My favorite underwear to wear when I visit the doctor for IVF treatments are from Dolce & Gabbana. After going through 11 assisted reproductive treatments (ART), composed of endless shots, ultrasound scans, oocyte retrievals, transfers, 2-week waits, blood tests, and more, you find that even trifle gestures, like picking out undies the morning of an appointment, carry some meaning.
I own 10 pairs of Dolce & Gabbana delicates, and they make me feel good while doing something that makes me feel awful. Going through infertility, I wear a broken heart everyday. My body, in a lot of ways, is broken too. My designer skivvies bring a small piece of sexy to our terribly unsexy efforts to make a family. The family I refuse to give up on.
On Sunday, my 20th day of a long-protocol of IVF that will be my 5th round in the last year, I read some words from my favorite designer duo, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.
They expressed their discomfort with the practice of IVF in an interview with an Italian magazine that has since gone viral: (translated from Italian) ‘You are born and you have a father and mother,’ Domenico said. ‘At least it should be like that. That’s why I’m not convinced by what I call chemical children, synthetic babies.’
Their pointed words caused a social media ruckus; celebrities started piling on, and I’ll admit, I got riled. Blame it on the hormones, or just being a human being, but the quote stung. I felt singled out. Misunderstood and angry. I shared their thoughts with my husband, who winced. An hour later, all was silent as he stuck a syringe full of Gonal-f into my bruised stomach.
The next day, still smarting, I got my trigger-happy typing-fingers ready to hashtag the #$hit out of their designer asses, invoking the now trending #boycottdolcegabbana. And then I found out stuff about them – a lot of stuff that I didn’t know, gleaned from decades-old interviews, recent fashion shows, and a host of media scribbles that I could piece together to form a stunning new conclusion. And it hit me. Wait, they love babies. They love family. In their fall show, the models walked the runway with their beautiful wee-ones.
These two men are like me.
Their words are not full of hate, they are full of sadness because somewhere deep down in places in their soul they don’t like to talk about with journalists from Panorama magazine, they miss the children they didn’t have.
The abrasive words they used about IVF are things I am not proud to admit I have said myself. After going through so many failed inseminations, I was scared of everything IVF involved. Quizzically, I would ask Martin, “Are we really going to make a baby in a test-tube?” In Denmark, the word for IVF is “regansglasbehandling,” which translates to test-tube treatment. “Are we okay with this?” I’d nag Martin. I’m removed enough now to admit that the whole IVF-affair mildly creeped me out initially. I quickly got over it, as my fear of being childless far outweighed my fear of a few test tubes. But I realized that the people who look down on IVF or judge it the way I once did, and the way Dolce and Gabbana do now are not the 95% of the population who have never had to use it (those folks think it’s grand); but we – we who hate it – are the ones who drew the short stick and have been forced to examine it, warts and all, as one of our few viable options. Those two men explored IVF. They considered it, and something stopped them.
Do I blame them, judge them or want to boycott them? Absolutely not.
I feel a deep sense of pain for them if they happen to be another two adults hurting over the children they were not able to have. And though they are too proud and wonderful and subversive to admit it, I think either of them would give their left nutsack to be able to hold their own baby, “synthetically” made or not.
I spy…envy. Jealousy, for all the gay and straight men and women who wandered that scary, isolating, taxing path of IVF-babymaking, and came out the other side holding the hand of a child. They didn’t go there – and whether it was out of apprehension, religion, genuine distrust of the science, or fear of breaking with the family “convention”, it has to be okay with me. That is their journey, and I cannot judge. I will offer my love.
Those men, and me, are childless. And sometimes, it really hurts to be childless. Sometimes you mouth off. You make labels; you presume it was “so easy” for everyone else. And you say things that sting others. Slinging words with professorial overtones like “synthetic,” laughing delicately at others (suckers). You do it from a platform, in the case of Stefano and Domenico.
If they are carrying just an ounce of the pain I feel every day, then they deserve our mercy. To nurture a child is a primal need for all members of our species: male, female, gay or straight. Infertility is a crack in the continuity of life that inflicts a great and silent pain. And whether the infertility is caused by an uncooperative body, as it is for me, or by a person’s homosexuality, I offer my heartfelt love and empathy to anyone who feels shut out.
On Monday, I will take the Metro to the fertility clinic, take off a pair of silk Dolce and Gabbanas, get shot up with morphine and slide into some stirrups. The doctor will take out the four paltry follicles we have managed to stimulate this cycle, and I will start saying my prayers.
That I might one day be graced with a fat little baby who I can outfit in leopard-print onesies from my favorite designers.