Last year, Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels got into some natalist hot water when, in an interview with Women’s Health, she was quoted out of context when she said, “I’m going to adopt. I can’t handle doing that to my body. Also, when you rescue something, it’s like rescuing a part of yourself.” The tabloids immediately seized on the comments. US Weekly’s headline read, “Biggest Loser’s Jillian Michaels ‘Can’t Handle’ Getting Fat While Pregnant,” and HuffPo proclaimed, “Jillian Michaels: I Won’t Ruin My Body With Pregnancy.” There was no immediate inquiry into what Michaels meant. It was assumed she was a narcissist obsessed with fitness, unwilling to sacrifice her toned abs to the stork.
For as much as we live in a fast-paced world with Twitter-as-news instantaneous updates, you’d think someone could go back and change those headlines. Because, as it turns out, Michaels has endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)—conditions that have already been mentioned here in the comments as reasons that some women choose not to have biological children. Michaels is not afraid of altering her hot bod (she never said “ruin”); she’s afraid of how she would respond to the physical strain of pregnancy.
A quick primer in case you don’t know: Endometriosis can cause infertility; PCOS is thought to be related to subfertility. Women with PCOS can also have a higher risk for high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and miscarriage. Neither of these conditions mean a woman can’t have a child, though it can be difficult. Michaels isn’t willing to put her already temperamental reproductive organs through the trauma of a potentially risky pregnancy. More than fair, if you ask me.
(Also, if Michaels did have a biological child, can we imagine how ruthless gossip bloggers and the paparazzi would be if she, fitness goddess, didn’t drop the baby weight immediately?)
Michaels had a chance to defend herself, including in an interview with momlogic.com, in which she explained that she’d felt “embarrassed” by the question from the Women’s Health writer. And why shouldn’t she? Why is women’s health and fertility a topic for strangers to parse, to judge? What’s really sad is her admission that she wasn’t up front about her condition because she was ashamed. It’s really sad—and a rather disgusting statement about our cultural norms—that social pressure would make her feel deficient for, of all things, not wanting or feeling able to be a biological mom.
You know what else? No one should feel like they have to defend their choice to adopt. Adoption is an awesome choice for so many families, and Michaels has used the media shitstorm to address that. (That doesn’t mean she hasn’t said some problematic things about international adoption—who out there wants to blog about feminist adoption?) Then again, she probably could have said more about endometriosis or PCOS, two rather misunderstood conditions. But I’m also not into bashing her for what she didn’t say; she clearly felt compelled to come forward with more than she originally intended as a result of being taken out of context, and in my opinion, that’s a shitty position to be in as a somewhat private public figure. Yes, to some degree, you can (or should be able to) have it both ways.
One other tidbit: Michaels is bisexual. No, that doesn’t necessarily limit her procreation options in a time of widespread IVF, but it oughta help do away with the “you’ll meet the right man” myth—at least in her case.
Did you know Michaels has health-related concerns about having children? How have endometriosis and PCOS affected your choices about pregnancy and childbirth? Why do you think adoption is treated as a lesser option than biological parenthood?