Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

The Barren Bi+ches Book Brigade has been reading Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman, organized by Mel at Stirrup Queens (check it out — author participation is planned).

Here are some brigade-generated questions and my answers.

1. Is the way Emilia quantifies loss similar to what we all do? (i.e. her reactions to the miscarriages of a friend and the number of names on a heart of another participant at the walk) Why or why don’t we do this?

I remember as a child when I was first introduced to the concept of quantifying pain. There was a game show called Queen for a Day. From what I remember, whoever told the greatest sob story won a washer/dryer.

This seemed ridiculous to me. Trying to be miserable. Cheering miserable people on in their misery. Celebrating it.

Nevertheless, I became hooked on misery. I, too, became a victim (but it was the show’s fault — not mine) and took on the patterns of these 1970s desperate housewives. I looked for all sorts of ways to notify people of my misery, to gain sympathy and to be relieved of responsibility. Don’t blame me. It’s the asthma. It was an unfair test. That teacher has it in for me. I just don’t feel well.

(I am a recovering victim. I try each moment to live more consciously and without these subconscious and sabotaging patterns.)

Now I’m active on adoption chat boards. Boy, do we love to not only quantify but also compare pain. Who’s got it worse: the adoptee, the firstparent, or the infertile? Heated arguments erupt every couple of weeks as we vie for the prize.

Why? Perhaps the belief is that the person with the weightiest pain carries the weightiest words.

And maybe even wins a washer/dryer.

2. Emilia obviously deals with some self-destructive tendencies. Can you relate to her feelings? Have you dealt with self-destructive feelings on your journey to parenthood?

My tendencies were of omission rather than commission. I didn’t do anything to hurt my life, but I did experience a months-long malaise I called my failure to thrive. Living seemed pointless without being able to become pregnant, deliver a baby, and raise a family.

If I could have willed my heart to stop beating, I would have. But I was too chicken to actually hurt myself.

I recall two severely twisted thoughts from this time. On my “peanut butter days,” I fantasized about eating a spoonful of this common substance that would swell my throat shut within minutes. A little discomfort to end the pain.

Also, we were living in Syria at the time, where there are no pump-it-yourself gas stations. The attendant who pumped gas into my Volvo always did so with a lit cigarette perched between his lips. I usually avoided filling the car up, but during my “failure to thrive” spell, I actually looked forward to trips to the gas station. I wondered if the combination of the cherry and the petrol would end the pain of IF.

Not exactly self-destructive tendencies, but not much in the way of self-preservation, either. Just enough to get by, though.

Glad I managed to survive my failure to thrive. I’d have missed out on so much.

3. Did you find it hard to relate to Emilia when she said a miscarriage was simply DNA floating around in a toilet bowl? Did it seem like she didn’t give miscarriers the right to grieve when she was appalled by the women wearing stars with m/c dates and names?

See, I never even got to the point of miscarrying. I was so focused on conceiving that I thought a miscarriage would be a step forward. For Emilia, it was a step back.

So whose pain is greater? Mine always is to me.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens. You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston (with author participation).

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Our daughter’s firstmom faces the judge on Crystal’s moment of truth, today’s entry on Drama 2B Mama.

15 thoughts on “Love and Other Impossible Pursuits”

  1. I think a lot of us going through infertility go through a similar “failure to thrive” period, where we just drag ourselves from day to day without much hope. I know I’ve had moments like that.I also think you are right – we all for some perverse reason want to win the “I’ve got worse than you” award. Maybe it’s because we harbor guilt about feeling bad or maybe we feel we need to justify our pain. In the end, I think refusing to admit other people have pain only makes the experience more isolating.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts on the book. Sometimes the acts of “omission” are scarier and harder to get passed then acting out with behaviors that you know are bad.

  3. The “failure to thrive” period — what an astute way to describe that feeling of existing without really living. I certainly had an extended version of that myself. In fact, I think I only just graduated a few months ago into a new period of acceptance — moving from black and white into Technicolor once again. Thanks for sharing your experience and calling out this aspect of infertility so poignantly.

  4. Queen for a Day – I hate that premise. It reminds me of the movie Notting Hill, where whoever can tell the saddest story gets the brownie. Have you seen that? It was done in jest in the movie but the TV show is just ridiculous.Your description of you self-destructive behavior brought tears to my eyes. It is amazing how strong of a grip infertility can have on your life. It has the tendency to make everything else pale in comparison and to hear someone even question living just makes me so sad. I am so very happy that you were able to pull through it. Thanks for sharing with us!XOXO

  5. Oh god. Failure to thrive. That describes so clearly to me the way I was in the six months after I lost my baby (second trimester. genetic abnormality). I’ve never heard it put that way before, but it’s perfect.Thanks so much for reading, guys.

  6. Damn…but a washer/dryer. I mean…can’t I exploit the pain for a day if there are appliances to be won? It’s a slippery slope. And I think you sum it up well with the idea of a “failure to thrive.”

  7. I think a lot of us going through infertility go through a similar “failure to thrive” period, where we just drag ourselves from day to day without much hope. I know I’ve had moments like that.I also think you are right – we all for some perverse reason want to win the “I’ve got worse than you” award. Maybe it’s because we harbor guilt about feeling bad or maybe we feel we need to justify our pain. In the end, I think refusing to admit other people have pain only makes the experience more isolating.

  8. Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts on the book. Sometimes the acts of “omission” are scarier and harder to get passed then acting out with behaviors that you know are bad.

  9. The “failure to thrive” period — what an astute way to describe that feeling of existing without really living. I certainly had an extended version of that myself. In fact, I think I only just graduated a few months ago into a new period of acceptance — moving from black and white into Technicolor once again. Thanks for sharing your experience and calling out this aspect of infertility so poignantly.

  10. Well, if it is a front loading washer/dryer than I’m sure I can come up with a sad, sad story. Great insights!!Amydancingwithinfertility.blogspot.com

  11. I loved your answers. What great comparisons.Yes, I too have had “failure to thrive” periods. I love this term. I am a veterinarian — and this term is often used to describe puppies and kittens with unknown problems who do not live more than a few weeks. That’s generally how I felt … like a kitten too sick to eat or even move.Thanks again for your comments.

  12. I so enjoyed book clubbing this book with all of you. Thanks to each of you for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts on your own blogs.And Ms Waldman — thank you for creating such a complex and meaningful story that spoke to me.And Mel, you are awesome :-).

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