BABY B by Michael Ryan


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From poet Ryan (Secret Life, 1995, etc.), a classy, nimble, week-by-week chronicle of getting pregnant the hard way—and then delivering the baby the hard way.

Ryan’s wife, Doreen, had a high level of follicle-stimulating hormone, which prevented her from getting pregnant, a condition they both dearly desired. Without irony, but with humor, Ryan reports on the measures they went through to get pregnant via Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART): intra-uterine insemination (nine times), in vitro fertilization, Gonal-F injections. They settle on intracytoplasmic sperm injection, with the wonderful Dr. Werling: “He is definitely A Personality. The first time he called us, I picked up the phone and a loud voce said, ‘Hey, Mike. This is the Whirl.’ ‘Who?’ I asked (I thought it was a cranked-up telemarketer).” He guides them through the initial phase, getting a fertilized egg attached to Doreen's uterine wall, and makes sure there is a chorus of nurses to yodel “You're pregnant, Doreen!” when the first tests come in. Everything is very dicey as Ryan tells it: first there is one fetus, then three, then four, and though Ryan and Doreen are bricks, they worry about quadruplets. (Ryan light-handedly provides a lot of medical information, while reminding readers that “it's spectacular how much is not known.”) Three of the fetuses die, but Baby B holds fast. Enter Dr. Porto, who “could pass more easily for an Allman Brother than a professor of medicine.” He takes them onward to the delivery of Emily—truly, you will want to cheer—while Ryan gets a dose of humility that neatly bevels his wry-observer status. There are no small potatoes here: “We are the lucky people,” Ryan will say, encapsulating his dreams as he steps down off the tightrope.

A very lovely piece of work, like a musical comedy on the art of ART.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2004
ISBN: 1-55597-398-1
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Graywolf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2004