A few weeks ago, as an early Valentine’s gift, my husband presented me with a Kindle. There were a few books I had on my wish list, and the first book I chose was I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say ‘No’ to Motherhood by Lisa Manterfield.
While I don’t know Lisa personally…she lives on the West Coast and I on the East Coast… I’d gotten to know her a bit via her blog: Life Without Baby. She and I have chatted a bit via our blogs, and are now friends on Facebook. The more I read her blog the more I realized that her journey with IF has been similar to mine. She had gone to the lengths of IF treatment that she felt comfortable with, but at some point she decided to get off the crazy train and accept her life as a childless woman. So, when I heard she was coming out with a book on her journey it went immediately to the top of my “to read” list.
Lisa and I have very different backgrounds, culturally, spiritually, and politically, but I love that she was so open to give her background, and to share details of her relationships and the decisions that brought her to where she is today. We all have a unique story, and I love hearing the stories of others’ lives. I can get lost in a biography. I love knowing what makes a person tick, because sometimes it helps me to know what makes me tick. We can learn so much from each others’ life experiences. Lisa really gives the reader a gift in the sharing of her story.
Our journeys become very similar when it comes to our efforts in trying to become pregnant. I believe most of us who have been on the IF rollercoaster go through a similar process. At first we think that when the time is right a baby will just happen. When it doesn’t happen right away we all suffer some degree of denial that something could actually be wrong with our reproductive plumbing. Once we consult a physician and realize that all might not be right “down there” there is some degree of shock and even anger that things are not working the way they are supposed to. Once we resign ourselves to the fact that we may need a little assistance in reproduction there is a great sense of hope that it can be fixed. For some people the fix is easy…a little Clomid or Femora…artificial insemination…all relatively simple in the IF world, but for some of us we find out that we need a lot more help. Some of us, like Lisa and I, eventually find out that even if we go the extreme route (IVF, egg donation) the odds of ever holding a biological child in our arms was slim to none.
Like me, Lisa’s sticky wicket became IVF for very similar reasons. First of all, she and I had become quickly disillusioned with the pie-in-the-sky promises of the fertility business. While IVF is touted as a magic cure in advertising and marketing once the doctor pulls the curtain you find out that unless you can produce a large amount of high-quality eggs via some very aggressive hormone stimulation the odds are really against you…or on the opposite extreme you can end up like Jon and Kate and have a litter.
With multiples in mind I could not stomach the thought of “selective reduction”. Lisa had misgivings too. No matter your views on abortion who ever wants to look at an ultrasound screen and decide what embryo lives or dies? For me, from a personal and religious/spiritual standpoint that would never be an option, and I knew that anything more than twins would not be a situation I would desire due to my temperament and personality. The cost of the procedure was also a barrier for my husband and I and another thing that turned me off to the whole “baby factory” mentality of fertility medicine.
In the end…similar to Lisa’s story too…my only option for carrying a child in my body would’ve been egg donation, and even that was a wild card for me as there were other problems in my system other than just lack of healthy ova.
Lisa and I both made the painful…sometimes on again/off again…decision to remain childless. I totally related to how stopping the effort and treatment was a process rather than a line-in-the-sand decision. For both of us there were many months and years of surfing the web to find a doctor who might say our situation wasn’t mostly hopeless. I went to alternative/homeopathic specialists and took herbal remedies to boost my fertility. I tried exercise regimes, avoided corn and soy, and followed just about any other nutritional advice to boost my fertility. The last gasp for me was doing a couple of months of mixed Clomid/injectible med/HCG treatements when my parents requested that I do so and funded the treatment. They were facing the reality of being grandchildless and going through their own desperation and grief process. It was the lowest time for me especially in the end when I couldn’t produce one healthy egg.
Lisa definitely captured what it is like to go through the process of IF and come out on the other end with empty arms. Stories like Lisa’s, mine, and many others need to be shared, because honestly, I believe it happens more times than we know. Some of us choose to get off the rollercoaster for the sake of sanity. Some choose never to get on at all, but we are not lesser women for it. Our lives are just different than the norm, and there is a sense of sisterhood in knowing we’re not alone remaining baby-less in a baby-crazed culture.
Again, Lisa does a wonderful job of illustrating the IF experience and how one moves on with life once the treatments are over and the stroller is empty. She peppers her book with some humor, and I can tell you from my personal experience that humor is one of the main ways I have coped on this journey. So, I would highly recommend I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home.. to anyone who is facing “a crisis of reproduction” and especially to those who have a loved one or a friend going through the experience. If there’s anything we childless women could use more of it’s understanding by the fertile world.