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The Scarlet Letter Blog Feature
Lisa Rosenthal

By: Lisa Rosenthal on September 21st, 2015

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The Scarlet Letter "I" – Gabrielle Union, Infertility & Shame

News | Feelings | Support

gabrielle-union-infertility-shameDon’t you find it a relief when you can turn the edit button to the "off" position? And just say what you are really thinking?

Here’s what Gabrielle Union told Redbook, due out soon, "There's a certain amount of shame that is placed on women who have perhaps chosen a career over starting a family younger," and "The penance for being a career woman is barrenness. You feel like you're wearing a scarlet letter."

The Truth of Infertility

She could have put a bright, shiny face on it. Been all brave and positive. Truth is, infertility doesn’t have that effect on us. It’s not what we are hoping for, not why we choose education and careers. So that we can turn out to have fertility problems? No. It can be a by-product of having made those other choices first, this is true. Do we always realize that we are making choices?

Ms. Union turned her edit button off. No sugar coating and guaranteed happy ending statements.

She told the truth about how it feels, at least some of the time. “Certain amount” is the modifier that she used about the shame that society urges us to shoulder. Place on us? I’m not so sure about that. Consider whether it is something that we have to carry around no matter how many people insist that it’s ours to carry.

Eleanor Roosevelt said this, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Does that extend to shame?

I vote for yes.

I vote for “screw them” about shaming women who fulfill their dreams and desires about having a career or continuing an education or simply waiting until they are emotionally ready for a child.

Siding With Gabrielle Union | Starting an Anti-Shame Movement

Gabrielle Union, I completely believe that your reality is that you have felt shamed around your choices. I’m happy to start an anti-shame movement.

#TwoFertilityWords ? Proud & Ready

Now about the barren part. Again, thank you for saying it out loud, to the media, in print and validating what a lot of us feel but don’t want to say out loud.

Yes, we feel barren. We feel less than. We feel damaged. We feel broken. We feel ready to take on that scarlet letter “I”.

We feel isolated. We feel alone. And we feel other things too. Like sadness. Fear. Anger. Frustration. Bitterness. Jealousy.

These are by-products of infertility.

And just to be clear, these are really hard feelings to sit with. They feel awful. They feel unmanageable.

Who ever wanted to feel barren?

And here too, we have choices.

We can feel these things.

And we do, when we do.

And we can also find support. Help.

We can find comrades, women who have experienced infertility who can share their experiences. Realize that we are not alone in this. That we have a medical condition that needs treatment. That we are strong, vibrant, powerful women with big voices.

We Should Not Feel Infertility Shame

We are not infertile, even if we are struggling to have children. Even if we end up not having children, we do not have to wear that scarlet letter “I”.

We are women. With or without children, we are women. We are fertile and creative even if we are not mommies.

That’s a truth that stands up and roars in a gigantic voice and cowers those that would shame us.

For the second time in two weeks, I applaud a strong woman who is not afraid to say what she feels.

And I hope, she is not afraid to step out of any circle of shame that society wants to create around her.

Gabrielle Union, we are with you.

#TwoFertilityWords Proud & Ready

Resolve, Path2Parenthood, INCIID, ResolveNewEngland, are four not for profit patient organizations where you can find support if you are feeling alone in your quest for a child. You do not have to be alone in this.

Also, Reproductive Medicine Associates of Conneticut (RMACT) has three monthly peer support groups called Ladies Night In that are free and open to the public. Read more.


Gina Hughes [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

About Lisa Rosenthal

Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.

Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.

Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.

Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.