Oh, Betty! I So Get You

“I don’t want you to think I’m a quitter. I’ve fought for plenty in my life. That’s how I know when it’s over. To know when to move on…”

The dialogue from Mad Men this week struck like a thunder clap. I nodded instinctively.

While cancer is the elephant in the room for Betty, I couldn’t help but see parallels for infertility. Her rationale is what I came to understand a decade ago: harsh reality is better than false hope.

Betty’s cool Zen-like acceptance felt familiar. It is clearly not the response those closest to her wanted to hear.  Her husband wants her to pursue aggressive treatment, while her daughter is, understandably, in shock. Betty, though, just knows. She doesn’t imply it is going to be easy.

The stoking of false hope is prevalent in many spheres of medicine — particularly where fertility is concerned.

It’s not easy to accept that reproductive medicine has limits in today’s society. Nobody wants to be perceived as a quitter. The complexities we face today played into why I was compelled to sit down and write Finally Heard.

Like Betty, many of us fought for plenty in our lives. We also came to the point when we just knew it was time to move on. I am grateful that more of our stories are being heard. It was particularly validating this past weekend to read a post from Cristy about the ideas and issues Finally Heard raised for her:

“I found myself shocked when I came upon the section about how society views women who are not parenting after infertility and realizing that prior to infertility I too believed these myths and how it’s thanks to women like Pamela, Loribeth and Mali that I no longer do.”

You can read more responses to Finally Heard here and on Amazon.com. (Many thanks Klara, Lisa, Mali, Cristy, Jody, Tracey, Kinsey and Justine for the reviews and comments — keep ’em coming. I read them all.)

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While combating and overcoming the personal struggle is what many of my fellow bloggers rightfully focus on in their writing, I’m finding myself more and more drawn to, as Cristy called out:

“bravely tackling both society’s view of those living without children as well as the dark-side of an unregulated fertility industry. Though this last part is definitely unpopular, the message that Pamela brings is important for anyone who decides to pursue treatments to consider.”

Seems the messages shared nearly two years ago in a New York Times op-ed Miriam Zoll and I co-authored remain as important as ever. Apparently there is another ‘trade’ show — this one with the brazen hashtag #FertilityShow in the UK this week. Is it me or does that hashtag imply you can sign right up to get some of that fertility thing they’re selling.

Doesn’t it seem there should be warnings — or at a minimum — asterisks galore plastered all over the convention hall or the signage of fertility clinic websites making clear up front (and not buried in the fine print) that THIS WON’T WORK FOR EVERYONE.  Maybe we need a ‘truth in advertising’ campaign started.  A tad more accountability perhaps in the fertility world? Meanwhile, kudos to Miriam for raising this question on her Twitter feed:

So here are some bioethical questions to consider: Where and when do we draw the line? When does the marketing and selling of expensive unregulated procedures cross over into irresponsible territory?

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For those interested in the actual Betty scene, here’s where you can see the Mad Men clip.