The interesting thing about infertility is its duality – it is so common and its experiences so eerily the same and yet it is so isolating and lonely. Reading Isla McGuckin’s book there were so many familiar feelings and events that I recognised – from my dabble in every alternative therapy available to my shock at the dismissive attitude of doctors and health care workers. What does make this book stand out is the ending – it’s a happy one but not what you would expect. McGuckin offers some insight into the terrifying question we all ask ourselves in the dead of night ‘what will happen if we never have a baby?’ And the answer is not so terrifying at all but oddly comforting and inspiring.
In the book McGurkin uses her struggle with infertility to reassess her whole life from what she eats to her stress levels right down to exactly what kind of life she really wants to live. She cashes in the big house with lots of room for the kids and moves to Ireland into a small cottage where she simply takes care of herself in way she never has before.
“There is a certain sense of irony, I suppose, that because of the way our life had unfolded, in the end it was our not having a baby that changed everything for us. Because achieving a pregnancy had continued to elude us – and because Paul and Isla still only had Paul and Isla to worry about – we both realised that we had some breathing space for ourselves. We realized that we had a golden opportunity. An opportunity to actually listen to some of those wake up calls that had seemed to keep telling us – quietly but insistently – that our life wasn’t all it could be, our life wasn’t all it should be”
Her story is touching, funny and sad but mostly it is a beacon of light for those suffering from infertility who may be reaching the end of their options and see a long lonely road ahead of them. She shows that there is life after infertility whether you have a baby or not.
What resonated with me particularly about the book was the feeling of being left behind by all of her friends and family who were onto their 2nd and 3rd babies. Like her I worry that I am simply not going to fit into the lives of the people I love as their attention turns inwards towards their own growing families and my life full of open space and time will seem silly in comparison to their children having croup or starting school. I fear that I will be on the fringes of society rather than fully in it. “Our social life, for a start, had become a shadow of its former self. Paul and I used to be out and about pretty much every weekend….But gradually, as more and more kids had come along, our friends had started to need three months’ advance warning before they would even leave the house.” Although she doesn’t speak to this fear directly in terms of a resolution, her story shows that no matter how your infertility is resolved your life will move on in its own way once you let go.
Note: Proving that you are never done until the fat lady sings (really don’t know that means) Isla McGurkin did in fact get pregnant at the ripe age of 37 and delivered a beautiful baby girl in 2009.