Barren Bitches Book Brigade: Navigating the Land of If

June 28, 2009

Barren Bitches Book Brigade Welcome to the Barren Bitches Book Brigade, featuring Navigating the Land of If by Melissa Ford (a.k.a. Lollipop Goldstein, the Stirrup Queen!).

I wish I’d had this book years ago. Unlike my collection of pregnancy books, which was vast and exhaustive even before I started trying to conceive, I never bought infertility books and instead relied on the internet and information from health professionals — most books seemed either too medical or too mushy. As a result, I don’t have much basis of comparison, but considering the quality of the information on Mel’s blog compared to information from other sources, it’s safe to say that this book should become the definitive resource for anyone dealing with any aspect of infertility, loss, or adoption, as well as those who love them (basically everyone).

Probably the greatest strength of this book is the way that it integrates all aspects of the journey toward having children. There are infertility books, and loss books, and adoption books, but someone dealing with more than one of these (as so many of us do) doesn’t have a comprehensive way to integrate them. Mel created a similarly comprehensive resource for children in the form of a music video about family-building, and now it’s the grown-ups’ turn.

One feature that was simultaneously helpful and strange was the Decision List in Chapter 3. It asks for your priorities, and compares those to the different family-building methods. It’s a very rational way to consider and choose different options, but I don’t know that it’s realistic. Donor gametes and surrogacy are presented as equal choices to the others, but it seems very unlikely that someone would choose those options without having tried and failed on their own first. If you went to a doctor and asked for donor eggs without ever having done treatments (lower-intervention treatments like drugs or higher-intervention treatments like IVF), would the doctor comply? Would a surrogate agree to work with a couple who’d never tried any treatments and maybe didn’t have a diagnosis yet? What about the medical mandate to start with the least invasive treatments? It seems like there’s an order of operations that most people follow, and that the order exists for good reasons. But, that being said, I appreciate how the Decision Plan puts all of the options on the table — because most of them seem out of the question for most of us when we’re starting out. I also appreciate the attempt to bring rational decision-making to an irrational process.

The book also contains a healthy dose of Mel’s narrative voice — particularly humor, kindness, and quirky metaphors. What other infertility/adoption/loss book is going to give you a recipe for banana cake?

If you don’t already have your copy, get it! Get it now!

One of the funniest parts of the book is the Q&A section about how to respond to inappropriate questions. Mel addressed several of the most common questions, but there are plenty more! Give an example of a rude, ignorant, annoying or inappropriate question you’ve been asked during your IF experience, that wasn’t already in the book, and write your own gentle, firm and free-for-all responses to the question.
The question that we’ve gotten the most is, “When are you going to have kids?” I guess being together for 15 years and being married for almost a dozen of those will have that effect on people.

Kind: When G-d decides that it’s time.
Firm: Not everyone has the luxury of deciding the timing of such things.
Free-For-All (recycled from a post I wrote almost a year ago), family version: Having seen all of the horrible parent-child relationships in this family, we’ve decided not to reproduce.
Free-For-All, non-family version: Actually, we already had a baby, but I had to give it to this guy named Rumpelstiltskin.

Chapters four and five cover the issues of telling others about your IF struggles and handling the comments if you do. What approach (proactive, reactive, evasive, or lying) have you used with your close friends and family? If you have told, have you gotten any surprising reactions, and how have you handled those? If you haven’t told, has this omission created any friction as people make assumptions or comments about your lack of pregnancy?

With family and most friends, evasive and lying. With a few close friends, reactive or occasionally proactive. Since getting pregnant, we’ve told a couple more people, but currently have a reactive stance — if they ask us, we’ll tell them, but we won’t volunteer information about IF until they ask. Given how some of our family members have been dealing with the pregnancy, offering intrusive suggestions and “help” almost daily, I couldn’t be happier that we kept quiet all these years. There have been a few incidents of friction, many of which I’ve blogged about periodically, but mostly it’s been much better this way than it would have been if we’d been honest. Some families are made for honesty, but not ours.

Did you read the book from front to back, or did you turn immediately to a certain chapter? If so, which chapter? Are there any chapters that you purposely avoided?

I turned immediately to my own current neighborhood, Pregnancy After Infertility. Next I read all of the chapters that have at any point applied to me, and then the chapters that have never applied to me but which apply to my bloggy friends (such as the chapters on adoption and third-party reproduction). I stayed far, far away from Pregnancy Loss — not in a place to read that right now, though I would have read it before becoming pregnant and will probably go back and read it after this pregnancy is done.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens ( You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Moose by Stephanie Klein.


12 Responses to “Barren Bitches Book Brigade: Navigating the Land of If”

  1. Lorza Says:

    LOL!! I need to steal this from you:””Free-For-All (recycled from a post I wrote almost a year ago), family version: Having seen all of the horrible parent-child relationships in this family, we’ve decided not to reproduce.”

    That is awesome!

  2. loribeth Says:

    I love the Rumpelstiltskin response myself. ; ) Interesting point about the decision list, & I understand, although I agree with your counterpoint, that it was a great way to impose some discipline on the process & put all possible options on the table.

  3. Karen Says:

    Good points! I can see where you stayed away from the pg loss chapter. I stayed away from the detailed IVF info because I don’t want to tempt myself into going back down that road.

  4. Lavender Luz Says:

    Me, too, on the Rumpelstiltskin!

    I also read “my” chapter first. And I completely understand why you would avoid THAT chapter. Thanks for reading “mine.”

  5. Kristin Says:

    Great review and I love the Rumplestiltskin comment!

  6. Erin W. Says:

    HAHAHA…LOVE the rumplestiltskin comment. That is CLASSIC!!!!!
    Also love the family version!!!

  7. Kim Says:

    I can only hope that I will have the guts to use your family response int he future. Perfect!

  8. Sunny Says:

    LOL @ at your free-for-all comments. Fortunately I didn’t get too many annoying questions from people about our reproductive plans, but wouldn’t it have been funny to come back with something like that!

  9. Dirk Says:

    I have recently decided to have a baby. I should pick up this book.

  10. chelle Says:

    Great book. I wish I was more into reading books… I love reading your reviews, but I guarantee I will never pick up even half the books! (Aside from Mel’s)

    I, too, loved the free for all comments!

  11. Mel Says:

    I love this quote: “Some families are made for honesty, but not ours.” I think it’s important to do what you need to do and lucky that you have the ability to see the situation and know the right path.

    Thank you so much for doing this!

  12. Meim Says:

    I love the free-for all responses! I wish I could think of them on the fly. It’s usually a few hours later that I think of them. Maybe would should all combine forces and write a pocket book of free-for-all answers to keep at the ready! Money well spent if you ask me!

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