Book Tour: The Handmaid’s Tale

I participated in a book tour this month for The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, coordinated by Mel at Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters.  I read this book back in high school (which I didn’t realize until after I started reading it again), and I’m glad I got a chance to read it again.  The setting is in the society of Gilead, where women are now basically slaves to men.  They are not allowed to earn money, read, write, or have any of the basic freedoms that we have become accustomed to.  The main character, Offred (Of-fred), is a Handmaid, her primary purpose to produce a child to a couple that she is assigned to because the wife is infertile.  She is moved around from house to house, trying to get pregnant for the Commander and his wife, taking on a new name based on the name of the Commander.  If she is unable to have a child, it is considered her fault – never the males – and she will be banished from the society to work in a wasteland where she would die because of exposure to toxic substances.  The book is written from Offred’s perspective, like a journal, and she discusses her past life, where she had a husband and child, which were taken away from her.  The book is written with some interesting perspectives, and makes you think about how fragile freedom truly is if we take it for granted.

Even though the rampant infertility is acknowledged to be largely due to environmental pollution, Gilead refuses to acknowledge the possibility of male infertility; if a Handmaid is unable to conceive with three Commanders, it is assumed that she is at fault and she is reassigned to the Colonies. How did this double standard resonate with you, if at all?

I think that because of the way the society had been formed, with males being the dominant figures, they felt like they could not afford to question the “manhood” of men by allowing them to be the problem with infertility. This would demonstrate to them a weakness, while in the society of Gilead, all weaknesses belonged to women. I also think that the author was trying to demonstrate the common belief in our own society that when a couple is infertile, it is generally a problem with the woman.

For all that the Handmaids are supposed to be serving the society’s greater good and should be honored for that, they are looked down upon by just about everyone. Wives resent that the Handmaids do what they cannot, Marthas resent the time spent caring for them, Econowives resent them for the ease of existence they feel the Handmaids must enjoy. And the reverse is true as well, Handmaids resent the other women for having little freedoms they do not enjoy, whether it’s control over a household, the ability to hold a knife and make radish roses, or to simply not be a possession without a name. Does this mutual resentment exist in the world of infertility? Do “fertiles” resent “infertiles” and vice versa? If so, in what way?

I don’t think that there is a mutual resentment between fertiles and infertiles. I do think that many infertile women feel resentment towards both fertile and “less” infertile women. Infertility feels like a betrayal of the body, like something is broken and it cannot be “fixed”. Even though there are ways to become pregnant for most infertile women, it is expensive, time consuming, and a very emotional roller coaster. Fertile women have something that we infertile do not have, and we are jealous of that. I don’t think it starts out as resentment. After time, and many failed attempts, and hearing one too many time “just relax”, that’s when the resentment starts.

I have often wondered what happened to Offred after the events in the book. There was speculation in the lecture notes, but if you were to add to that speculation—what happened to her after she was taken away? Did she work with the underground? Was she pregnant? Did she try to find out what happened to Luke and her daughter? What would you want for her to accomplish (if anything)?

I generally have a dislike of books that have unanswered endings, but I thought it was appropriate for this book. It was not the author’s purpose to lead us to an end, rather to tell the story from Offred’s perspective, which ended upon her escape. My hope is that she would gain courage and strength from her escape, and join the underground, but based on how she dealt with the situation while in Gilead, I did not see her as a strong person with the courage to fight against what was happening in Gilead. She was a survivor. She would do anything to survive because she was afraid of dying. I imagine she probably escaped to Canada, most likely trying to get word on her daughter and Luke. She may have even tried to enlist help to rescue her daughter. As far as what I would like for her to have accomplished, I would like to think that she gained courage and strength to join whatever fight there was against the society of Gilead.

Intrigued by the idea of a book tour and want to read more about The Handmaid’s Tale? Hop along to more stops on the Barren Bitches Book Brigade by visiting the master list at http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/. Want to come along for the next tour? Sign up begins today for tour #9 (The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler with author participation!) and all are welcome to join along . All you need is a book and blog.

pass me some morning sickness

I told the first person at work today that I was pregnant. It felt so weird coming out of my mouth. In fact, I have no problem writing in my blog for the entire blogosphere to stumble upon, but I get this strange anxious feeling every time I tell someone in person (in person includes over the phone). I didn’t even want to tell this person at work, but I had to due to Navy specific reasons (I started to explain what Navy specific reasons means, but it was taking too long). Anyway, somehow I feel like I’m jinxing myself by telling people in person. I know that probably sounds extremely strange, since I had no such qualms about writing it in my blog, but it’s different somehow. For instance, for those who read my blog, you understand the heartache that can come with infertility, and that a positive pregnancy test does not necessarily mean a happy ending. But when I tell someone in person, I feel like I have to throw that caveat in there. “Oh, by the way, I’m pregnant, but don’t get too excited because there’s plenty of things that can go wrong”. I know that’s a terrible way to think, but I guess it’s just my way of protecting myself in the end. Expect the worst and be overjoyed by the best, right?

It doesn’t help that I still have yet to experience any symptoms of pregnancy. While I don’t necessarily want morning sickness, I think I would feel a twisted sense of comfort by it. It would be like my baby was saying “hey, I’m here! Pay attention to me!”. But I’ve had nothing. Logically, I know that is perfectly normal. But my emotions are yearning for some damn symptoms! Give me the aversion to food, or the super sore breasts, or yes, even the morning sickness! I can’t wait for my ultrasound in 2 weeks. I’ll feel so much better once I see the heartbeat(s).

On another note, the guy I told at work asked me if I was hoping for a boy or a girl. If he would have asked me that about a year ago, I may have told him one or the other. It’s funny how infertility can change your perspective – it truly comes down to just wanting a healthy baby. Nothing else matters after that.

still pregnant

I had my 2nd beta done today, and my HCG level came back at 271. It’s supposed to double every two days, and mine went up even more than that. I’m not really sure if that means anything, but nevertheless it makes me happy. I’m actually starting to believe things might actually work out with this pregnancy. There’s still a part of me that is holding myself back in case something goes wrong. There’s just so much that can happen, especially in the next several weeks. I’ll be breathing a sigh of relief when I have my ultrasound, or better yet, once I reach my 12 week mark! After 12 weeks, the chance of miscarriage drops dramatically.

I’m still not having any symptoms, but I’ve read that is completely normal for many women. Of course it’s still early, and there’s plenty of time for symptoms to kick in. I’ve also read that morning sickness shows up between 4 and 6 weeks, but I’m kinda hoping I’ll bypass that aspect of pregnancy 🙂 Mike and I are flying home for Christmas, and it will not be a pleasant flight with me in the bathroom half the time.

I’m still in quite a shock over this pregnancy. I had really resigned myself to it not working the first time. In fact, the first morning I took the HPT, right before Mike went to check it for me, I said “I already know it’s going to be negative” in such a matter of fact tone. I’m sure that was just me trying to prep myself for bad news, but I just couldn’t believe that we would be so lucky*. Now that it’s happened, it doesn’t quite seem real. I think it will sink in more once we get our first ultrasound. These next 3 weeks of waiting to see our baby’s heartbeat is going to be almost as agonizing as the 2ww!

*I say lucky in relative terms, since we were not so lucky in conceiving naturally.

57

That’s what my beta came back with today…57.  Can I just say holy shit!  I just can’t believe this is happening.  I am floating in a cloud right now.  I honestly did not think that this would happen for us the first go around.  But it has.  I can say it now.  I am pregnant.   I am pregnant!  Gosh, that feels so good to say.

So I have to admit, I didn’t really need the beta to confirm it for me, but it does feel good.  I woke up this morning, and the first thing I did was take another HPT.  The second line was there again, only darker.  I kept on hugging Mike over and over again, I was so excited.  But I was eager to get the blood test back to confirm it, and to make it more real.

I go in for another beta on Monday to make sure the number is increasing (it’s supposed to double every two days).  This is a little scary, since I know that there is so much that can go wrong at this point.  But I’m just going to keep on thinking positive thoughts and hope that I’m one of the lucky ones.  I have my first ultrasound around December 21st, which I am anxiously waiting for.

Oh, and for those out there who are wondering what symptoms to expect – I’ve had none so far.  There’s nothing I’ve been feeling that would indicate to me that I’m pregnant.  So don’t worry too much if you’re in the 2ww and don’t have any symptoms.  It’s perfectly normal.

could it be?

I tested this morning….a very faint second line showed up.  It’s possible that I am pregnant…

to pee or not to pee

I broke down tonight and bought a 2 pack of F.irst R.esponse pregnancy tests tonight.  The box has been staring me down, teasing me to rip it open and take the test now now now!!  But I’m strong and holding out.  Although….I may give in to test tomorrow morning, I have yet to decide.  I just don’t know if I can hold out until Friday. I’m eager to get positive results, not so eager for the negative. The good news is that I have arranged for Friday off, so I can either celebrate or wallow in self pity once I get the results.

In other news, I never heard back from the clinic on whether my embryos made it to blastocyst, but I’m guessing they didn’t since we just received our finalized bill in the mail which did not include the cost for cryopreservation. That’s disappointing because I had really expected to have at least a couple to freeze after fertilizing so many embryos. What a waste! I’m a little confused, too, because my clinic said that not many of their patients (about 10%) have embryos that will make it to blastocyst. But I’ve read online much better statistics for other clinics…some even say they wont do a transfer unless it’s a blastocyst transfer! I trust my clinic that they do a good job (they are ranked top 10% in the nation and have a 40% success rate for live birth according to SART statistics), but it just seems like they would have a better rate of growing the embryos to blastocyst. It may have something to do with the culture they use, but of course I’m only guessing since I know very little on how that works. If anyone has any info in this area, please feel free to share.

Okay, so in a completely off topic discussion not related to infertility, Mike and I have decided to get a puppy! We’ve been talking about it for a long time (years actually), and we’ve finally decided it’s time. We’re waiting until after Christmas since we’re flying to California to see my family, but hopefully we’ll have our new puppy in January. It’ll be like a birthday present for me (my birthday is January 8th). We’ve decided on a Labrador Retriever since they are supposed to be really good with children and pretty easy going. Mike wants a chocolate one, although I think they are all cute! We don’t have any pets now, so we’re starting to do some research on how to train a dog and looking into what we need to buy for the house. I know it will be a lot of work, especially in the beginning raising a puppy, but I’m really looking forward to bringing home an addition to the family.

Alright, that’s all I have. I’ll update tomorrow on whether I went through with the test (and of course the results). Although I might need some cheering up if I post negative results, so be prepared with comforting words.

5 days to go

and I’ve changed my mind…I’m going to test at home before the official test with the lab. I thought about it, and I’ve decided that I would rather know the results prior to receiving a call from the IVF clinic. If the results are negative, so be it, but I just don’t want to find out for the first time over the phone. I’m even considering taking the day off of work so I can either sulk or celebrate when I find out. If the test is negative, I am certainly not going to feel like being around anyone that day. And if the test is positive, I don’t want to have to contain my excitement, since I don’t plan on telling anyone at work until probably after the first two months.

So far I’ve had no pregnancy symptoms…not that I would really expect any this soon. In fact, I’m surprised that so many other women say they have symptoms during the first two weeks. I’ve always heard that you usually don’t feel anything until the 2nd month or so. Still, I find it reassuring when I read other women’s blogs who say they had no symptoms and had a BFP.

Despite the lack of symptoms, I’m actually starting to believe this could happen…I can see me being pregnant and being a mom. I imagine my pregnant belly, and buying maternity clothes, and planning the birth. Before I could never imagine it, therefore I thought it could never happen for me. Now that I can see it, it scares me even more that I might receive bad news this Friday.