Many women undergo the experience of living in a space where they don’t know whether or not they will ever be a mother. This space is ill-defined, a kind of no-man’s-land between the states of non-parenthood and parenthood. Some people pass through this space so quickly they don’t even notice; while others linger expectantly, held prisoner by hope then despair.
Miranda Ward, an American author living in the UK, has now written about her own experiences in this land in her new book; Adrift – Fieldnotes From Almost-Motherhood.
Her story takes us through 6 years where Miranda, now 33, struggled to conceive. She experienced recurrent miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy, an operation to remove her left fallopian tube and two cycles of IVF.
Adrift starts with the decision she and her now husband took to have a child.
Miranda takes up the story.
Miranda Ward – Adrift – Fieldnotes From Almost-Motherhood
“I hadn’t really considered that it might be more complicated than just making a decision. What happens when your body isn’t cooperating? Everyone around you seems to be having babies without any effort. You feel like the only person in the world for whom this is a struggle.”
There is a prevailing cultural narrative that women have control of their bodies, which leads to a subconscious belief that pregnancy is a choice that fundamentally comes down to the woman. This makes it hard to accept that nature can put a spoke in the wheel. This was the case with Miranda, who said, “The decision was the thing that took the time and the work; now that we’d decided, we were more than halfway there!”
But time went on. “A few months is no big deal. A few months is nothing. Doctors aren’t interested in a few months. I wasn’t even, at first, interested in a few months. A few months after I threw away next month’s pack of pills it was still fun: a game whose resolution was already known and could be enjoyed without worry.”
And time in such lonely spaces, in such limbo, is not linear; it is not a simple journey from A to B. “I’d never thought about the months that could feel like years, the weeks that could feel like months, the tricks that time plays on us all. I’d thought the narrative was uncomplicated linear and inevitable.”
Under such conditions it’s natural for the human mind to struggle to control and interpret the situation. Miranda explains it as resorting to a kind of magical thinking. “All the walks, all the resolutions, all the bargains we strike, sometimes without even knowing we’re striking them. The repetitions, the superstitions, that start to shape a life. And then the start of a new month, then another, and then the next.”
She describes it as a state of unknowing, exemplified by a friend who, while being in the space of limbo, compulsively took multiple pregnancy tests. Even though not a single one of them could alter the outcome, when not a single one of them could do anything but reflect her own unknowing back at her.
Happily, for Miranda, the limbo of not knowing finally ended when she underwent a second round of IVF treatment. This resulted in the birth of her son, Felix. This coincided with her finishing the first draft of Adrift. Miranda said, “It was important for me to end the book before I knew if I was to have a baby.” This emphasised that, ultimately, this is appropriate for a book about the state of not knowing.
The book is important because it shares knowledge of what is, by definition a unique condition of loneliness experienced by many women. It also offers some philosophical advice on how to live with uncertainty and some new ways to think about the nature and fluidity of the female body. It has the potential to help many people.
Adrift – Fieldnotes From Almost-Motherhood, by Miranda Ward is available from most online bookstores in both hardcopy and electronic formats.