Summersdale Publishers, 2013
I am supposed to be writing an essay for a continuing education course. I go to the library to find books. Actually I also go to the library just to leave the house. Working From Home and Not Working are two very different beasts.
I'm much better at the former.
One of the things I like about having a library card (and I have something like seven cards in four different countries) is that you can just pick something off the shelf on a whim and take it home with no commitment. If you don't like it, you don't need to finish reading it. If you DO like it, you can buy your own copy. This encourages me to read lots of books about all sorts of subjects that I might otherwise show no interest in. I'm a bit stubborn in that I usually make myself finish a book even when I think it is awful.
I read mostly non-fiction and like to read autobiographies and biographies. I like to learn about other people's lives and perspectives. Especially when I need to distract myself from actually doing any research or writing the essay I'm supposed to be working on. 'Trying' jumped out at me from the biography section when I should have been looking at medical journals.
Mark and his wife Martha have been diagnosed with 'unexplained'. In the UK, that means you've not conceived after two years of unprotected intercourse at the fertile time of your cycle. Martha spends her time learning about their options. She does the research and presents him with the next steps. He reacts and describes all sorts of odd fantasies in his head before addressing the subject at hand.
Firstly, I was really glad to have a male perspective. The author Mark is quite jokey about many of the indignities and frustrations of his and Martha's journey - I think many men use humour to deal with their feelings - but he is also extremely honest and poignant. I feel like he gave me a bit of a window into what Mr Duncan may be thinking or feeling, but cannot express. Especially that float off onto a tangent bit that totally drives me nuts.
A few quotes from the book that resonated with me...
...because Martha and I desperately wanted a baby. We really did. We had been trying for forever. I felt like I’d let her down a hundred times, this woman who I’d always wanted to give everything to. I’d lived with her disappointment for months and then years. I’d seen the pain inside her eyes grow and felt more powerless than I’d ever imagined.--------
Like everyone in that waiting room, we were scared. Scared of never having a baby, scared of never being able to share the love we had with our own flesh and blood. Scared? We were terrified.
On timed intercourse:
My imagination wasn’t the only enemy. Intercourse was also being hampered by that other useless part of male psyche: the ego. I’ve said that men don’t like to be told when to have sex, but the truth is, we hate it. We don’t mind it being offered to us, we don’t mind asking for it; some men will even try to demand it. But we will not be told.--------
Men sometimes say they don’t care. Usually they say it just at the moment when they care the most, when the thing they care about is in desperate need of that care, and when admitting that they did care would sort everything out. Why Martha couldn’t see that I don’t know; instead we had a fight, which ended with her shouting: ‘Do you really want this? Do you?’--------
On social isolation:
We shared less and less in common with our be-childed brethrenThe other place have found that helps me decode Mr Duncan and his lack of responses is an online fertility forum for men. Lots of wry humour there too.
Secondly, I love the title - Trying. Yes Mark and Martha are trying to have a baby and any sort of infertility is extremely trying. It tries
- Your trust.
- Your patience.
- Your mental health.
- Your self-confidence.
- Your relationship.
- Your identity as a 'normal' member of the human race.
Technically Mr Duncan and I were 'unexplained' until we conceived Poppy, but mostly our inability to conceive was put down to old eggs which is probably fair enough given my age. The most I've got out of Mr Duncan on the subject is 'stupid babies' in the manner of Homer Simpson where he disparages what he doesn't want to deal with. Sometimes with a hug or slightly misty eyes which allows me to remember he is human.
And I have to remember that whether he is good at expressing himself or not, he has lost two children. He is grieving what might have been, whether he shows it or not. And I need to be gentle and supportive of him, as he is of me.