Did you know that it’s National Infertility Awareness Week (NAIW)? 1 in 8 couples struggles with infertility, yet it is not often talked about in real life, let alone in books, film, and TV. In my novel, THE CURIOSITIES, main character Nell Parker struggles to get pregnant again after she and her husband lose a baby born too early, just shy of 24 weeks gestation. Readers often ask me what inspired her story.
Like all of the characters in the novel, Nell’s story is made up. However, the feelings of grief and longing that she experiences are not entirely foreign to me because I’m part of that “1 in 8” statistic mentioned above.
Like many people, I used to think that infertility meant an inability to get pregnant. That is not always the case. In my case, the problem wasn’t getting pregnant, but staying pregnant. I have 2 healthy sons, but in between my full-term pregnancies with them, I had 4 miscarriages in a row. My husband and I went through a battery of medical tests and talks with different doctors. Nothing uncovered an answer for the recurring losses and, therefore, we had no simple solution. At a frustrating and heartbreaking time in my life, I was hungry for stories–both in real life and in fiction–that would help me feel a little less alone. And so I wrote one. My hope is that, by reading about Nell’s struggles, women going through similar struggles might also feel less isolated.
Each day this week, in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I’ll be sharing recommended reads by other authors that shed light in some way on infertility and/or pregnancy or infant loss. You don’t have to be going through one of those experiences yourself in order to appreciate these stories. Some of the novels will be by bestselling authors you may have heard of, and others might be new to you. Either way, I promise, these are NOT just a bunch of “sad” books. Sprinkled into these novels are plenty of funny, sweet, and suspenseful moments. Like in life, infertility and loss are only a PART of the story, not the whole thing.
My first recommendation, for this Monday of NIAW, is What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty. Moriarty is the same author who wrote the novel Big Little Lies, now an HBO series. What Alice Forgot is currently being made into a movie, and it is often described as a “light” read. And it is… on the surface. Alice Love falls at the gym, suffers a head injury, and wakes up in the hospital thinking she’s 29 and pregnant. In reality, she’s 39 and her marriage is on the rocks. I don’t want to say too much more, for fear of giving away spoilers, but I will say that if you have struggled with getting pregnant or staying pregnant, or are close to someone who has struggled in that way, you are likely to relate to this book. It’s one of the rare ones that just might make you laugh AND cry (my favorite kind).
My recommended read for Tuesday of NAIW is Waiting for You, the debut novel by British author Catherine Miller. I loved this book because it deals with secondary infertility, which is often overlooked. In the novel,
Fliss has what, from the outside, looks like a perfect life: a husband, a little girl, and a job she enjoys. Yet she is fixated on what she doesn’t have–another child. Her husband travels a lot for work, and she feels very isolated in her longing. She ends up finding support and friendship in the form of a moms’ group online. Some of the book even takes place in the form of chats and messages between Fliss and her online friends. I related to this part of the novel because, when I was going through my miscarriages, I also sought out support in an online group and have become real-life friends with many of the women I met there. Waiting for You was a fun and fast read for me, which is why it’s my Tuesday pick.
My recommended read for Wednesday of NAIW is THE CHOICES WE MAKE by Karma Brown. This is a story about friendship, gestational surrogacy, and the impossible questions that life sometimes throws at us. In the book, protagonist Hannah has always wanted to be a mom, but she and her husband are grappling with infertility. Hannah’s best friend, Kate, has her own family and would do anything to help her friend, so she offers to serve as a surrogate for Hannah and her husband. Kate’s husband is not on board with the idea initially, and things soon get even more complicated when a tragedy forces everyone to reexamine the boundaries of family, friendship, and ethics. A very though-provoking read! The author, Karma Brown, writes from a place of experience, since she has been very open about her own experience with surrogacy and cancer.
My Thursday pick, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, is a book I read and loved many years ago, and it didn’t stick out in my mind as being about infertility or miscarriage. When I reread it more recently, however, I remembered that a large part of the plot involves the efforts of the main characters, Claire and Henry, to have a baby, despite the complications of Henry’s medical condition that causes him to time travel. I won’t say more (no spoilers), but I will say that, although this is a book that involves a lot of fantasy, the characters’ emotions related to their struggle to have a baby rang very true.