Waiting for Daisy: Barren Bitches Book Tour

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I feel I’m coming full circle here because one of my very first posts concerned Waiting for Daisy. Little did I know then it would be the subject of a book tour. As you can see here, I was exasperated by a review of it. Now having read Peggy Orenstein’s book cover to cover, it’s my chance to say a few things.

First, I applaud Peggy for having the stamina to tackle what we all know is an intensely personal subject. She writes about it with honesty that is almost too painful at times to read.  I also found myself marking up the margins so much so that the pages now have tattoos. 

Second, when I first saw the title I was afraid that it might be another breathless memoir — you know the ones that manage to downplay the heartache, personal embarassments and medical ickiness that we’ve all lived in technicolor. I was relieved by the end of the third page. This would not be like anything I had read before on the subject. Its raw emotion is one of the things that sets it apart.

Finally, I sincerely hope that this book has an audience that extends beyond the infertility crowd because I think it contains a few proverbial kicks in the head needed by those who falsely assume that money, a good fertililty clinic, a pile of drugs and some good old fashion doctor worship are all that’s needed to produce a baby (beyond the ovum and sperm, of course). Now on to answer a few of the questions posed:

Peggy struggles through the book with questions of heritage,
genes, and religion. How important is it for you and your partner to have a
child that is biologically yours and why? What feelings go into that
decision/choice for you right now if you are still trying to have a child ?

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The biological drive is a very strong one. I adore my husband and wanted so much to give him a son or a daughter in
his likeness. I also wanted the opportunity to extend our family’s traits and
talents. Among the many wonderful traits of my parents, I longed to see my
father’s caring optimism and intellectual curiosity passed on and perhaps see his brilliant blue eyes reflected
back in a grandchild. I also wanted to pass along my mother’s fierce loyalty, poise, and
ambitious, bright mind.

I didn’t get a chance to meet my husband’s parents as they’d
passed on before we met, but I’ve heard wonderful stories about my MIL’s
trademark red hair, her devotion to her family and her no-nonsense style, and my
FIL’s dogged efforts to leave Greece at the tender age of 17 with no knowledge
of English. Within a decade he graduated Boston University with a PhD in
chemistry.

I wondered whether our children would be as tall as or
taller than me and my mate (we’re both in the six feet zone), if they’d shared
our passions for reading and history, or would they surprise us? Would our combined heritage bring forward an entirely different set of skills, talents, looks or interests.

I’ve never really thought about it quite this way but I
suppose our wonderful, colorful family histories have, ironically, made infertility
a bit harder in some ways. If we’d come from a family that had traits or
behaviors that I was ashamed of or worse I might not care so much about conceiving
and delivering our own children.

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Which character exhibited more of your
feelings/emotions/responses toward the infertility journey?  Were you
surprised by that reaction?

I definitely related most with Peggy’s
feelings, emotions and responses.  For me, trying
to reconcile the traditional mother role while coming of age in the heart of the women’s
movement — which opened up opportunities and paths never before available to women — led
to its own set of confused questions and expectations. My parents and grandmother cheered me on with each achievement.

Although I sought infertility intervention quite a bit earlier
than Peggy did, I could very much relate to her desire not to risk throwing her life away
on being just a full-time mother (my words, not hers) locked in the house.  That’s because at an early age I recall
sitting on the steps and eavesdropping on women in my parent’s living
room gathered for a “rap session.” I watched my own mother struggle with the
tradeoffs and sacrifices that a houseful of children presented.

Very aware that I could be anything I
wanted to be if I just put my mind to it, I found myself early in my career
having little respect for women who seemed unwilling to embrace the newfound
opportunities that the women’s movement had created, or to quote Janice Ian the
women who “married young and then retired.”

Ironically it was the same core belief that I could do or
achieve anything I wanted to if I just worked hard and followed the rules that
made my own infertility so hard to accept. 
It simply didn’t compute.

In a few places Peggy writes about conversations with Steven
where they are trying to negotiate her obsession with getting pregnant. In the
first conversation he says that she needs to care about something other than
getting pregnant so that they can have a life and in the second conversation he
says that he’ll keep trying to get pregnant only if she stops caring about it.
Do you find yourself negotiating your thoughts about infertility with your
partner? Does he or she notice when you are retreating into the land of IF and if so, what, if any,
strategies do you employ to help pull yourself back from the abyss?

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I’m one of the lucky ones.  My guy has more patience than any man I know. He knows that I’m much better off when I can face down the infertility demons whether it’s through talking it out or writing it out. When I need time alone with my thoughts he allows me the opportunity to work through them.  At the same time, I don’t want to test his limits. I work very hard to make sure he knows that while there’s a hole in my heart, he is the best husband a woman could ever hope for bar none, and that I wouldn’t want to live my life with anyone else. And therein lies yet another irony, his genetic material is too good to end with him. Now, it’s time I got back to him and turned off my computer…

So hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the
main list at http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/
This book club is open to everyone in the community so you can also sign up for
the next book on this online book club: The Kid by Dan Savage.

 

14 Responses

  1. Bea

    June 6, 2007 10:55 am

    There’s a real paradox in being taught that, as a woman, you should fight rather than accepting fate, and afterwards being handed a situation you can’t fight (or only in limited degree). Makes the second option seem pretty unpalatable. It’s as if “giving up” is unwomanly. Whereas before, of course, not having children was the unwomanly part. How far we’ve come.

    We all know that, in reality, fertility isn’t about being womanly, or manly, or worthwhile, or deserving, or clever, or career-driven, or selfish, or whatever other cliche you want to apply. It’s just hard to remember that sometimes.

    Bea

  2. Ellen K

    June 6, 2007 12:46 pm

    Great review, Pamela. I especially like your thoughts on question 2. I haven’t read many reviews yet in which the reader can, or even wishes to, identify with Orenstein.

    A positive, strong family background can make infertility so much easier to cope with — but so much harder too, especially if one feels that she is letting down the family or “less” than a super-fertile grandmother or other close relative.

  3. Samantha

    June 6, 2007 12:47 pm

    I understood where Steven was coming from when he told her she had to stop caring, but at the same that didn’t seem to be a very supportive way to deal with his wife’s obsession. Telling someone, “stop feeling this way,” isn’t particularly helpful. It didn’t change how Peggy felt, but only became part of a rift growing in their relationship because she could no longer express herself. I’m glad your husband has been more supportive!

  4. Liana

    June 6, 2007 4:00 pm

    “The biological drive is a very strong one. I adore my husband and wanted so much to give him a son or a daughter in his likeness. I also wanted the opportunity to extend our family’s traits and talents. Among the many wonderful traits of my parents, I longed to see my father’s caring optimism and intellectual curiosity passed on and perhaps see his brilliant blue eyes reflected back in a grandchild. I also wanted to pass along my mother’s fierce loyalty, poise, and ambitious, bright mind.”

    This comment of yours struck me a bit. I think it speaks to the almost mythical nature of our hoped-for unborn child. We’d like to think that the child will be some positive incarnation of all those who have come before him/her. This is, in my opinion, a genetic hubris. And it is not necessarily accurate.

    So many biological children have few, if any, traits of their parents, while many adoptive children mirror their adoptive parents’ traits. So it is a crapshoot in reality. Yet the more we hold on to the hubris of what our fantasy child will be like, the less we are able to move on to what most of us infertiles actually want: to become parents. I gave up my hope for the perfect Liana/Mason melange and now I am mother to the most perfect baby on the planet (as far as I am concerned). I think if we stay stuck in needing biology, we are saying more about our own emotional needs that do not relate to being a good parent.

    Perhaps I am sensitive to this area because I had to mourn my own loss of biological connection before moving on to donor eggs and later adoption. But by all rights, I am much more a pragmatist than a romantic. And if DE or adoption were the only way I could get to be a parent, then it was time for me to let go of the fantasy of the perfect family melange child. Instead I now have a unique little girl who will inherit some of our traits and the traits of her birthparents. And truth be told, as I said before, any parent can tell you that their biological child is more unique than the perfect family melange mythos would lead you to believe.

    Just my two cents on the topic…

  5. BestLitht

    June 6, 2007 5:55 pm

    Hi. All three of your answers really resonated with me — especially the second. I, too, stepped off the IF treatment merry-go-round.

    I think the urge to procreate is a subset of the urge to create. I salute you for writing, for creating your novel, for pursuing your passion.

    It will be fascinating to see what you give birth to after all!

    Lori

  6. Pamela Jeanne

    June 6, 2007 6:19 pm

    Do I believe we could treasure and love a child who wasn’t biologically connected to us? Yes, I fall in love with children all the time, but first things first. You are much farther along than me, Liana, and for that I admire you. In some ways our IVF was a cruel experience. The joy we felt in *actually* succeeding in creating seven viable embryos through three cycles over an extended period for a time re-ignited our hopes at having our own child. Then, sadly, that hope was snuffed out yet again.

    In the meantime I’m still managing through grief — and as the title of the blog says — coming to terms on a few levels, one of them being the loss of my “mythical” family. Letting go of that dream has been harder than I thought perhaps because I am a romantic. Your pragmatism is something I strive for. I’ve acknowledged in previous posts that my head is more rational than my heart.  Thanks for your thoughts. I value you and your experiences..

    • Liana

      June 8, 2007 2:25 pm

      I hope…I really hope that my words did not come across as critical or judgmental, for I did not mean to be either. “Romantic” and “pragmatic” are simply two states of existence, neither more right than the other.

      Initially I was very romantic about the entire process of IVF. Every time we created an embryo, I fantasized about how s/he would develop into the perfect Liana/Mason union. And when it didn’t happen, I mourned terribly.

      Through it all, my uber pragmatic mother kept asking me what I would do if all these interventions didn’t work. She kept stressing adoption because she wanted me to be a mom so badly.

      I moved on to donor eggs and right before I went to South Africa for my cycle, she asked me again, “what if this doesn’t work?” I told her again that I would pursue adoption. She was so thrilled. She then died 10 days later, so in my heart, I know that by finding a way to be a mom through adoption, I am doing what my late mother wanted most for me. That did a lot to help me become more pragmatic and less romantic.

      I now speak the pragmatist party line like it is gospel, but I don’t want anyone to think that it was not a process getting here. I just hear the hurt and longing in your words and wish I could help you get to a place of healing. I offer my admittedly insubstantial words as assistance along your journey.

      • Pamela Jeanne

        June 8, 2007 8:36 pm

        Absolutely no offense taken. In fact, I look forward to the day when my longing doesn’t feel so enormous. I am getting better slowly. It helps greatly to see and read about the joy that you and others have derived by becoming mothers through adoption. Thanks for your kind words — they are comforting.

  7. Carlynn

    June 6, 2007 6:53 pm

    Your answer to the question on having a biological child was beautifully written. How ironic that having rich and strong family histories can make it more difficult for us to deal with infertility.

  8. Coffeegrl

    June 6, 2007 7:44 pm

    Wow, your thoughts on how to reconcile the feminist belief that we can do anything just reminds me of the pressure we experience that isn’t the same for men. Orenstein’s book actually references the young women known as “parasite singles”. Stories of these young professional women putting off marriage and childbirth have even been widely reported in the US, and it’s something I’ve observed 1st hand on my travels in Japan. I think the part of the story that isn’t told is the motivation for many of those women – with no strong women’s movement having taken place in Japan, there is still a fairly strong patriarchal influence in private, but also in public it permeates the workplace creating an often rigid and lower glass ceiling for women.

    Simultaneously many young men can continue to live at home and be cared for by the mothers/grandmothers or get married but it may not make a significant difference to them, so they can postpone marriage as well. But it’s the young women who choose to stay unattached (not having to give up what little profession they have -including their professional friendships and spending money) who get judged more frequently and harshly. They are said to be selfish. The men who are equally hesitant to get married are not judged for refusing to promote marriage and childbirth. I think it’s the same in many places in that regard. We get judged for daring to think we could do it all, but our male counterparts and partners (wonderful though they may be) are not subject to the same scrutiny. Just my opinion…

  9. Mel

    June 6, 2007 11:32 pm

    I’m actually really curious if you’re open to speaking more about it–how did YOU feel hearing that rap session?

    It’s a very interesting idea–embracing and celebrating your family traits makes you want a biological child more.

  10. Foreverhopeful

    June 7, 2007 5:50 am

    You have such great insight and love your thoughts on the book (even though I haven’t read this book). I really relate to the loss of a dream of having biological children. I’m an idealist and big dreamer at heart. I always dreamed of having children and when I met my Dh who I love and adore so much, I wanted so much to have a child that is half of Dh and mine. I truly get how you feel and wish I could be more like other’s as well. IF was really hard for me and I’m still grieving and I think there will always be a part of me that will be grieving. It was a dream I was willing to do almost anything for and when I reached the end, it left me completely devastated and I know it will take a long time to heal. I recognize that. So I relate so much to your loss. Big hugs to you and hope that you continue to find peace with your journey.

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