8 Best Books About Infertility Update 05/2022

IVF is a lonely thing to go through because not many people talk about it openly. It was during my own five-year struggle to have a baby with my husband that I became very aware of this stigma, and how women who have infertility aren’t shown very well in books, on TV, and on the web. As long as pop culture and the news media were able to show us in any way, they did so in ways that were at worst sarcastic and at best inaccurate and simple. Every good news story about infertility started and ended with the IVF process. Most books about infertility were in the self-help genre and focused more on how to help women conceive than how infertility affects their emotional and social lives. They all had babies at the end. Infertility is often portrayed as a white, upper-middle-class, straight-partnered woman in her mid- to late 30s who is infertile. This stereotype doesn’t include the important experiences of black, indigenous, poor, and LGBTQ women who face barriers to diagnosis and treatment.

This makes the stories that get it right even more important for people who want to find community and meaning. Here are some books I found that I thought were very helpful for people who are trying to get pregnant, adopt, or live childfree after infertility. Some of them surprised me. The books that spoke to me the most weren’t written by women or even about infertility, but they hit on some important aspects of the desire and struggle to build a family that includes children in ways that made me not only less alone, but proud of my own story, with all of its complexity, trauma, and triumph.

The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood by Belle Boggs 

Starting with her own struggle to have a child, Belle Boggs takes a wide-ranging, fascinating look at the history, politics, and sociology of fertility. She talks about everything from how animals “brood” for offspring to the forced sterilization policies of mid-century America. This intelligent, thoughtful, and poetic book goes far beyond the typical clichés of the infertility memoir, which are usually self-help books. It shows that this is a subject that deserves “serious” literary attention, which is why this book is so good.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Everyone agreed that Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts is a great book about trying to have a child. Nelson’s book is a mix of memoir, literary and queer theory, and poetic prose. It talks about the difficulties of starting a family as a queer woman with her genderqueer partner in a time when the definitions of family, queerness, and parenthood are being politicized and rapidly changing. The description of her pregnancy and childbirth, which show the power and love of these events but don’t make them seem like they’re being made up, are must-reads for anyone who wants to have a child.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

When Michelle Obama wrote her memoir in 2018, it was the most shocking and sensational part because it was very personal and detailed about how she had miscarriages and couldn’t have children (Malia and Sasha Obama were eventually born via IVF). There are a lot of ways that black women’s infertility isn’t talked about, stigmatized, or portrayed in the mainstream story. Being isn’t just a corrective to the mainstream view that infertility is a problem for white, middle-class women. It’s also an example of how every woman’s infertility struggle should be looked at in terms of her whole life.

The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing Our Minds From Outmoded Thinking About Parenthood & Reproduction Will Create a Better World by Laura Carroll

A book called The Baby Matrix isn’t a book about infertility, but it was one of the most helpful things that I read when I was going through a rough time. Carroll talks about the myths and pressures behind pronatalism, which is the idea that everyone should have kids. He says that we’d all be better off if having kids were not an inevitability or a duty, but a vocation best suited to those who truly believe it is their true calling. She debunks a lot of myths that drive pronatalist beliefs, like the “biological clock” and the idea that having children is the most important thing in life. I was an infertile woman when I read The Baby Matrix. I was able to figure out which parts of my grief were caused by real desire to be a parent, and which parts were caused by social expectations and stigma about not having children. And being able to explain why I wanted to have kids was very powerful at a time when I felt most helpless.

Mommy Man: How I Went From Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad by Jerry Mahoney 

As my husband and I tried to have a baby through gestational surrogacy, I was disappointed to find that stories about surrogacy families were almost non-existent in the literature on infertility, which I thought was unfair. In the past, the ones that were still around made surrogacy seem like an accident or a “last resort.” When it comes to the gay community, there were a lot of great stories about how people use surrogacy and egg donation to have kids. There were a lot of them, but I read them all quickly. This was my favorite: Mahoney is a lot of fun to read about, and his casual writing style was a breath of fresh air in the usually heavy genre of family-building memoirs. For straight, infertile people and gay men, surrogacy isn’t the same. Even so, it’s still one of the best stories I’ve read about the challenges and joys of the surrogacy process. Blog: The author’s blog has a similar feel to it. It’s honest but also fun, and anyone who has to think outside the box in order to have a child will enjoy it.

Silent Sorority: A (Barren) Woman Gets Busy, Angry, Lost and Found by Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos 

This is a story we don’t usually hear about: Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos is a woman who can’t have children because of her own body. She didn’t have a baby like up to 40% of people who go to fertility clinics. This raw and beautiful memoir talks about the double isolation these women feel because they are not only infertile, but also infertile and childless after a long time of treatment. He is right to be angry about the abuses and false promises of the unregulated, for-profit infertility industry, as well as the stigma that stops women from talking about their failed fertility treatments and unwanted childlessness in public. Silent Sorority asks important questions about how the popular narrative of infertility has become one of successful medical treatment, instead of one that focuses on the person’s own desire, grief, and healing, instead of the medical treatment itself (which may or may not involve having or adopting a child). The author’s triumph into a happy life as a writer and advocate is even more powerful because of the dark times that led up to that point.

We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True by Gabrielle Union

The title gives a good idea of how this book will be. It’s not as heavy or important as some of the other books on this list, but it’s still very important. During her memoir, Gabrielle Union talks about her ongoing battle with recurrent pregnancy loss and the ups and downs of being a black actor in white-dominated Hollywood. She is also very funny and honest about her experiences. Union, like many of us, had so many miscarriages (eight or nine) that she didn’t know how many she had. These stories are told here with much-needed detail and gravity. This book about pregnancy loss is easy to read. Union also made it clear that black women’s infertility experiences are often not talked about. She is now a new mother to a baby girl born through surrogacy.

Blood, Marriage, Wine and Glitter by S. Bear Bergman

My son was born a few months ago, and this book by Toronto-based writer S. Bear Bergman is one of the best I’ve read in a long time! Bergman, who is trans, tells a personal story about having kids with his partner while also talking about what family means to him and other people who don’t follow the rules of sex, gender, and sexuality. As a theater artist, Bergman writes in a way that evokes an oral storytelling tradition that makes it personal and powerful, like family itself. I have his kids books for my son on order.

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