In July, 2019 Gretchen Rossi, former Real Housewife of Orange County (Seasons 4-8 & 12) and long-time fiancé Slade Smiley welcomed baby girl Skylar Gray – after 4 years of in/fertility treatments.
Unlike most heterosexual couples that choose IVF after attempting to conceive naturally, they began with IVF due to Smiley’s vasectomy. However, after a round of IVF, which produced no viable embryos, Smiley reversed his vasectomy and the two tried to conceive naturally. After 18 months without success, they returned to IVF for 3 more rounds, the details of which are vague.
The Rossi/Smiley path to parenthood was, like many families, complicated. Their initial use of IVF was for fertility, not infertility reasons. Then, once deemed “infertile” because of their inability to conceive naturally, IVF became an infertility procedure – until it produced a baby, thereby rendering it fertility once again. Their economic resources allowed for enough infertility procedures to result in fertility.
For couples without the means, one round of IVF may be the entire journey; and dependent on outcome, it is either a journey of fertility or infertility. Infertility is indeed pathological, but is it biological or fiscal? And what of queer families? When conceiving “naturally” is a social and physical impossibility, to label their process as one of infertility is by default to pathologize them.
According to RESOLVE.org, Infertility is defined as “a disease characterized by the failure to establish a clinical pregnancy after 12 months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse or due to an impairment of a person’s capacity either as an individual or with his/her partner.” This definition is not only heterosexist but also pejorative. While medical definitions of pathology may never change, social terminologies can. I suggest the term “infertility” is heterosexist, misogynistic, patriarchal, and pathological and a switch to “fertility” can be a move towards empowerment, inclusion, and equality.