The new frontier of toxic positivity: influencers, infertility, and “miracle babies”

In the recent year, a number of influencers revealed how they struggled with fertility problems more or less concurrently with pregnancies announcements.

Among the influencers I am the most familiar with, I would mention Kenza Zouiten, Paola Turani and Gabrielle Caunesil. I am so happy for these women and their families that they finally realised a long time dream. I really am.

But of course, there’s a but.

I couldn’t help but notice a recurring theme in their posts, which is one of hope.

“Keep your hopes high” – “miracles do happen” – “nothing is impossible” – “the most beautiful things take time” – “don’t worry, it will happen”

Paola Turani on Instagram

I think this kind of rhetoric is nothing but the latest iteration of toxic positivity. Even if comes from a good place. Toxic positivity is defined as

an obsession with positive thinking. It is the belief that people should put a positive spin on all experiences, even those that are profoundly tragic

Or:

the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. It’s a “good vibes only” approach to life

The reason why I believe this hopeful attitude to infertility is an iteration of toxic positivity is simple: not all women will eventually be able to get pregnant and give birth.

Either because of economic reasons, physical conditions, the timing that was never right – or the partner: not every woman will have children. And that’s ok. It’s part of life and there’s no need to sugarcoat this fact for grown-ups.

Moreover, for some people it is just too late: by the time they read these new waves of cheerful messages, they already reached menopause or had their reproductive organs compromised (or even removed). There are also women who will never be able to afford or access fertility treatments. And let’s not forget trans women and intersex people. To them, this void rhetoric of “miracles” and “hope” only adds salt to the wound.

Lastly, in many cases these influencers happy endings seem just too good to be true: let’s look at Kenza, who had two children in the span of three years despite looming early menopause, and Gabrielle, who is about to give birth to her first son just one year after a late diagnosis of severe endometriosis. Once again, I am so happy if anyone realises their dream, and I don’t mean to take anything away from their experience and their joy. But sugarcoating the reality of many other women does not help – on the contrary, it just makes it harder to come to terms with one’s reality and sets another type of unrealistic expectation.

You can share your joy without promising a happy ending that may have never arrived, or never will. And people can still be happy for you.

I would also like to add – hoping to unpack more on this theme in the future – that I wish I could see more childfree or childless “influencers” that are at peace with their choices or come to terms with their situation. This type of representation surely would help the shift in the discourse that sees women as complete only once the role of (biological) mothers is fulfilled.

Gabrielle Caunesil on Instagram

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I research climate change & migration for a living. Here I write about everything else

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Alessandra Paiusco

Alessandra Paiusco

I research climate change & migration for a living. Here I write about everything else

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