I am delighted to be participating in the book tour for my dear friend Lori Holden’s book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption.

Her book is unique in addressing the needs of both adoptive and birth parents. Her insights are useful for those who are considering or navigating the adoption process, as well as those who have already adopted/placed a child. She also has a chapter targeting the unique needs of those who are building their families through donor gametes or embryos.

As a reader of Lori’s blog for 5 years, as well as a face-to-face friend for almost as long, many of her personal stories were familiar to me. I also have no personal stake in any aspect of adoption. Even so, I found the book fascinating. Lori uses many compelling illustrations from her own life as well as those of others (such as Luna) to show successful, and not-as-successful, ways that others have engaged in open adoption. Although I have heard many of her suggestions from years of reading blogs by adoptive parents, there were several insights that I have never heard before.

A few weeks ago I saw an old friend (that is, she has been my friend for many years, though she is also much older than I am). One of her daughters has been struggling for infertility for many years. I inquired about her daughter, and my friend told me that her daughter was now pursuing adoption. I excitedly asked, “Domestic or international?” The reason I asked is that if the answer had been domestic adoption, I wanted to recommend Lori’s book to her, knowing that it would truly make her journey easier as well as benefit the emotional development of her future child.

And now, a few answers to questions from other book tour participants.

Lori refers to the relationship between adoptive parents and birthparents as similar to an in-law relationship.  Does thinking about the relationship as an in-law relationship influence how you approach open adoption?
 

I found this insight really helpful. With my own in-laws and extended family, there are some with whom I want as much contact as possible, some with whom I enjoy occasional contact, some with whom I tolerate occasional contact, and some that I wish would go away. For the latter two, I still engage them not because I want to but because they are part of my children’s family.

You could replace in-laws with birthparents or adoptive parents in the above paragraph and probably have it apply to almost every family’s open adoption situation.

  
In most of the cases that Lori describes, including her own relationship with Crystal, most of the contact occurs between the birth mother and the adoptive mother. To what extent do you see the mothers as the gatekeepers of contact for their respective families?

I think that women are usually the gatekeepers of family relationships in general, but it seems to be even more pronounced in open adoption. I’ve heard a lot describing contact between adoptive mother and birth mother. I’ve heard somewhat about contact between adoptive mother and birth father. I’ve heard only a little about contact between adoptive father and birth mother. I’ve never once heard about direct contact between adoptive father and birth father, except when they both happened to participate in a group interaction with mothers and others. It’s not weird to me if my husband contacts either a mother or father of a preschool classmate to set up a playdate for my twins, but it does feel weird to me to think of an adoptive father in a heterosexual relationship taking the initiative for reaching out to his child’s birth family. I don’t know if that’s me being rigid and closed-minded or if it truly would be weird.

 
Personal anecdotes and quotes play an important role in this book, humanizing the data and giving it the force of lived experience. It was interesting to note the voices that were not as present: fathers, adult adoptees from open adoptions, open adoption participants with decades of experience rather than years. What impact, if any, do you think those absent voices have on the book?

Because closed adoption was the norm until less than two decades ago, it seem that there just aren’t yet very many adult adoptees from open adoptions nor people with decades of experience. If Lori revises her book in a decade, it would be great to add these perspectives.

Fathers, though, are plentiful. It seems that men in general don’t spend as much time as women talking about the nuances of family relationships. Judging by the representation of men in the ALI blogosphere, for every man who wants to talk at length about these issues, there are hundreds of women. I don’t know how many men Lori might have tried to interview for her book, but I would guess that there were men who declined: not having much to say, not wanting to get into it, or “you should ask my wife.” In my experience with many, many, many people who have used alternative family-building methods, a few men have had strong opinions against methods such as IVF, donor gametes, or surrogates, cutting off those options as possibilities. I have known a couple of men who expressed preferences such as wanting to adopt internationally from a country where the child would have an ethnic match with one parent. The vast majority of men I have encountered have expressed few strong opinions and deferred to their wives on pretty much everything. During our 7 years of infertility, my husband usually expressed no opinions, not because he didn’t want to express his feelings but because he truly had no opinion. I imagine that there are other men out there who do have opinions and reflections on open adoption, and even a couple who are willing to express them publicly, but I bet it is tough to find them. Maybe that will be Lori’s next book. 🙂

Please return to the main post to read more opinions on Lori Holden’s The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption.

Welcome to this stop on the Life From Scratch book tour!

Life From Scratch is the first fiction book by the incomparable Melissa Ford. I reviewed her first book, the infertility resource book Navigating the Land of IF a couple of years ago. This book is just as excellent, but in very different ways.

I’m not a ChickLit reader — literally the only ChickLit books I’ve ever read have been for book clubs — but I did enjoy this book. The characters are more fully developed, the protagonist more likable, and the situations more realistic than most other books of this genre.

It was funny, knowing the author, to see bits and pieces of her throughout. The main character is in many ways dissimilar from Mel, but there were several times when, if I’d been reading the book blind of the author’s identity, I would have said, “Hey that sounds like something Mel would say.”

And now, the Book Tour questions.

Blogging plays a key role for Rachel in the growth she experiences throughout the novel. How has blogging affected who you are and/or how you see the world?
Blogging helped me survive infertility.

Blogging introduced me to several friends. Not online friends, real true friends that I just happen to mostly talk to online and happen not to see that often in person (or in some cases not at all, not yet).

Blogging has helped me articulate my inner life, since I tend not to express my private thoughts and feelings in other venues.

Blogging has also compartmentalized me — I have BabySmiling friends and other friends, BabySmiling thoughts and other thoughts, experiences told only to BabySmiling readers and experiences told only to others, photos of my twins that I’ve posted on BabySmiling and all of the other photos. I’m not particularly thrilled with still having to remain so secretive to maintain the two separate existences, but I am thrilled to have a place where I can be so honest.

Rachel’s blog gets very popular when she wins a blogging award and she starts averaging about one hundred thousand hits per day. Would you want your blog to become that popular or would you prefer to stay smaller?
More evidence of compartmentalization: this is not my only blog. A couple of readers know that, but most don’t. I would not want BabySmiling to become hugely popular — I am delighted to share my experiences with anyone who needs them, especially anyone struggling with infertility, but I don’t need the level of scrutiny that would come with such an enormous readership. I also don’t need the heightened likelihood of having my identity discovered.

For my other blogs, though, I would be fine if either one became that huge. They’re not intended for that kind of audience, though, so it would invariably change what and how I wrote. Not good or bad, just a bit different. A little less idiosyncratic, a little less intimate, a little more about conveying interesting or useful information and less about personal connection. I’m very active on one of my blogs (posting more often than I do here) and would continue to be so. I’m extremely inactive on the other one, so if it became popular (though I’m not sure how that’s possible when there now are a only a few posts per year, but this is all hypothetical anyway) I would certainly be more diligent about regular posting.

While she is trying to move on from her divorce, Rachel cleans out The Box- a box of sentimental mementos from her marriage. Do you have a Box of your own? What do you (or would you) keep in it?
I don’t have one single Box. I have several areas where I keep things. I have one box of all of the greeting cards DH gave me during our courtship, another box with all of the letters he wrote me — on notebook paper — accompanied by the various roses he gave me, dried. I have a box with ticket stubs from everything we’ve attended together. A couple of pieces of jewelry he gave me when we were dating are in my regular jewelry box. And then there are the photo albums, physical albums from the early and middle days and digital-only (though well backed up!) most recently.

I have all sorts of other sentimental mementos from experiences we’ve shared, but I don’t think of those as being from my marriage — I think of those as being from my life.

To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at Write Mind Open Heart.

Buy the book in paperback or Kindle. C’mon, you’ll enjoy it!

Barren Bitches Book BrigadeWelcome to the Barren Bitches Book Brigade, featuring It Sucked, and Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong of dooce.com.

(Note: pregnancy and children mentioned.)

If you are in a relationship right now, do you relate to how Heather talks about her husband, Jon, and what a great father and life partner he is? From what she described about Jon, what qualities do you have or want in your life partner?
I truly have the best husband ever, in a thousand ways that I don’t currently have the mental wherewithal to enumerate.

Here is an exchange we had today which illustrates why he is so fantastic. Before this conversation, I was very grumpy from spending the day with an unpleasant NICU nurse plus physical pain.

DH, cheerfully: The babies would have been 35 weeks today.
Me, zombie-like: Oh, I forgot it’s Tuesday. Tuesday used to be the special day. Now Saturday is the special day, because they were born on a Saturday.
DH, almost jumping up and down with enthusiasm: Now that we have babies, every day is the special day!

And then I burst out crying. And then he hugged me, while driving.

I have only watched him as a father for a week and a half, but already he has surprised me so much, all in good ways. I need to write a separate post about the changes I have seen in him — stay tuned.

Heather obviously has a very distinctive writing style that comes across in both her blog and her book. What do you think has made Heather such a famous blogger? Her writing style, honesty, or something else? Do you write with the same passion and honesty that Heather does?

Dooce is many things to many people. My husband mostly cares about the pictures of Chuck and Coco, her dogs. I often enjoy her Daily Style feature and her photography, but the big draws for me are her humor and her posts about parenting. Our personalities are clearly very different, but I think I write with as much passion and honesty as I have to give.

If you had postpartum depression to the degree Heather describes, would you have the courage to check yourself into a psychiatric ward? (It’s hard to say when it’s not actually happening in your own life, but I’d be curious to know if there are some people who are completely against it, some who would do it if they felt there was no other way, etc.)
I’d like to think so. I’d also like to think that I would nip it in the bud more, rather than letting the problem get that severe. In the past week and a half, when I’ve been more emotional than usual because of post-birth hormone changes, my husband has been quick to point out the contrast between that and my usual logical self. If I were to develop severe depression, the further I got from myself, the more I think he’d try to help me pull myself back in.

Heather Armstrong writes candidly and unapologetically about all aspects of her life – the good, the bad and the ugly. What, if anything, in your life that would you like to be as unapologetic about? What’s the first step you could take? What’s holding you back?
Infertility, of course. I’ve already taken the first step: since giving birth, I have straightforwardly explained the babies’ origins whenever anyone has asked whether twins run in the family (which is surprisingly often, given that I haven’t talked to anyone outside the hospital). Strangers are becoming easy, but telling the truth about infertility to friends and family is another hurdle entirely. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever get over feeling like it’s just none of their business.

The author’s blog is well-known for her biting sense of humor, interspersed with expressions of deep emotion toward her children and husband. Although there was plenty of humor, I found the book to be much heavier on emotion than I expected based on reading her blog. On your own blog, how much emotion do you express? Is that more or less than you tend to express in real life?
This was one of the questions that I wrote. Heather Armstrong offers such an unusual combination of sarcasm and raw emotion. In real life, I am very guarded with emotional expression. On BabySmiling, I am considerably more expressive.

For years I have enjoyed Dooce’s monthly newsletters about her daughter. They combine snapshots of Leta’s growth, snarky humor, and pure love. I think that I will be comfortable expressing emotion directly to my children, but it feels strange to think of writing emotional public newsletters under my real name for friends and family (and strangers) to read. Do I save the emotion for BabySmiling, even though it goes against the mandate of the blog as an infertility blog? Do I write the letters privately? Do I remain guarded and let the emotions go undocumented? Probably not the latter, but I’m still figuring this one out.

Whatever I do, I certainly appreciate the precedent that Dooce has set, in terms of non-maudlin emotional expression as well as acknowledging the hard work of belonging to a family.

The author talks about how she imagined her future children before becoming pregnant:

When you’re childless and young and hopeful, you have this idea of what your children are going to be like, and you make mental notes when you see other kids in public. You say to yourself, “My kid will be cute like that,” or “My kid won’t ever throw a tantrum in public like that little demon.” I had always envisioned a sweet little princess who looked just like me sitting quietly in a high chair, her pressed velvet petticoat creased perfectly as she sat and waited to be handed things in a timely manner. And then you grow up and have kids and realize that YOU HAVE NO SAY…

Before starting to try to conceive, how did you imagine your future children? If you now have children, how did your expectations fit reality?
This was the other question that I contributed. When I wrote it I had not yet given birth, and now I have. I don’t know much about my babies yet, but I certainly know more than I knew a couple of weeks ago. I really had no idea how they would look; it turns out that one of them looks so much like my husband, and one of them rather looks like me. One has hair color and features that I didn’t think could happen on a child of mine. One seems to have their father’s temperament, and one mine. Between looks and temperament, each of them has some of him and some of me. As for the rest of it, I’ll have to get back to you in a few years.

In terms of imaginings, I’ve mostly envisioned my children having the kinds of traits that would enable me to engage in activities like museums and world travel with them at a young age: intelligence, patience, curiosity, gentle demeanors. DH likes to say that it will depend on whether they are “his” children or “my” children. If they take after me as a child, by age 7 they will be leading the way through the Louvre, floor plan and guidebook in hand. If they take after him as a child, they will never make it inside the Louvre and instead will gather a crowd of Parisian children into impromptu game of tackle football in the Jardin des Tuileries. Hey, either way, Paris is Paris, right?

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: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

Barren Bitches Book Brigade Welcome to the Barren Bitches Book Brigade, featuring Moose by Stephanie Klein.

I wasn’t a fat kid; I was a not-skinny kid. The start of puberty was not kind to me (was it kind to anyone?), and my 8th grade yearbook picture crosses the line into chunky territory, but generally others perceived me as “normal.” However, I was often the heaviest girl around, especially because I was involved in all sorts of activities that encourage extreme thinness, like dance, gymnastics, and figure skating. Once, a skating coach said to me, “I think it’s good that you’re healthy, not so skinny like all these other girls.” And that was in the late 80s, when standards for thin were much less emaciated than today.

Still, most girls were skinny, and I was not skinny. So in my mind, I’ve always been a fat girl. I couldn’t trade clothes with other girls. I was self-conscious about wearing shorts. I consumed SlimFast — not as meal replacement shakes, but as raw powder out of the can (just like I ate Nestle Quik, Ovaltine, hot chocolate mix…).

The very first time I ever thought that I might not be a fat girl after all, I was in my mid-20s. My best friend from grad school (who, I must note, is a size 0) was talking about a woman who was a couple years ahead of me in our program. That woman is pear-shaped to the extreme: top half average, bottom half obese. My friend was explaining how the woman’s weight had grown over the past few years and said, “When she started grad school, she was normal. Like me or you.”

What?!? My size 0 friend and I (size 12-ish, consisting mostly of breasts, plus some extra tummy) were not comparable. I was closer to our pear-shaped classmate, wasn’t I? Wasn’t I?

Reading Moose has confirmed that I am closer in spirit to my size 0 friend (who maintained the 0 through Weight Watchers, having been a “heavy” size 4 before) than to the pear-shaped classmates and Mooses of the world. Many of the emotions Klein describes resonate with my adolescent self, but the desperation she describes for food is totally foreign to me. Anyone could be normal-sized with my take-it-or-leave-it desire for food, just like no one would have a drinking problem if they were as nonchalant about alcohol’s effects as I am. But, faced with what she describes as a true addiction to food, overeating and obesity seem almost like destiny.

Aside from the weight issues, I most enjoyed Moose for three things:

  1. The seamless way she integrates the main narrative with older and newer memories.
  2. The description of early adolescent sexuality, solo and partnered. Even if her desire for sex, like her desire for food, was more extreme than my own, it’s the truest depiction of young girls’ unspoken fascination with sex that I’ve ever seen.
  3. The disingenuity of adolescent emotional expressions, particularly when she starts a big fight with Adam then admits that it was all a show. I’ve seen it so many times, mostly in others but occasionally in myself: acting out a script of the way people supposedly act, as depicted in teen movies, sitcoms, books… One of my sisters-in-law, whom I have previously described as a sociopath, has done this throughout her adolescence. She punches DH on the arm because that’s what little sisters do to big brothers. When she’s away, she talks about how much she misses her friends several times a day, because that’s what people with friends are supposed to do. She temporarily breaks up with boys over minor issues because that’s what teenage relationships are right, or so she’s seen on TV. I never know when she’s feeling real emotion and when she’s acting out a scene from an after school special.

In the first chapter, Klein talks about her reluctance to gain weight during her twin pregnancy as a result of her childhood obesity. How have body image issues affected you during infertility? Pregnancy? Post-pregnancy?
During infertility treatments, FSH injections made my tummy, which has always been out of proportion with the rest of my body, bigger. The scale didn’t reflect it, but my pants were tighter and there was clearly more padding in my lower abdomen. Because I started out not-skinny, no one ever said anything and I don’t know if anyone even noticed, but I didn’t appreciate the side effect — especially when no babies were resulting from the treatments.

But, when I would pass myself in a mirror or the reflection on a window, I’d often pause and imagine my midsection much bigger from pregnancy. Finally I would have an excuse to have a big tummy! I was ready to embrace having an enormous belly, if it came with a baby inside.

Since being pregnant with twins, I’ve actually struggled to gain more weight — not a problem I ever fathomed having. Heartily convinced by the twin books that weight gain is key to preventing premature birth, I have been eating the most fattening foods I can, every couple of hours, for months — and I can barely keep up. Between being a vegetarian and having strong food aversions in the first four months to anything that might help me gain weight (particularly sweets and fatty foods), it has required enormous effort to keep up with the babies’ nutritional needs and put on the amount of weight recommended for a healthy twin pregnancy.

I haven’t stopped catching my reflection in mirrors and windows — in fact, I do it constantly now. It’s vain, really. I am so enamored with my growing belly, stretch marks and all, just as I am enamored with all that’s going on inside. Part of my joy comes from the years of infertility and finally achieving what eluded me for so long. But really, part of it is that I’ve never looked better. Later, I’ll go back to having a big blah tummy, but for now I have a big beautiful tummy!

Stephanie describes how she would picture herself slim, and how that image did not look like her at all. Did you/do you picture yourself slim and if so who do you model yourself on? Are you realistic when you imagine the slim you or do you picture someone you could never be like?
The imaginary slim Me isn’t that different from the normal version of Me wearing the right clothes, such as tailored suits. I don’t think I’ve ever, since puberty, been as slim as the imaginary Me (nor as slim as the BMI charts say I should… but BMI is bogus anyway), but ultimately I don’t know if that imaginary Me is something I even want. There was a point in my early 20s when I thought seriously about how I should approach my weight. I could work out more and watch what I ate, or I could do what I wanted and be satisfied with myself. I have chose and have stuck to the latter, in large part as a conscious feminist decision not to accept poor self-esteem as a way of life.

Stephanie Klein writes “Years later I’d feel slightly superior because I’d once been fat. That’s the thing…when asked if I’d change my past if I could, I think for a moment and always answer no. There’s something…that just makes it mildly worth it. Because a sensitivity is tattooed on a part of you no one else can see but can somehow guess is there. It’s always with you.” How do you relate to this with regards to infertility?

I do feel secretly superior for having gone through this long journey, as if I will truly love my children more than those who conceived easily. I can’t judge whether that’s really accurate (and I know that lots of fertile women — but not all — love their children plenty). I do know that infertility has made me more sensitive to all sorts of difficulties that others encounter, in family-building and in other aspects of life. I can’t say whether I’m a better person than anyone else, but I’m a better person than I was before.

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: It Sucked, And Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong (aka Dooce).

Show and TellMy Blogoversary Contest is over! We have two winners! Congrats to the winners, and thanks to everyone who entered!

The first one came easily, but it required an extra round of guessing to get the second winner — I think the title of the second winning song scared some people off. I’ll reveal their prizes at next week’s Show and Tell. In the meantime, here are the identities of the winners as well as the winning selections.

First, honorable mentions to S for pointing out a lyric I never noticed in Neon Bible:

A vial of hope and a vial of pain,
In the light they both looked the same.

…and to Kristen for guessing My Body Is A Cage. Yeah, that would seem like a logical choice for my IF anthem (as Rebecca pointed out in her comment, too obvious?), but not as much as the winning songs. It is a damn fine song, though. Haunting and evocative; the organ really amplifies the chord structure. Good stuff.

Second prize goes to Lori from Weebles Wobblog. I swear, it’s not fixed. It’s not some conspiracy to make her the #1 collector of my pottery. Yes, she won a little vase in my very first contest and I also brought her a little dish when I visited her house. But Lori won because she wasn’t afraid to guess (Antichrist Television Blues). Most of the song is not infertility-related — in fact, apparently the song is about Jessica Simpson’s father — but one part literally screams IF to me:

Dear G-d, would you send me a child?
Oh! G-d, would you send me a child?

Lord, would you send me a sign?
’cause i just gotta know if I’m wastin’ my time!

Take a listen — that section is at the 3-minute mark (cued up if you click through rather than watching the embedded video below).

I think that many infertiles have asked the universe to send us a sign because we just want to know if we’re wasting our time.

First prize goes to Birdless, who delurked just for the contest. Through her careful reading of the lyrics, she correctly guessed that the Arcade Fire song which most speaks to my infertile heart is Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles).

I am waitin’ ’til I don’t know when,
cause I’m sure it’s gonna happen then.

The ideas of waiting (and waiting and waiting) and of not knowing when is very familiar to those of us who have struggled with family-building. There’s also an explicit reference to unborn children in the song:

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids,
but my heart keeps watchin’ through the skin of my eyelids.

Here is my very favorite section of the song, both lyrically and musically. More than anything else I’ve ever seen, it truly sums up my seven years of infertility. Waiting, then not paying attention to waiting, then waiting more, then showing patience, only to see that patience get me nowhere:

They say a watched pot won’t ever boil,
well I closed my eyes and nothin’ changed,
just some water getting hotter in the flames.
[interspersed with marvelous swelling orchestration]

Oh, the orchestration. You really need the album version to hear the orchestration. Go to 1 minute 55 seconds.

And finally, a call for true patience. Not patience as in pretending that you’re not paying attention but really you’re peeking with one eye open, but truly believing in the good things to come.

Just like a seed down in the soil you gotta give it time.

Partly I wanted to hold this Blogoversary Contest because it’s fun to hold contests and give out pottery, but I also wanted to share these songs with all of you. When you’ve finished shoveling your car out of the snow and you’re driving to the RE at the crack of dawn for the 5th time that week, these songs make the trip a little easier. Trust me.

See what the rest of the class has to Show and Tell.

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 (http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com). You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Moose by Stephanie Klein.

Barren Bitches Book Brigade Welcome to the Barren Bitches Book Brigade, featuring The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.

I have a special place in my heart for Anita Diamant. She wrote The New Jewish Wedding, which I memorized practically word for word when planning my own wedding. Thanks to her book (and the rabbi) I singlehandedly planned my own Jewish wedding, without ever having attended one before. My husband had attended a few Jewish weddings, but he hadn’t been paying much attention and had little to contribute. Having attended a score of Jewish weddings since my own, I can say that mine was much more mindful and thought-out than all but one other that I have attended. My first-timer’s take combined with Diamant’s attention to each detail allowed me to bring a unique focus to elements of the Jewish wedding that usually get glossed over.

Diamant brought that same attention to detail to this novel. Usually-ignored adjectives and bits of verse from Genesis get expanded, elaborated, amplified. I enjoyed this book a lot, but it was hard to draw the line between “fact” and fiction. At many points I was unsure whether something was a fictionalization or whether I just didn’t remember it from the original story. And, of course, the female perspective and focus on menstruation, reproduction, loss, and mothering are a stark departure from the usual story.

“The sight of the baby in Bilhah’s arms, day after day, shattered Rachel’s confidence again. She was only the aunt, the bystander, the barren one.” Did you find the author sympathetic or disparaging of Rachel’s barren state? Did she convincingly relate the experience of being barren?

I found the author very sympathetic to Rachel, and her descriptions of Rachel’s mindset compelling, with one exception – there was a sense, via the other characters, that Rachel was too proud and infertility forced humility on her. She probably was too proud, between her beauty and Jacob’s favoritism toward her, but aren’t we all in our own way?

The family trees shown at the beginning of the book don’t include miscarriages, stillbirths, or children who died before weaning. Given the rate of infant mortality at the time, this was a logical method for “counting” children. Now that it’s much more rare (but still too common) to lose children both before and after birth, at what point do you think children should be added to the official family tree? At what point should they be added to the parents’ personal tally of children?

Just this weekend I was speaking to a family friend about family size. More than once she referred to the number of children in prior generations in her family with the caveat, “but they didn’t all live.” For example, “My great-grandmother had 12 children (they didn’t all live) and only 3 of them were girls.” I don’t know whether this included miscarriages and stillbirths or only children who died young, but it was interesting to hear these deaths remembered in this way – casually, but still part of the permanent record.
Personally I would count stillbirths and infant deaths in the official family tree, but not early miscarriages (as my own two miscarriages were).

Dinah is awaited and welcomed by all of Jacob’s wives. The one daughter, the one to carry all their stories, all their voices. In the context of the book it is a literary device that allows the author to tell us stories of Jacob’s wives from their own perspectives. But what does it speak of to you? In your own life, have you felt, as Dinah does, a carrier of living memory? Do you feel your own voice to be better protected in the age of the blog, or do you see an enduring need for connection across generations?

In some ways I do feel like a carrier of living memory, because I am good at listening and good at remembering. I can recount in great detail stories that older relatives have told me; others who were there with me at the time of the telling have no recollection of the stories whatsoever. But, even more, most people were not there at the time of the telling, because they do not have the patience or interest to sit and listen to the ramblings and reminiscences of an older generation.

My own voice may be protected in the blog age, but the earlier voices require retelling from person to person. Their stories are not mine to blog about, but they are mine to tell to individuals within the family — hopefully my own children soon.

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: Navigating the Land of If by Melissa Ford.