A Book Review by Maria Portella
I came across this book completely by chance - I had previoulsy ignored an article about it in one of those trashy gossip style magazines dismissing it as 'just another sensationalist IVF story'. But a month later 'accidentally' I bought the book that the article was about ... I say accidentally because I didn't make the connection between the book and the article until after I had bought the book when seeing it randomly on the shelf of a little bookshop.
Anyway, I'll cut to the chase as you aren't interested in how I came to find it.
What's it about?
It is the story of a woman in her early thirties who is told by her gynaecologist that she has a year in which to get pregnant and have a baby or else her 'fertility window' will be gone. In the book, she tells her story: how it made her feel to hear those words, deciding whether she wanted a baby or not, the fact that women don't realise the facts of their own fertility and that it really is a 'window', and the treatments and path that in her case, led her to a successful pregnancy and the birth of her daughter.
It is a short novel but it is well worth reading. It makes many valid and important points about the challenges of infertility and being a woman in the 21st century - you'll read it and probably think it is no revelation - it says many if not all the things various women have been blogging about for many years now - she tells of the importance of making sure women today are educated correctly as to their own fertility so as to make informed decisions as opposed to being caught out. She talks of her own challenges of IVF and those of the people she knows and how there is no guarantee that it will be successful.
The surprising thing is that she was able to convince a publisher to take on such a story and publish it as a book commercially. I think much of her success in convincing folks to print her book relates to how she tells the story - it is very upbeat and ends with a 'happy ending' - in her case she got to give birth to her daughter. There is a sad and unfortunate downside to this though (and it is by no means a criticism of her writing) - as a result, many of the important messages advocating fertility awareness and recounting the abyss that battling with IVF and infertility is, can get lost on the reader. I wonder how much those points will really stick in the mind of a person who has never 'been there'.
It made me sad to read some of the online comments in response to articles in various newspapers talking about this novel. Some women posting comments online seemed to attack and criticise Ms Edwards as opposed to being thankful and acknowledging the important message. I guess this comes from a multitude of places and emotions:
It can't help to feel 'lectured' by someone or to perceive them to be making money out of it. Did they feel that she was 'tooting her flute' about her own 'happy ending' and so in no place to comment to others?
How do you deal with the sadness or bitterness of the fact that some women can't even meet someone with whom to try for a baby with - this is a very sad reality of being a modern woman today - meeting a guy who you can settle down with or who you would like to be your 'baby-daddy' isn't that easy!
The comments which concerned me the most, however, were the ones who said that they knew all the facts and seemed to feel she was 'teaching them to suck eggs'. You see, there may be some women out there who know about the facts of how fertility declines with age, but many think they know more than they really do. Do they really know the statistics about IVF and chances of success resulting in a livebirth? Is this the naivety or arrogance of youth? Or do women not really want to hear - and burying their heads in the sand. If so, how do you get the message across to a set of men and women who don't really want to listen?
With respect to this last group, there will always be nay-sayers to anyone trying to do the right thing and prevent people from going through the heartache and difficulties that we have suffered; so however disheartening it may be, we have to continue with the push to improve education. Even if it may feel like pushing water uphill. Kasey Edwards got her 'happy ending' of having a baby that is genetically hers via IVF but not every woman doing IVF comes away with a baby at the end of the process. And so we can't rely on IVF as a fall-back option as women to allow us to delay having a baby if that is what young women today think. And they do - I was contacted last week about someone who thought exactly that and was now facing the stark reality that she may not even be a candidate for IVF due to age.
It is hard being a modern woman - we 'grow up' and are ready to 'have a family' later than before but unfortunately fertility hasn't evolved with us. So we have to educate women to realise that if they want to have a baby, they probably can, but unlike men we may not be able to put it off a few years in the same way. Because if you need fertility treatment it is better to be doing this in your more fertile years (i.e. before 35). Harsh as it sounds, sadly this is the case. And yes, it completely sucks that some women haven't met Mr Right at the 'right time' - and oh how I wish we had a magic wand to make that right ....
Maria Portella is a resident of the U.K. Her special interest is promoting better education about fertility amongst working women.