The Day the World Stopped: Angelina Jolie Used In Vitro!

10 years ago

There I was, my back to the front door, Twittering about the Wonder Pets (what do you guys think about the Ollie character who pops up in the "Saves the Skunk" episode? A little grating...right?) when my husband burst through the door, flinging the grocery bags brimming with half-and-half and veggie chicken nuggets to the ground to brandish the shocking evidence.

"It was in vitro!" he roared, shaking the cover of Us magazine in my face.

And the world stopped.

And that was the moment that everything changed.

Just kidding. I went back to Twittering about Wonder Pets.

But you truly do need to pause and discuss a magazine cover that uses an exclamation point to share the news. We use an exclamation point in my house to discuss gruesome murders and shocking love triangles and the D.C. lawmaker-scandal du jour. But if you examine the cover, the stories that get the exclamation point are Jennifer Garner's pregnancy (Jen Garner Pregnant!) and Salma Hyack's split (Salma and Fiance Split!) and, of course, IT WAS IN VITRO!


The stories that didn't warrant an exclamation point are a mother giving up custody of her children (which is, in my opinion, a little more remarkable than a break-up) and a woman having a very public affair with a married father of four that was caught on film.

My husband sourly explained the need for the exclamation point that evening at dinner. "What are movie stars but the 21st century replacement for a fertility goddess. If our fertility goddesses are using in vitro, where can we place our conception daydreams?"

"Do boys fantasize about getting girls pregnant?" I asked.

"No," my husband admitted. "I mean, not unless they've been doing fertility treatments for several months and their wife is hopped up on hormones and she is saying terrible things to him whenever she comes down from progesterone and they're revolving their lives around the 10 p.m. trigger shot."

But it was in vitro! We can't stopped screaming that at each other when we pass in the kitchen. We like to shout it before bed, making sure we get that perfect combination of astonishment and disdain in our voices as we gasp it out. In vitro!

I obviously have a skewed view of treatments since I need them myself in order to build my family--I didn't think that medical procedures were particularly gasp-worthy prior to being diagnosed as infertile (it was Lasik!) nor do I think the media does the infertility community any favours when it creates magazine articles sensationalizing and marginalizing necessary procedures. No wonder we end up with 380+ idiotic comments about infertility when actual news sources such as the New York Times tries to shed light on the reality of the condition.

What I'm not here to debate is whether the story has any basis--of course it probably doesn't. If you get your news from Us magazine, there is a deep, deep problem with your world. If you want serious news, you need to turn to a serious news source such as People magazine. And People hasn't covered this yet. At the end of the day, I don't care whether or not Jolie is a stirrup queen or is planning on having ten more babies or whether she is really an alien planning on overthrowing our government (wait...scratch that...I actually would care about the last thing). What I care about is that once again, a medical procedure that has brought so much peace of heart to infertile men and women is being held up for ridicule and shock like a Barnum side show. Or, as if they've caught her...GASP...cheating. With in vitro!

Mustard Seed Baby mused about the impact the article would have on the infertile community: "Will it be chalked up to celebrity baby-timing (the article alleges that she wanted to 'knock it out' and not deal with the 'stress of trying to get pregnant'), or could it bring the attention to IVF and those going through it that these folks have brought to international adoption?"

But it's sort of a moot point because even if it brings attention to IVF, it isn't the good kind of attention (and was the attention they brought to international adoption truly an enlightening moment for the community, educating and informing? Or did they simply reinforce misinformation by never showing the complexity of the experience?). In any case, even if good comes out of this down the road, the story has annoyed those such as Miss E who have utilized IVF: "Getting on my nerves on this rainy Friday morning: celebrity gossip (unconfirmed) that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie used IVF to conceive their twins, because that would be so much easier and less stressful than trying to conceive and could 'just knock it out,' according to the source. Grrrr!"

At the end of the day, infertile women are just as bewildered as you are with this story. What You're Not Expecting When You're Trying to Expect points out: "However, if it is true, I think those two really missed the boat. It's amazing to me that someone would willingly put themselves through enlarged ovaries, countless needles and ass bruising just because they can."

Just because they can. And just because it's exclamation point worthy.

Melissa is the author of the infertility and pregnancy loss blog, Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. She keeps a categorized blogroll of over 1400 infertility blogs and writes the daily Lost and Found and Connections Abound, a news source for the infertility blogosphere. Her infertility book, The Land of If, is forthcoming from Seal Press in Spring 2009. She is also an editor at Bridges, the awareness consortium and the keeper of the list for IComLeavWe (International Comment Leaving Week). The list for August is currently open and all are invited to join the conversation.

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