Honor the line

It has taken me almost 18 years to completely come to terms with my experience with infertility. Secondary infertility, actually, which has its own cruel flavor.

The tree that we planted over our first lost baby recently wilted and died. It had survived for years after being transplanted from the old house but not the last harsh winter. Its loss was not an insult to injury, or a tragedy, while still being significant. The anniversary of the date has gone back to just being Halloween, not a holiday I resented and then embraced for its personal significance. I can talk about the topic without making a mess of myself, for a long time now, but also don't feel a deep need to do so.

Infertility, for me, has been reabsorbed and accepted. But it took a long, largely invisible, time. I am a different woman for it.

I describe the experience in Specific Scent of Snakes, but realize that many people in my life won't know the story at all. We do pregnancy loss and infertility with a little bit of embarrassment in our society where HOPE and the magic of science bid us to silence if we're not busy being warriors about it.

I describe in the book something that women rarely share: the decision not to keep escalating the war against our errant bodies with more and more tech. Each family has a point at which they will stop, but we prefer the stories of extremes. We almost treat it as a failure of hope, a sign of not caring enough, not to keep escalating. That there are services and soothsayers to keep us going is a given, so the line is ours to make.

I wanted to honor the line, different for each of us. It doesn't have to be at any particular point, but it is unique to each couple, each member of the couple. We found our line where it was right for us. We drew it together, for which I am grateful and a bit awed, because it strains against the bonds more used to hope and hard work than acceptance.

How far is too far? When is it too soon? And how can we honor those choices?


  1. Reading the book now and particularly struck by your consideration of the impact on the fathers of lost children. To your Mark, and David, Andrew, Alan and John, yes this is women's work but your thoughts beliefs and grief matter too

    1. Oh, Marcella, exactly. It's cruel really, there at the worst moments we tend to forget the men, the same men we depend on in our grief.

  2. Hi Laura. I just finished your book and enjoyed it a lot. I wanted to respond to your line above about "a failure of hope" to not escalate the the technology intervention. As you said, all families have to chose when to stop. Unlike many women who struggle with infertility, I never saw it as a struggle. In fact, after several artificial insemination attempts, it was very clear to me and my husband, that the next step to becoming parents was to pursue adoption. I felt very limited grief about this, as it was just so good have a path of certainly to follow. I can truly say that I never felt many of the things you wrote about in regards to feeling betrayed by your body, being a lesser woman or a bad mother. I dont doubt that you speak for many, maybe even the majority, of women who have gone on this journey, but some of us, for whatever reasons, had a very different experience. I am the very happy mother of two daughters now, and since this was the path to reach them, I dont regret a minute of it. Thanks for sharing your story as it is a topic that needs the light of day and more honest discussion.

    1. Dear Laura, thank you so much. I really agree with you about more honest discussion and also respect for the diversity of experiences -- yours is thought provoking as well. We create our families, and experience the process in as many ways as we are individuals -- and have much to learn from one another.


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