NBC Boston Features Wellesley Class Discussion about Michelle Obama’s IVF Disclosure

A screen shot from an NBC Boston broadcast that depicts a Wellesley seminar class discussion.
Image credit: NBC10Boston
November 19, 2018

On November 12, NBC Boston aired part of a Wellesley contemporary reproduction seminar discussion regarding former first lady Michelle Obama’s disclosure, in her newly released memoir, that she used in vitro fertilization to conceive her two daughters.

During the class, Rosanna Hertz, Class of 1919–50th Reunion Professor of Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies and chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, asked her students how they felt about Obama including information as personal as her challenges in having children. Arielle Mitropoulos ’19 said in the NBC Boston segment, “Maybe she could have talked about it while she was the first lady, because that’s when you really have this major platform.”

Kay McKenzie ’19 said she understood why Obama kept the information private while her husband was president. “I think there was a lot of pressure to act like everything in their marriage and everything in their family was okay,” she said.

“I think if she had done it while her husband was still president, more people would have empathized with her,” said Olaide Sode ’19. “I think at the end of the day she tried to protect not only herself, but her family.”  

Mitropoulos added, “Hopefully this conversation will allow there to be less stigma around the use of IVF.”

The memoir was released November 13, but Hertz’s class had learned some of the details from Obama’s interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts that aired November 9. Hertz said she saw Obama’s book and interview as an opportunity to illuminate a topic that was relevant to her class discussion.

“I was most surprised that she was 34 or 35 when she went through IVF,” Hertz told the Daily Shot. “We tend to think of 34 or 35 as young for women to become mothers, especially for career women. Yet, for many women it is not uncommon to need medical help to get pregnant.”

Hertz, who also had fertility problems and used other assisted reproductive technologies, said Obama broached a topic that is not often discussed. “The stigma for middle-class women of all races over 35 is that you have succeeded and are successful at work, and now having a baby is not as easy as you thought and IVF is not regarded as a ‘natural’ way to get pregnant,” she said.

Photo: Students in Contemporary Reproduction (WGST 322) and Rosanna Hertz (center) discuss Michelle Obama's memoir, which details her experiences with IVF.