"A Few Good Eggs: Two Chicks Dish on Overcoming the Insanity of Infertility" by Julie Vargo and Maureen Regan

Just finished this book, and there's a lot to say about it. First of all, I will say that I'm glad I read it, but I would never recommend it to an LDS person going through infertility. There has to be a book out there that addresses infertility from an LDS perspective. If not LDS, then Christian. That was the major flaw with this book, in my opinion; by the end of the book, I had lost nearly all my respect for the authors. But I did learn a lot, so I am glad I read it.

Here are the top things that I learned:
- I had never heard of "secondary infertility", which is where you have a child, but then experience infertility later. So while these issues don't seem to affect me and Danny right now, who knows, they could.
- The textbook definition of "infertility" is lacking. "Inability for a couple to conceive after a year of trying" is the definition, but what about the people who conceive, and then miscarry? Those people are also experiencing infertility, and see the same kinds of doctors.
- OB/GYNs sometimes think they know how to treat infertility, but the truth is they should refer you to a Reproductive Endocrinologist if they want what's best for you. And sometimes they don't, and you can spend months of wasted time and money. How ridiculous is that!?
- Sometimes infertility treatments include husbands giving their wives shots. Ouch.
- I didn't even realize how expensive it could be. I knew it would be astronomical, but not that astronomical!
- Some people don't know that when you age, your eggs age too. I thought everybody knew this. It seemed like common, everyday knowledge to me. But both the authors were totally shocked to learn that their eggs were always losing viability as they aged. How do people not know this? I don't know. Maybe I just paid super close attention during sex ed?
- Some infertility has causes that are totally unknown, and it can account from 5-15% of all infertility cases. That's insane. How would you ever deal with the problem, not knowing where to begin!?
- Most important thing I learned: some specific things that may go through an infertile person's mind while dealing with family. More on this later. Also, what to say to people who have infertility issues.

Why I would not recommend this book to an LDS person looking for some solace in their infertility insanity:
First of all, I only carefully read 3/4 of the book. The last 1/4 was mostly about relationship stuff, and as I skimmed through, I found that it was very hard to relate. For example, they spent a long time talking about why men don't want children as much as women. Well, I know that Danny puts his role as "father" before his role as "bioinformatician". Maybe other LDS people have a different experience; it seems the church advocates putting parenthood first. "Family first" type thing. Also, the authors seriously wrote something like 'Even though it's hard to believe, men connect sex with love, so when you look at them as just a sperm donor, it can be hard for them.' Well, yes, I'm sure the problems with baby-making sex are horrible. But isn't it kind of obvious that sex is connected with love? When they wrote that part, it was not in jest. Who doesn't connect those two!??!?! People who, like the authors, spent a good portion of their lives having multiple sex partners outside of marriage, probably. I'm glad I can't relate to that.

The reason I lost respect for the authors is that it took them decades to figure out that they wanted to be moms. They put it off until their mid/late thirties. It didn't seem to be "worthwhile" at first. They were way too busy with their careers. I think most LDS women would find this kind of attitude insulting, especially if you were trying to conceive while reading about it. I know I found it to be obnoxious. It was hard to read through that section of the book, because on the one hand both the authors tried to say, "It's not your fault if you experience infertility," and on the other, they kept beating themselves up for putting career over family for decades. In the end, they basically advocated messing around in your twenties, but then by your late twenties you should try to figure out if the boyfriend you're with actually wants to be a father. You dont have to ask him out right; you can find out in a sly way, and if he doesn't, you should think about getting a new boyfriend. It's hard to relate to this attitude when you are taught your whole life to find someone with similar life goals to date (while being abstinent), and quickly marry (and be totally loyal to afterward). It's probably a good thing that these women advocate thinking about fertility to women who are in their twenties. But as an LDS person, I know that I've never seriously considered a world where my married adulthood didn't involve parenthood as a goal. I think most other LDS people would agree; parenthood is super stressed in our religion, and to marry somebody who you don't know how they feel about parenthood - well that's kind of unlikely. And I just think if I were trying to conceive, reading the chapters these women wrote with this attitude would make me want to pull my hair out with frustration. It is already super stressful to be LDS and infertile, without having people tell you that it's okay to not think about family for the first part of your twenties. I haven't looked for it yet, but now I'm interested in reading a book about this from an LDS perspective. I think it would be a good thing for me to read, because I would be able to learn about what I don't know, while not being put off by the differences of lifestyle between me and the authors.

The fact is that religion has everything to do with creating life, the purpose of life, etc. and that is a huge part of sexuality, the sexuality that deals with making babies.

The way the authors dealt with religion was by either referring to God in random places, "Pray for strength," or by insulting organized religion as a whole. The one lady did weird things on top of the infertility treatments: she got some weird voodoo type doll, she did aromatherapy, she washed herself everyday with a loofa to exfoliate her skin and let the "bad energy" out, she ate a tablespoon of molasses every day, and included in this list was, "and I went to church." Huh?

I lost respect for the authors because they both talked about their pre-marriage sex life. Why would they do that to their husbands? I'm sure if I were a husband, I wouldn't want my wife to write a book with stuff about previous boyfriends.

Honestly, the women had their husbands write about two paragraphs in the whole book. Hello, it takes two to tango! It would have been really nice to have had a book with perspectives from all involved parties. Plus, the authors mentioned dozens of times how important it was for them to have met each other; they never mentioned how much they valued and appreciated their husbands. What? I think that's kind of weird. Maybe it's the truth though; maybe women undergoing infertility really, really, really need another infertile woman to "dish" with. Somebody with whom they can relate, who is not their husband.

Also, the way these women mentioned abortion made me cringe. The truth is the real world is NOT like how these women think. Not all people sleep around before they get married, and not all people think that abortions are ethical.

Even if you're not LDS, I would not recommend this book to somebody who is experiencing male infertility problems. It's barely mentioned in about three places in the whole book. The rest of it is solely focused on female infertility problems. I know that female infertility is more than half of all infertility (there's just so much more that can go wrong on the female end, is how Danny explains it to me), but it seems like a book with the monochre: "overcoming the insanity of infertility" would include the other 30-40% of "infertility". They did, to their credit, spend a lot of time discussing "unknown infertility", which seems by far to be the most difficult to deal with.

Despite all these caveats, I feel like I am a better educated, more compassionate person after reading this book. The main thing I learned was the thought processes that at least these two women had when they dealt with fertile people, and family members. It was a huge eye opener to me. I wish I had known some of these things before. Some of them are just like, "duh." There was a whole chapter on how to deal with the people you love saying retarded things, like, "Well, maybe it's God's way of telling you you shouldn't be parents." Or, "You're not pregnant yet, but I bet you sure have fun trying!" Yeah, all those shots and drugs and hormones and doctors' visits and money money money - SOOOO much fun. Who the heck would say something like that!?!?!? But then, some of the other comments they included, I have totally said or thought, which made me feel terrible, but it also helped me understand better exactly why it was so hurtful and stupid to say those things.

The authors said that one really hard thing is when family members ask about tests and procedures, because usually no news is bad news, so when you ask and they have to tell, they not only let you down, but they have to relive being let down again. So now I know that it is a good idea not to ask questions about that. I think people with more common sense than me would be like, "duh!" but I guess I'm not that smart. The other thing is, it should be the infertile person's prerogative to bring up stuff if they want to talk about it. Again, a more intelligent person would have been like, "duh!" It's really crappy because all of this not talking about things makes it a taboo to talk about, which is perhaps worse than feeling uncomfortable talking about it. It's not good that society doesn't allow infertile people a place. I mean, it's SO much more common than I ever thought, but you hardly hear about it, and when you do it's very hush hush, and there's all this shame and crap associated with it. It should not be so. Yet, it is also not my place to start talking about such personal issues with others, as long as I am not infertile, you know? Perhaps this perpetuates the problem? Anyway, me trying to embark on a lone crusade to change attitudes about infertility in our culture would be less than counter-productive.

Another thing I understand better now is how it could probably be very hurtful to people with infertility to be around pregnant people. This has happened to me, from the perspective of being the pregnant person. And it was hard because I was not sure what the other person was feeling, so I just felt nervous to say anything. It's okay when people with this problem don't want to be around me just then, and I can deal with that. And it's extremely important that I don't talk about pregnancy problems with those people; it's not fair, or nice, or compassionate, which are all things I want to be.

The main thing the authors advise friends and family of infertile people to say is, "I don't want to keep asking about the baby stuff. Just know that whenever you want to talk, I'm here." Why couldn't I have known that a year ago?!??!

All in all, I'm glad I read this book, there are major conflicts with life views that I have with the authors, but I think reading it has helped me to be more compassionate and understanding. I'm hopeful to find a similar book on this subject from an LDS/Christian perspective, but I would never actually do more with this book than talk about it if it came up in a conversation, or write about my thoughts/reactions to it on my blog (i.e. I don't plan on sending copies to the infertile people I know - it's not my prerogative).

1 comment:

  1. Kate, I love that you read this book knowing that it really doesn't relate to you. That's what I've always loved about you, you're not just interested in yourself, you look outside of yourself to be well-educated and knowledgable about other people. That's a really good Christ-like attribute. Thanks for the good example!


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