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review 2017-10-22 22:00
Book 70/100: The Art of Waiting - On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood by Belle Boggs

The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and MotherhoodThe Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood by Belle Boggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More than just a memoir on infertility, this is a collection of essays through which the author uses her own infertility journey to examine the ethical, political, biological, and even literary issues surrounding difficulty conceiving.

I appreciated this approach, even though I found the author's personal story to be the most compelling; I often wanted to find out more than she disclosed. For example, she mentioned low progesterone and that "multiple issues" contributed to her infertility, but she never went into further specifics than that. Perhaps a lay reader would not be interested in all the gory details, but as someone who tried for almost two years before conceiving my son, I am familiar with the jargon and the various potential issues and was hungry (voyeuristically, perhaps) to know specifics.

My favorite essay by far was "Imaginary Children," which examines both the way we imagine yet-to-be-born children of our own and the way that literature has grappled with the subject of infertility, particularly the play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," which made a lasting impact on me long before I was even thinking of having children or how I would cope if I was unable to do so.

"Paying for It" made me re-examine my views on whether insurance should cover infertility treatment. Although previously on the fence about it ("It would be nice, but are children really a 'right'?"), she convinced me that because it is a medical issue, insurance should pay to treat it just as they would any other health complication.

Boggs' writing is thoughtful and thought-provoking, her prose effortless, the details she chooses to include and her reflections on them meaningful and vivid. My primary complaint is that many of the essays felt as though they ended too abruptly -- in almost every case I was left wanting more.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-08-10 22:46
Book 57: Waiting for Daisy by Peggy Orenstein
Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother - Peggy Orenstein

Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #13: Reader's Choice

This book held my interest all the way through, but I'm having trouble coming up with something coherent to say about it.

Like the best memoirs, Orenstein is not afraid to sacrifice her pride for the sake of emotional honesty, and she writes candidly about many situations and conversations that do not present her in the best light. Still, the pain, disappointment and powerlessness that accompany infertility are very real, and it is in these deeply painful places that Orenstein sometimes recedes into the shadows. She brushes off her first miscarriage, and subsequent miscarriages are covered in varying levels of detail. She captures the danger of obsession that can emerge when high-achieving women confront infertility, one thing for which they seemingly have little control over -- but that doesn't mean they don't try! Orenstein details her attempts to "control" the uncontrollable by doing everything from acupuncture to building shrines in her bedroom. There's always that tantalizing "one more thing" that just might work.

But this book is strongest in the moments when Orenstein steps away from her infertility-fueled neuroses (no judgment) and reflects on what it means to her identity, particularly as a feminist. She struggles with her dedication to a woman's right to choose when she feels desperate for the pregnancy many women would give up, as well as the way women's sense of "worth" or "femininity" is tied to their ability to be mothers. She depicts how such an ongoing crisis colors the whole world in different ways, from how you interact to your friend who has 15 kids (yes, really), to how you think of sex, to the things you do when you travel (one of the most touching segments is when Orenstein visits a shrine for miscarried or aborted babies in Japan, the mourning of which happens mostly invisibly in the U.S.) Perhaps most impressive is her astuteness in pinpointing how the desire to become a parent can be subverted by the desire to get pregnant -- pregnancy becomes the "achievement" rather than the means to an end, a goal that can be focused on to the extent that it obscures serious consideration of parenthood (this has its parallel in brides who are so obsessed with the wedding that they don't contemplate the idea of marriage, I think).

Orenstein's journey is truly harrowing, rife with three miscarriages, two failed in vitro attempts, a handful of failed IUI procedures, a disastrous attempt using an egg donor, medical issues that interfered with Orenstein's ability to get pregnant or made doing so dangerous, and an adoption that fell through, and yet, I couldn't help but notice that this memoir is still coming from a place of incredible privilege. Although Orenstein briefly notes that advanced reproductive technologies are only available to those who can afford them, she spends very little time examining her privilege beyond that point. She even mentions feeling envious of a couple who cannot afford IVF and so can forgo the emotional, financial and physical strain of it -- although I expect that couple would prefer to have Orenstein's "problem."

It's not a perfect book, but as memoir goes it's eminently readable; the pages turn and the suspense of when and how she will finally get her daughter pulls you forward. (This is not a spoiler -- her author bio on the book mentions a daughter.) More importantly, it breaks the silence and offers companionship to the many women and families who are facing down what is still very much a silent struggle.

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review 2016-06-12 21:52
Book 45/100: Fragile and Perfectly Cracked - A Memoir of Loss and Infertility by Sophie Wyndham
Fragile and Perfectly Cracked: A Memoir of Loss and Infertility - Sophie Wyndham

Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #19: A non-fiction book


First off, it's good that books like this exist. Infertility and pregnancy loss are incredibly common, yet they are "silent" epidemics that often leave those living with them feeling isolated and broken. Wyndham is a good writer, and the book is told in a present-tense, chronological way that makes it all feel very immediate and real. She includes details about all the little things you do to pass the time or to retain hope or stave off depression while dealing with complications on the road to creating a family. In some places the detail felt like TOO much, especially when she described her pregnancy losses. While I'm sure that level of detail was cathartic to Wyndham, I wonder if it is helpful or triggering/stressful for women who have experienced pregnancy loss to read. One thing that cannot be denied: Wyndham definitely captures how traumatic pregnancy loss is.

Yet despite the level of detail Wyndham went into in some instances -- the video games she played when she was depressed, the food she ate in the clinic after her D&C -- there are so many other places where detail is so lacking that Wyndham's infertility journey seems to take place in a vacuum. Although she mentions work, attending conferences, and "working remotely," she never discloses what she actually DOES. Her husband seems to be a journalist of some sort, which is only obliquely mentioned more than halfway through the book. This couple seems to have no friends, and while parents are mentioned, they are only distant ideas and potential phone calls. That is to say, reading this feels more like reading a diary than reading a memoir. When someone writes a diary, she doesn't think about what the reader will or won't understand -- she writes about the details that seem important in that moment. A memoir calls for more "world-building" than that, to allow the reader to fully understand the author's circumstances and life. The world in which Wyndham faced her fertility crises seemed to exist in isolation from everything else in life. In some instances, she even obscures parts of her infertility story -- she calls the baby she lost at 6 months "Baby T," but she never explains where that name came from. Also, the ending is pretty abrupt, which is somewhat offset by the fact that the prologue basically lets us know how things turn out.

I try not to comment too much on personality in memoir, but Wyndham's tone does come across sometimes as off-putting in how cantankerous she is. She is dealing with some tough stuff in which her high levels of negativity are TOTALLY justified in most cases -- but negativity seems to be her default setting even when things are less bad; I have received some of the treatments/tried some of the methods she writes about and they are not nearly as bad/as big a deal as she makes them sound.

Although there were a few gaffs (she mostly referred to her husband as J, but a few times his full name, Jonathon, sneaked in), as self-published books go this is far better than most. Not only is Wyndham a good writer, but she seems to be (or hired) a competent editor as well -- aside from the naming issue, this book is not riddled with distracting misspellings, errant punctuation marks or crappy formatting. In short, it is eminently readable, and intimate, accessible and relevant enough that I wanted to keep reading despite a few of my qualms. It's a worthwhile read both for those looking for some commiseration who have experienced pregnancy loss and/or infertility and for those who want to understand the issue better from a personal perspective.

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review 2010-06-25 00:00
Conquering Infertility: Dr. Alice Domar's Mind/Body Guide to Enhancing Fertility and Coping with Infertility
Conquering Infertility: Dr. Alice Domar's Mind/Body Guide to Enhancing Fertility and Coping with Infertility - Alice D. Domar,Alice Lesch Kelly Despite the fierce title, this book is a wonderfully informative and diverse guide to the difficult journey of working with fertility. I love the author's gentle approach to this sensitive topic. She includes great advice about relaxation, communication and medical treatments. She has examples of families across the board, highlighting all the varied ways we can deal with this issue. Such a breath of fresh air, compared to some of the horrible books about fertility out there!
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