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LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Book Tour #4: Waiting for Daisy

Intrigued by the idea of a book tour and want to read more about Waiting For Daisy? 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 #5 (The Kid by Dan Savage) and all are welcome to join along (see the post above to sign up). All you need is a book and blog.

Peggy talks about 'scheduling to have a baby,' making sure her life goals had been met and it was the right time to start her family. Now in hindsight do you yourself regret putting a timetable on when you would start your family? Would you have 'scheduled' your life differently?

I think I was exactly the opposite--I chose parenthood over career. It started in college. I chose writing over medical school even though I had always dreamed of becoming a doctor. I thought writing and teaching were more conducive to having the family life I wanted. Then in graduate school, I walked away from pursuing college-level teaching. On one hand, I really didn't like teaching at the college level during the two years I tried it during graduate school. On the other, I was very fearful of following a job to a location that--again--wasn't conducive to starting a family. Instead, I moved to D.C. and took a job teaching middle school. I met my husband and we got married and we started trying soon after. And when it wasn't happening, there was a part of me that became very fearful of this idea that I had set aside a career for family and now I wasn't achieving that family. There wasn't a space to draw my ego--teaching was just a means to make money and have insurance (even if I did love my classroom and teaching and the students).

One spring, we went back to a conference at my graduate school. Many of my former classmates had published books by this point and they had their books arranged on a table. Others were speaking at the conference. That was really the only moment where I felt completely lost. Where I wondered if I had done the right thing. We were doing fertility treatments and that consumed my thoughts left and right. All I could think about was having a child--there was no space to work on a book. At that conference, I spent a weekend worrying that I had made the wrong choice. I had always believed that career could come later, but fertility was time-sensitive. And when I was there, I was worried that I was losing those young, vibrant writing years AND I wasn't achieving the family I wanted. In retrospect, and only in retrospect, I can say that it was worth it to me because I ended up becoming a mother. And through that experience as well as teaching middle school, I found projects where I felt passionately--that felt career-worthy. It's a gamble either way--putting family first or putting career first because in both cases, you risk ending up with none or only half of what you want.

One page 152, the author writes of considering her 3 miscarriages differently - as two miscarriages and one molar pregnancy. She explains that she does that because she doesn't blame herself for the molar pregnancy (caused by sperm abnormality) like she blames herself and feels guilty for the other miscarriages. In your fertility life, do you categorize different incidences like she does? In your heart, do you feel more or less guilty depending upon whose "fault" it was? Is that a way of coping?

It's funny because I did this too a few weeks before I read the book. I was going through my medical history with the new OB and I left out the blighted ovum when I was going through my cycles. When we spoke about the pregnancy, I mentioned the triplet that didn't form and he looked at his notes. "But you didn't list that blighted ovum," he told me. And I explained that I didn't "count" it as a loss because nothing grew inside the sac. I don't know why I do that--maybe to not think about the loss? But sure, I feel extremely guilty that Josh is affected by my infertility. That if he had married someone else, he wouldn't have to deal with infertility or loss or difficult choices. He will probably kick my ass upon reading this and remind me that if he was married to someone else, he wouldn't have our incredible marriage or the twins. But I think many of you know what I mean when I talk about that guilt because our infertility is entirely female factor. At the same time, if we had male factor, I know I wouldn't blame Josh or feel frustrated. I would just accept it as fate and part of the package of loving him. I don't know why I can't apply that way of thinking to myself.

In the epilogue, Orenstein struggles with what might be called the mythology of infertility: the messages and assumptions that it's all worth it in the end; that it's a matter of luck (the chapter's title is "Meditations on Luck"); that everything has worked out for the best; that adoption might be an emotional/spiritual cure for infertility; that some couples may be too quick to seek medical assistance; that she may have waited too long to begin trying to conceive; and, as another woman told her earlier in her journey, that "the pain goes away." Her husband warns her to not become a revisionist, but she acknowledges that becoming a mother has been a "surprisingly redemptive" experience and seems to not entirely reject the above messages. Describe how you feel about the presence of this mythology, both in Orenstein's epilogue and in your own life. How has it affected the way you tell your story, on your blog or elsewhere, and how you interpret others' stories? To what extent have you revised or even rewritten your own story of infertility? Is it inevitable, perhaps even necessary, to do so?

I think it's easy to say once you cross to the other side that it was all worth it, but you say that from a place of retrospect where you know your marriage is intact and you have your child and your health and your sanity (or even if you have lost one of those things along the way, sometimes it feels as if people become accustomed to their own losses and can deal with them without thinking of them in the same enormity that others view them. Does that make any sense?). I think we say this because it's too difficult to think about the other possible outcomes--too painful to consider--so we skirt away from those alternative realities. Spend enough time in the blogosphere and you can meet people who have lived the other paths. Who have lost the marriage or lost their health or lost their sanity. And it makes you shudder as you wonder about the worth of the fight.

I think it's inevitable in the same way that once you get married, you rewrite all of those terrible dates or nights spent worrying and say that it was all worth it because it brought you to the person you were supposed to marry. It feels the same way with a child. I can't imagine my life without the twins, but I also know that if any of the other pregnancies had continued, they wouldn't be here. And thinking of them not existing literally brings me to tears. Thinking about those other babies also brings me to tears. I guess there's no way to win...


kirby said...

"Spend enough time in the blogosphere and you can meet people who have lived the other paths. Who have lost the marriage or lost their health or lost their sanity. And it makes you shudder as you wonder about the worth of the fight."

That completely resonates with me. I can't help but feel like OPKs were some sort of gateway drug. I always wanted to have a big family, but I don't know if I would have started the whole ART process if I knew we would get this far with nothing. When you read about people who never get ANYTHING, I can't even think about it. But I know it's out there and always a very sad possibility.

Sunny said...

Excellent thought on writing off all the bad dates and what not as worth getting married to the hard road to getting pregnant. I never thought of it that way.

I guess with me and the 'scheduled' time it was my husband. He wanted to wait. We got married young (I was 22 he was 23). I was ready for children but knew we should wait a bit. My husband wanted to wait 5 years. I had to beg him to start trying once we hit middle year 4. We don't talk about it but I am sure he wishes we had started trying earlier. The 5 year plan has turned into the 9 year plan. Maybe if we had started trying earlier the endo wouldn't have set in with her ugly heals. But our marriage would be different and so would our journeys. I try not to think of those years as lost years but it is hard sometimes.

Thanks for organizing this!!!!

Bea said...

On the first question - I guess putting all your eggs into one basket is always a risk, no matter which basket that is. But I do agree there are fewer second chances with something as time-sensitive as fertility. Some people (especially writers) have really come into their own later in life, but once your egg supply dries up, it's gone. Donors and pregnancy for "senior" women - well, it's been done, but there are a lot of issues at stake there. You certainly don't have a full swathe of options open after menopause.


Pamela Jeanne said...

You write, "it's too difficult to think about the other possible outcomes--too painful to consider--so we skirt away from those alternative realities." Well, I'm one of those who received nothing in the end (save a big fat invoice for some $50,000.) The outcome was and is devastating. That's why I'm still trying to come to terms with the enormity of it.

I worry sometimes that I will become a revisionist and that scares me. There's a part of me that wants to make sure that I never minimize what we've been through and how it ended up. If I were to minimize it than I allow others an easy out and that's *not* okay because it allow the myths to continue. I want others to consider just how bad it is and how much it still hurts.

Nearly five years later I continue to struggle with the loss and I expect I will for the rest of my life. Fortunately, I still have a modicum of sanity and my husband. I don't know how I would manage without him.

Samantha said...

I never thought about relating this to bad dates and then meeting the right guy, but you are so right, people do this kind of revisionism all of the time, why not with infertility? I think this is a way of helping ourselves cope. If something works, well then , we got what we wanted, right? And if it didn't work, years later, we might say, well, if that treatment had worked, I wouldn't have ended up doing this, or adopting these kids, or in your case, having the twins, if earlier treatment had worked.

At the same time, what perhaps Pamela Jeanne is referring to, is that infertility treatments are insidious, and can suck you up with the hope of "maybe next time," "maybe this new procedure," and leave you with nothing. There is no way to stop treatments if they aren't working without feeling like a failure. I wish that could be different.

Stacie said...

That career/baby dilemna bites women from every direction. No matter how it gets solved, it is less than ideal. Also, I now avoid academic conferences because people's eyes glaze over when you tell them you teach high school.

Bean said...

First of all I just want to say thanks for putting the book tour together. My book club went defunct about 4 years ago and I’ve really missed it, this is a bit different (understatement!) but still great. Onto the book…

Would you have 'scheduled' your life differently? I find this such an interesting question because it is loaded in so many ways. Mostly, it assumes that a person actually tried to schedule their life. I still remember a conversation with my then OB almost exactly 6 years ago, when I was trying to get pregnant the first time. She made a comment about the number of women she saw who were having trouble conceiving because they were older and had put off children to have careers. At the time I didn’t say anything but it bothered me. Recently I began reading another book on infertility and the authors spend almost the entire book telling readers to stop climbing the career ladder, stop traveling, stop dating around, etc, and get on to the babymaking business. The thing that drives me crazy is that this reinforces existing stereotypes about infertiles. Now I should say that I don’t think Peggy was trying to speak for all, or for that matter for any other, infertile women, the book was quite clearly HER story. However, the issue of her choice to wait is a big one in the book and it’s certainly not going to help others understand that for many women, me included, delaying parenthood wasn’t a choice about some glamourous life. I’ll admit that I didn’t even start trying to get pregnant until I was 31, but that was because I didn’t meet my now husband until I was in my late 20s. I suppose you might argue that we delayed by not trying to conceive the minute we got married, but the choice to wait a bit had nothing to do with our careers or some exciting lifestyle filled with exotic travel. About the only thing I regret is that we didn’t start trying for number 2 a bit sooner. Perhaps a year earlier the adhesions would have been smaller and not yet wreked so much havoc on my insides – but, who knew?

"Orenstein struggles with what might be called the mythology of infertility: the messages and assumptions that it's all worth it in the end; that it's a matter of luck (the chapter's title is "Meditations on Luck"); that everything has worked out for the best;"

This question raised a couple of issues for me. First, I think revision in many aspects life is pretty much inevitable. It’s almost impossible to really recall pain—physical or emotional. I know that at times in my life I was very depressed, but I can’t really feel those emotions now. I know that when my placenta abrupted at 32 weeks I was both terrified and in incredible physical pain, but no matter how much I recount the event in my mind I can’t really conjure those feelings in the same way. It’s almost like watching it in a movie—you know it’s bad and you may even cry, but you don’t feel it the same way. I think that while infertility and other very painful things can change us and in some ways we may never fully “move beyond it”, at the same time, once you cross the other side it’s never going to “feel” quite as bad as it did while you were going through it. I think when you can’t “feel” a certain way about something it’s much easier to just accept that maybe it wasn’t so bad. Part of the revisionism for many people will include the types of statements in the question “that it's all worth it in the end; that it's a matter of luck; that everything has worked out for the best.” I get these kinds of statements. Mel said it best "I can't imagine my life without the twins, but I also know that if any of the other pregnancies had continued, they wouldn't be here. And thinking of them not existing literally brings me to tears. Thinking about those other babies also brings me to tears. I guess there's no way to win…" Like Mel, I can’t imagine life without my daughter, but if I hadn’t suffered my first miscarriage she wouldn’t be here. That’s a pretty difficult thing to wrap your brain around. However, I have issues with statements like those in the question. First, I’m not religious and I don’t believe that some higher power has planned this path for me, nor do I think that I or my husband did anything to deserve it. So, when I have a miscarriage or a failed IVF cycle and someone tell’s me it was “meant to be” not only do I not believe it, but it really pisses me off. Second, and the reason it pisses me off, it seems to me that such statements, whether offered while you’re going through infertility or even after you’re “through it”, belittle all the pain, sadness, frustration, anger, etc, that one feels with infertility.

Sorry such a long rant, guess these issues are a bit close to home! 

Jackie said...

It has been easy for me to revise the history of our infertility. I think one of the main reasons I started writing the blog was to write down the feelings I had as I have them so that I wouldn't forget (and then to share them with the world). I think there is a built-in mechanism for amnesia (especially in my brain) where painful memories and experiences are concerned. I also catch myself revising in conversation--saying how it's not really that big of a deal, all we're going through to try and have a child, to put on a brave face. I think it's often necessary to do this to refrain from being a total downer all the be sure, when I am suffering, going through a rough patch, pretty much everyone around me knows it. And as to whether it will all be worth it in the end...I don't know, we aren't at the end yet. But I can imagine the joys and realities of parenthood blotting out some of the negative experiences it will take to get there.

Ellen K. said...

Great thoughts, Mel. Re: #1: Last weekend a friend asked me about my future career plans -- and I had to say, "I'll have to think about that after we decide whether we're going to have a family." There's always some piece that needs to fall into place first. I don't think it's wrong to emphasize fitting that piece, but there are risks either way -- and infertility tends to stall the processes, which is one of the hardest aspects. It is frustrating and nearly infantilizing to be living on hold.

Deb said...

"Life is a risk" as Diane Von Furstenberg has said. You have a very valid point that either direction is just facing a different set of challenges.

Guilt is a funny thing. I blame myself all the time however, we are dealing with subfertile sperm also and somehow that doesn't bother me. It just is...

Thanks for sharing and for all the work you did to put this together! :)

BestLight said...

I think you're right, Melissa: hindsight is NOT 20/20. We gloss over the bad dates if/when we're fortunate to find marital bliss, and we minimize the IF pain if/when we're fortunate to become a parent.

Like the memory of labor pains that fade with time....(I suppose).

Thanks for organizing, Melissa. I'm having a blast!

millie said...

As to the first question, I really didn't think I was putting things off all that long. Why did all that media attention about fertility declining at 35 come along when I was 37? So unfair!

Like everything to do with infertility.

Thanks again for organizing this. It's very cool.

Erin said...

Really great post, Mel and thanks for putting this together! I definitely identify with what you said about feeling guilty for being the cause of your family's infertility, but knowing you'd never blame your husband if it was male factor. I just get so crushed when I see my husband playing with kids or thinking about them, even, and it kills me that I haven't given him one yet.

Thanks again for the Book Tours, I know this must be a ton of work for you!