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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.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Book Tour #10: Embryo Culture

Intrigued by the idea of a book tour and want to read more about Embryo Culture? 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 #11 (The Mistress's Daughter by AM Homes) and all are welcome to join along (see the post above to sign up). All you need is a book and blog.

I started Embryo Culture on a trip and I quickly learned that this book is not beach material. It's heady and smart and funny and as often as I laughed while reading her account of life in the clinic, I also paused to think as she asked the tough questions that have no clear-cut answers. Anyone who feels stumped for blogging topics only needs to read through this book to have dozens of questions to tackle in thoughtful posts. Beth Kohl manages to make infertility thought-provoking, historical, touching, and amusing--all at the same time.

From early in the book, it is clear that the author ends up with a take-home baby. How do you think this affects her perspective on infertility and how did affect your perception of the book?

Whether or not the author reaches parenthood or not is of little importance to me as a reader unless the genre is self-help (I would want to read about living child-free from someone who is living child-free though when I read adoption books, the author has usually taken one path through adoption and it doesn't bother me to have someone who went through domestic adoption to also write about international adoption or foster-to-adopt). I would have read Waiting for Daisy if Peggy Orenstein didn't end up with Daisy and I would have read Embryo Culture if Beth Kohl didn't end up with her three girls. I just don't think the end result is the point of these books and I certainly don't read them to glean any secrets of success.

I think these books ask the bigger questions surrounding infertility. They touch on the ethics or how infertility fits into the larger picture of religion, self-worth, feminism. I think, if anything, reaching parenthood gives her a wider scope--she can remember what life was like in treatments and making hard decisions on that end, but she also has a sense of what life is like on the other side and the processing that goes on in that end. I think she could have written this book while in treatments (prior to parenthood), but I think it becomes a richer text because you get to see the life beyond too.

I'm actually curious how this question gets answered by others. I would like to say that it really depends on the book or type of writing for me. I like the Redbook Infertility Diaries covering someone actively in treatments, though I'll admit that it doesn't really phase me one way or the other (I was not upset when the writers were both blogging while out of treatments, but I think it adds a great layer to have JJ actively trying right now and writing about the process). I like Elizabeth Swire Falker's book about treatments even though she became a parent through adoption. I don't need my advice columnist to have gone through every situation she is doling out advice on (for instance, I don't need Carolyn Hax to be a divoree recovering addict with intimacy issues and overbearing parents. I just need her to be broad-minded and creative) and I don't need my infertility writer to still be trying or not have children by the end of the book. But I know there is a level of annoyance in the community that the only books that are published are those where the author has success down the road through one means or another.

The author also talks about how many embryos should be transferred at any given cycle. Should there be a limit?

I think medicine is an art more than a science and every body reacts differently, therefore I'm always wary about setting inflexible limits that disregard numerous results from the same situation. Yes, single embryo transfers would be the ideal, but I don't think bodies fit into clear-cut ideals. On the other end, even without hyperstimulation (which you would still need to do somewhat to take into account the attrition rate for fertilization), you would probably have more frozen embryos in storage which creates a situation on that end. What happens to all of those frozen embryos that need to be frozen singly instead of in pairs to account of future single embryo frozen transfers? I think limits talk more about how we wish things could be than how they actually are.

Beth likens Dr. Frankfurth's office to one that "should have belonged to a family doctor in Anchorage, circa 1950, and not to a late twentieth century endocrinologist." How much do appearances matter? What were your first impressions of your RE's office? Did/does that color your interactions with the RE himself or herself?

I laughed because I'm definitely the type who gets a gut-sense of how much I trust the place based on the first appearance. I would describe my clinic (and the other DC Order of the Uterus members will probably laugh at this) as warm. It's warm in temperature and emotional climate. They have soft, blurred paintings on the walls--quiet Kandinskys as opposed to vibrant Jackson Pollocks, furniture with rounded corners, and single-room bathrooms for discreet crying. And they are all things I noticed, regardless of how much they were intended vs. randomly purchased. I think my RE is a warm, caring person regardless of his office furniture or artwork, but I'm sure these secondary features go into how I process his words and actions.

No, really, you thought the idea of getting to talk about a book with a lot of other people including the author is cool and want to be a part of this? Then join for the next book. And hop along to another stop in this online book club.


Delenn said...

Great comments. I agree that it did not make a difference to me if she had "success" or not. It was more about the journey and the process. Especially since her journey was different from my own experiences I found it more of an interest to read the book.

Jendeis said...

While I didn't have a problem with this book/author in that she had a "take-home baby," I have had problems with reading infertility blogs by those who do have kids.

Mel, I've often read your comment, "once an infertile, always an infertile," and try to believe that, but sometimes, it's just too hard. I just get in a place where I'm like "Shut up, you've got a kid, I don't have any, and you don't get to say anything now." Realizing of course, that this is totally irrational and unfair. I've never felt this way reading your blog, Mel, just some posts by other bloggers really hit me in the gut/uterus-type area.

I also never get upset reading Julie's posts (maybe it's because you two are funny? That's funny ha-ha, not funny-looking/odd.) But I completely understood why some readers were upset that Redbook chose a writer for their infertility blog who already had a kid. That's why I think JJ is such an important choice. She's right there with us.

Well, that's my asscommentary. Just wanted to let you know that I love reading your blog and keep up the good work, cause we all need ya.

loribeth said...

I agree with you that there is always something we can learn, whether or not the writer brings home a baby (or three). But (as I write in my own response), I agree with Jen -- it's hard to tame the green-eyed monster sometimes. It's something I do struggle with. (Your own posts about your kids have never bothered me, though!)

Helen said...

I'm so envious of your RE's office, and your relationship with the clinic. I think it sounds like someone is celebrating your successes or upset at the losses with you, as opposed to just being a name or a number.

BethKohl said...

Hi All. Beth here. Okay, so one of the questions I'm asked most is why I chose to broadcast my success on the book's backflap. Doesn't it ruin the suspense or rub my cute kids in the noses of people struggling with infertility, that sort of thing. And I completely understand that question -- it was one that my editor and I had to wrestle with when deciding what picture to use. But we both believed that, as Mel and Delenn have so generously stated, this book is about a journey and the issues provoked by it. Many of those questions would have remained the same whether or not I'd had kids, so why not clue the reader in from the get-go and proceed from there rather than play with expectations by building up suspense about such a painful ordeal.

Still, I know so many people who have struggled to have a child, many unsuccessfully, and I appreciate their anguish and wish that I could do something about it. If the fact that I wrote this from a position on the other side of that chasm caused them pain or, at the very least, to lose interest in my particular take on these tremendously difficult issues, I respect that.

ekunkelmann said...

Good comments, Mel, and I appreciate the author's response above. I'll put the book on my reading list.

hoping4baby said...

Mel - your comments about the description of the clinic sums up my thoughts as well. I was surprised that there would even be such clinics. Being that infertility is such a sensitive issue I would think RE's would want that "warm" environment. I would not have went with mine if the appearance was not of a warm-nature. You also gave great insight to the purpose of the book and I love how Beth further explained it in her comment above. I look forward to reading others comments on these ?s

Deb said...

I agree with your comments on the author's success. It didn't phase me that in the end she was successful. The journey is what I am concerned with when I read these type of books/blogs, successful or unsuccessful.

Interesting thoughts on limits.

Thanks for the thoughtful comments!

Bea said...

Didn't read the book, but as to the first question - I think success does colour perspective. Or at least there's a high risk of it doing so. It's hard to accurately take yourself back to anywhere without having left some record that was written at the time (writing/drawing/etc).

And it's true a lot of these books are written by people who eventually ended up with kids, but then again most people do find their way there somehow, so I think this reflects the general population. We also need books from people who ended up without kids, though.

Also important to remember is the fact that ending up with kids is only one of the things that affects an author's perspective. We all come from different backgrounds, have different practical concerns, are surrounded by different people, and go through different flips of the ART coin. You do have to take each book in context, and I'd be surprised if someone found an author they identified with 100%.


The Dunn Family said...

I'm one of those people that ends up skimming quickly through the end of mystery books to find out who did it. So in a way I was happy to know that result of her journey, so that I could focus on the book and not keep thinking "how did it work out?".

I can understand though for some people how it they might not want to read another success story if they recently had a loss. But if nothing else, maybe it can offer up some hope.

Pamela Jeanne said...

I think if I hadn't already read so many infertility books that ended up with the babe in arms, I would have cracked the spine. This one though fell in line with the straw that broke the camel's back. In search of balance the scales, I'm now interested in reading books by childless/childfree women. I just started a new memoir written by a never-been-married, childless journalist based in Dublin.

seattlegal said...

Thanks so much for doing this book tour. I enjoyed doing this. I will try to join in next month if I can get around to reading that book.

As for whether the fact that we know the outcome of her journey was a problem to read about it - I read this book after I had my twins so it didn't bother me though I do remember reading books from others who had success and it didn't bother me then either. It was good to see the success gave me hope that somehow I'd be a mom too.