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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.

 

Book 9/100: Crossing the Moon by Paulette Bates Alden

Crossing the Moon - Paulette Alden

This book was so nourishing to me -- the right book at the right time about the right subject matter.

As I stand on the precipice of making the decision to start a family, I'm hungry for real stories about how other women and couples approach this life-changing event. Paulette's memoir begins when she is 39, keenly noticing, for the first time, how many women are mothers. She's spent most of her life focused on her writing and her self-development, and although she and her partner are not using birth control, she feels a certain contempt for couples who are "trying" to conceive. The fact that she doesn't use birth control but also does not "try" to get pregnant encapsulates the ambivalence that she feels toward the issue, but it takes center stage in her consciousness as she realizes that "time is running out" and that if she doesn't make a conscious decision about whether to have a child, the clock will make it for her.

Over half the book is devoted to the exploration of this ambivalence, as she imagines what she would have to give up, reflects upon her relationship with her own mother, and tries to engage her partner in the issue (she assumes, probably rightly so, that it's not "as big a deal" to him either way, so he's somewhat less preoccupied.) I'm glad the book spent so much time in this territory because it is the same territory I'm exploring. It's pegged as an "infertility memoir," but it's really a memoir about the choices we make, how we make them, and what we do when they don't come out as planned.

At last, she decides to start "trying," timing sex for her fertile period, and when she doesn't get pregnant that way, she consults fertility doctors. Soon, she's on a three-year path of infertility treatment, and her ambivalence is gone -- she is certain she wants to have a child now even as she has trouble wrapping her head around exactly what that means. I think it's a feature of the human condition that we want even more desperately that which we've had to work very hard to attain, and she fluently explores the tension between needing to maintain enough hope to keep "trying" while tamping it down enough not to be crushed every time her period arrives.

I found myself wondering the whole time whether she would succeed and become a mother, and while I don't want to "give away" the ending, either way this book serves as a beautiful, lucid exploration of a tender and intimate topic, and I feel grateful for Alden's generosity and bravery in sharing her story.