If you are an intended parent struggling with infertility or in the middle of the surrogacy process, you are well familiar with the difficulties of the path you are on. You know the sacrifices and tough decisions you made to get to where you are. That’s why it can be so frustrating and infuriating when someone else comments upon your personal life: a growing trend called parent shaming.
For some reason, with the power of social media, people feel compelled to hide behind their computer screens and judge other parents for their choices — whether that’s adoption, IVF, surrogacy or simply their parenting styles. When you’re going through the difficult process of assisted reproduction, these comments can be grating, especially when the commenter doesn’t really understand what your personal journey involves.
These are just a few of the comments you may have received or heard:
Why didn’t you just adopt? There are so many waiting kids.
Why did you spend all that money on IVF if you can’t even get pregnant?
Well, maybe if you just relaxed and didn’t stress about having a kid, you’ll actually get pregnant.
We’re sad to see the trend of IVF- and surrogacy-shaming become normalized online. So, what can you do as an intended parent to combat this shaming and judgement?
1. Think before you respond.
When someone comments harshly about your choice to pursue IVF or surrogacy, it can be tempting to quickly respond, fueled by the hurt and anger you’re feeling. However, take a deep breath and think about what you’re saying. Sometimes, to defend themselves, intended parents deflect by shaming the commenter for their parenting decisions. However, responding with judgmental comments will do nothing to solve the online-shaming problem.
2. Respond politely and with kindness.
Instead of lashing out, be considerate. Just because you are not speaking to the person face-to-face does not mean they don’t deserve the same kind of respect you would give in an in-person conversation. Politely thank them for their comment, but respectfully agree to disagree.
3. Educate them about IVF and/or surrogacy.
Often, judgmental comments about assisted reproductive technology come from a place of misunderstanding. For example, some people may believe that surrogates are “giving up” their own baby, which can inspire hateful comments. Take this opportunity to educate the commenter about the realities of the path you’ve chosen. Explain how you came to this decision, and emphasize that it was the right choice for your family.
4. Politely excuse yourself from the conversation.
Unfortunately, many people don’t come to social media to have an open, productive conversation. They don’t wish to have their mind changed but to instead reiterate their own points over and over. Therefore, it can sometimes cause more harm than good to engage them in a lengthy discussion. Instead, remind them that how you build your family is no one’s business but your own. You can also say you aren’t comfortable discussing your intimate family decisions with them. If they continue to engage you, ignore them or take steps to block them.
Remember, your emotional well-being is what really matters — not the opinion of someone on the internet.
Taking Steps to Stop the Cycle in Your Everyday Life
To stop infertility- and parent-shaming, consider your own life. Do you find yourself being critical of other parents, whether you express those opinions or not? Odds are, you have at some point — you’re only human.
But, when those thoughts arise, take a minute to remember that everyone’s situation is different. What you see as a breakdown in parenting may be a parent dealing with an impossible situation, like financial troubles or a death in the family. No parent is perfect all the time, and it’s not productive to criticize things that a parent is likely already self-conscious about.
There is no “right” way to be or become a parent, and it’s not your place to tell someone what they are doing is “wrong.” Instead, show a little kindness and support, especially of people who might share different beliefs than you. We could all use a bit of understanding in this day and age.