Fertility: Can It Happen on Your Timetable?
By Michelle Cove
I met Rachel Lehmann-Haupt two years ago when I interviewed her for my documentary “Seeking Happily Ever After.” Rachel was finishing her non-fiction book In Her Own Sweet Time (Basic Books, 2009), an honest and personal exploration of the many new fertility choices available to women today. As you will see below, Rachel is forthright, articulate and cares deeply about women being educated in their choices.
What do you hope women will walk away with after reading your book?
When I began researching this book, I had this idea that there was one right path a woman must take. I’m kind of a perfectionist, and I always thought it had to be first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby. After meeting so many women and hearing their stories, I’ve learned that there isn’t just one right path. Sometimes women have a baby first and then fall in love, and sometimes the great love turns out to be not so great. Life plays out in many different ways, and it all taught me to appreciate the good things that I have. So essentially, I feel like women should walk away from reading this book feeling like they have choices and they have not failed because they don’t necessarily have it all or some fantasy of what they think their life should look like.
Have you been surprised by any of the responses you’re received to this book? How so?
Most people say you’re so brave for exposing so much personal information. I did this so women in similar positions didn’t feel like they’re alone. I truly believe the personal is political. I also think that the fact that I’ve opened up has allowed a lot of women who have read the book to open up and be more honest with themselves, their friend and their family about their fears and desires. I’ve received some of the most touching emails from women saying that they felt like they were reading about themselves. This makes me feel really good because the intention behind telling such a personal story was not about shining the focus on myself, but about shining my story outward for other women to relate to.
If you could tell women who are anxious about their biological clocks one thing, what would it be?
Anxiety is a double-edged sword. It can be very motivating and it can also be paralyzing. My best advice is learn about your reproductive options. In Chapter One, Feathering the Nest, I offer a number of strategies for getting your fertility tested. Having information helps you to make informed decisions. For example, I finally decided to get my eggs frozen, and the story that lead up to why I made that decision is quite the tale. Mostly, I recommend trying not to let the anxiety over your fertility overwhelm you. You have choices.
What is the biggest personal challenge in reading this book?
I write about some hard choices that I think a lot of women would like to stay in denial about or not face. These issues involve the fact that they may not be able to have children or that the fairy tale that they imagined might not happen in the way they imagined it. I think in reading this book, a woman has to be prepared to face some intense emotions around the decisions she has made or is making around marriage, family and children.
Why do you think women remain so uneducated about their own fertility?
I think we’re the first generation who started to consider motherhood on the edge of our biological clocks. Fertility has always been something that is intensely personal, typically in a marriage, and therefore there has not been a lot of incentive to talk about it and learn about it in public forums. I also think this is really changing today. I see more and more articles about fertility in magazines, more women know about fertility tests now, and there is even a wonderful new website that offers support and information for women around their fertility called Fertilityauthority.com. I really think that education around fertility is one of the major results of women choosing to get married and have children later.
Are you more at peace after writing this book?
Yes. Being able to express these emotions and tell this story set me free; it made me realize that there is no perfect sets of choices. The last chapter of the book is entitled “Summer,” and I don’t want to give away the ending, but I will say that in it I came to a kind of peace in my life as it is. During that summer I did two things that really helped to feed that. In addition to finishing writing this book, I learned to sail and I read War and Peace. I quote Tolstoy in the chapter because he gave me a lot of wisdom: “There is nothing in the world to be dreaded,'” he writes. “Just as there is no condition in which man can be happy and entirely free, so there is no condition in which he needs to be unhappy and not free.”
Michelle Cove is the Director for Seeking Happily Ever After, a feature-length documentary about why there are more single 30-something women than ever and whether women are redefining happily ever after. See www.seekinghappilyeverafter.com. She is also writing a companion book that is “a feel-great guide to being single while seeking your own happily-ever-after” (Tarcher, 2010)
Watch this “behind the scenes” clip for Michelle’s Seeking Happily Ever After…
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