There has been some heavy reading in the press of late. Rachel Cusk of the New York Times reviewed two books on assisted reproduction. Earlier this month Jennifer Senior, also writing for the Times, reviewed The Art of Waiting. In the review, Ms. Simon writes the following.
“I thought quite a lot about what normal is and isn’t as I was reading “The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood,” Belle Boggs’s thoughtful meditation on childlessness, childbearing, and — for some — the stretch of liminal agony in between. Her book is a corrective and a tonic, a primer and a dispeller of myths. It is likely to become a go-to guide for the many couples who discover that having children is not the no-assembly-required experience they were expecting. They will come away enlightened, reassured and comforted by her debunker mentality.”
I have to agree with Ms. Simon’s assessment, but for a reason she does not state here. You see, the author and her husband were successful. I doubt very much that anyone would recommend a book so wholeheartedly to anyone, single or married, going through this process had the protagonists not been successful. I doubt the other book, Avalanche: A Love Story, will be held up as a corrective, tonic, or primer. Cusk describes Avalanche as, “a harrowing and profoundly disturbing account of self-immolation in pursuit of an ideal, for what Leigh has failed to recognize about ‘creative life’ is that it too seeks to concretize the ineffable, and that it arises in people of a single-mindedness and determination so strong it can destroy them.” After years of trying, love, sex, trust, compassion, solidarity disappeared. The author’s marriage failed. She continues her pursuit alone. I did not. As I have said before, I did not feel the insatiable hunger for a child that many without experience. When it was over, I wondered where the love, trust, compassion, solidarity, the friendship went. Now I know. What’s worse, I went to being a person to a vessel to a non-entity. I am still struggling to overcome my erasure.
Having been through this process, I read these reviews to compare notes. I get everything I need from the reviews, so I don’t need to read the books. I know about the rituals, the infantilization of language (follies? embies? baby bump?), the seemingly endless menu of choices, the statistics (most of them inflated, in my experience) my ex would have understood the not knowing when to stop because he didn’t. I didn’t and don’t understand the not knowing when to stop, but then again it was my body and later another woman’s body who were undergoing these treatments. This is where most women who undertake this journey and I differ, and I wonder if they experienced the same clinic fatigue as I. Our clinic got tired of dealing with us because we were difficult clients and because we were failures. I also don’t think they knew what to do when the man, not the woman, has rampant babyfever. I was never desperate to be a mother, much less a biological one. Most of my friends are on that path now, or are about to embark on that path. It’s the largest not-so-secret club in the world. As a non-parent, I know a surprising amount about the rituals of parenthood simply because my parent friends speak so openly and freely about playdates, birthday parties, mommy boards, and mommy bloggers. I have nothing to say on the subject except to allow my friends who are mothers to vent about the ridiculous standards to which they are held. Of all of my friends who have children, none of them had to resort to IUI or IVF, and only one so far has had a hysterosalpingiogram. She told me about how much it hurt because she knew I’d understand. I don’t talk much about my experience because there’s no one to tell, really. No one wants to hear what I have to say.
These patterns are recurring in other aspects of my life. No one wants to talk about my failed marriage, except my therapist. No one wants to talk about the abuse, except my therapist. No one wants to hear about the loneliness because either they can’t relate or they worry that mine mirrors their own. I think I’m tired of talking about this, but I’m stuck and I can’t move. I’m bound by my own anger and I can’t find the end of the rope to untangle myself. Nothing I did was right in my marriage and I can’t even grieve properly. I want to scream and kick things, but there is nowhere to scream and nothing to kick.