Thursday, March 22, 2007

Waiting for Daisy... Peggy Orenstein, You Got Lucky.

I read Waiting For Daisy on my flight back from Australia. Sue from A Few Good Eggs recommended it as the story of a woman who experiences infertility and chooses ultimately to pursue donor egg. Well, Sue must not have finished the book because - that is not how the story ends. Now, before I give away the ending let me say, yes it is a good book for infertiles - an easy read and a way of commiserating with another articulate, professionally successful woman who chose to put off pregnancy until her late thirties and then had to deal with the consequences.

Now to the ending and how it all turns out....

The donor egg cycle is a failure. She goes on to get pregnant on her own and has a happily ever after tale after slogging through the throws of infertility. I should be happy for Peggy Orenstein who ends up successfully passing her DNA on to the next generation, but instead I felt resentful. Perhaps my resentment was exacerbated by the fact that I thought this was a book about a woman who has a baby using Donor Egg. My reader expectations were calibrated incorrectly from the get-go.

Yes, so in the end, her eggs work out fine and it was the crappy sperm all along. Wouldn't that be nice if that turned out to be the case and yet, for me, it is a fantasy.

And (insult to injury) she actively resisted having children when she was already married, concerned that it would get in the way of her successful career, now even more successful with the publishing of this latest book. Many of us have to choose to slow down our careers to deal with infertility (like me) - to make what has often been the area of highest satisfaction and gratification and secondary priority - pursuing the dream of motherhood in the hope that it will be the panacea we've always dreamed it would be.

Peggy Orenstein, I hope you know how good you have it.

Peggy Orenstein is doing a big media tour for the book. I came across a blog for the Josh Kornbluth Show on KQED that invited comments - so I left some!!!


DG said...

I'm so relueved it's not just me who didn't like the end. Of course, I'm pleased for thr writer and her family. But how disappointing this was another "relaxed and then got pregnant" story. I guess that's all that's newsworthy

Lara said...

How annoying! If you hadn't told me the ending, I was going straight out to buy that book! I felt that tickle of excitement to read something about what I'm going through, but what a letdown! Good for her to have it end so picture perfect, but it leaves me feeling rather annoyed. And I didnt even spend money on it or take the time to read it!

Peggy O said...


So, I answered back on Josh's blog already but want to answer here as well becuase really, Lara, you can't go around complaining about me and resenting me if you haven't read the damned book, can you? How fair is that?

Mostly I'm going to copy what I wrote there here but before I do I want to reiterate: Did I get lucky? YOu betcha. Do I know how good I have it? Every fucking day. Do I feel my book perpetuates the "relax and get pregnant" myth? No way, baby. Please see the acupuncture chapter and the epilog for my total disgust about that, the people who say "just relax" or "this is God's will" or "if you adopt you'll get pregnant" or any of that crap. In fact, if your ead the book you'd know I had never been more clinically depressed, angry, bitter, miserable and frantic than when I conceived my daughter. Plus I flew to Japan and back. Whether a pregnancy works has nothing to do with anything except random luck.

That said, as I said on Josh's blog, you’re absolutely right that I got the miracle happy "ending" in terms of getting pregnant and having a baby. And honestly? I agree that the reason you see that “happy” ending in books and not the others is that publishers don’t think the other ones sell. That’s the bald truth.

However, part of the reason I wrote this book was that I didn't think it was "just" about infertility and beating the odds. In fact, I didn't think it was really about that at all, even though that's the plot line. I felt I had a story that was larger, a really gripping yarn about a woman’s life, about marriage, about crisis and how we go through it.

And I was VERY concerned that I had the miracle ending and that wasn’t fair to a lot of women such as, apparently, you guys. So I worked very hard in the book to make sure that the baby wasn’t the exclamation point happy ending and that’s it, on we go. I felt that if that were how it read, I would have failed.

That’s why I wrote the epilogue the way I did. I wanted to be clear that, despite having the “miracle” ending, there was a huge cost to my marriage, my life, and my finances in the process, and that there were some real questions about the infertility industry that needed addressing.

What’s more, I don’t think I at all ducked the question of what would happen without "the miracle. That’s the whole purpose of mulling what might’ve happend if the deus ex machina of the baby hadn’t dropped into our lvies (deus ex machina, in case you were asleep in 12th grade English class is the artificial or improbable device dropped into a literary work to create a happy endiing). I do write about that, though obviously can’t draw conclusions, can’t know what would’ve happened.

That’s also why I wrote the section in which Steven tells me not to get “revisionist,” that the baby does not justify the means by which we got there. Yes, I'm lucky--I have the kid and I got to write a book and everything. But it came at a price that I'm still paying.

I think if there is a cautionary element to my tale it is that I forgot the things that could sustain me in crisis, the things that would be there whether or not I became a mother, the things, in fact, that feminism has given us: teh opportunity for meaningful work, the possibility of a parntership of equals, the potential to define ourselves fully and richly without being mothers. I lost sight of that, which is so easy to do with all the "near misses" of infertility treatments and miscarriages and cancer treatment etc.

In those ways, I hoped the book would continue to reflect some of the experience and have relevance for those whose “ending” was different than mine: those who conceived via third party reproduction, via IVF or other technology, those who adopted, or those who decided to go on as a couple and forgo further attempts to have children.

In the end, though, this is my story and I wrote it as I experienced it and as it happened. I'm not always so likeable in it. Sometimes I screw up big time. I betray myself, my husband, friends. I don't flinch from that. It would be wrong to portray myself as a Girl Scout as I went through the hell of cancer, miscarriage and infertility. Few of us are.

I would’ve been thrilled to have had a baby via Jess’ eggs; I would've been thrilled if the adoption worked out. Neither did, and then I had a lucky break. But had one of those things worked, I would've consiered those a lucky break as well. I can't help how my story came out, but I think if you look with a little more openness you'll see that's not all that's there by a long shot.

So read the book with an open mind, please. And certainly don't criticize what you HAVEN'T read.