Intrigued by the idea of a book tour and want to read more about Love and Other Impossible Pursuits? 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 #7 (Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston) and all are welcome to join along (see the post above to sign up). All you need is a book and blog.
As much as I ultimately ended up loving Love and Other Impossible Pursuits as well as the grieving Emilia, it was a difficult book to start at first. How does one willingly dive head-first into a tale of loss? Not to mention the tension between the ex-wife and the narrator; the uncomfortable exchanges with her stepson, William; and the all-encompassing grief that is weighing down not only her marriage but her entire web of existence from half-siblings to parents to friends? In the end, I read the book for the same reason Emilia reads stepparenting books. Not for answers per se, but for the company. And Emilia is good company for the duration of the read.
Emilia often describes the intense physical and emotional connection between she and Jack. She often refers to him as her bashert. But after the loss of Isabel, and Emilia's spiral into solitary despair, that connection is damaged. This alteration is noted by Emilia when Jack declines her first offer of physical intimacy since their daughter's death. She becomes "terrified that I have become like Carolyn, cold to sex, unmoved by my husband, uninterested in the passion that once meant everything to me." What sort of relationship do you have with your significant other? Do you feel he/she is your bashert? What effect has IF/loss had on your emotional and/or physical relationship?
I had many fears that infertility would be the end of us. If it wasn't my own anger and sadness pushing him away, it was a fear that he would leave me for someone who could get pregnant naturally and carry to term. It was a pretty small-minded view of our marriage, but I was panicked and weepy so...
I think the fact that together we not only got through a first round of treatments, premature birth, and new parenthood, but we're willing to enter into treatments again is a testament to the strength of our marriage. Infertility is brutal. The ups and downs, the constant disappointment or grief, the internalized anger. The externalized anger. Even the strongest marriage can crumble when you're going through that. I'm thankful that we balance each other. That he makes me calm and I speed him along towards goals. That he helps me put things in perspective and I help him see the big picture. We're a good team.
Emilia has a difficult time relating to other women who have had losses in pregnancy, usually because she sees her situation as different and worse than those women who have had miscarriages. She is particularly hard on her friend Mindy. Do you feel like this attitude was justified on her part? Are mothers of SIDS victims much different and worse off than mothers of miscarriages? Or can we all belong to the same support group?
I'm always wary of those who create a hierarchy of pain. It makes me wonder if they're dealing with their own grief if they're focusing outwardly on everyone else's grief. Plus, I think I've firmly established my own feelings on inclusivity vs. exclusivity (and what can be more exclusive than telling someone in emotional pain that their emotional pain isn't bad enough to garner your support. See ya--go weep in your own Cheerios).
I think it would have been interesting to have Emilia come face-to-face with a mother who had her child murdered and the body never found and another who lost her five-year-old to cancer. Truly, when you start creating a hierarchy, what is the top of the pyramid?
Beyond that--I'm not sure what is accomplished by exclusionary support. It didn't solve Emilia's grief and like the stepparenting books that she found long after the fact, she could have perhaps found comfort or received words that changed her outlook from one of the women for whom she felt disgust. Grief is grief and while I think it's helpful to separate out reasons for grief--loss of a child from loss of a pregnancy from loss of a spouse--in order to focus the support, I don't think it's helpful to start pointing fingers and saying, "that's not as bad as what happened to me."
All of that said, I think Emilia's words come from a place of anger. There have been so many times that I've painted myself in a figurative corner due to a level of anger that opens the door for emphatic statements that I don't necessarily mean in my rational mind. I'd like to believe that the Emilia of ten years from now would look back on those words and say, "I was so angry back then" rather than, "it's true! I still believe that to this day."
We all have had someone in our lives like William who innocently says the wrong thing more often then we would like. How has your infertility experience helped you respond better to those "innocent yet wrong" comments/questions?
When these things are said, they're painful. And they get under the skin. And it's hard to smile and reeducate. But I think we have to forgive the questions that are asked not to force an opinion ("can you tell me more about IVF?" vs. "do you really think IVF is safe?"). And my feeling is everyone gets a put-your-foot-in-it-for-free card. Once you use it once and I've commented on the thoughtlessness, I expect all future interactions to be a bit more circumspect. And I do get cranky when the same crappy comments are repeated a second time.
But what do you do with a child? You know that he's not trying to be cruel and you know that he doesn't have the life skills to be more thoughtful and circumspect. But still...damn...I don't think I would have handled myself well in those situations.