Saturday, April 29, 2017

Seven Books About Living with Infertility and Beyond

As a bibliophile, book reviewer, and now a self-outed MRKH Warrior, I am compelled to share with you a few books about infertility. I have not read all of these books, only started the first two about MRKH, both of which I have read multiple reviews and synopses. Those I have not read are about infertility in general and are accompanied by other reviewers accounts and/or descriptions.

Look for these today at your local bookstore because April 29 is Independent Bookstore Day. What if they don't have it, you ask. Answer: ask the owner to order you a copy and carry the book to help spread awareness about infertility. But what if they refuse, you say. Answer: Ask again. No? Not comfortable asking? Okay fine, these are also available on Amazon unless otherwise noted.

Fiction novel by Alice Darwin
Paperback, 360 pages
Published: 2014 by Chapter 13 Publishing

The first known book to be published regarding MRKH, Rokitansky is particularly fascinating to those of all walks of life living with the condition. The novel follows three women through their own unique, yet similar, stories that are full of a "secret" diagnosis and living with the effects of said diagnosis.

Although Moira Sweeney has always known she is different and that something's "wrong," she didn't know what it was until receiving the diagnosis of a rare disease. Now that she knows the "why," she doesn't know the "what next." Will high school ever be the same? What will she tell her friends? Her teachers? Do her peers have to know? Some decisions are being made for her despite her confusion, and others are even harder to make.

Tori, a happily married and successful travel writer, appears to be so much more than she feels. Totally a universal feeling, right? Only in Tori's case, she and her husband Harry cannot conceive a child. They are ready for the "next step" in the marriage - only they have to take the more expensive and emotionally tolling route to achieve that dream. All because of a rare disease diagnosis.

Mrs. Brown longs to spend more time with her husband. Nearing retirement age, she reflects on what could have been and the heartache she's felt for decades. She's tiring quickly of the never ending paperwork at the Godalming Lodge for elderly residents, and her arthritis seems to always be flaring up.

These three women are living vastly different lives, yet share a connection of hope, love, and childlessness that no one ever would have imagined.

Also reviewed by:
MRKH Norge

Elizabeth, Just 16
Fiction novel by Cecilia Paul
Paperback, 364 pages
Published: 2016 by Clink Street Publishing

At the age of 16, Elizabeth Appleton receives a devastating diagnosis of MRKH. Her whole world shatters around her as she learns it's a rare congenital condition affecting her reproductive organs, or lack thereof in her case. What teenager wants to hear that news? As she struggles with the fear and confusion, she must also struggle with questioning her gender identity, sexuality, and what the future might hold. She ceases to feel normal and doesn't know how to "fit in" anymore with her peers. Are they even still considered her peers? Where does she go from here? Can she still become the woman she always thought she would?

Cecilia Paul accurately and sensitively addresses the emotionally traumatizing aspects of an MRKH diagnosis. Published and set in England where there is a special program set up for MRKH patients to cope with this diagnosis, this book does not address the fact that similar programs do not exist in other countries. Therefore, MRKH women are often left to their own devices trying to figure out the next step. This book does accomplish the authors intent of bringing awareness to the condition and the emotional affects it has on women of all ages.

Also reviewed by:
Global MRKH
By The Letter Book Reviews
Collin Garrow
The Book Magnet

Detours: Unexpected Journeys of Hope Conceived from Infertility
by Sue A. Johnston,  Lee Alison, Susie Johnson Blair, Claire Donahue, Robert E. Johnston, Katie Kearney, Michelle Lauren, CJ McAuliffe, Felice D. McGrath, Jenn Rose, and Christina M. Ryan

I discovered this book when a friend of mine shared it on Facebook, and when I commented on her post I connected with Sue Johnston, one of the authors. It was one of the few moments in my life where I can definitively say I experienced the positive power of women coming together to build community, which is what I feel this book represents.

Detours is an anthology of infertility stories by 10 women, and Sue's husband, Robert, who met through a RESOLVE support group in the greater San Diego area. They each have their own unique story to tell, and per their website, "You are not alone. In Detours you will meet a group of friends who have collectively experienced practically every setback and form of reproductive technology available." They came together to share their stories in hopes of helping others living with infertility.

At just $9.99 on Amazon, Detours is currently the #1 Best Seller in the infertility book section. A portion of the proceeds from the book and Journey of Hope wristbands will be donated to RESOLVE National Infertility Assocation.

The Idea of You
Fiction by Amanda Prowse
Paperback and Hardback, 332 pages
Published March 31, 2017, by Lake Union Publishing

This book was recommended to me in a book blogging group on Facebook, by Bemis Reviews. Read their full review on their website.

In sum, Lucy Carpenter is approaching her 40th birthday, she has a successful career, finally meets and marries a great man, and has the chance to have a baby of her own. Then, she and Jonah learn it's much more complicated than taking the assumed natural next step from marriage into parenthood. Instead, the struggles begin and becoming parents is much harder than they anticipated. I hope that the stigma of infertility only affecting older women trying to conceive is not perpetuated by this book's main character of 39.

With a 4.10 rating out of 5 on Goodreads from 902 ratings, and multiple positive reviews of the 412 reviews, I am adding this to the top 10 of my TBR-infertility pile.

Available on Amazon, or check your local bookstore.

Fiction by Ben Elton
Paperback, 288 pages
Hardcover published in 1999, paperback in 2000
Kindle published in 2010

This book was also recommended to me via a Facebook book blogging group.

The description from Goodreads, "Lucy desperately wants a baby. Sam is determined to write a hit movie. The problem is that both their efforts seem to be unfruitful. And given that the average IVF cycle has about a one in five chance of going into full production, Lucy's chances of getting what she wants are considerably better than Sam's. What Sam and Lucy are about to go through is absolutely inconceivable. The question is, can their love survive. Inconceivable confirms Ben Elton as one of Britain's most significant, entertaining and provocative writers."

The subjects of infertility and a struggling script-writer piqued my interest, as did several reviewers pointing out that the book is written as if it's excerpts of the characters journal entries. The few times I have read books that include journal entry excerpts, I've been excited to read them and end up being disappointed. So although I am excited about that style, I am also a little leery. This books is a different topic and style than Elton's usual genres of mystery and thriller, and that has gotten mixed reviews on Goodreads.

Available on Amazon, or check your local bookstore.

Crossing the Moon: A Journey Through Infertility
Memoir by Paulette Bates Alden
296 pages
Published in 1996, by Hungry Mind Press

I am excited to read about the author's own experience with infertility. Excited may be an odd word choice, though I think being able to relate to someone else's journey is what draws me to the story rather than reading a fictional account of what an author thinks it might be like.

Crossing the Moon covers the pain and frustration that goes along with the many different choices that need to be made throughout the course of an infertility journey, and ultimately choosing to be child-free and coming to terms with that choice in a society that frowns upon such choices regardless of the why.

This book was recommended to me by Melissa Firman who did her own review at

Available on Amazon or check your local bookstore. 

The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood
by Belle Boggs
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 2016 by Graywolf Press

From Goodreads, "When Belle Boggs's "The Art of Waiting" was published in Orion in 2012, it went viral, leading to republication in Harper's Magazine, an interview on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, and a spot at the intersection of "highbrow" and "brilliant" in New York magazine's "Approval Matrix."

I picked up a copy of this at Barnes and Noble when the cover and title caught my attention this past December. When I read the description, I knew I had to buy it. I have yet to bring myself to actually read it as I'm not sure I'm in a place where I can read about infertility, which is why I have yet to complete any of these books. This one, I feel, may have a harder time reading because she wrote a book after having an essay published online. It's another thing that is parallel to my own life - writing about my infertility online, and a desire to eventually write a book about it.

The Goodreads description continues: ""In that heartbreaking essay, Boggs eloquently recounts her realization that she might never be able to conceive. She searches the apparently fertile world around her--the emergence of thirteen-year cicadas, the birth of eaglets near her rural home, and an unusual gorilla pregnancy at a local zoo--for signs that she is not alone. Boggs also explores other aspects of fertility and infertility: the way longing for a child plays out in the classic Coen brothers film Raising Arizona; the depiction of childlessness in literature, from Macbeth to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; the financial and legal complications that accompany alternative means of family making; the private and public expressions of iconic writers grappling with motherhood and fertility. She reports, with great empathy, complex stories of couples who adopted domestically and from overseas, LGBT couples considering assisted reproduction and surrogacy, and women and men reflecting on childless or child-free lives. In The Art of Waiting, Boggs deftly distills her time of waiting into an expansive contemplation of fertility, choice, and the many possible roads to making a life and making a family."

This book is sitting on the table next to me calling my name, along with Rokitansky and Elizabeth Just 16. I just might read some of each this weekend. Be on the lookout for full reviews in the near future.

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