O Peggy?

March 19th, 2007

PeggyI'm fairly sure I asked some decent questions of local author Peggy Orenstein about her marvelous new memoir, Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Fertility Doctors, An Oscar, An Atomic Bomb, A Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother. But there was so much to talk to her about -- I mean, just covering everything in that subtitle could take up a whole miniseries! -- that I was hoping that you, gentle blog reader, could help continue the conversation.

Peggy has graciously offered to respond to your own questions, comments, and stories (via the "comment" link at the bottom of this item) -- so please, chime in! The subject of fertility is such an emotional one for many of us -- as is, of course, the more general topic of parenthood and its complexities. Peggy and I are really looking forward to hearing from you!

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  • 1. Jade  |  March 22nd, 2007 at 11:41 am

    I just finished reading Waiting For Daisy which is a well written and interesting tale.

    As someone in a very similiar place to Peggy Orenstein, too career focused for too long, now facing infertility and the option of Donor Egg, when I finished the book, I found myself resenting her happy ending.

    Yes, Peggy went through all the pain and suffering of infertility, but at the end of the day she still was able to get exactly what she wanted. Many infertiles in their 40’s are not so lucky.

    We live under the delusion that because we eat organic and go to the gym that we have somehow preserved our reproductive systems and extended the shelf live of our ovaries. My experience proved these assumptions wrong. After two decades of healthy adult living I was informed that I was in pre-mature/early menopause. A devastating diagnosis for someone in their early 40s still hoping to have a biological child.

    I have had to accept that my ovaries have quit and that my options are limited. I don’t get to have Peggy Orenstein’s happy ending. I am now re-writing my life script in the hope that if I redefine my goals I can still end up in happily ever after.

  • 2. Drowned Girl  |  March 24th, 2007 at 12:18 am

    I read Waiting for Daisy just the other day and at first I was really smitten with it and could not put it down. Peggy talks at length about how her determination to succeed at pregnancy pushes away her ambivalence about motherhood, and at her guilt that her infertility was self-inflicted due to waiting so long. The things she said there really spoke to me. She has a lot to say about how a successful pregnancy becomes the focus, almost more so than a take home baby. I am in my forties, and though I did not leave it so late, and so have a four year old son, my attempts to have no 2 have meant 7 miscarriages and we have now turned to egg donation from a friend.

    Peggy says: “I’d had no idea how easy it would be to lose all sense of reason, to do things I swore I never would to become a mother, then go further beyond that. And here’s the irony: if you’d asked me ten years earlier, I would’ve said I didn’t even want to have children.”

    “The descent into the world of infertility is incremental. Those early steps seem innocuous, even quaint; IUI was hardly more complex than using a turkey baster. You’re not aware of how subtly alientated you become from your body, how inured to its medicalization. You don’t notice your motivation distorting, how conception rather than parenthood becomes the goal, how invested you become in its achievement. Each decision to go a little further seems logical. More than that, it begins to feel inevitable. My hesitations about motherhood hadn’t disappeared, but they were steamrolled by my drive to succeed at pregnancy.”

    But towards the end of the book, I began to feel rather alienated from the voice of the writer.

    I have been mulling this over in my mind, and I don’t want to seem mean-spirited as this is a true story. Obviously it’s my own feelings about my friend donating eggs to me, that made me feel so sad on behalf of the young woman who donated eggs, unsuccessfully, to Peggy. Waiting for Daisy is designed to show to what lengths a woman will go to conceive, so I imagine that’s why the warts and all description of the unsuccessful cycle is included. But I found it very discomfitting. The young woman donor was almost like a niece to Oeggy, and the cycle didn’t go well. It made for very painful reading.

    There were times reading the book, when title notwithstanding, I wondered whether Peggy’s deep insight would come to bear on the experience of NOT succeeding in her quest. She tugs and tugs at the threads of an unravelling jumper .. why did she leave it so late, why was the medical profession so willing to take her money but so unwilling to be honest about her chances, how her relationship with her husband suffers through two miscarriages and several IVFs, how they try to adopt but fail to get clearance to bring the baby into the US… I was hoping for some revelation, some inspirational message that would bring some grace into the condition of struggling on and maybe NOT “succeeding”

    Is it Ok to be disappointed that in the end it’s the archetypal happy ending? Of course I’m so pleased for Peggy and her husband. But… they move to adopt, stop trying, and then get pregnant with a baby that sticks.

    The stories you see always end like that.

    The articles in magazines “14 miscarriages and then our miracle”

    The books that sell always have a miracle at the end.

    But what if there isn’t a miracle? I was a bit disappointed that, in the end, the book is able to duck that possibility.

  • 3. Peggy Orenstein  |  March 25th, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    Hi, I’d just like to comment back to the two women above. You’re absolutely right that I got the miracle happy ending in terms of getting pregnant and having a baby. And honestly? I agree that the reason you see that “happy” ending and not the others is that publishers don’t think the other ones sell. That’s the bald truth. And, of course, in my case it wasn’t the story.

    I felt I had a great story that was larger than the tale of the infertility itself, a really gripping yarn about a woman’s life. I also was concerned that I had the miracle ending and that wasn’t fair to a lot of women. So I worked very hard in the book to make sure that the baby wasn’t the exclamation point happy ending and that’s it, on we go. I felt that if that were the case, I would have failed.

    That’s why I wrote the epilogue the way I did. I wanted to be clear that, despite having the “miracle” ending, there was a huge cost to my marriage, my life, and my finances in the process, and that there were some real questions about the infertility industry. What’s more, I don’t think I at all ducked the question of what would happen “without the miracle” as Drwoned Girl suggests. That’s the whole purpose of mulling what might’ve happend if the deus ex machina of the baby hadn’t dropped into our lvies (deus ex machina is the artificial or improbable device dropped into a literary work to create a happy endiing). I do pick at that thread, though obviously can’t draw conclusions, can’t know what would’ve happened. That’s also why I wrote the section in which Steven tells me not to get “revisionist,” that the baby does not justify the means by which we got there.

    I think if there is a cautionary element to my tale (and by the way, Jade I would never have described myself as “too career focused”) it is that I forgot the things that could sustain me in crisis, the things that would be there whether or not I became a mother, the things, in fact, that feminism has given us: teh opportunity for meaningful work, the possibility of a parntership of equals, the potential to define ourselves fully and richly without being mothers. I lost sight of that. It sounds to me, Jade, that you have not and I admire you for that.

    I also wanted at the end to have the opportunity to say a thing or two about fallacies about New Age and religious platitudes (God only gives you what you can stand; everything happens for a reason) and idiotic statements like, “if you adopt you’ll get pregnant.”

    In those ways, I hoped the book would continue to reflect some of the experience and have relevance for those whose “ending” was different than mine: those who conceived via third party reproduction, via IVF or other technology, those who adopted, or those who decided to go on as a couple and forgo further attempts to have children.

    In the end, though, this is my story and I wrote it as I experienced it and as it happened. It’s unclear to me, Drowned Girl, why you object to the inclusion of the botched donor cycle. Because you’re starting a cycle and don’t want to read about one that didn’t work out? That’s not really fair to me. I would’ve been thrilled to have had a baby via Jess’ egg, was fully prepared for THAT to be our happy ending/beginning, as I was fully prepared to become an adoptive parent if that had worked as well. But we had some very bad luck. That failed cycle, I’d wager to say, was harder for me to live through than it was for anyone to read. I sincerely hope your cycle works for you and it is certainly doubtful that you would have the same thing happen that we did!

    You might be interested to know that my relationship with Jess has continued and deepend significantly over time–she is a true part of our family.

    Happy to answer any other questions.

  • 4. Waiting for daisy - discu&hellip  |  March 26th, 2007 at 10:51 am

    […] Waiting for daisy - discussion Jade and I both  joined me in posted comments to Peggy Orenstein on the Josh Kornbluth Show Blog and Peggy responded!!! Peggy Orenstein | March 25th, 2007 at 8:13 pm Hi, I’d just like to comment back to the two women above. You’re absolutely right that I got the miracle happy ending in terms of getting pregnant and having a baby. And honestly? I agree that the reason you see that “happy” ending and not the others is that publishers don’t think the other ones sell. That’s the bald truth. And, of course, in my case it wasn’t the story. […]

  • 5. DG  |  March 26th, 2007 at 10:54 am

    My sadness at reading about the DE cycle wasn’t at all about the way the lab failed to do the ICSI, or the cycle failed. I felt very uncomfortable about Jess and how it made her feel. I’m glad your relationship has been strong enough to survive it.

    I worry about how I will feel seeing my friend go through it all for me, and that’s in a relationship where she already has children, and the balance of power between us is much more even.

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