybe I may decide to open up…I don’t know the answer to this one…but I am not a celebrity, and no one anyways has any interest in my ultrasound cards anyways…

    —–
    Cass, your hubby is planning to write a book? He could do so under a pseudonym/pen name, and not reveal his true identity…

  4. Kristin Says:

    Obviously, I can’t tell you what to do because our situations are so very different. However, if I were in your shoes, I’d say bring it on! I have always been wide open about my struggles with SIF and multiple miscarriages so its pretty much all out there already. And, while there are a few itty bitty things on my blog that might risk upsetting people, the vast majority is safe. My personal feeling is that the more faces we attach to infertility, the better.

  5. shinejil Says:

    I’m pretty open with friends and family about IF, but I feel that unless I have something significant, new, or particularly insightful to add to the discussion, our business should remain our own. I’m definitely drawing on my experience in both my creative and academic work, but my personal life is my own, unless, again, by talking about it I can express something potentially meaningful to other people.

    In general, I have little interest in being famous. It’s a load of crap (just look at Jon and Kate, say, or any Hollywood star without the sense to lay low or the lives of politicians). It just sucks–strangers making sweeping, ill-informed statements about you and brewing constant tempests in tea cups to suit their own purposes. I’d rather live in anonymity but make a life and art that I find deeply compelling and joyful.

  6. Nishkanu Says:

    Uh… can I point out that this one is much harder than your normal Thoughtful Thursday? Maybe you need to start a series on Brainteaser Fridays or something.

    So. I was NOT out to the general world, but I got more lax about the information security situation over the course of the never-ending nightmare. The reason for closetedness was mostly because I did not want to deal with people bugging me regularly about ‘how things are going’ but also because I had some concerns about how the back-stabbing politics at my place of work might turn out should it be revealed that I have interests outside of the workplace.

    I will, however, be out eventually because we are planning to be open about our use of DE, and let’s face it, most people can figure out that if you used DE, there were probably some infertility issues involved.

    I totally hear you on the “but what about my blog?!” situation. Personally, I have been very careful not to reveal too much on my blog that would be traceable back to me, but on the other hand I am also aware that if someone I know stumbles across my blog and put some effort into it they could probably figure out it was me based on the timing of various events in my life. And I do NOT want the people in my everyday life reading about issues having to do with my lady parts. Some things are private, folks (by which I mean can be shared with the entire internet but not the person in the next cubicle).

    I wonder if you might be able to make a deal with your hubby that there are certain details of your history which he may not reveal. I.e. not make a choice simply between “totally in the closet” vs “completely out and proud, you want to see my collection of cervical mucus?!”, but find an in-between position where he can reveal some things about your infertility struggles but he may not reveal certain details which could out your blog or otherwise make you feel particularly uncomfortable.

    That presumes that you want to go along with it in the first place, which is not something I think you have to feel obligated to do.

    In terms of people’s reactions, if you do end up going public, it might be helpful to remind yourself that the people are not talking about you. Sure, they *think* they are talking about you, but they don’t actually know you, they only know about whatever they heard and whatever they made up to go with it, which is what they are reacting to. Pretend it is another tabloid star.

    I work in an area where you sometimes have to read negative reactions to what you do. The game I play with myself which helps to reduce the stress of it is to pretend that the negative reactions come from Martians, not from real actual human beings that I might know. Some Martians didn’t like what I did, well, that is something to take into account intellectually but it doesn’t need to actually touch my real life. OK, maybe it is a little psycho, but it helps me.

  7. ^WiseGuy^ Says:

    I love the comments that you receive on your TTs…Nishkanu’s for example! A stand-out post in itself!


  8. You know, I was originally super private about our IF, treatments, and etc. Actually, I was just super private in general. After conceiving our twins most people either assumed or felt at liberty to ask if they were the result of treatment and, eventually, I somewhat came to terms with it because I was rather *proud* of what we’d gone through and how much we wanted them. After losing them to HELLP Syndrome/ preeclampsia, I was so hurt and confused by the lack of knowledge out there that I started doing my best to speak out about it (and, consequently, IF too). I have cried many nights, sure, telling my husband that I’m tired of being the poter child! He reminds me that I brought it upon myself :), to which I respond – but I didn’t realize it’d be so hard. . .

    It is somewhat empowering to have the information coming straight from you. Even though people will criticize and question and come up with their own versions of the truth – at least you have a platform from which to (try to) correct and educate them.

    Anyway, all this is to say that I think it’s worth considering “coming out of the closet.” It’s hard, for sure, but some times its actually easier to be open in a larger, more public forum than it is to be open with, say, my mom. As for your blog, would you ever consider making it non-google-able?

  9. Lavender Luz Says:

    This is fascinating because I am on the other side of the equation. It is I who have wanted to be public about our “issues” and my husband who has been very wary.

    Because of his requests, I have stayed somewhat cloaked. As time passed, he has become a little more comfortable, but we still agree that our children’s privacy must not be compromised.

    Would it be possible for your husband to set up an alter-ego?

  10. Gil Says:

    Although I reveal some details on my blog, not everything is there for public consumption! However, I am like Kristin above in stating that I believe that the more faces we attach to infertility and the cause, the more accepted it will be in society. Daily, I see or hear about people who are keeping their struggle cloaked in silence and fear because on the whole, our society views infertility as a taboo subject. But there is no shame in infertility or in being infertile. And I strive to help anyone and everyone I can in coming to terms with that and moving forward with their own path.

    In fact, a year and a half ago, I was one of the bloggers interviewed (and photographed!) for a newspaper article in the Globe and Mail and I was honoured to participate. And last week at my baby shower at work, a co-worker came to me and said, “I heard that you and your husband struggled with infertility. Maybe you can help my sister…?” And then there is the receptionist at the local IF clinic who drove over 5 hours to another clinic in another city for treatment because she didn’t want her co-workers to know that they were struggling. So you see, there ARE things we can do to help. And if my “coming out” (so to speak) helps even one person, it’s well worth it to me.

    Good luck in making that decision. I wish you all the best as you determine what’s right for you.


  11. Just had to weigh in … it’s now been a year since my official coming out in the NYT and now — with Silent Sorority available even my parents and aunts and uncles and the world at large have read about my sex life. It’s amazingly liberating! Hiding in the dark was so energy draining and self-esteem eroding. I had my trepidations before the NYT piece came out but once it did it opened the door to a new sense of peace. Hello, world, I’m infertile. Got nothing to hide here. Now, tell me about you!

  12. Dora Says:

    I’ve been wanting to respond to this, since my feelings about this are somewhat contrary to my response to your last post. I am very open about my journey with people I know, but putting my name and face out to the public makes me very uncomfortable. A few months ago I was in contact with a journalist who wanted to interview me about my path to become a single mother by choice for a multimedia online magazine. After I told her I would be happy to talk to her as long as she did not publish my real name or photo, I never heard from her again. A few days ago a local alternative weekly published a cover story about the politics of embryo “adoption” agencies. Something I feel VERY strongly about. You don’t need a home study to get pregnant with donor eggs or sperm, you should not need one to get pregnant with donated embryos. I plan on writing a letter to the editor. I will ask that my name not be published. I don’t feel the need to hide, but I don’t want to be a poster child either.


  13. This is a really interesting situation. As you know, I’m really, really out about IVF and will continue to be so in the future. However, b/f I came out, I had to make sure my husband was on board, and I wouldn’t have if he wasn’t.

    I understand and agree with where your husband is coming from with this request, but in the end, it’s about what you feel comfortable with.

    Last year, my best friend was approached by her city’s leaders and asked to run for Mayor. Her husband wasn’t on board and neither was her mother, so she turned it down even though she would make a very, very good mayor. The thing is these are decisions that are best made within the family.

    Also, you might want to think about holding off on the decision. I know you’re not as generally anxious as I am, but I think that I’ve been emotionally different in every trimester. And one of the things I regret most is volunteering myself for third trimester activities (like working up until my due date) in my earlier trimesters, when I really didn’t know how I’d be feeling right now.

    I’ve been dealing with a lot more fear for my baby’s well-being in the third trimester, and though I am happy to be out with my friends and blog readers, I don’t think I would volunteer to be a face for the movement until AFTER the baby is born and I’m fully settled into a routine.

    Seriously think about what’s going to be the least stressful path for you right now, and don’t be afraid to say “Maybe later.” Now might not be the best time to make decisions like these.


  14. At the time of our miscarriages and trying to conceive, I would have NEVER wanted to be “out”. It was too painful and to personal for me. I wish I would have had the courage to seek others out. If I had, I would have made SO many different choices. I wouldn’t have put so much trust in my doctor because he was my DOCTOR. If ever I am outed, I’ll gladly accept the honor. I’ve pretty much outed myself anyway, I talk about our struggles often.

    It’s such a personal decision. Going public might not be right for you now, but maybe in the future. Good luck making the right choice for you and your family.
    *HUGS*

  15. In Due Time Says:

    That is a tough decision. I’m secretive for two main reasons, family and my SO’s potential job opportunities. But, if there was something good going to come from not being so secretive that could benefit lots of people, I would probably be fine with coming out.

  16. sassy Says:

    Personally, thought I am VERY open about our infertility, I wouldn’twant anything to endanger the safeness of my blog. I blog under a pseudo, and five of my IRL friends know about it, but that’s it.

    I guess the main thing is that is a decision that belongs to both of you, and I guess being on the sme page is kind of, uh, very important before ‘coming out’.

    If you’re not out at all in real life, going public like that sounds very extreme, what with all the vulnerability that goes with it. I’d have a hard time being ‘public’ if I didn’t have support from friends and family first. But of course, having people ‘not get it’ comes with the territory as well when we start to open up…

    (Sorry if tthis comment sounds arse-vicey!!)

  17. ^WiseGuy^ Says:

    Do I get candy for waving a Hello at you??? You have to have to write about what came about this publibity post…and what your hubby is planning…

    *ICLW*

  18. S Says:

    Ouch!!

    I have to agree with a previous poster. Its too hard for me to “come out” and be “outspoken” (of course unless its on the INTERNET) when I’m still struggling to cross over into that magical land known as live birth and parenting. I couldn’t do it. No matter how much I loved that person.

    I “would” do it, if I were a success story and our family was complete. Because then I would be at peace, and not angry, bitter, desperate and everything I am right now. Because then I could pass on all those horrid emotions, but also HOPE.

    A toughie!

  19. Megan Says:

    That’s a tough situation. I get completely outraged when fertiles get all up in a huff in reaction to infertiles’ experiences (a la Pamela Jeanne), so I would handle it VERY badly if I were raked over the coals for telling my story. And you’re right, it happens so often.

    But the other side of it is that infertility really is this dirty little secret. Nobody wants to talk about it. I’ve tried to be more open about our experiences, and I’m often shocked at how many people come forward and say they’ve gone through IF as well — it seems like half the people I tell have had similar experiences.

    I don’t have any answers for you, but I hope you and your husband can come to an agreement that you are both comfortable with.

  20. Alana-isms Says:

    What a difficult decision to make!

    Personally, I think I’d be more open to being “out” publicly in a few years when my IF journey is “over.” (As I’m encountering secondary infertility, I know in a few years we’ll either have another child, or we will have moved on to only having our daughter…as we know that finance-wise we cannot ttc via IVF treatments for an extended time frame for another child.)

    As others have said, during the time of TTC, it is too personal for me to share. (Also, I teach 8th grade and don’t need my personal business to be available to students.) I believe that after the TTC part of my journey is over, it would be easier for me to emotionally handle sharing information with others. (I hope this is making sense…) 🙂

    Best of luck to you and your DH as you continue on your journey together.

    *ICLW*

  21. Julie Says:

    I think my response would be different if it was “during” our IF treatments and such – now that we are done with it (thankfully successfully) I am open IRL more on a “clif notes” – just that we had some trouble, but no specifics. If someone is genuinely interested / looking for advice I’ll offer more. Having said that though, while we were dealing with IF, I tended to be a lot more secretive and didn’t want to go into details with pretty much anyone. Not sure how would have felt if the hubby wanted to go public right at that time, but then again increasing awareness of IF is important so we can cut down on the misunderstandings and overgeneralizations concerning it.

  22. Mel Says:

    Wow…this is a really hard one. Because I think it’s two things. (1) It’s an outing and (2) it’s becoming famous for infertility. So…(1) I obviously have had an outing and while scary, it was also freeing. Once I knew the book was going to be published, it was all just a matter of time. I’m not sure how many family members are reading along, but I simply stopped caring. I mean, I do care, but I don’t let it stunt me.

    Josh also outed us by doing something similar. He was introducing a film about IF at a film festival and he said something along the lines of, “this is obviously important to me because my wife and I are experiencing infertility.” And I thought it was very brave. It wasn’t planned, it just felt right for him to admit it to the audience. But I thought it was brave.

    The second part is a hard one. We were joking a few weeks ago about whether we’d participate in a reality show if it meant free IVF cycles and the answer is no. It’s not a medium that is comfortable for me–television–and I think that’s the big difference. I am comfortable with words and writing/I’m not comfortable with publicly appearances and cameras. So…that outing would be more painful for me because it stretches me beyond my emotional safety zone.

  23. Photogrl Says:

    I’m a week late, but better late than never, right? 🙂

    I’ve been pretty open IRL about my m/c and trouble TTC #2, until the last failed pregnancy. Something has changed…all of a sudden, I don’t feel like explaining my situation anymore. It’s weird.

    That being said, until this last failure, I’ve always thought that if my story helped one person, it was worth telling.

    I guess I’m not much help.

  24. Cat Says:

    I’m torn. I’m torn between wanting to help other couples going through IF in silence and wanting to avoid the ignorant people who feel the need to say hurtful things about issues they don’t understand.

    We didn’t tell anyone except my 3 closest friends that we were TTC. Now that we’re pregnant, we’ve been open about how we got here. Our hand was somewhat forced since we’re having triplets, but we still could have lied about it, I suppose. For as open as I’ve been about it and how often I’ve said people can ask me anything, they really haven’t and I’m a little surprised and disappointed by that. I was hoping to be able to educate people about the reality of IF, what it’s like and how many people are affected because odds are everyone knows someone dealing with this. That said, I still resent it when someone asks me if the pregnancy/babies are “natural”.

    Not knowing the medium or format your DH works in, is there a way you can come to a compromise on what he will share and what he won’t? I think the way to avoid the most ignorant comments is to share the info in such a way that people can relate to as much of the story as possible, even if they didn’t experience IF themselves. For example, starting the story with the boy-meets-girl standard of falling in love, getting married, having fun for a couple years while thinking they’d just get pregnant when they decided they were ready. Then starting to TTC, all excited every month, only to be disappointed every month. Most people should be able to relate to that part and (hopefully) be guided into empathy when the story doesn’t work out as anticipated.

  25. Tkeys Says:

    That is a tough dilemma – and one I don’t envy. I think, for me, the question would be how public? If given the opportunity, would I share my story in front of Congress or the state legislature or in a documentary or on a tv show as your everyday person who struggled with infertility? Yes, I would – I believe I *might* be able to articulate the concerns, legal and personal, in a way that could advance the cause. Would I care if that exposed me? Probably not. But then again, I am not a public figure, and after my 15 minutes of notoriety, I am certain I would fade back into my world of anonymity.

    I think a lot has to do with how public a figure you (and your husband) are or would become. If you are famous actors, or very public political figures, I could see how you would want to limit the publicity, and I could see how someone might ferret out this blog.

    I currently keep my blogs unlisted and unsearchable, I believe, so unless someone knows me through my online connections – the boards where I post or the blogs where I comment, or places like ICLW where I list my anonymous blog, they would not likely find me. But then again, at this time, I’m not sure anyone is looking!

    Good luck on your decision.

  26. Jamie Says:

    I honestly think if a man brought it to the forefront it would be received differently. Maybe as more real and they may not see it as a “woman whining.” I know its sad, but its true. I’ve gotten reactions that were truly unexpected from different people. People who I thought would be more compassionate don’t care to hear it. Others, who I thought would really stick their foot in their mouths have simply said “I’m praying for you.” (that response is by far my favorite)

    Unfortunantly, our our society ignorance is so widespread on this topic. I personally think if they haven’t been in our shoes they shouldn’t have an opinion. Many have one and voice it WAY too loudly. Hence the reason insurance laws are SOOOOO dreadfully behind.


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