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Waiting for DaisyReview - Waiting for Daisy
A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother
by Peggy Orenstein
Bloomsbury USA, 2007
Review by Kevin M. Purday
Mar 18th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 12)

The subtitle says it all -- almost. This book is a wonderful read. It could be a novel but actually it is a piece of autobiography with a very specific focus on women and childbearing. The author is a well know writer on a range of feminist topics.

The book is very clever because it is deliberately designed to raise a huge number of issues about childbearing and motherhood. The author deftly weaves all these issues into her autobiographical story -- so deftly that we hardly notice by the end of the book that she has actually covered almost every aspect of becoming a mother that one could think of.

The story starts with the author's publication of her first book -- Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap. She was famous and fielding requests for interviews and lectures and all the while contemplating her second book. No way could she even begin to think about starting a family just then. And so the saga begins. This part, like indeed the whole book, strikes the reader as being intensely honest. The author reveals all her feelings at that time about women who give up their jobs to become full-time parents and admits that she was not very sympathetic towards them.

All of this of course changes when she and her husband finally make the decision to try for a family and she encounters problems. First of all, she has only one ovary and secondly she is well into her thirties which means, as a fertility doctor informs her, that her statistical chances of conceiving her first child are plummeting rapidly. She then recounts the sorry tale of how she tried more or less every trick in the book to conceive -- all the fertility treatments, Western and Chinese, plus in vitro fertilization and eventually the in vitro fertilization of a donated egg from a much younger friend. All of this was to no avail because -- and this is a deeply moving strand of the story -- she ended up having three miscarriages.

Another phase in her life begins with an attempt to adopt an illegitimate child from Japan. Apparently girls who give birth to illegitimate children there can avoid the stigma if at birth the child is given the family name of adoptive parents. The author very carefully encapsulates all the thoughts that prospective adoptive parents have about the process. What is particularly illuminating is the horrendous bureaucracy of the whole process which has been made so much worse in recent years because of the abuses that have taken place. It is because of the bureaucracy that eventually the adoption falls through.

Eventually, and much against the odds, the author falls pregnant without any extra help from the medics and this time she carries the baby through to term. She gives birth to a healthy girl whom the author and her husband call Daisy -- hence the title. However, before this happy ending there are several detours. One, for example, deals with the girls and young women who were survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Many if not most of these unfortunate people were infertile because of the radiation dose they received and often they found it impossible to attract husbands. Another detour is into those young Japanese women who today have chosen not to have children but to lead highly independent lives. Along the way we are invited to think about how money and profit are distorting medical advice when it comes to fertility problems and a whole host of other issues.

This is a delightful read and a very thought-provoking book. It certainly makes one aware of many of the issues surrounding the decision to have or not to have children. For anyone interested in these issues this book would be a purchase that provides both enjoyment and a great deal of food for thought.


 

© 2008 Kevin M. Purday

Kevin M. Purday, Principal of the Shanghai Rego International School


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