Monday, October 29, 2007

Barren Bitches Book Tour #7

I knew before reading Lolly Winston's novel that it would be painful for me. The tale of infertility, infidelity and the tangled web weaved from the search for happiness was not an easy read - at least for me. It brought out one of my admitted worst fears, and I'm sure the fears of many other women and men suffering from infertility and loss.

How do you move on after fighting a losing battle?

What happens when love just isn't enough to hold it all together?

The novel is told from the perspectives of several of the characters, giving you a greater, unbiased scope of the issues and feelings of everyone involved. And even though I didn't agree with some of their actions, I found myself sympathizing a bit more when hearing their side of the story.

At the end of the novel, I felt sad but yet at peace. As if life does go on after it is all said and done, even if it is how you never imagined. I found a sense of comfort in that, and would recommend for anyone going through infertility or for anyone who can appreciate untidy, unperfect endings. (After all, isn't that how life is? Welcome to reality. Nothing is ever wrapped up in a nice package complete with a bow.) While I really enjoyed Ayelet Waldman's novel from the last tour, I did find the ending to be a little too neat to hit home. The honest exploration of the hardships the characters endured was what I found to be most relatable.

1. Elinor seemed to turn all of her books on the subject of infertility backwards on the bookshelves, where Roger found them while cleaning. Why do you think she did so? In what ways do you think people who are struggling with infertility help in keeping infertility such a "taboo" topic? Do you see infertility ever becoming a more accepted or understood topic?
I think the turning of the spines toward the wall was to shield herself from the constant reminder of her failed cycles. I know that after my loss, I had to hide any reminders of our baby - the tests were filed away in a drawer, the baby clothes and maternity clothes were packed up into the closet, the pregnancy books were put on the shelf out of sight. I just couldn't handle looking at those reminders of what I should be experiencing right now. I believe it helps me with the grief process. I think it is natural to want to protect yourself after you feel so vulnerable for letting your guard down. It is instinctual to want to hide, which in a way keeps infertility so taboo. People don't understand because we often don't inform others of our true feelings. We make up excuses and put on happy faces so people don't know any better. They aren't mind readers. Infertility would probably be more accepted if we were more open about our struggle. As a community, we are more powerful than just one person. If each one of us could reach one person, society could slowly change their views. But infertility in itself is very personal and everyone grieves differently. So, "coming out" for one person may be much more difficult than for another. I think, eventually, with more and more people using A.R.T., it will be more understood and appreciated. It will just take time and I'm not sure if that will happen in my lifetime or not. I'd like to think it will though.

2. "Warren", the old oak tree in Elinor's front yard, is a symbolic character in the book. Ted and Elinor's unexpected pregnancy was conceived under the fateful tree. What were your thoughts on Warren's symbolism? Do you have a similar touchstone in your life for times of turmoil?
I think that Elinor saw a lot of herself in Warren. He was old and broken, as Elinor felt, and I think that is why she felt so upset when he had to be cut down. She clung to that tree as she wanted Ted to cling to her - rather than to Gina. Warren was infected and would spread disease to everyone around him, as Elinor felt she had done with her depression. Cutting Warren down made Elinor realize how alone she really was and gave her time for self-reflection. She could no longer hide from her problems. I think that in my times of turmoil, I turn to music. I have different playlists for my moods to help soothe me and quiet my mind. My blog is also therapeutic. I can always turn to those outlets to help me deal with whatever is going on in my life.

3. The end of the book was left open to the reader. Do you think that Elinor and Ted stayed together, or that they really finally separate? Did she pursue adoption on her own, or did they do another round of IVF with PGD? Do you think she ended up happy, or did she continue to struggle?

I think they finally separated. Elinor mentioned that she contacted the divorce attorney and I think she really went through with it. After seeing Ted with Gina in the hospital, I think she realized it was more than sexual attraction between them. I got the feeling that she was at peace with the decision. She seemed focused, like she knew what she was going to do for once. I think she ended up happy, adopting on her own or maybe with Noah, while Ted and Gina and Toby became a family. It wasn't the way Elinor wanted it, but at the same time, I think this gave her the best chance at true happiness.

4. The book explores different kinds of love. It seems that their battle with fertility (and really Elinor's battle with herself) has changed the type of love Ted feels for his wife. Has your journey with infertility and/or loss changed the love between you and your spouse?
I think that our infertility battle has definitely changed our marriage - in some ways for worse and some for better. I think it has brought us closer to each other as we've seen each other at our lowest points. It has certainly helped us to communicate better and not to hide from each other. I think once you start hiding things and isolating yourself, it broadens the gap between the two of you. It is so easy to let infertility become the big pink elephant in the room. It is much harder to actually tackle it together. Infertility has also made me a much more insecure person. I find I am terrified that DH will leave me for someone who can bear his children. Or that he will decide to give up on TTC before I am ready. Those thoughts sometimes poison our relationship and I have to take a step back and tell myself to be a bit more rational. But I figure if we can survive this somehow, we can survive anything. So I am more determined than ever to get through this together.

9. On page 66, Elinor reveals that she was more disappointed about not being able to have Ted's child versus not having a child at all. How did you react to this revelation? Can you understand her feelings and if so, how do they relate to your own?
I could totally relate to Elinor when she made that statement. While I want to experience pregnancy and childbirth, I think my desire to give DH a child trumps that. When a cycle fails, I am more depressed in that I feel I have disappointed him than I am about actually not being pregnant. I want to give my DH the gift of fatherhood and it kills me every month I am unable to give him that priceless gift. Adoption is always an option for us but I know it is not DH's first choice so I put pressure on myself, and my body to "perform". And while, deep down, I know it is beyond my control, I still feel responsible for our losses.

11. Lolly circles back repeatedly to examine the peculiar dynamics of a marriage plagued by infertility. In particular, she focuses on the conflicting desires for closeness and distance that Elinor experiences. Why do you think Elinor "is irritated by her husband when he was attentive, and then resentful when he stepped back to give her room?" (p. 12). Even during difficult treatment cycles, Ted was not a source of comfort to her (p. 26). Why?
I think that because our emotions are always on a rollercoaster of ups and downs, it is impossible for our spouses or partners to mirror our feelings and give us what we need exactly when we need it. Elinor had unrealistic expectations for Ted because no matter what he did, she was left unfulfilled. She didn't know how to tell Ted what she needed and she retreated from him when he couldn't give it to her. Everyone grieves differently and men and women are almost always on different pages with infertility. There are times I have actual separation anxiety from DH and I need him near me, and then other times, I just want to be alone. I no longer expect him to completely understand. I just tell him when I'm in a bad mood and need some "me time" and I tell him when I really need him to hold me close. It may not always be convenient (most times it isn't) but I think that in our marriage, communication seems to help. Even if he doesn't "get it" or know why I need what I need (hell, sometimes I don't even know why I need what I need), at least he will know what I need from him. Our spouses want to be there but often don't know how. They want to fix things for us, but there is never an easy fix and so they often become helpless bystanders - not knowing where to begin or afraid to make a wrong move.

Sometimes I focus too much on the reasoning behind my emotions - why do I feel this way? why did this happen to me? I think that no matter how illogical my emotions may be, the reasoning isn't always as important as acknowledging what I need to stay sane. For example, if I'm full of tears, I think it is my body's way of telling me I'm not ready to go out and conquer the world today. I may not know why I'm so misty and there could be a million reasons for it, but in the end, it doesn't really matter. All I know is I need some time inside and away from the outside world today.


Intrigued by the idea of a book tour and want to read more about Happiness Sold Separately? Hop along to more stops on the Barren Bitches Book Tour by visiting the master list at
http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/. Want to come along for the next tour? Sign up begins today for tour #8 (The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood) and all are welcome to join along . All you need is a book and blog.

17 comments:

Pamela Jeanne said...

Very insightful comments ... are you really only 24 years old? Seriously, you must be an old soul. You've nailed so many points. I have nothing to add here as you've covered all the bases so well.

(And just a minor request, I've added you to my blog reader and see you have just about every infertility blogger on the planet listed -- sans ah hem, moi...you can add me anywhere you'd like)

Samantha said...

"And while, deep down, I know it is beyond my control, I still feel responsible for our losses."--I know that I too shoulder a heavy burden of responsibility that makes my failed cycles feel all the more difficult. Just remind yourself that your husband loves you as you, not a baby-making machine.

I really liked your thoughts about Warren. I swear, I have thought about that tree almost as much as any of the human characters, and people's responses have justed added such insight! I also like to use music as a way to cope.

Fertilize Me said...

WOW ..... Im in tears reading this post. This is an awesome portrait of your soul. You have a handle in this very well (even though at times, I'm sure you do not feel that way) I can how much of an incredibly strong understanding person you are in these comments. Thank you for sharing

candy said...

i liked your thoughts about warren also, and i'm so glad other people saw him as a character and not just a tree.

But this really hit home for me: "Sometimes I focus too much on the reasoning behind my emotions - why do I feel this way? why did this happen to me? I think that no matter how illogical my emotions may be, the reasoning isn't always as important as acknowledging what I need to stay sane."

i do that to a fault. i have to analyze and understand, when in reality it's just not possible to. thank you for putting that into words. staying sane is the most important thing.

www.candysland.wordpress.com

Lori said...

Exactly what Pamela Jeanne said.

I enjoyed your analysis of the book, Kristen.

I'm sorry about the results of your 2ww.

Rest awhile. Maybe you don't need to conquer the world today. Or even this week ;-).

Mommy Someday said...

I agree with what everyone else said. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. (Also, I really love the way you presented the questions and answers!!!)

Road Blocks and Roller Coasters said...

I really liked your explanation of Warren in relation to Elinor. Quite insightful! :)

The Dunn Family said...

I hate that we all feel like we have somehow caused the IF or are responsible for things that don't go as expected during our cycles.

I wish you the best of luck in your journey!

The Town Criers said...

I thought the analogy between Warren and Elinor was brilliant: "He was old and broken, as Elinor felt, and I think that is why she felt so upset when he had to be cut down. She clung to that tree as she wanted Ted to cling to her - rather than to Gina. Warren was infected and would spread disease to everyone around him, as Elinor felt she had done with her depression"

Also, all the times she pointed out that the ability to bear children was feminine. In Elinor's opinion, what could be more feminine than Gina who has had a child?

Ms. Infertile said...

"Infertility has also made me a much more insecure person" - me too. I feel so much more insecure about myself, my relationships, etc. It really does change who you are at the core.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

deanna said...

I loved your thoughts about Warren being a symbolic representation of Elinor. That never occurred to me, but it gives all the events surrounding the tree so much more meaning. I thought of the tree more as evidence of her inability to connect with Ted (instead, seeking solace in an inanimate object.) But, it's true---the tree was old, diseased and, by its very tree nature, a solitary being. She must have seen herself as akin to it on so many levels, and worried that her life would deteriorate somewhere along the same lines as poor Warren.

Drowned Girl said...

And Warren was replaced by a younger model...

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