Infertility in Fiction

Photo by Kyle Broad on Unsplash

Infertility. It’s rarely discussed, and it doesn’t play a significant role in many mainstream novels. So why did I include an infertile character in THE SCENT OF FOREVER? Because maybe, by letting readers see the world through an infertile character’s eyes, we can raise awareness. Here’s a bit of my protagonist’s inner monologue:

Regret pulled her into crushing despair as she remembered the sermon Reverend Bachman delivered last Mother’s Day. She bit back tears that day, as she did each year, sitting in the pew with a potted flower in her hand. They gave her one every year, a pity pansy for the barren woman, a participation ribbon for the fat kid who sucked at sports.

Sound familiar, anyone? How about this:

“And what about you?” Alasdair asked. “Are you married? Do you have children?”

She shook her head. The question never failed to hurt her. At her age, she should have a few kids. People expected it. So did she.

“I was married. He left me for a younger woman.” One with working girly parts.

“Oh, I’m sorry. But you’re young yet. There’s plenty of time for a family.”

There wasn’t, actually. He was being kind. The fat lady was gargling and getting ready to go on stage. If only she took the advice of her fertile friends—and sometimes complete strangers—who suggested she do everything from relax, stop drinking coffee, go on vacation, adopt, take a colorful mixture of Chinese herbs, and her personal favorite: make sure she had sex the right way.

I have never seen two pink lines, a condition for which I have not been given an official diagnosis. “Unexplained infertility,” they call it. Throughout my twenties, I perfected the smile needed for a seemingly endless chain of baby showers. In my thirties, I endured pregnancy “war” stories, elbow jabs, and probing questions about when I was going to have a baby. It was in this decade of my life that I mustered up the courage to share my difficulty with others. My reward for that was an avalanche of advice; well-meaning, certainly, but often unsolicited and embarrassing. You need to relaxYou’re doing it wrongYou should adopt. Women always get pregnant after they adopt.

In my forties, battle-scarred and weary, I yielded to acceptance, which led to a measure of peace.

I thought the war was over.

Now, in my fifties and still experiencing the picture-perfect cycles that mock me, the cruelty of infertility is raising its ugly head again. This time, it’s grandchildren. Not mine, of course, but those of my friends. Though I delight in their joy, seeing their fulfillment shines a spotlight on an old emptiness, a sting I thought long forgotten.

I’m happy to say that my character finds the peace that still eludes me. It’s romance, after all. We love our happy endings, and I gave you that in THE SCENT OF FOREVER, available for download here. If you would like to read the first chapter free, click here.

 

 

Fiction That's Plaid to the Bone

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3 comments on “Infertility in Fiction
  1. Ana says:

    Love it, Julie dear! I saw the 2 lines twice, after doing Ivf (2 of 5 trials). Never naturally. One of the 2 worked, thankfully. Still, I’m one of the few moms with an only child in the kid’s school. You see 2,3,4 kids per mom and people ask me if he has siblings, do I want more kids. Still hurts even if it doesn’t compare to the before. Love you much, sister! You are the mom of some of my favorite books! Xoxo

    • Infertility affects us in so many ways. Some, like me, never see two pink lines. Others experience the joy of pregnancy only to have it ripped away. Still others conceive easily–once only. It’s all so frustrating and heartbreaking.

  2. Meg says:

    It’s amazing to me that pregnancy actually *does* happen – it seems so many things need to be exactly right in order for it to work! Perhaps giving your character a voice about infertility will help the rest of us to be better able to talk about it.

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