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Monday, April 16, 2007

Book Tour #3: The Time Traveler's Wife

Intrigued by the idea of a book tour and want to read more about The Time Traveler's Wife? Hop along to more stops on the Barren Bitches Book Tour by visiting the master list in the post above. Want to come along for the next tour? Sign up begins today for tour #4 (Waiting for Daisy by Peggy Orenstein) and all are welcome to join along (see the post above to sign up). All you need is a book and blog.

If someone told you with certainty that you will have a baby sometime in the near future, like Clare was told, how would that affect you? Would it change your approach to cycling?

Definitely--I think so much of the pain and anxiety of infertility comes from not knowing. Because conception is time-sensitive, because ART is so expensive, because there are risks everywhere you turn, you are constantly making decisions without knowing if there was a better choice somewhere else that would bring you to parenthood either faster or easier or with less pain (emotional and physical). If I could have been told emphatically, beyond a doubt, when or how I would have a child, I could have enjoyed that time prior to their arrival. I think we enter parenthood completely burned out. We become so exhausted trying to get pregnant or trying to adopt and remain so stressed out even as we get close to parenthood during pregnancy or matching, that by the time we actually get to be parents, we turn around and realize that we missed out on enjoying the process that other people sail through so happily. And we're drained. We're so happy to finally be parents, but we have no emotional reserves. If there was a way to know beforehand, I would want to have that information--even if it wasn't the path my heart wanted to necessarily take in the moment. I'd rather know that all my efforts are going to fail and I'm going to have to choose a new path than spend my emotional reserves on unsuccessful pursuits. I have a deep respect for people who are able to jump off this ride and try a new path before they've gotten to the point where they are emotionally spent.

If you read the book without knowing about the pregnancy/miscarriage aspect of the storyline, how did you feel when you got to that part of the story? If you were unprepared for that aspect of the storyline, did you find it particularly jarring or upsetting? Or, if you read the book already knowing about this storyline, do you think that changed how you reacted to it? Did you find the pregnancy/miscarriage aspect made you relate to the characters more?

The first time I read this book, I didn't know about the loss part of the storyline and it was the first in a strange series of books that I picked up that all had miscarriage as part of the plot (I read three or four books in a row that each had miscarriage or infertility as part of the book). I bought this book on a night when I was particularly sad and scared and overwhelmed after the twins were born. It was our first night out after the kids came home from the NICU and we went to a Thai restaurant (like Clare and Henry!) and then wandered into a nearby bookstore before heading home. For whatever reason, I felt like I had to buy this book that night. There is actually a photo of me holding my daughter and reading this book. I remember sitting in bed and crying through the miscarriage sections and not being able to even get the words out to tell Josh about what I had read. I think a large portion of my reaction was because it hit close to the bone, and the rest of it came from the timing in the book. I cared about these characters--we are deep into the book by the time this part of the story comes around. When I read this book the first time, I was alone in the house with the kids. These characters were the only people coming into my field of vision once the twins were napping. While Josh could bring home stories from work, I was telling him stories from my books. And Clare felt like someone I could have met in the clinic while I was waiting to be called back to an appointment.

I think her inability to stop trying hit close to the bone too and seeing a character making decisions that I would make made me take on her pain and put myself in her shoes. Does that make any sense?

Before he died, Henry wrote Claire a letter telling her that he would see her again. While the knowledge clearly gave her comfort, it led her to spend the later part of her life waiting for him. Was it fair for Henry to give that information to Claire?

I could barely get through that scene in Contact where Jodie Foster met her father (or an alien who was created to resemble her father) and then had to say goodbye and go back. And I've always cried for Alice when she needs to leave Wonderland. I hate the finality of goodbyes. And death is the most final of goodbyes.

On one hand, it would be terrible to mourn and then see the person again--but only for a moment--and then have to mourn a second time. On the other hand, who would turn down that moment to spend even a few seconds with someone they love and miss? I don't think having that knowledge makes the mourning harder or easier--I don't think there is anything you can do or say to help someone through that process of accepting loss--but, for me, it would make the aftermath, the daily life without that person, easier because I would wake-up every day wondering if I would see them that day. But I think I would go through the entire mourning process again after that moment together. Still, I'd take that extra period of mourning for that moment and I only wish this part of the book could be true and we could be brought back together with a person one last time.


Bea said...

I agree with you on the first count - knowing would absolutely change everything. Although, as I said to Kir, being ready to accept the answer you don't want to hear is a difficult thing. I still waver in my answer to the question, would I want to know? If the answer is "you'll be fine" then yes, I want to know, absolutely. If not?


Bea said...

P.S. I love your answer to the third question as well.


Rachel Inbar said...

You mention reaching parenthood without emotional reserves and I wonder how critical the financial aspects are - if you knew that you could try as many times as you had to and that you wouldn't have to pay for it how much of a change would that have made?

With socialized medicine in Israel, you basically get treatments for your first 2 children without paying. After that, there's a co-pay, but most people can afford it - and by then, anyway, your stress is not where it was before.

Just curious...

Sunny said...

I love what you had to say about knowing if you were going to have a child or not and being so spent emotionally that when you have a child you are exhausted. I haven't experienced that so to hear about it through your eyes really spoke to me.

I also wonder if knowing that you would see someone again and waiting each day for that moment you would miss so much of your life. You would have to work hard to not be consumed by that one meeting and enjoy the other parts of your life.

serenity said...

I also love your answer to the third question too. I personally loved that the story ends with Clare waiting for Henry...

Samantha said...

I decided the opposite about wanting to know the outcome of treatment because while I'm sure I would want to hear good news, I'm not sure I would want to hear bad news, because then I would wonder how having that knowledge might affect the effectiveness of treatment. Getting into that weird paradox thing again.

However I had never considered the emotional reserve part. The uncertainty is exhausting, but I still feel like I want to cling to the hope I have, and I don't see a way I could say, "only tell me good news." But I know I do already feel drained, and these are precious resources needed for parenthood. It's so tough to try to negotiate that line.

Maybe although those uncertainty lines, I felt like at the end of the book, Henry was kind to tell Clare she would see him again, because she would be hoping and waiting for that moment regardless of whether she had certain knowledge, just because she knew it was possible. Henry's information may have provided her some comfort from that uncertainty. This gets back to your first question about wanting to know. Maybe I would want to know...

Furrow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Furrow said...

As helpless and uncertain as I felt during the many months of trying, I don't think I would have wanted to know when or if it would happen. What if, like Samantha said, knowing impacts the outcome?

Why did future Henry keep child Claire's future relationship with him a secret? Because if he had told her that they would end up married, she may not have ended up meeting him in the right place at the right time. Wait, or did he tell her they would marry? It's been a long time since I read the book, but I know that at least the meeting time was a secret.

But maybe my thinking is clouded now by my current situation. I did feel desperately frustrated with my inability to plan my life beyond TTC.

This is getting off topic, but I remember being troubled by some of the logistics of the time travel thing. Like, for instance, Henry knows which Dr/Researcher will be able to help them because his future self told his younger self, but we never see how he figures that out in the first place, do we?

I hadn't started TTC when I was reading this book, so I don't think the miscarriages affected me as much as they would now.

Piccinigirl said...

oh your answers made me cry, because they are so true. If you read my blog you saw that my answer was to know and unlike Bea, even if the news was bad, i think I would want to know. I have been told "NO" before in my life, each time it was just easier to get the NO over with and move on. Well not EASY, but over with.

your answer to #3 was also so true, to be able to see a loved one last time would always be worth the wait.

Plus when you talk of the lack of emotional reserve when you do become pregnant or a parent I said "yes" out loud. I worry about this more than anyting, that once I do get PG, I will be spent and emotionally drained. thank you for putting that into a real life place for me.


Jessica said...

I totally agree taht I'd rather know what the future held, if I could. If the answer were bad, it may be hard to accept, but to be able to have to accept it earlier would be worth it to me.

Ellen K. said...

Great book, great review. I remember while reading this for my library book club that I felt incredibly jealous that Clare was able to know that she WOULD have a baby at some point. (Although I was, quite honestly, rather freaked out by the conception scene. That takes assisted reproduction to an entirely new level -- nearly violation, it seemed.)

Drowned Girl said...

The stories of the death of Henry and Clare's mothers were very intense for me. Especially the deathbed scene for Clare's mother.

I was with my mother, alone, at the age of 22, when she died and it was so much like this beautiful writing:

"... the room is silent. I walk to the bed. Mama is still. The laborious breathing that has haunted my dreams has stopped... I kneel by the bed, I pull back the covers and lay my ear against her heart. Her skin is warm. Nothing. No heart beats, no blood moves, no breath inflates the sails of her lungs. Silence. "

I really struggle with loss. My therapist tries to tell me that my continual miscarriages are an attempt to vaccinate myself against loss and I am coming to see that they're not an "accident". Although it's not my "fault" I miscarry, I put myself in that situation when I keep trying.

I dream often of my mother. I dream we are together and in the dream, I know it's only a dream. I want to say so many things to her, but I know that she's not really there and that I will wake up.

I must say that the book has had more impact on me that any other book I have read.