Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Reading list, part 1

I’m really enjoying Peggy Orenstein’s new book, Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman’s Quest to Become a Mother. I first came upon Orenstein’s writing in this New York Times piece (Times Select required) about how she mourned her miscarriage in Japan. The story had nothing to do with me when it was published in 2002, but it stayed with me – so much that when I learned I was going to miscarry last year, I sought out the article and found new meaning in it. (The Buddhist divinity she writes about is the same one I mentioned here.)

It’s hard to feel sorry for myself when I read Orenstein’s story – diagnosed with breast cancer at 35, three miscarriages (one of which, a partial molar pregnancy, meant she couldn’t try again for a year), and several failed IVF attempts, including one with donor eggs. On the other hand, I don’t have what amounts to a own private sperm bank, as Orenstein did. I started trying when I was 35; she didn't have a child until her 40s. There's lots that's familiar in the book, too -- she begins seeing an acupuncturist who prescribes herbs that smell "like feet;" the book mostly takes place in the Bay Area; one of my doctors even makes an appearance.

I haven’t finished Waiting for Daisy – it arrived yesterday, and though I’ve already read 200 pages, I like to pace myself. Reading it is like eating chocolate: it's a tonic, and I can't get enough. At the same time, I already know the ending (the title tells it all) and I have to ask: would you buy an infertility memoir whose book jacket didn’t describe the author as living with her husband and child? If Orenstein had chucked it all and decided to try to live happily with her saintly husband in placid Berkeley, perhaps with a SPCA-special mutt for company, would she have gotten a book deal?

Frankly, I don't care. Because I identified with this section:
"I needed a baby to restore my faith in my defective body, heal my wounded sexuality, assuage my grief, relieve my feelings of failure--to make me whole again. At one time I would have told a woman like me that childlessness was not her problem; it was her inability to recognize the value in all that she had, in all that she'd built for herself."
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go pace myself some more.


Peggy O. said...


I'm the author of the book and I want to answer your question. The truth? I don't think I WOULD have gotten the contract .YOu're absolutely right. BUT I really worked hard in the book (as I hope you'll see when you finish it) to make sure the baby wasn't the "happy ending," that there was a lot more to it than that. I love my daughter, but having her did not erase or justify all I did along the way to have her. And I'll leave it at that, but will be interested to see what you think......

Peggy O. said...

Hi, I just tried to post but am not sure whether it went through.

As the author of the book, i wanted to say that I think you're right: I probably would not have gotten the book contract if I hadn't had my daughter. But I worked very hard to communicate that her birth was not the "happy ending." It didn't justify or erase anything I did along the way to myself or my marriage (that led to the feelings you excerpted above). I won't say more than that, but you tell me when you're done what YOU think,....

--Peggy O.

aspiring baker said...


Not sure if you're reading this anymore, but I'm truly thrilled you read my post and responded. And I did appreciate your efforts not to turn Daisy into the happy ending. I truly enjoyed the book and really identified with a lot of it. Congratulations on the book and I wish you all the best.

-The aspiring baker