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Three Infertility Stories

The first story was just interesting and/or helpful.  A couple in England who experienced recurrent pregnancy loss due to high levels of natural killer cells were treated with three injections of fats from egg yolks and soy beans.  Afterwards, she carried twins to term.  Simply seemed newsworthy.


The next continues the new trend of reprolit — fiction that contains an infertility storyline.  We’ve already heard about the horror book, Breed, and now, Salon has a piece about Natalie Portman’s father’s infertility thriller.

I guess I’m just curious about the intended audience since whenever you’re marketing a book, you state who you believe will read the book.  Is it assumed that infertile men and women (Dr. Hershlag’s patients) would be drawn towards this sort of book?  Because we really want to think about stolen embryos?  Because treatments in and of themselves are not enough of a horror show that we need to bathe in a fantasy world of in vitro incest?

Or are we not the audience at all?  And then why is a fertility doctor, one who treats us and knows the emotional landscape of infertility via conversations with the patient writing an infertility thriller?  Is it entertainment at our expense?  If I share how depressed I am with my doctor, I hope he doesn’t use that to create entertainment down the road.

I doubt we’d ever see an oncologist making “Cancer — the board game!” or any other doctor using their area of medical expertise as entertainment.  Which is quite different from using your area of medical expertise as education, as exploring the experience of that disease via fiction.

There are plenty of times that art is used to illuminate — think: Schindler’s List.  Which would be quite different from a Holocaust historian making “Auschwitz! The Musical!”

I don’t know — I’m just curious whether anyone would be interested in a reprolit thriller/horror book?  What about a sensitively-explored piece of fiction that tries to delve into the world of treatments and show the reader what that experience is like?  Do you think there’s a difference?


Lastly, I read an interesting article about Rosie Pope on the Stir by the ever-enjoyable Jeanne Sager.  She points out that,

If you think it’s hard for women going through infertility to run into an old high school pal who’s pregnant or having to face their best friend cradling a newborn, imagine what it must be like all day, every day, to be face-to-face with a big belly.

And I assume it is hard — for doctors, for people who work in baby-item/maternity stores, for teachers, for women in a same-sex relationship where both are undergoing inseminations, for Rosie Pope.  For me, as a teacher, it was only hard during conference time when I’d be speaking to parents who so clearly knew nothing about their child and didn’t seem to care about the aforementioned child.  I would be holding my face expressionless while thinking: “you could procreate and I can’t?”

So my first thought was whether certain professions/life situations are actually harder or is it entirely dependent on the person?  My gut tells me that it’s entirely dependent on the person.  That you could have infertile ob/gyns who never think about how their patients have what they don’t have and you could have infertile ob/gyns who spend their entire day coveting.

The other point Sager makes in the article is that Pope is a vision of hope:

Pope has given these women a gift. She’s telling them they’re not alone. And in many ways, her son Wellington and her decision to show him off this week is a gift too. He’s the gift of hope, the knowledge that, as she told Life & Style, “Miracles really do happen.”

I totally agree with the first part — putting your story out there means that other people hearing it know that they’re not alone.  It is comforting to hear an element of your life reflected.  But what about that second part — the idea that seeing an infertile woman on the other side of the chasm — does that fill you with hope?  Does it make you feel like things are more possible in your world?

Again, there’s a line and I don’t know where it is.  I liked hearing from people who were successful with treatments when we were starting out treatments because I liked hearing that it had a possibility of working.  If it happened for them, perhaps it could happen for me.

But then there is this line where I am also mindful on the other side of it that someone else’s story is not my story.  That treatments could work for them and not work for me, and both truths exist in this world.  That their success does not translate into increased success in my life.  And in that way, they aren’t hope at all.

What are your thoughts?  Do you (did you) look at another person’s success as hope that you’d be in the same place one day?  Or is it simply an acknowledgment that treatments/adoption/surrogacy can work, but it has no bearing on your world whatsoever?


1 Chickenpig { 05.04.11 at 7:56 am }

People’s success always gave me hope. I found the blogoshpere when I was going through a miscarriage, and I ended up at Julie’s blog. She had just had her son Charlie, prematurely, as everyone knows, so it was kind of scary/hopeful. Look, she was able to get and stay pregnant after miscarriages. Oh no, too early, that isn’t good. It was kind of a double shot of hope and emotional preparation. 🙂

I find that other ppl’s success is best when they have the same dx as you or very similar at any rate. Sometimes are doctors ARE missing something, and we can get help this way.

2 celia { 05.04.11 at 8:04 am }

I liked hearing that people with similar problems to mine were successful. I have ZERO interest in reading a book that is making money off my heartache. I have read nonfiction memoirs about infertility and I would read more. I loathe fiction parading as thinly veiled memoir.

3 celia { 05.04.11 at 8:07 am }

I worked in a bookstore, and it was a knife in my heart frequently- storytime, the pregnancy section, the baby names section ugh. . Most especially when someone would tell me ( this happened ALL THE TIME) that they were looking for infertility books. Because you know, all their children were BOYS and really they wanted a girl.

4 Alexis { 05.04.11 at 8:19 am }

My problem with the first story is that it’s from the Mail–a newspaper that specializes in cancer scare stories, MMR scare stories, and hating on women’s bodies. Infertility “miracles” are just up their alley. It’s not that I like being Eeyore, or that I’m not happy for them–but I want to know way more than what the Mail is saying. The media coverage of IF is so bad that I skip it. Then my father likes to send me the negative articles. Thanks Dad.

I like hearing about other people’s success. It made me feel like it could happen to me, especially if they had a similar situation to mine. As for professionals and their jobs: the RE who behaved really insensitively to a friend of mine (after a loss) was the one who made a point of telling her before how she’d been through it herself. On the other hand, I have a friend who was a NICU nurse. She found her job unbearable when she was going through IF and switched to ER nursing. So, yeah–I think it’s all about your temperament.

5 HereWeGoAJen { 05.04.11 at 9:24 am }

That infertility thriller book sounds odd. It sounds like one that might not have gotten published had the author not had a famous daughter?

I found it comforting (sometimes) to read about others that had success while I was still waiting. But sometimes it was hard and I didn’t want to hear about it. I think it would be hard to have to be faced with success every single day.

6 LJ { 05.04.11 at 9:47 am }

I felt a little better once I saw that the NK cell success story was from the Daily Fail. Part of me doesn’t want answers on how to solve that issue of mine.

7 Jamie { 05.04.11 at 9:49 am }

I actually watched the DVRed version of this Pregnant in Heels episode yesterday afternoon while my kiddos were napping (I have my 4th cold, I’m allowed a ridiculous TV indulgence) and I have to admit that I teared up when Rosie was sharing about her ectopic pregnancy. Having experience an ectopic myself, I know how scary it can be and I am glad that she is sharing that she is one of the many of us who has had to undergo IVF. I think the more people share and are open about their experiences the less stigma the infertile world will have.

8 Lollipopgoldstein { 05.04.11 at 9:58 am }

Does it help if the intralipid study has been going on for a while?


9 Sushigirl { 05.04.11 at 10:34 am }

I’m a bit dubious about anything that appears in the Daily Mail. I’m surprised they didn’t manage to get a Princess Diana reference into that story, or something about black/brown people making housing prices crash. Still, that story didn’t seem too bad on the face of it, but soon they’ll be running a story on how there shouldn’t be any IVF on the NHS because infertility patients just need to eat more tofu, and relax!

10 Esperanza { 05.04.11 at 10:51 am }

That first story is so amazing, that something so seemingly “simple” could be so helpful. I’m kind of flabbergasted. I’d love to know how they thought to try that treatment.

The second story I will not even comment on. I went to that Salon page, saw the heading and the art work and just left. I didn’t even want to read what it was about. Natalie Portman must be mortified (or at least I hope she is).

As for the third story, I felt exactly like you did. It was nice to hear other people’s stories, because it was nice to know that people did have successful pregnancies after ectopics or amenorrhea. But I always felt like it had no bearing on my own story, because you could just as easily find the story of someone for whom things didn’t work out. So while it was vaguely comforting, I wouldn’t say it inspired hope. No one else’s story can give you insight into your own, and that is just the reality of the situation.

Thanks for sharing these (except the second one, I could have lived without hear about that ;-).

11 Hope { 05.04.11 at 11:38 am }

Hearing other people’s stories is a mixed bag for me. Success stories remind me that success can happen, and that brings me hope when I’m in a place where I’m feeling very hopeless. At the same time, part of me wonders if it will ever happen for me. Sure it can happen, and does for many people, but no one can give me a guarantee.

I’m not at all into the idea of reading “entertainment” at the expense of any segment of the population.

And thanks for sharing the first story–there were enough parallels to my own situation that it was just what I needed to read this morning.

12 Elizabeth { 05.04.11 at 12:17 pm }

I found hope in others’ success stories to some extent but once we found out our diagnosis (UU and severe endo) and realized that only IVF or surrogacy would be our medical options, stories of success became increasingly irrelevant b/c so much of the time they had nothing in common with the reality we were facing.

13 Sharon { 05.04.11 at 1:01 pm }

It seems from reading the previous comments that I am in the minority here. . . . but I have never found reading others’ success stories gave me any hope for our own success. (And at particularly low points in my struggle with infertility, some success stories made me feel as bad as pregnancies achieved by friends and acquaintances without infertility.) This may be in part because, up until recently, our infertility was completely “unexplained.”

Each individual, each couple, is so different, and the reasons for the inability to conceive is so varied, that I have almost never thought “Wow, well, ____ worked for her, it might work for us, too.”

I mean, let’s face it: even if every other infertile woman I know gets pregnant, that doesn’t mean I will. (And we never planned to use surrogacy or adoption, so I’m speaking only as to the success of treatments here.)

14 Amy { 05.04.11 at 1:05 pm }

I’m gonna go against the majority here. I didn’t mind hearing success stories, but they didn’t bring me any type of hope. I always knew that their story wasn’t my story and just because they ended up with a kid didn’t necessarily mean I would. I used to HATE when I would tell someone I had four miscarriages and they’d say, “Well, I know someone who had five and now they have a healthy baby.” I wanted to tell them to suck it. (Sorry, but true). I’m very careful now, not to throw my story around as a “This is how it works” story. I do tell people about my five miscarriages and the heartache I endured before my boys were born, but I try to NEVER imply that I’m the norm. Maybe I am, I don’t know. But I’m always aware that someone may just not want to hear it. And that’s totally okay.

15 Kristi { 05.04.11 at 2:33 pm }

Interesting post today Head Queen. I just commented to a couple blogger friends today that my comments have decreased since getting pregnant but not my readership. I still have lots of people following my blog but not commenting.

I wondered if it was beause I was almost to the other side of this infertility thing. When I was going through the treatments or miscarriage I had several comments on each post. Now that I post about my growing belling, baby, etc the comments only role in from other mom/moms to be. Is it because my posts are boring now or because it’s to hard to follow when your still fighting the IF battle.

16 Kate { 05.04.11 at 2:42 pm }

I’m with Amy – I never found other people’s success stories to be very hope inspiring. For me it was never a problem of wondering whether or not getting pregnant *could* happen, it was whether or not it *would*.

17 Sue { 05.04.11 at 4:09 pm }

When my sister finally had healthy baby after 6-7 years of infertility and loss, several people said to me, “doesn’t this give you hope? It happened for her, I know it will happen for you” or “I have a feeling you’ll be next!” and “This is going to be your year!” And it hurt because I knew it was all BS. Our IF stem from different causes and just because it worked for her, as a previous poster noted, doesn’t mean anything will happen for me. And yet, even as I knew this, a tiny part of me hoped that they were right. And when their well-meaning, baby-high predictions didn’t turn out, I resented them for validating that tiny bit of hope. And I hated myself for letting myself hope.

18 Katie { 05.04.11 at 4:11 pm }

You know, I used to find people’s success stories inspiring. Now, I simply have my happy moment for that person and move on. It sort of stopped for me when I realized I was never going to be pregnant, and I can’t explain why I felt differently after we chose adoption. It’s something I need to explore a bit more.

As for the book, I’m not even going to go there. An infertility horror story? Infertility IS horror. I live it; I don’t need to read about it.

19 Keiko { 05.04.11 at 4:21 pm }

I just finished watching season 4 of Big Love last night with my husband. SPOILER ALERT: Nikki, Bill’s 2nd wife, is captured, drugged, and is very nearly impregnated with an embryo that is half her ex-husband’s and his sister’s. We learn that her ex, JJ, has been impregnating the women of his polygamist compound in Kansas with these brother/sister embryos. Direct line from the episode, and I quote: “It’s not incest if there’s no intercourse.” Add to it that Nikki has just found out she’s infertile and it was a hot mess of a “Really? Really Big Love? THIS is a fucking subplot? REALLY?!”

So… no, I would not be interested in a thriller that potentially will do (yet again) more damage to the cultural image of this community. The thing that bothers me? Dr. Portman is an RE. Like dude, you should fucking know better. Come on.

20 TasIVFer { 05.04.11 at 7:48 pm }

It really depends upon the story and how I react to the person whether someone else’s success gave me hope or not. Living where I do – where the only really IVF option is an RE who doesn’t individualise treatment and thinks keeping his costs down so he can stim someone an unreasonable amount of times plus adoption not being an option – sometimes I found other stories of wonderful REs and adoptions hard; sometimes it made me feel informed about what to fight for. And really in the end that’s how I have my pregnancy; *I* decided on donor eggs and told my RE that’s what I was doing. I think he would have had me do another 14 stimulated cycles before he suggested it.

I work in IT, but in ‘human services’ area of government. So my situation has impacted me professionally. After losing my son I had to ask to be taken off managing a project with the child protection service; I couldn’t stand working with the system when I’d struggled so hard to get pregnant and my son had to die. I still struggle at work a bit. Right now I’m working with the nursing service that sees and monitors babies born in our state during the first year of life. Even though in theory my current pregnancy should continue, it’s hard seeing the data to be collected, talking to clinicians about how they work and hearing their stories, etc.

21 TexasRed { 05.04.11 at 8:02 pm }

I would like to read some literature (even just chick lit) that makes people dealing with IF more like real people. Always good to have an alternative to the octo-mom in people’s mind. That only works, though, for stories that improve the public impact, not (in my opinion) thriller/ horror stories. Unfortunately, I think the news stories create a demand for more fiction on the same subject. Can’t say I’m surprised.

On the success stories / hope question — I was concerned about this when we took our twins to meet our RE. My husband and I decided it would depend on everyone’s situation as to how they’d handle having babies in there. I was just glad we were the only ones in the waiting room that day.

22 Mali { 05.05.11 at 1:29 am }

Some really interesting topics today! Thanks Mel.

I would not read an infertility thriller (clearly the self-publishing fertility doctor has no idea about marketing – what a ridiculous description). But I would like to see more infertile characters/couples in normal, everyday novels (perhaps 1 in 8 to be statistically accurate?) because as TexasRed just said, we are real people after all. It needn’t be “a sensitively-explored piece of fiction delving into the world of treatments” because I think that does have a limited readership although it certainly has its place. I’d just like to see an infertile story (even as a sub-plot) conveyed in a real way.

I didn’t love all the “success” stories. It just made me feel more alone, and more like a failure. More proof that other people could do what I couldn’t. I was lucky too – I worked in a male-dominated industry, and didn’t have to come across babies or pregnant women or discuss when I was going to have kids. I know women who work as carers for babies, or as midwives (for example) and find it incredibly hard after they’ve had a pregnancy loss or when they’re trying to conceive. Equally, infertile women who work with a lot of other women find it difficult to deal with all the pregnancies. Sure, I think we all react differently depending on the type of person we are – but I definitely think that some jobs are harder for infertiles than others.

23 Lynn { 05.05.11 at 2:36 pm }

When we first started TTC, I looked at those who were pregnant and it gave me hope. Even after we got our diagnosis of infertility, seeing those going through treatment who were successful gave me a lift and made me feel like it could happen for us. Long about year 6 of our TTC struggle, it stopped being comforting and instead became more of a “there’s something I’ll never have” scenario. I find it difficult these days to see anyone pregnant. I can feel happy for my friends and acquaintances who’ve undergone treatment, but it still causes me pain. I hate this about myself, but I really don’t know how to overcome it.

24 Shira { 05.05.11 at 10:42 pm }

I’d have no interest in reading a reprolit thriller/horror book; my life is already saturated with infertility and I’m sure I’d get annoyed at the characterisations/plot/messages.

I’ve never been keen on the success stories. I mean, I’m glad other people managed to have children, but hearing about it doesn’t make me feel any better, especially given that the other nine women with whom I was in a “ttc buddy” sort of group eleven years ago all had two children within three years, and I lost touch with them because really, who can handle that, and I’ve not checked back to see how many more kids they’ve had in the seven years since, while I’ve racked up loss after loss and now have to wait another couple of years before I can even try again. It doesn’t help me when someone tells me that they know someone who had x number of miscarriages and now they’ve got three kids, or someone who tried for fifteen years and they’ve got a toddler and are pregnant again now, or someone who adopted after eight years and then six months later oops!pregnant. All it does is make me more depressed because really, go on, rub it in harder that even other long-term infertile women have managed multiple babies while I have none.
It’s like baby photos in fertility clinics. Apparently I am meant to find them charming and joyous and they’re meant to give me hope. No, all they are is upsetting and aggravating. I do not need to see that shit when I’m coming in at 7.45am for my fourth dildocam and blood draw of the week. Other people have babies! Yay! YEAH, I KNOW.

25 mrs spock { 05.06.11 at 10:10 pm }

I started working as an L & D nurse right around the time we were hitting the year mark and discovering that something was probably wrong- and it killed me to go to work and have it be nothing but those young couples like us who were having their baby 9 months after the wedding date. I cried every day, ended up at the employee assistance counselor, and we decided that it was not the best place for me to be. I had thought I wanted to be a midwife, and infertility upended not just our family plans, but my career plans as well. Which is OK. Here I am, doing case management again, working in behavioral health again, and it truly is the best match for me. I would have made a shitty midwife.

Today is our 5th anniversary, and I was actually thinking today of how bittersweet it is to me still, even after 2 children, to think of the first married days and how much hope and excitement there had been for the future. I wonder if there will ever be a point in my life when I will be able to feel that again, unmarred by this experience.

26 Battynurse { 05.08.11 at 9:49 pm }

I know closer to the beginning of the IF journey I saw other peoples successes as very hopeful. I remember watching one couple get pregnant with boy girl twins on their first IVF (after 9 failed IUI’s) and feeling so sure that my first IVF would work. Now it all feels very detached. I’m happy for others who make it to the other side but it doesn’t feel like it has any bearing on me or what my future might bring.

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