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The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood Paperback – September 6, 2016
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“[A] thoughtful meditation on childlessness, childbearing, and ― for some ― the stretch of liminal agony in between. [ The Art of Waiting] is a corrective and a tonic, a primer and a dispeller of myths. It is likely to become a go-to guide for the many couples who discover that having children is not the no-assembly-required experience they were expecting. They will come away enlightened, reassured and comforted by her debunker mentality. . . . Ms. Boggs has done something quite lovely and laudable with The Art of Waiting: She’s given a cold, clinical topic some much-needed warmth and soul. The miracle of life, you might even say.”―The New York Times
“Belle Boggs’s smart, elegant book, The Art of Waiting . . . includes reporting on eugenics, zoo animals and research behind ‘baby fever,’ tying in great works of literature and even Raising Arizona along the way. It is a painful, enlightening joy to read.”―The Washington Post
“Belle Boggs’ 2012 essay The Art of Waiting primed audiences for this intelligent, moving exploration of fertility. In the book, she ranges outside her own experience, turning to the animal kingdom and pop culture to survey how we respond to the possibility―and, sometimes, impossibility―of parenthood.”―Elle.com
“Boggs is deeply empathetic as she explores not only her personal challenges with starting a family, but how culture treats the childless, the complex decision between adoption and trying to conceive, the additional hurdles facing LGBT couples, and the financial and legal complications that come with facing alternative means of childbearing.”―Real Simple
“An eye-opening, gorgeously written blend of memoir, reportage, and cultural analysis. . . . Examining infertility and childlessness through the lens of her own struggle to become pregnant, Boggs presents not only a courageous account of her personal experience but an illuminating, wide-ranging study of the medical, psychological, social, and historical aspects of a condition that affects one in eight couples nationwide.”―Boston Globe
“[Boggs’s] beautifully written, contemplative book ― which blends memoir, journalism and cultural history ― is about much more than her own costly and high-tech path to parenthood. It addresses, among other things, the ethical dimensions of fertility treatment (she concedes that her younger self would have judged her choices ‘selfish and wasteful’); representations of childlessness in literature; and the biological, psychological and cultural underpinnings of what she calls child-longing.”―San Francisco Chronicle
“The Art of Waiting is not just an honest and heartbreaking account about Boggs’ experience. In addition to the endless medical options available to her and other women, she deftly examines the choices and challenges couples and singles face. . . . Infertility is a personal struggle, but Boggs ably mixes her experience with a broader, more objective account of what for many men and women amounts to one of the most traumatic upsets in their lives. The Art of Waiting is a primer for anyone dealing with infertility. It’s also an eye-opener for anyone who takes having children for granted.”―Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
“Boggs’s meditations on the politics of reproduction and ART are eloquent and impeccably researched. Ultimately, however, her prose is most luminous when she is limning the subterranean psychic toll that infertility takes on its sufferers. . . . ‘All families start as stories,’ Boggs observes, ‘no matter how true or untrue they eventually become.’ In The Art of Waiting, she illuminates the myriad ways in which the stories we tell ourselves about children―whether real or imagined, desired or declined―materially shape our sense of who we are. In the process, she makes a passionate and humane case for everyone’s right to choose and direct their own reproductive story."―Los Angeles Review of Books
“Belle Boggs's memoir-through-essay dissects what it means to procreate and parent in our modern world ― and especially the myriad ways of getting there.”―Bustle
“In a book that could easily become insular, instead the reader finds Boggs’s considered, holistic approach, wherein she covers families of numerous formations and facets―different races, socioeconomic categories, and world views pepper this intelligent and insightful treatise on fertility, medicine, and motherhood, which spans years of Boggs’s life and years of research on childbearing, its successes, and its failures. Science meets narrative; the global meets the personal; the reader meets the author, or at least feels that way, a knowing closeness that builds with every revelation and dispersal of personal, painful fact.”―The Millions
“Boggs is both brave and generous―willing to hack through terra incognita and report back to the rest of us. . . . Riveting. . . . Deeply absorbing. . . . Boggs’s experience of child-longing reminds us of our own desires, the virtues of letting go and the power of holding on. In every essay, she is recognizably human, attached to the future she always wanted.”―Brooklyn Rail
“[A] collection of nuanced and unsparing essays. . . . Boggs interweaves her own experience with infertility with those of doctors, professors, unconventional families and even gorillas at the North Carolina zoo, shedding light on a complex human health issue that has remained cloaked in silence and shame.”―The Huffington Post
“A moving, meditative collection of writings on one of life’s most shared―but too often silent―experiences.” ―The National Post
“Through a series of beautifully rendered, often poetic essays, Boggs touches on myriad emotional and physical aspects of infertility, and the various options on offer to solve it. She peppers her memoir with references to literature and the natural world, rendering a rich, truly human and sometimes harrowing portrait of an oft-misunderstood experience. Boggs not only demystifies the diagnosis and the slew of medical procedures that can come along with it, but corrects the idea that there is a single, straightforward path when it comes to tackling it. . . . An intimate and generous collection, providing a new and necessary narrative of infertility than the one we’re consistently offered. . . . This book is immensely valuable not only to those have faced the hardship of infertility, but to all who seek to support them.”―The Globe and Mail (Canada)
“Boggs’s book ponders not just motherhood, but also examines the massive landscape of self and society. . . . You don’t have to have children (or want them―I don’t) to love this book; you just have to be human.” ―Literary Hub
“A meticulous investigation of the complicated sociopolitical issues surrounding fertility, infertility, and medical intervention. . . . A meaningful meditation on the many paths to making a family.”―Poets and Writers
“This book is already getting passed around my circle of women of childbearing age. . . . It’s a memoir of infertility, IVF, conception and birth that’s also an intellectual exploration of biological and historical treatments of pregnancy and the lack thereof ― and it’s very, very good.”―Flavorwire
“Belle Boggs’ memoir-through-essay . . . dissects what it means to parent and procreate in our modern world ― especially the myriad paths to getting there. . . . [Her] message is clear: there is no one path to parenthood, and no experience of mothering more valid than another.”―Bustle
“Belle Boggs’s The Art of Waiting is a contemplation of fertility (and infertility) that considers all the possibilities of making a family, as well as the medical, financial, and legal aspects and complications that may arise. Boggs shares stories from numerous couples ― involving adoption, surrogacy, assisted reproduction, or the decision to be child-free ― as well as the depictions of fertility and childlessness in literature and film to paint a broader picture of motherhood.”―Buzzfeed
“A wide-ranging, thoughtful, and lively meditation on the desire for children and coping with that desire. . . . Boggs is a brave writer and an empathetic one. . . . She emerges as a passionate advocate for the right to have children, no matter how unconventional the result or how seemingly ‘artificial’ the means.”―4 Columns
“Boggs sensitively and creatively explores infertility, the struggle to get pregnant, and the entire concept of ‘waiting,’ which leads her to literature and pop culture. . . . Deeply thoughtful, beautiful, and illuminating.” ―Booklist
“Eloquent and insightful, Boggs never descends to self-pity, instead writing with empathy, compassion, and occasional humor. . . . All readers will appreciate the engaging prose and thought-provoking information.” ―Library Journal
“Touch[es] on universal themes of hope, loss, and identity. Boggs shows a profound awareness of the value of story, drawing on fictional models of infertility such as those in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, conversations with childless female writing colleagues, and Joan Didion and Adrienne Rich’s writings on motherhood. . . . Even though she calls herself “greedy for every kind of model,” her reach for connection to the world feels expansive rather than self-centered. . . . Boggs’s contemplative view of waiting as a mentally active practice offers comfort to those who cannot get exactly what they need even by the hardest of wishing.”―Publishers Weekly
“This deeply empathetic book is about more than one woman’s challenge; it’s about the whole scope of maternal urges, of how culture (and literature) treat the childless (or ‘childfree’), how biases against medical intervention serve to stigmatize those who need such expensive (and not always successful) assistance, and how complicated can be the decisions about whether to adopt rather than continuing to attempt to conceive, the moral dimensions of international adoption (and surrogates), the additional hurdles facing gay couples, and the seemingly arbitrary differences between states as to what procedures are covered and to what financial limit. . . . Boggs writes with considerable heart and engagement about the decisions that are so tough for so many. . . . A story well-told and deeply felt.”―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Belle Boggs has taken an experience often understood in terms of absence―the process and procedures and pain of infertility―and re-illuminated it in terms of presence: the presence of longing, the presence of effort, the presence of patience and community. Her book explodes the word 'infertility' so that it’s no longer a single word but a thousand stories, a thousand possible families―thwarted, growing, reimagined. Boggs’s mind is nimble and surprising, her voice penetrating and humble, her insights keen and striated. Her definition of family is full of possibility and permutation, and there is an empathetic force to her work―her summoning of our collective vision, her call to openness―that’s absolutely thrilling.―Leslie Jamison
In this lovely meditation, Belle Boggs explores a landscape suddenly illuminated by the bright light of her own uncertain future. Her great mind is at work through it all, considering captive gorillas and biology and Virginia Woolf and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Raising Arizona and adoption and surrogacy and wells that run dry. What The Art of Waiting suggests to me is that all our moments that feel fruitless may be bearing their own sort of fruit, in their own time.―Eula Biss
“In this profound, deeply moving study of fertility and motherhood, Belle Boggs takes us on a remarkable journey. Her book ponders the nature of reproduction in modern America, which is of necessity a means of pondering the nature of family, which is in turn a means of pondering the nature of intimacy and love. The wisdom comes easily here, as Boggs considers the searing pain of disappointment, every structure of proleptic hope, and the widening of human relationships. She does all this and more in luminous, generous prose.”―Andrew Solomon
About the Author
Belle Boggs is the author of Mattaponi Queen. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Paris Review,Ecotone, Slate, and many other publications. She teaches in the MFA program at North Carolina State University.
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Speaking of Boggs' own experiences, I wanted her to go deeper. I was left wanting more. She titled the book "The Art of Waiting." I wanted to know more about her own art of waiting. I, too, have experienced infertility and I know the insane toll it takes on a woman physically, spiritually and emotionally. At one point in the book Boggs talks about how she doesn't even have to take a home pregnancy test because she monitors her cycles via her temperature so she knows when her period is about ready to arrive. But she leaves it at that. I wanted to know HOW that felt for her. I know how it feels for me, and I wanted to connect with the author on that emotional level. But I never got the sense of anything other than a superficial glossing over about the deeper issues infertility raises. Or, after all this waiting, she FINALLY gets her beloved baby, HOW did that feel? It was written rather how-hum. I wanted to feel the magic of it, and the book missed that mark for me.
This book is touted as a memoir, but honestly, it read like a research paper. For some, that may be a perk. But for me, I wanted the curtains ripped off and the true heart of the matter to be shown. I didn't want to read about gorillas and the first IVF mother. I wanted to know more about Boggs' journey. I wanted to connect with it. Instead, I felt like I had to keep searching the bottom of the page for footnotes.
The other stumbling block I have is Boggs' semi-idolization of IVF. She spends time early in the book saying how she feared it, but then just goes along later and it's no big deal and boom! Pregnant first try. Well of course she's going to be a champion of the practice. She writes nothing of her own experience with the drugs despite quoting plenty of message board stories about Lupron side effects earlier in the book. She touches on the problematic issues with any sort of ART (while also wrongly stating that every other form of ART is worthless except for IVF; this is not true in every circumstance), but she doesn't expand on those. She focuses a lot on the problems of surrogacy and other ART procedures in other parts of the world, but I would have liked to have read more about how many clinics here in the USA often use IVF as a first choice in cases that do not need it. About how the focus of these clinics is a baby, not the well-being of said baby and mother. Ends justifies the means sort of thing. Many women are potentially harmed by this. In reality, ART is not the guaranteed saving grace/ace in the hole for everyone, every time. It frustrates me when it is portrayed like that. Women don't realize that they don't need to give 100% authority of themselves over to the doctors. Boggs touches on this when she notes how she stood by her ground and insisted only one embryo be transplanted despite the conventional wisdom to transplant three. I wish she would have focused more on women being more empowered in their own fertility journey.
Overall, I agree Boggs is a good writer and there were nuggets of goodness in this book, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped. I would get rolling in one chapter, only to find myself in some unexpected left turn reading about insurance, when all I really wanted to hear was how on earth the author kept her hope alive after all these years. I didn't want some candy-floss version of IVF and praises for companies that allow women to freeze their eggs at 22. I wanted to know how Boggs saw her years of waiting as art.