“Having the Child I Always Wanted, Just Not How I Expected”
I was excited for this book to be a personal account of the struggles of going through fertility treatment. In that respect, about 25% of this book satisfied my curiosity. The rest was a biography, much of which leaned toward her inclination to become a parent, and still an interesting story of an outspoken and gifted girl who grew up into a successful actress. She is honest, open and ready to learn from her mistakes.
If you are looking for an account through the struggle of infertility, start on page 91. This is where the IVF story begins, and you don’t miss anything in that subject from the first few chapters. She mentions a trip to Southeast Asia (the focus of the first chapter), during which she fully realized that she wanted to be a mother, come what may. If you like a biography, or you like Elisabeth Rohm, then by all means go ahead and read the beginning. But the real fertility story starts on page 91.
Elisabeth Rohm’s fertility story
Rohm is told she is in early menopause at age 34. Her FSH levels are through the roof and she learns her only way to have a baby is through IVF.
Most of us will have to go through our health insurance for fertility treatment, in which case the course of treatment may be a little different than Rohm’s – from one blood test straight to IVF. Many of us will go through other diagnostic testing, a Clomid challenge for ovulation and a few cycles of IUI before undergoing in vitro fertilization.
Here, Rohm offers some debatable “facts” about infertility and the IVF success rate. Also, since her IVF procedure was in 2007, out of eight eggs retrieved, four embryos resulted and all four were transferred as 3-day blastocysts, and *spoiler* she gets pregnant on the first attempt.
The basic circumstances of her experience are not likely for most fertility patients. In 2015, a responsible reproductive endocrinologist would never transfer four embryos, especially into a woman who is just 34 years old. Moreover, the process took just one month from her FSH blood test (with her second fertility doctor) to embryo transfer. In current practice there are several more diagnostic tests and assistive reproductive procedures which may or must be done before conducting IVF. (image at right from People.com)
The benefits of Rohm’s story, however, is that she takes the time to discuss how fertility treatment affected her physically, emotionally and mentally, and how it affected her relationship. She talks about the affects of fertility treatments and the excitement of doctors’ appointments. She talks about the guilt and doubt and fear that come along with the decision to become a parent and taking the control needed to actuate that decision.
Who should read this book
If you are looking for someone who knows what you are going through, or if you are just starting your fertility treatment, you may enjoy this book. Rohm’s honesty and willingness to discuss every uncomfortable aspect of her experience and how she feels during each step is comforting.
If you have been through assistive reproductive technologies several times with no success, this book is not for you. Rohm went through an unusual circumstance of not doing IUI and Clomid cycles and jumped into an IVF where the doctor transferred too many embryos at once and only one survived. Then, she had a baby, which undoes all of the insecurities and fear and doubts she had before. I’m sure this happens, that when women finally have their babies after fertility struggles that they realize every moment was worth it and they should not have been so angry or disappointed in themselves, or feel betrayed by their bodies. They are able to let all of those harmful emotions go. But the truth is that even IVF doesn’t work on the first try for everyone, and for those who aren’t able to conceive, what next? Are they to feel their feelings are invalidated just because they don’t have a baby? This is not a great message for all who are going through infertility.
The most important line comes during the predictable rally for openness, and it’s this: “If you need to be a parent, what the heck could possibly be wrong with letting science help you?” This is a valuable sentiment that supports women in their decision to move forward with assisted reproduction instead of holding out to conceive “naturally”, and those who feel ashamed or embarrassed to be struggling with infertility. There is no reason to hesitate.
As a biography, it is an engaging read because she is so candid about all aspects of her life. But if you are only interested in the fertility aspects, read pages 91 – 145, maybe read on to the next chapter if you want, called “Secrets”, which is the section that focuses on the personal importance of talking about your experiences, including the negatives.
The last 50+ pages is the continuation of her biography, including an interesting dream of her future daughter during her pregnancy. But if you aren’t interested in what happens to Elisabeth Rohm, don’t worry about the rest of the book, but for the last page of follow-up note by Rohm’s Reproductive Endocrinologist.
This is an appeal to readers to check on their fertility when they are in their early 30’s so they can be prepared for the future (or the present) and take steps to protect it. This book was published in 2013, very shortly after ASRM removed the experimental label from egg freezing for fertility preservation. He also praises Rohm for being prepared to make tough choices and be aggressive with treatment.
As a reader and an employee of a fertility center, I would also praise Rohm for these things, as well as trusting her instincts to get rid of her original RE and find a new one who she trusted and who made her feel comfortable. You will share a lot with your fertility doctor, so you should make absolutely sure that you can talk to him or her.
What is your favorite infertility book, blog or series?