I read this book a few months ago after a searing heartbreak over our second failed cycle of IUI. It was a time in my life when I felt completely lost and sucked down into the vortex of infertility. I wanted desperately to get some guidance from someone who had been there and survived. I expected a hopeful lift – here was a women who is a successful writer who despite a battle with cancer and 5 years of trying to conceive had finally had a child naturally. What I got was a sharp reflection of the very roller coaster I was on – where I thought this book would give me the strength to keep going it actually made me take a step back and assess everything with fresh eyes.
From her opening chapter I felt like I was following a well-worn path as she prayed ‘I have been obsessive. I’d peed on ovulation predictors five days a month. I’d craned my neck like a yogini to see my nether regions while sluicing my finger around to check for the monthly fluid that would guide sperm to egg. I have been impatient…..I’d turned lovemaking soulless, insisting my husband watch porn to speed things up…..Pardon me, forgive me, allow me to atone.” With blunt honesty and poignant sadness Orenstein takes us deep into the ravine that having a baby can become.
When I thought about whether I would recommend this book to women suffering from infertility I am in two minds. The book is part survival of a brave soldier of infertility but it is also an anti-war story in its own way. Orenstein shines a bright light on the crazy making that is baby making – she made me realise that all the characters in my life had become grey and motionless while having a baby was on a centre stage of emptiness. Having said that I am glad that I read it that I had a chance to see myself from the outside and make a decision about whether this was who I wanted to be and whether having a baby was really worth it.
She opens a Pandora’s box on infertility treatments as commodity and a medical cash cow, perpetually selling hope and the new miracle cure. “That’s the insidious thing about infertility treatments: the very fact of their existence, the potential, however slim, that the next round might get you pregnant creates an imperative that may not have otherwise existed. If you didn’t try it, you’d always have to wonder whether it would’ve worked. That’s how you lose sight of your real choices, because the ones you’re offered make you feel as if you have none.” After I read this I decided against our third round of IUI, it just felt like we were clutching at straws, but the ‘insidious’ hope crept on me again and I decided to follow through against a deep instinct – after the third failure I went into a hole so deep I thought I would never get out.
The great thing about this book is the space it created in my thinking it showed me that if your life becomes subsumed to infertility you may never be able to recover the losses. It also taught me that fertility treatments like any other big purchase need consideration and that doctors and clinics have both your and ‘their financial’ interests at heart. But mainly it taught me to slow down, infertility and its treatments can sometimes feel like a panicked juggernaut speeding towards a baby – but there is always time to honour your life and see all your choices.