What we do when we must wait.
I was first introduced to The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs in an episode of Mom and Dad are Fighting, a Slate podcast. (This episode for those who are interested.) They interviewed her about her personal struggle with infertility. I found the segment very enlightening, but by the time the book was released and the episode aired I was already deep into my own pregnancy. I was lucky enough to conceive almost as soon as I started trying, so I found it difficult and even surreal to contemplate Boggs' dilemma. I came across the book again over the holidays, and after having my daughter, I saw the book in a new light. I feel such intense love and gratitude for my own little family, and to consider all the people out there struggling to take that step for themselves is heartbreaking. I now know what they're missing out on. I felt compelled to read the book in order to better understand and support those people in my life who are struggling with this issue.
The Art of Waiting is part memoir and part nonfiction, seamlessly woven together. Each chapter is designed to examine a different aspect of infertility, and all the chapters are connected by the narrative of Boggs' own struggle to conceive. This has the pleasant effect of breaking up the nonfiction sections, some of which are heavier and full of medical language. Her narrative gives the book a sense of urgency that would have probably been lacking otherwise. I wanted to know what her next step would be, how it would go, and would it work? The intimacy of knowing that the struggle is hers personally gave me a sense of kinship with her and I desperately wanted her to be successful. Rarely, in my experience, does nonfiction manage to accomplish such an emotional response. This format does present challenges though. There were areas where the ebb and flow of narrative versus informational felt somewhat forced. The breadcrumbs of her story were sprinkled more liberally in some chapters than others, and there were times I wanted more of her story and less factual data, though overall it was well done and informative.
The book concerns itself with the medical challenged of infertility foremost, but the social difficulties are a close second. It had never occurred to me how common it is to ask people about whether or not they have kids, and if not, when they plan on having them. For a person in Boggs' position, these questions are really challenging, especially because many, despite never having dealt with infertility, seem to have strong opinions on the subject. Phrases like “Just take a vacation” and “It happened for me when we stopped trying” may be well intentioned, but they aren't really helpful. “Just adopt” is another common one which is especially unhelpful, because adoptions can be even more costly and time consuming than infertility treatments. Additionally, someone who desires a child of their own doesn't necessarily want to adopt. Regardless of how you feel about childbirth and adoption, the decision to bring a child into your life is a complex and personal one that shouldn't be influenced by guilt or external pressure. Similarly, Boggs points out that misconceptions of in vitro fertilization are much more common than I would have hope in this day and age. You need only consider the negative connotation of the term “test tube baby” to understand that its a treatment distrusted by many. Perhaps the most disappointing realization the book prompted was that most of the available treatments are looked on skeptically. Much in the same way that I was constantly questioned as to whether or not I would have a “natural” birth, people want conception to be equally as “natural”.
Such dismissive notions are particularly damaging because infertility is a shockingly common issue. I know several people who have opened up to me regarding their own struggles to conceive, and I'm sure that I also know people who suffer in silence. The Art of Waiting helped me appreciate that infertility should be handled with more compassion and understanding than it often is. It's extremely costly and isolating for those suffering through it, but there is little in the way of support. Hopefully, this book will help to correct those shortcomings. Considering that on average one in eight people deal with infertility, chances are extremely high that each of you knows one or more people who are affected by it, so we all stand to benefit from the extra knowledge and empathy that Belle Boggs offers us here.
I hope you'll check out the book! You can find it here. Also, here are a couple articles by Belle Boggs for those of you who might be interested: