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Not too long ago, I wrote a review of Melissa Ford's second novel, 'Life From Scratch' for this blog. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and was determined to read Melissa's first novel 'Navigating the Land of If', which is actually a non-fiction work about infertility and early pregnancy. Mostly because Melissa's writing really makes me laugh and partly because of my curiosity regarding how she would handle these often stressful, painful and emotionally charged times.
'If' is both an abbreviation for infertility and a condition or supposition. 'Navigating the Land of If' is probably the best travel companion for the journey that I've come across. Infertility means different things to different people but Ford does a great job of bringing all the parties together and acknowledging their different situations with respect and empathy. Melissa writes with a tone that makes you feel as if she were a wise older sister or trusted friend who knows exactly what you're going through. She gives you space and says the things you need to hear (though they may not be what you want to hear).
It's the kind of book that readers can use as a reference and a shoulder to cry on. A refuge in book form for those who are still not ready to 'talk about it' or are struggling to find the right words. Even if you're totally in control with your emotions and just have your eye on the prize, 'Navigating the Land of If' may offer a different perspective or just some plain old facts about issues you may not have already considered.
Some of the major areas the book covers include:
- Medical, ethical and practical information about everything from conception, to infertility, to the options available and perhaps most importantly, advice about how to deal with the difficult emotional times and the thoughts that don't seem to be discussed anywhere else in the volumes written about infertility.
- The practicalities and realities of undergoing infertility treatment. Chapters take you through what happens, why and if it's going to hurt much. There are guides about how to do your injections and also about what certain procedures feel like.
- Adoption and the many legal and psychological issues that are involved
- 'Not trying anymore' and remaining childless by choice
- Issues for same sex couples or singles facing infertility
- How you may feel when you've finally become pregnant. How there's a wide range of 'normal' when it comes to how you may chose to announce your pregnancy and how to deal with feeling anxious about losing the pregnancy
- Pregnancy loss.
When you're not part of that Camelot (yet), it really can feel like you're in some strange and cruel parallel universe where you're confronted at every turn by painful and seemingly insensitive reminders of what's missing in your life. There are possibly TTCers who take each baby announcement in their circle with nothing but happiness and joy for the elated parents. Others consider good grace and a little tight smile the best they can do under the circumstances. It's a pretty self centred world view that is likely to only shift for many women when they are finally holding their own baby.
Melissa's approach is a positive yet realistic one '... to coax you back into living life while waiting in limbo'. She writes of the emotions she felt and things she did about them that were constructive, '...Do whatever helps. But remember: "Help" does not mean "complete relief". ..... Do whatever you need to do to get through this - as long as you're not creating more problems to deal with on the other end."
She includes suggestions about things to say when faced with difficult questions that well meaning people may ask. There are ways to discuss what you may be dealing with tactfully yet honestly. There are tips to get through that awkward 'imbalance' phase where previously infertile friends and family have now 'crossed over' to the other side whilst you haven't quite managed it yet.
I felt that Melissa's novel was helpful, practical, heartfelt and honest. There's no sugar coating the fact that being in pregnancy limbo is not great. There's anger, jealousy, frustration, jealousy, anxiety, jealousy. Oh yeah, and guilt for feeling all of the above.
'Navigating the Land of If' is a book I'd have no hesitation suggesting to anyone looking for a resource as they or people they love face decisions about infertility. It's the kind of book you finish feeling empowered, reassured and educated wherever you may be on the baby journey.
PS: I apologize if this review is more disjointed than usual. I've been reworking it for a few weeks now and I hope it does justice to the book.