A woman’s struggle to conceive redefines her capacity to love.
In a graphically detailed, at times solipsistic memoir, Australian novelist Leigh (Disquiet, 2008, etc.) chronicles her efforts, over several years, to conceive a child. In February 2008, the author and Paul, her husband-to-be, visited a fertility clinic to assess their chances for pregnancy. First on their agenda was reversing Paul’s vasectomy, done years earlier after he had a son in a previous marriage. That procedure was only one among countless others: a test to determine Paul’s sperm count; tests clearing them as carriers of illnesses such as hepatitis, HIV, rubella, and syphilis; tests to ascertain Leigh’s hormone levels; and ultrasounds—all before Leigh began treatment to enhance ovulation. Meanwhile, the couple married, but soon the marriage fell apart. “He said I was relegating ‘Us’ to my insistent desire for a child,” she writes. “I couldn’t bear his deliberate procrastinating, his brooding, his rages. The weight of his reproach.” At first, he consented for her to use his sperm for in vitro fertilization; quickly, he changed his mind. “He didn’t think I should be a mother; I was too selfish; I didn’t know how to love,” writes Leigh. Adamant about not using a sperm donor, Leigh pleaded with Paul, struggled to find another donor among men she knew, and finally found a friend who agreed. Years of blood tests, injections, and scans—recounted in detail—resulted in several implanted blastocysts, none of which developed. Over and over, Leigh collapsed in disappointment, only to begin again, submitting her body to continuous manipulation. Paul once had nicknamed her Pollyanna Juggernaut due to her undaunted optimism, but reality finally set in. No matter what the mother’s age, she learned, assisted reproduction rarely results in pregnancy. “It’s an industry predicated on failure,” she realized, and she quit, vowing “to love widely and intensely.”
A brutally honest and sad testimony of a desperate desire for motherhood.