Jennifer Aniston is tired. She’s tired of people spreading rumors about her, she’s tired of the endless questions about why she doesn’t have kids, but most of all, she’s just plain tired. The Friends star decided to share her heartbreaking infertility story in the December cover story of Allure because people just won’t leave her alone. It’s a good reminder of exactly why reproductive choices are nobody’s business, ever.
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In Aniston’s words, she went through “really hard sh*t” in her “late 30s, 40s.” Later, she clarified that at the time, she was trying to conceive — and having a very difficult time.
“I was trying to get pregnant. It was a challenging road for me, the baby-making road,” she told Allure. “All the years and years and years of speculation … It was hard. I was going through IVF, drinking Chinese teas, you name it. I was throwing everything at it. I would’ve given anything if someone had said to me, ‘Freeze your eggs. Do yourself a favor.’ You just don’t think it.”
But while she was trying to get pregnant, the press at the time was relentless. She was constantly attacked for not having kids, which added to the immense pain she felt. It was this idea that women aren’t fully valuable until they have kids — and if they don’t, like Aniston, then they are “just selfish” or they only care about their career.
“God forbid a woman is successful and doesn’t have a child,” she added.
To be clear, this is NOT the first time The Morning Show star has opened up about not having kids. In 2016, she wrote an op-ed for The Huffington Post to address gossip.
“For the record, I am not pregnant. What I am is fed up,” she said. “I’m fed up with the sport-like scrutiny and body shaming that occurs daily under the guise of ‘journalism,’ the ‘First Amendment and ‘celebrity news.’”
“This past month in particular has illuminated how much we define a woman’s value based on her marital and maternal status,” she added. “The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I am pregnant (for the bajillionth time… but who’s counting) points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children.”
Again, she wrote this in 2016 — six years ago, and she is still having to defend and explain her reproductive choices to the public. It’s maddening.
But even before that, she aired her frustrations with everyone’s obsession over her uterus. On the TODAY Show in 2014, she said, “It’s just constant and I’m like, ‘Look, I don’t know,’” she said. “I don’t have this sort of checklist of things that have to be done and if they’re not checked then I failed my feminism or being a woman, or my value as a woman because I haven’t, you know, birthed a child.”
Fast-forward to the September 2018 cover story of InStyle, where Aniston said, “No one knows what’s going on behind closed doors. No one considers how sensitive that might be for my partner and me,” she said of the “reckless” assumptions being made. “They don’t know what I’ve been through medically or emotionally. There is pressure on women to be mothers, and if they are not, then they’re deemed damaged goods.”
In Dec. 2021, she told The Hollywood Reporter, “I used to take it all very personally — the pregnancy rumors and the whole ‘Oh, she chose career over kids’ assumption. It’s like, ‘You have no clue what’s going on with me, medically, why I can’t … can I have kids?’ They don’t know anything, and it was really hurtful and just nasty.”
Even her personal life was affected by the media’s collective questioning. Her loved ones would see the tabloids and think Aniston was pregnant.
“Sometimes you can’t help family members or people sending stuff over going, ‘What is this? You’re having a baby? Are you getting married?’” Aniston told PEOPLE in June 2021. “It’s like, ‘Oh, good gosh, when and how many years will it take for you to ignore that silliness?’”
Why did it take her admitting that she wanted to get pregnant, that she did everything possible to get pregnant, for people to back the f off? So now, she suddenly has value and empathy because she tried to have a baby but couldn’t? Where was even a fraction of that grace when she simply said she didn’t want kids? Why does she have to admit to an incredibly painful desire to want to become a mother to be left alone about it? No one should have to do that. Ever.
Imagine if your options were either a.) sharing your deepest desires and most complicated, emotional health struggles with the world, or b.) having everyone attack you for being “selfish” because you didn’t fit the narrow narrative of what society deems appropriate for women — simply because you weren’t a mother. For years, Aniston was lambasted by the press and society for not having kids, while she was actively doing everything she could to get pregnant. It freaking sucks! And it’s time we leave women — and their reproductive choices, any of them — alone!
Kaley Cuoco recently praised Aniston for her story. “You never know what people are going through behind the scenes .. stop assuming and judging every little thing!” Cuoco wrote on her Instagram Story, per PEOPLE. “@jenniferaniston thank u for sharing this story!!!”
She raises a good point. You never know what people are going through behind the scenes. But you shouldn’t wait for them to tell you before giving them the decency of a little respect and privacy. Plus, who cares if she didn’t want kids? Her child-free status shouldn’t have to be either supported or rejected based on her desire — or efforts — to become a mother.
Even non-celebrity women go through this, of course. Admittedly, not under the level of public scrutiny that a celebrity does, but it’s still hurtful. People love asking, “When are you going to have kids?” or “When are you going to have another?” Now that I have three kids, I’ve even gotten, “Wow, three is a lot!” Like … leave us alone. We’re all doing the best we can without added pressure from nosy people getting in the way.
In a country with a dire maternal death rate (especially for Black women), reproductive freedoms being stripped away, and no national paid family leave policy to speak of, is it any surprise when people decide not to have kids? Instead of asking why women aren’t mothers, ask yourself how you can stand up for women’s rights, freedoms, and choices in a place where those things are threatened more every day.
Then, just close your mouth and walk away. It’s none of your damn business what Jennifer Aniston — or anyone — decides about having kids or not. We’re all tired of this narrative, so please let her heartbreaking story be the wake-up call you need to let women live. Trust us: you’ll know if we decide to have a baby!