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Friday, October 26, 2007

Barren Bitches Book Brigade #7: Happiness Sold Separately

So, here is my first turn on the Barren Bitches Book Tour. This month we read Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston. The basic rules of the tour are read the book, submit a question, get the entire list of questions that everyone submitted, answer a couple of them in a post, thus starting a discussion about the book. All books have some sort of theme related to infertility/adoption/child bearing etc.

Anyway, the book was about a husband and wife, Elinor and Ted, who are dealing with infertility. It's put a strain on their marriage, and right at the beginning of the book, Elinor overhears her husband on the phone, and realizes that he is having an affair with his younger, healthier personal trainer from the gym. The story evolves as Elinor confronts Ted and leaves him, he breaks it off with the trainer, Gina, and attempts to reconcile with his wife. They both deal with the obstacles of trying to work out their relationship, while Ted still sees Gina, and finds out she has a son Toby that he didn't know about from a previous relationship. To add insult to injury, Ted falls in love with Toby and they form a relationship. Elinor spontaneously without treatment ends up pregnant with her husband's child, which causes them to try and save their marriage. Unfortunately, she loses the baby. The ending is left somewhat ambiguous, but I think it's obvious that Elinor and Ted are through, and he is going to go back to Gina. Now to the questions:

Elinor seemed to turn all of her books on the subject of infertility backwards on the bookshelves, where Roger found them while cleaning. Why do you think she did so? In what ways do you think people who are struggling with infertility help in keeping infertility such a "taboo" topic? Do you see infertility ever becoming a more accepted or understood topic?
Well, this question kinda touched close to home, because I was very secretive about going through our infertility treatments. Why? I'm not really sure. On one hand I think it was the embarrassment of feeling like I was failing at something that so easily comes to other people. But I think it also had to do with the fact that if I tell 50 people that we are going through treatment, then it's 50 people that I have to call and tell that it didn't work. I mean, when "regular" people get pregnant, they don't call their friends and have to say "Hey, got my period, didn't work this month". Then don't have all their hopes and fears pinned on one months worth of medication and medical procedures. And it's bad enough to have to deal with the reality of a failed cycle, but then to have to tell everyone and their mom about it? I think it's just too much. So I'm not sure if it's a taboo subject, or just a really personal and private one.

I also think that a lot of people feel it's their right to give you their opinion or point of view on medical fertility treatment. Seriously, if someone told you they were trying to get pregnant by having sex with their husband or wife, would anyone ever say "Really? Cause you guys are kinda stupid and irresponsible, maybe you shouldn't have kids right now." Of course not! But tell someone you are going trying to get pregnant medically, and they will come out with all types of opinions. Like religious ones about how it's unnatural and the church does not support fertility treatments. Or my favorite "How can you do that? You don't feel bad about all your babies that you didn't transfer and just died?". People don't say to fertile couples "Oh, you didn't try to get pregnant this month? Well that's just half a baby you killed! What a wasted egg!" Oh well, I could go on about this for hours ... Next question ...

The book explores different kinds of love. It seems that their battle with fertility (and really Elinor's battle with herself) has changed the type of love Ted feels for his wife. Has your journey with infertility and/or loss changed the love between you and your spouse?
I think that any issue in a marriage can go one of two ways. Either bring the couple closer, or push them further apart. Elinor turned inside with her pain, and instead of leaning on her husband, she withdrew from him. It was really hard for me to understand this part of the book, because it was just so far from my own experience. If I didn't have my husband to lean on, I never would have made it through the process. He is my best friend, my sounding board, my strength. He took care of me in my darkest and saddest moments, and I like to think that I did the same for him. I can easily see that if your marriage isn't in a good or strong place, how an issue like infertility can tear you apart. First of all, it completely taints the physical aspect of your relationship. Sex becomes about trying to get pregnant, and the more you fail at it, the less you want to try. So your sex life suffers. And I think the feelings of guilt are really hard to deal with. The person who has the issue, be it male or female factor, feels like they did something wrong to have made them infertile. And then they wonder if their spouse resents the fact that there is something wrong with them. I think it's such an emotional thing, it's really easy to just want to hide inside yourself. And when you do that, you pull away from the other person. I feel lucky that we were only on the IVF roller coaster for a relatively short ride. But I know that if I had to take that ride again, I have an amazing partner who would support me the whole ride.

The end of the book was left open to the reader. Do you think that Elinor and Ted stayed together, or that they really finally separate? Did she pursue adoption on her own, or did they do another round of IVF with PGD? Do you think she ended up happy, or did she continue to struggle?
I think that Elinor and Ted split at the end. When all was said and done, to me it seemed like their marraige was over. I think he went back to try and make it work because she got pregnant. I think Ted fell in love with Gina. And I think Elinor decided that the most important thing to her was to be a mom, and that had nothing to do with Ted. I like to think that she was going to pursue adoption on her own.

I liked this book, but I did have a hard time sympathizing with all the characters, and I think the author wanted us to. She tried to show Elinors feelings, but also her flaws. At first I disliked Ted, but then she showed how he was driven to a point where he didn't think he was in a marriage anymore. Gina, at first, was just the other woman, but then you see into her life, and how she felt and what she was dealing with. And lastly, there was Gina's son Toby who got stuck in the middle, who loved Ted and wanted him to be a part of his life, which killed Elinor. Knowing that the one thing she couldn't give Ted, his mistress could. All that aside, I never sympathized with Gina. I just couldn't. I just feel like at the end of the day, a married man is off limits. You just don't go there. And same with Ted. Work on your marriage, or end your marriage, but don't cheat. I don't know, it was just hard for me to be ok with anything they did. The saddest thing for me was that in the end, it seemed like infertility drove them apart. Infertility is something that no one asks for, and it saddened me that the book made it seem like their marriage was good and solid until they started dealing with their infertility. I hope this doesn't happen to a lot of people. Infertility is hard enough to deal with. I hate to think that it can get so bad, it can ruin a whole marriage. I guess mostly I can just be thankful for the husband I have. Because for me it was the total opposite. I would have been disasterous WITHOUT my husband. He's my lifesaver. And that ends my first book tour.

Intrigued by the idea of a book tour and want to read more about Happiness Sold Separately? Hop along to more stops on the Barren Bitches Book Tour by visiting the master list at http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/. Want to come along for the next tour? Sign up begins today for tour #8 (The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood) and all are welcome to join along . All you need is a book and blog.

17 comments:

Samantha said...

Welcome to the book tour! I really enjoyed reading your responses. One of the things I liked about this book was that I could sympathize with all of the characters. Even with "Gina," the other woman, she came across less a homewrecker to me than as sometime who had made some poor choices in her life and maybe acted a little too much on impulse. Elinor came across as someone who had tried so hard to be strong and successful and in control, that when things didn't work out for her and Ted, she didn't really know how to reach out to Ted and get the support she needed and Ted didn't know how to bridge that gap. I felt like their marriage was severely tested by infertility, but perhaps by the time they realized how far apart they'd grown it was too late to make their marriage whole again. It did make me sad as well.

I'm glad that for you, infertility brought you and your husband closer together and you were able to lean on each other. I know that it's something my husband and I are working very hard on, to make sure that we communicate with each other and support each other, because I think that the road Elinor and Ted ended up on can happen all too easily.

Fertilize Me said...

WELCOME!

WOW can i say, just how much of your first answered question was me a few years ago. Afraid to tell people because of posssibly failing what others readily do everyday, scared of having to tell 50 people bad news, and not wanting to hear peoples opinions. I can relate to all of this .. I was glad to find the blogging community. It opened my eyes to a greater picture and made me feel more accepted than I ever have in all of my life.

Thank you for posting your responses, they are so fun to read everyone's opinions

candy said...

it's my first tour too!

what you said about you and your husband is just beautiful. i agree with samantha that it can happen all too easily and communication is definitely key.

i didn't sympathize with gina either. she did make poor choices, but i think that she should have taken a step back knowing what ted and his wife were going through. although i guess being fertile she couldn't know that. i didn't feel that she was really "in love" with ted as much as feeling good about herself for choosing a decent man and one that would be stable for toby.

and what you said about telling people is so on target for me. i almost laughed out loud about all the advice and judgements, but then i realized how true it is and that's not really all that funny. i really enjoyed reading your answers.

www.candysland.wordpress.com

Lori said...

You bring up a good point. Being silent about one's IF isn't necessarily about shame -- it's about privacy and convenience. Like a giant game of crack the whip -- everytime you change directions, do you really need to be dragging a whole bunch of people behind you?

Good review.

Mommy Someday said...

Your comment - "But I think it also had to do with the fact that if I tell 50 people that we are going through treatment, then it's 50 people that I have to call and tell that it didn't work." - totally sums up why I am staying quite about my battle with infertility! When we finally got our first BFP after 2 1/2 years of trying, we told everyone who would listen that we were finally pregnant. 3 weeks later, we had to tell ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE that we had a miscarriage! It was AWFUL!!!! I will never do that again. I was glad my family knew because they were a great source of support, but everything else was just an added source of pain.

Rebecca said...

This is also my first book tour! I had a difficult time understanding Ted at first as well. First I believed they had a great relationship and then realized they could never be a real match because he's such a wishy-washy guy. Elinor was so much more and therefore couldn't lean on him when she was breaking down.
Thanks for your responses - I enjoyed reading them!

Marty said...

Great responses. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Deb said...

Shoot, that one above from Marty is really from me... whoops, I didn't notice I was posting under my dh profile. Spacey day!

The Town Criers said...

Good point about being secretive during treatments--you're right: most people who are conceiving on their own don't tell people that they're trying.

I love all your thoughts about your husband :-)

Pamela Jeanne said...

First, thanks for your comment and welcome to the book tour! You make a very good argument for why people (myself included) keep their treatments private. Ultimately, I think that the shame does come from the embarrassment of failure, and the stigma comes from those ignorant of the IF conditions/process unfairly passing judgment.
I think that it's great that you and your husband kept each other strong, and as much as I don't like to think it happens, I do think that Winston raises yet another bit of collateral damage created by infertility -- broken relationships.

Anonymous said...

"if I tell 50 people that we are going through treatment, then it's 50 people that I have to call and tell that it didn't work... And it's bad enough to have to deal with the reality of a failed cycle, but then to have to tell everyone and their mom about it? I think it's just too much."

This is EXACTLY why I never wanted to tell too many people what we were going through. Especially MY mom. Dh thought I should tell her, but I was adamant on that point. Hard enough to try & fail & have to live with your own disappointment, but when you have someone waiting breathlessly to hear whether they're going to finally be grandparents? (even though you know they're waiting breathlessly regardless whether they know you're doing treatment...!) Uh-uh. Well put!!

loribeth

Carrie said...

I loved your answers to the privacy aover the books. You seem to think along the same lines as me. I really could not stand half baked opinions from people who aren't a major part of my life either. And as for religious/ moral views. Do people think we just wake up and do fertility treatments with no thought at all. Clearly they've never spent 24/7 thinking through every aspect of this journey.

I'm glad your relationship has stayed strong through it all. Mine has too and it is one of the only positives I can think of in this whole deal.

Drowned Girl said...

I like your answers!

Becks said...

Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving me a comment. Just have to say how gorgeous Jake and Hailey are, hopefully I will also have a matching pair soon.

deanna said...

I'm new to the Book Tour, too! Welcome aboard!

I wish I could be braver about telling people about our infertility, but you're right---it makes you immediately vulnerable to all sorts of reactions. Early on I told a former female boss that we were seeking help from an RE, and she had the most annoying reaction of anyone, by far. It wasn't that she asked too many questions, or threw her moral judgements at me. She was actually happy that we started treatment, but every couple of weeks, she would get all whispery and her eyes would get big, she'd gently touch my shoulder and say, "Sooooooo???? Any.....NEWS??????? You know, NEWS?!!" At first it was cute, but after a few months, I totally regretted ever telling her.

I never felt anything for Gina, either. I could tell that Lolly was pushing for some hard-core sympathy, but it's hard to respect someone who can't stop themselves from breaking up a marriage. Sure, Ted and Elinor probably would have drifted apart for some other reason, if not Gina, but that doesn't mean Gina's off the hook. It's still a crummy thing to do.

Ms. Infertile said...

Welcome - It's my first book tour too.
You had me laughing about the comments that could be made to people ttc naturally.
I didn't really ever feel sympathy for Gina. I know the author wanted us to feel something, and I would agree that she did go through some difficult things in her life, but to me it still didn't justify helping to break up a marriage.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

June Bug Momma said...

I think it's terrific you belong to a book tour. I need to start reading but I lack time unfortunately. I do read blogs though! lol... This book really sounds wonderful! Hey..I need to get Hannah that giggle shirt! lol Too cute!:o) I hope you and the twins had a Happy Halloween.