This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.
"the abdomen twinges, back acne" - not sure if that really should be acne, or back ache. Maybe it’s acne, but I just thought I’d mention it! If it had been worded 'acne on your back' it would have been more clear!
“hormoneinduced” is two words, but Amazon's crappy Kindle conversion process once again screwed up this book every chance it got, introducing random new line insertions, running lines together when they should have been separate, and so on, Once again I recommend avoiding Amazon at all costs. Publish your book somewhere where they have w system that doe into mangle text, or output it as a PDF file.
Subtitled "Stories of Infertility and Pregnancy Loss" this book, edited by Allison McDonald Ace, Caroline Starr, and Ariel Ng Bourbonnais, was a depressing but very informative read. It's probably the hardest book I've ever had to read and I had to read it. No one can know what it feels like to go through what these women (and their partners) have gone through unless you yourself have experienced it, but reading this certainly clues in the clueless to what a devastating and life-consuming 'affliction' this can be, especially if, as is the case in some of these stories, the excruciating efforts do not lead to any sort of success.
I requested this because I did want to understand even if the reading was painful, and at some points felt rather repetitive and even tedious to read because a lot of the stories here tell, in many ways, the same story - the lack of ability to reproduce and the heroic efforts made to overcome it. It’s hard to imagine how that can feel when we so often see a purposefully scary headline telling trumpeting what the teen pregnancy rate is; conversely, we never read of how someone never got pregnant. It’s like another world in some ways, and the pain and feelings of failure and inadequacy which pervade so many stories is hard to read, but I think necessary. That's not the only problem either. When a pregnancy does not go to term, it leaves a woman still pregnant in many regards as biochemistry continues to play havoc with a body that is no longer host to a new life.
As mentioned, there were many similarities between these stories: the inescapable sensation of loss, the feeling of never knowing what it's like to carry a child inside your womb, or worse, to carry one only to lose it prematurely, the cold indifference of far too many medical so-called professionals who see a woman on these straits as merely another client on a long line of faceless patients they pass through their charge. They too often deal with impatience, rather than a person who is hurting, upset, feeling depressed or feeling like she is failing her biological imperative, despite a quiet desperation to succeed.
But there is also a lot of variety, because not every person is the same, not every case of infertility has the same roots, and the stories were not just about infertility, but about devastating and multiple miscarriages, and fruitless if strenuous effort. I cannot imagine how that must feel but I know from reading this that it's not something anyone should ever have to feel. One of the hardest things tor had was how many of these prospective parents resorted to bullshit non-medicine - naturopaths, acupuncture, burning moxi sticks (I never knew what that was until I read this!).
Even going the competent medical route costs a fortune when it comes to fertility treatments. One infertility procedure mentioned in this book had cost upwards of $12,000. This is on top of all the mental anguish that couples seeking to have a child which nature would deny them must suffer. The asshats who purvey snake oil to people who are vulnerable need to be run out of town on a rail. I get the medical science doesn't know everything, and cannot guarantee results, but it has a far more solid track record than woo medicine, which has none at all. Quacks who offer alternative "medicine" are no more or less than child predators, period.
There was one scene in the Marvel superhero movie "Age of Ultron" featuring the character known as Black Widow which was quite controversial at the time. During a regrouping of the heroes after a setback, there was a moment between Black Widow in her Natasha Romanov guise, and Hulk in his Bruce Banner guise. Clearly Nat wants something more from their slowly developing relationship, but Bruce is so focused on the monster he becomes that he insists it cannot work. Nat then advises him: "In the Red Room, where I was trained, where I was raised, they have a graduation ceremony. They sterilize you. It’s efficient; one less thing to worry about; the one thing that might matter more than a mission. Makes everything easier, even killing. You still think you’re the only monster on the team?"
Clearly she's talking about pregnancy interfering with her mission objective, but as a woman with biological urges, she feels that loss in the same way someone who learns they are infertile or close to it, must feel it. The writer-director was chided severely by some people for writing this: for reducing, they claimed, Natasha to a reproductive unit and diminishing her in every other regard, but those people, who call themselves feminists, conveniently forget that it is a biological imperative for the majority of women, regardless of what profession they have. It is felt by some people not at all, by others overwhelmingly, and by all those in between to a greater or lesser extent particularly around the time she's ovulating. It is a part of who women are, and to deny that is clueless, even for a fictional bad-ass like Black Widow. Who are these people to dictate to another woman how she should feel?
Is she not allowed to experience natural compulsions, and to mourn the loss of them? I think it's her choice, just as it’s the choice of all these women who wrote here, to choose their own destiny - to have kids or not, to want kids or not, to have them with a permanent partner or not, to fight for their choice, and to choose to write about it if they want? It’s no one else's business, and it makes a woman no less a person, no less a career woman, no less an adventurer, no less a soldier, no less a firefighter, no less a school teacher, no less a librarian, no less a homemaker or whatever she has chosen to pursue - and no less a fictional assassin! - to have these feelings and to honestly acknowledge and address them. Black Widow did it in private to someone she trusted and loved, a circumstance which busybodies who loudly broadcast their judgment on her (and the writer director who had her say these things) tend to forget.
There were some errors of fact in this, but that's understandable. For example, at one point I read, “gluten-free oatmeal,” but oatmeal is naturally gluten free! Of course it can become contaminated by association if it’s produced in processing facility that also handles gluten-containing cereals, but personally I've never had an issue eating oatmeal. People more sensitive than I might do so, though. Perhaps that's what the author meant.
One thing that bothered me was that pretty much all of the prospective parents here seemed to have a lot of financial resources to keep pursuing their aim. It would have been nice to have read some stories about people who were not professionals - who were less well-off. it felt like an opportunity had been missed - and gave the book a slightly elitist aura. There is no doubt that the emotional stress is common across all income groups, but it has to be of some comfort to know your options are not limited by your bank balance.
Overall, though, I commend this as a very worthy read, and something which will no doubt be of high value to others who are enduring these are circumstances. I'm glad these writers chose not to keep their pain private, but to share it with me and every other reader, because I'm a better person for knowing these things - for having a better understanding of this whole situation - than ever I had before. I commend this book for telling the story in the words of the very people it most directly affected, and for putting together a collection that opens eyes and hearts.