“It is really hard to put on a happy face,” says Food Network’s Katie Lee. “Fertility issues are supposed to be private so many of us are silently in pain.”
Katie Lee is a celebrated American cookbook author, food critic and novelist – not to mention one of Food Network’s most beloved personalities. And yet, like so many women, she has found that friends, family, fans and members of the press are only really interested in one thing: the current state of her womb.
It says a lot that the biggest Google search term around Lee is ‘Is Katie Liee pregnant?’. Likewise, it speaks to our society’s unhealthy obsession with women’s bodies and fertility statuses that so many of Lee’s fans genuinely feel it’s OK to reach out on social media and ask her, a woman they’ve never met in real life, when she’s planning on having kids.
And Lee has had enough. Taking to Instagram, the author explained that she gets “multiple messages a day asking me if I’m pregnant or why I am not pregnant yet”.
“I get comments saying I look like I’ve gained weight, so I must be pregnant,” she said. “After one said that I looked ‘thick in the waist’ I finally responded that it’s not ok to comment on a woman’s body and you never know what someone is going through.”
“There is so much pressure on women to look a certain way and while most mean well with baby questions, it can be hurtful,” continued Lee, going on to explain that, after marrying Ryan Biegel, her plan was to “start a family right away”.
“I couldn’t wait to get pregnant,” she said, adding that she “naively thought it would be easy”.
“I’m a healthy woman,” shared Lee. “I eat a balanced diet, exercise, I don’t smoke. Ryan is the same. But reproductive health is an entirely different ballgame.
“We were trying, I had to have surgery to correct a problem, got an infection, then I was so run down I got shingles. My doctor advised us to try iVF. We just finished the intense process only to get zero healthy embryos. Not only is iVF physically exhausting, the emotional toll is unparalleled. We were filled with hope and excitement only to be crushed.”
Lee continued: “It is really hard to put on a happy face. Fertility issues are supposed to be private so many of us are silently in pain. I hesitated to share this but I feel comfort when I hear others’ stories and I hope any of you in a similar situation know you are not alone. When people ask me when I’m getting pregnant, it hurts. It’s just a reminder that I’m not. When they say I look like I’ve gained weight, I have. I can’t exercise as much and the hormones have made me bloated.”
She finished by saying: “I know a family will happen for us, it is just going to be a different journey than we imagined. We will keep working towards it. Someday we will have our happy new beginning and I pray any of you experiencing the same will have yours too.”
Lee’s words echo those of Kylie Minogue, who recently reminded all those who felt obliged to grill her over her reproductive status that she was 36 years old when, in 2005, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The Australian pop star underwent radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and a partial mastectomy during her battle with the disease – and, in February 2006, she was given the all-clear.
“When cancer strikes, you really have to consider all of that,” said Minogue.
She went on to add that plenty of people have advised her that, in spite of all the fertility issues caused by chemotherapy and her more mature age, she has ‘options’. However, while she doesn’t doubt that they have good intentions, it’s still incredibly upsetting to have to discuss it.
“Trust me, there’s a point when the next person who says, ‘Well, there are so many options’, you want to scream,” said Minogue.
“Of course, it’s great there are options. It’s marvellous! But when you’re dealing with all the other stuff and things that you took for granted are taken away from you, it’s like, yes there are options, but…”
The singer didn’t have to finish; her meaning was absolutely implicit – people need to stop with their outrageous, intrusive, and insensitive questions about what should be a deeply personal subject. There are so many reasons why women may not have children; either they don’t want them, or can’t have them, or haven’t found the right person to have them with, or they are putting their career first.
Each reason is a valid as the last, because a woman’s reproductive choices are absolutely her own. We need to stop with the incessant quizzing, comments about the biological clock, and thoughtless attempts to “help” them find a means of starting a family of their own.
More importantly, we need to put an end to this deeply misogynist narrative that suggests a woman’s primary goal in life is to breed; it’s the 21st century now, people. It’s time to change the record already.