In MY day, when people found out they couldn't have children, they gave up their power to the men in the white coats. We allowed the men in white coats to poke and prod us without completely understanding the whys. We suffered alone, isolated. And we liked it! We loved it!
wussy modern people confronted with infertility will have a much easier time of it, thanks to the recently released book, Navigating the Land of If: Understanding Infertility and Exploring Your Options. The Land of IF is a guidebook for a place just off the mainland, a place where one in six people find themselves marooned. Author Melissa Ford has explored every nook and cranny of this formerly insular jungle-of-a-place, and she indulged me in a few questions about her journey to parenthood and to authorhood.
You decided to become a tour guide for an island where no one wants to go. Huh?
Well, someone had to do it! Actually, there are a lot of really good books out there for infertility, but they were all missing items here and there. I wanted to cover the basics, but also make sure that all of the questions I still had after I put those books down were answered. Such as what happens if you hit a blood vessel during an injection? Or what are the various IVF protocols?
I also wanted one book for everyone: primary, secondary, situational, biological, young, old, single, or married. This doesn't mean that everyone will love the book because they may hate my writing style, or how inclusive it is, or any other reason. But I wanted the door to be open to everyone who wanted to walk through by using inclusive language, considering a plethora of situations, and including information for everyone in the community.
You call this island the Land of IF. What does IF mean?
IF is the online abbreviation (on bulletin boards and blogs) for infertility, but "if" is also a huge part of infertility. "If" also conveys the uncertainty and leaps of faith one needs to take daily with infertility.
You've done a lot of actual travel. What did you look for in a good guide book? And how did you incorporate this into the Land of If?
I looked for consistency between chapters/cities and information I could use. I love Lonely Planet and Let's Go because they both skip the pictures and essays about the place (well, they contain that in a small amount) and instead use the space to list the important information you need while you're there, keeping in mind all people and not just a small subsection of the traveling population. They don't make assumptions about your financial situation or your interests. They just throw it all in there along with a few helpful tips that will help you bypass difficulties while on the road.
Everyone gets off the island eventually, one way or another. What neighborhoods did you hang out in and what was your path off the island?
It's an interesting question because I had the neighbourhood I lived in (and most of us only own one home), but many neighbourhoods I visited due to friends or family members living in other spaces. Many of my childhood friends ended up going through infertility with me, and, of course, I met people along the way through Resolve and now blogs.
In addition, I think the way off the island is really an emotional journey. You can have children and still not resolve your infertility or you can stop the family building process and still not resolve your infertility. There is a saying with Resolve that children resolve childlessness, not infertility. And I find that to be very true.
So my path off the island was a lot of self-searching and finding peace with the journey. But my neighbourhoods while on the island (and I'm still living over here because we're not finished with our family building) were primarily infertility and early loss, with our apartment building being the Injectable IUI Cycle Towers.
When did it first strike you to write the Land of If? What was that a-ha moment where you thought, "This must be written?" — was it a sudden or gradual realization?
It actually started out as a very different book — a book for non-infertile men and women to read to understand the infertility experience. I came downstairs one morning and my husband, Josh, was angrily writing a response to an advice columnist. He had followed an intriguing sentence from the "front page" of the online newspaper to read a question about adoption. And her advice was crap. We were talking about it with my parents that night and they said, "well, you can do something about this. You could write something. You're both writers."
I started writing that book, but realized after a chapter or two that it wasn't a good fit. It wasn't flowing and it didn't feel comfortable. I switched it to being a book for me, for my community. And that's when it clicked.
Would this book have come about if not for your blog, Stirrup Queens?
I don't know. I don't think so. I guess one thing that makes this book very different from all other infertility books is that it has this living, breathing counterpart — the blog — and the author is completely accessible. I tell you to join a community and vent your frustrations, but then I also participate in said community and make sure you're welcomed inside by maintaining the blogroll and Lost and Found. I hope people who read the book then step through the fourth wall that sometimes exists between the author and the reader and communicate with me, either through the blog or by emailing or meeting me at a reading.
Why would someone who is not experiencing infertility want to pick up this book?
To better understand someone they know who is experiencing infertility. I don't know how many people who are not experiencing infertility will pick up this book, but that's okay. The words are there for everyone to use who is experiencing infertility and they can pass them along in conversation with people outside the experience.
How different would your own IF journey have been if you'd had this book?
I probably would have felt less lonely. The exercises in the book I used to make decisions and I included one of the real decision webs we made before we started treatments. And I took my sister's advice to heart a lot and still do in living my life. But I wish I had known about the online community back then. It was small, but still existed. I wish I had known about blogs and read them.
There is a lot of humor in your book. Can you talk about the importance of levity while putzing around on the Isle of If?
If you don't laugh, you'll cry. And even as you laugh, you'll still cry. I think it's important to note that having a sense of humour doesn't mean that you'll laugh your way through every insemination or egg retrieval or meeting with the adoption facilitator. It means that you'll bring whatever levity you can to every situation while also honouring the enormity of the situation.
One time, when we were at the beginning of a very early loss, we stopped at a rest stop while driving and when I saw the blood in my panties, I instinctively took off my glasses and threw them. In this very dirty gas station bathroom. And after I had cried and cried and cried, I realized that I couldn't see anything without the glasses — especially in the dim bathroom light — and didn't know where they were outside the stall and feared that I would step on them in my attempt to find them. So I could cry but still see the amusement in having thrown my glasses – the ridiculousness of it all.
What is your marker of success with this book? I mean, how will you know when you've accomplished your goal(s) in writing it?
If someone writes me and says that it helped them breathe. That it made anything easier or shed light on something that had been muddled in their brain prior to reading it. If people feel that it is inclusive and respects everyone in the adoption/loss/infertility (ALI) community. I wish it could also speak to those outside the community and hopefully the book is respectful to other members of the adoption triad, doctors, nurses, surrogates. It is hard to write balancing everyone, but if I did so overall, I will think the book is a success.
What other projects are you working on, books or otherwise?
Right now, I'm finishing up a work of fiction. I needed something lighter and less research driven this winter/spring. As I complete that project and release that, I have three more non-fiction ideas that I'm tossing around. It is interesting because at the same time, I thought up four non-fiction projects that sat well with me and four fiction projects. So I would love to weave back and forth between the two – with the heavier topics being balanced by the lighter ones.
You've tweeted that you've been writing smut. Is writing smut as much fun as writing about timed intercourse and hormone levels?
Oh, timed intercourse wins out every time. There is nothing more joyous than writing about timed intercourse except writing about home inseminations.
Give us the sales pitch. Where can we get your book?
Navigating the Land of If has its own website where I post information such as readings and where to purchase the book. You can get it at any bookstore in the U.S. as well as online from sites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Borders.Powered by Sidelines