Purgatory for Parents-To-Be

| 7/15/2011 12:49:47 PM


If the waiting room at the doctor’s office is purgatory, then the process of diagnosis and—eventually, hopefully—recovery is hell.

In a frank and darkly funny essay, The Morning News’ Paul Ford chronicles the three years of reproductive therapy he and his wife endured on a the path to conception. Many of their experiences were downright absurd, as if they had been lifted directly from a Kurt Vonnegut novel.

Ford recounts when nurses complimented his wife’s lucky socks, brightly adorned with monkeys or ninjas, while she was splayed out in stirrups. The awkward professionalism of his clinic’s sperm-collection rooms is epitomized by a bit of legalese: “If you read the paperwork,” Ford deadpans as he is about to hand-off his sperm sample to the nurse, “there is a request that you don’t make any jokes during this moment.” In a last ironic twist, on the morning his wife is supposed to get a minor surgery for in-vitro fertilization, Brooklyn is buried under two feet of snow.

The essay deftly captures the physical, psychological, and social frustrations of trying and waiting (and waiting and waiting) to conceive. “Three years of waiting,” Ford writes,

Everywhere around us there are waves of bouncing sons, bounties of daughters, stroller wheels creaking under the cheerful load. Facebook updates, email messages, and Christmas cards arrive with pictures of tots, their faces smeared with avocado or cake frosting. Babies on rugs, babies in hats. Invitations to baby showers with cursive script and cartoon storks. Over a beer an expectant father—another expectant father—gives me the news, tells me that his wife will soon have her second or third. Am I happy for him? What else can I be? Once again I put out my hand, close my eyes, and wish them joy.

(Also: For its vivid detail, sardonic tone, and sense of personal violation, this essay reminded me of Thomas E. Kennedy’s 2007 award-winning essay, “I am Joe’s Prostate”, which was featured in New Letters [PDF excerpt only available online].)

steve eatenson
7/22/2011 7:58:35 AM

Hurray for Linda-10, she's right. Boo to you SJanus. Let us first consider that some of the therapists who counsel clients, pre-conception, are incompetent. Secondly, those women who pop out 5-children naturally should definitely have been counseled or neutered. We live in a world of babies having babies. These newest babies are not bonded with responsible, loving primary caregivers. They are bounced around from home to home, relative to relative without ever bonding with a loving primary caregiver. Doubt me? Just look at the ever growing prison population in this country along with the ever growing population of alcohol and drug users. It's good news for Budweiser and those who benefit financially from locking up large numbers of our population. It's bad for the rest of us.

7/20/2011 12:03:31 PM

Couples undergoing fertility treatments are required to go through counseling, testing, emotional and physical stresses, more testing and often more counseling. These couples are sure they want to be parents, they have had doctor after doctor push them and test them to make sure. Therapists have signed off to assure other doctors that they are healthy of mind and stable. They are required to jump through hoops of fire and then some in order to become parents. Linda_10 states these couples are "employing technology to overcome natural limits to population" and she questions if they will be good parents. No one questions the "normal" parents who are NATURALLY able to pop out four or five kids without thinking about it. Who tests their stability and assures that they don't carry genetic diseases? Who confirms that they can afford a baby, and asks if they if they understand their undertaking at every opportunity? I think you need to reconsider the part of the public you are directing your "overpopulation" concerns to.

7/20/2011 7:58:53 AM

I understand the instinct to reproduce. (That doesnt' mean we should always follow it.) Here we are, once again, employing technology to overcome natural limits to population. We're already failing to understand the limits of our planet's resources. This kind of focus on "reproductive rights" ignores a long list of problems directly related to overpopulation, to say nothing of problems for people who can't deal with people who can't deal with frustration or disappointment. (Will they really be good parents???)

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