Got Cliché?

My infertility reading – other than blogs – has been rather haphazard.  When we were first diagnosed, I read just about anything I could get my hands on, partly to learn, partly to not feel as if I was the only person who was dealing with this.  Some books helped. Others, not so much.  As we got deeper down the rabbit trail of treatment with more and more experiences behind us, I found my own voice and also found that most books just kept saying the same thing.   

41lcshl2b3jl__ss500_By the time Waiting for Daisycame out, it was late 2007, I was two and a half years into the journey, with one lap, two HSGs, 6 IUIs and one spectacularly awful miscarriage behind me.  I was no longer interested in reading the prepackaged success stories (I did it and so can you!) that most books seemed to be or the books about miscarriage that never seemed to give me much comfort (this onestill grates me).  I also had never heard of Peggy Orenstein and wasn’t particularly interested in what she had to say on the topic of infertility. 

After my second miscarriage, a thoughtful commenter directed me to her article about how the Japanese mourn miscarriage.  It helped me a great deal, but still I wasn’t ready to take the plunge and read about how she eventually went on to have a child. As we got back onto the rollercoaster again for IVF #2, though, I began to feel that familiar tug to read more of these completed stories about infertility.  I decided that my wait for Daisy was over and it was time to pick up the book.

It didn’t take me long to finish. Peggy Orenstein is a beautiful writer, and her experience is so raw. She lets it all hang out – every ugly emotion, every flaw. More than a few times, I caught myself nodding knowingly at the sentiment that she put so much more eloquent words than I ever did. I also found myself shaking my head at her and her husband – neither should win the award for Best Communicator in the Marriage.  But, I digress.

I stayed with Peggy – all through the multiple miscarriages, the donor egg fiasco, the failed adoption.  I was nearing the end, anticipating the denoument , assuming that Daisy was the product of adoption.  Do you know what happened, instead? If you haven’t read the book, you might not want to read any further. I’m just warning you now.

She got pregnant on her own. Over 40. With one ovary.

1418417514_dae7a872c2My first reaction at her final triumph in reproduction was not joy.  It was not hope that if she could do it with one ovary over 40 and after multiple miscarriages, so could I.  It was anger.  I was angry that she ended up fulfilling the Cliche To End All Infertility Cliches. She had become Charlotte who got pregnant when she decided to adopt.  She was Tina Fey’s character in Baby Mamawho ended up getting pregnant with a freaking t-shaped uterus after her surrogate faked a pregnancy.  She was Nicole Kidman who’s dip in magical waters made her fertile.  It’s the “When All Else Has Failed and You Have Reached the End, You Will Get the Pregnancy and Baby that You Always Wanted” Cliche.

I bet you are thinking right about now, gee, Mrs. X, bitter much?  A lot of this anger comes from the fact that I still haven’t managed to have my Cliche moment and I don’t know if I ever will.  But another portion of it comes from the fact that a great majority of the books, movies, etc., out there that touch on infertility give an unrealistic portrayal of how many people end their battle with infertility.  Most end it either by adoption, getting pregnant through ART or deciding to live child free.   It’s a rare couple that after many, many years of heartache and pain have a child naturally. 

But, we are suckers for a happy ending.  And, I am genuinely happy for Peggy.  I’m also sorry that she had to go through as much as she did to get there, but I’m thankful that she wrote this book about it because for a while there, I saw a lot of myself in her.  Just expressed a lot better.

Life Imitating Art

My consumption of chick lit has been conspicuously low these past few months.  This is due in part to the sneaking increase in single-gal-to-hot-mama transformation themed books.  Even my beloved Shopaholic had to go and get herself (accidentally) knocked up.  It’s a serious bummer when the one genre you turn to for a little escapism throws your biggest failure right back in your face, with a Gucci diaper bag to boot.  Et tu, chick lit?

oldonlinerEveryonce in a while, though, I find one that isn’t too objectionably baby-centric.  The most recent entry was Swapping Lives by Jane Green which I finished as I was waiting for the show to get on the road at my egg retrieval.  It was brain candy of the Twinkie variety – well-preserved, sugary but not too sweet and still pretty satisfying.  The main theme was single gal swaps life with suburban mom who each desperately wants to get away from their lives and both come away appreciating what they had. 

It started slow. Single gal whines about lack of hubby and “perfect” home life in country with large farm house, children, dogs and gorgeous kitchen appliances.  Married mom and suburbanite feels as if her life is a shallow cesspool of charity functions and bratty children. Each is certain that life will be better on the other side.  For each of them, all I could think was “cry me a river, both of you.” But, I guess that’s the point of fiction which is to play into the most pernicious stereotypes, particularly in this genre.

But, I started to get an uncomfortable feeling. A feeling as if I lived in a glass house and yet I was throwing stones. I scoffed at the single gal’s notion getting married would solve all of her problems and yet more than once, I’ve convinced myself that my life would be get a whole heckuva lot better if I was just able to fulfill my wish to have a child.   My depression, sadness and heart-stabbing feelings would disappear overnight and poof!, I would be cured of this infertility thing. I could go back to the normal world of voluntary pursuits and once again reign supreme over my desires and wants.

(In other words, I could go back to being a clueless fertile – although, in my defense, I was never clueless and fertile at the same time. When I was clueless and hopeful, I was infertile as my tubes were as stuffed up as the nose of a hay fever sufferer. And then, when I was fertile, I was no longer clueless.)

jpdefillippo138I realized that I suffered from the same disease as Single Gal: absolutely no realistic understanding of what the endeavour actually requires. She had no experience with marriage or long term relationships.  I have no experience with children or parenting (only child, no cousins nearby = no clue). So, in the void of experience, we fill our expectations with what we see of others, which frankly, is rarely the whole picture and usually only the really glossy happy highlights. And, no amount of stories from the trenches of those who have trodded down those paths will erase those visions of similing cooing babies in little carriers on happy dads or the vista of the perfect family out for a walk in the park, because we know what it is supposed to be like. We’ve seen it on TV.  Therefore, it must be true.

We, Single Gal and I, certainly set ourselves up for a viciously rude awakening.  Of course, she got to do it in a consequence-free environment that allowed her to give the kids and husband back after three weeks.  And, of course, she learned the lesson that her married friends had been trying to explain all of this time: marriage is wonderful, but it’s hard and it is by no means the magic bullet for what ails you.

I, on the other hand, short of adopting a friend’s child for a few weeks, am going to have to wait it out until we get one of our own.  In the mean time, though, the fantasies continue unabated in my head of the perfect tow-headed children we will have who will be well-behaved, delightfuly droll and intelligent. Perhaps, it is having these fantasies that keeps me going, that allows me to get through whatever next hurdle there is to expanding our family.  Because, if I really knew what it was all about, I may not have even started down this path.

image: top left – OldOnliner; bottom right – jpdefillippo138