“There are no clear norms for grieving the loss of a dream.”
The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs is a memoir of her personal struggle with infertility and her decision to pursue IVF. It is also a selective history of motherhood and fertility in culture, a medical explanation of fertility treatments, and a policy analysis of how the financial expense of treatments affect how couples choose to build their families.
Boggs approaches her infertility with deep contemplation. Through her writing and the organization of the book, with her personal experiences paired with medical, scientific, cultural, or literary topics, she takes the reader through her personal journey while also pointing out that the story is much bigger. For instance, she pairs an explanation of her infertility and its effects on her marriage with a story about chaperoning a field trip to see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Individuals facing certain medical conditions that are not clearly visible to others tread difficult paths. “I may look fine, but I’m not well,” they may say to themselves. Infertility is a physical medical condition, but many of side effects are psychological and emotional. For infertile couples, these feelings are compounded by the fact that no one wants to talk about them.
As Boggs writes, “Fear of having one’s loss diminished and the desire not to offend or upset those with children reinforce the silence that is a manifestation of what writer and grief counseling expert Kenneth Doka called ‘disenfranchised grief’: ‘the grief that persons experience when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, publicly mourned, or socially supported.’”
There are moments in The Art of Waiting where Boggs puts into words the truths that are part of infertility. It may make the reader say, “Yes! I thought I was alone!” For example, “It is not just the takeover of your body that makes IVF so challenging, but the takeover of your schedule, your life. Every-other-morning appointments, waiting by the phone for news about the results of blood draws, timing injections precisely, ordering more medication or procuring discounted or free leftovers from women finished with their cycles: it all takes time.”
Sometimes it is therapeutic to simply hear that others have been through it and know those difficult feelings that accompany infertility. She provides examples from other couples who have faced different journeys, and though their decisions and the outcomes vary, there many elements of their stories unify them.
The Art of Waiting is a fast read and may be a sort-of support book for individuals facing infertility, but it is worth noting that Boggs’ first IVF cycle resulted in the birth of her daughter. It is a story told after coming out of the darkness of infertility and the result of the treatments was successful. For individuals who are still in the midst of their own stories, it may not be as much of a comfort. Portions may be difficult to read, and Boggs’ discussion of her pregnancy, though told with sensitivity, may dredge up painful feelings. Additionally, Boggs never experienced a pregnancy loss, and so she does not offer as much on those experiences.
For those hoping to understand infertility or wishing to support friends or loved ones experiencing it, The Art of Waiting opens the window to a very private world. One fascinating chapter, appropriately titled, “Just Adopt,” explores both domestic and international adoption (also adapted into an article for Slate). Most infertile couples have heard at one time or another, “Why don’t you just adopt?” and this chapter tackles this topic adeptly and fairly. Adoption has its own set of complications and ethical questions, which Boggs explores skillfully without passing judgement on the couples regardless of the choices they make. For some infertile couples, there is a point in their journey when there are no easy answers—when all of the decisions may bring about their own unique joy or sorrow.
For those who are experiencing their own waiting or who wish to learn more about infertility, The Art of Waiting is an insightful memoir that also educates the reader. The final pages include a resource list for finding infertility-related organizations and support groups as well.
The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood, by Boggs, Belle
Call # 362.19 Bog Browsing Collection-Level 3