Saturday, September 25, 2010

When You Least Expect It: Sensitive portrayal of infertility and adoption

When You Least Expect It: A NovelWhen You Least Expect It by Whitney Gaskell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Young professionals India and Jeremy are struggling with infertility. After several IVF and other infertility treatments, they have finally given up their hopes of having their own natural-born child. They begin to consider adoption as a viable alternative.

Enter Lainey, a shallow, selfish, and damaged 20-year-old who is the daughter of an alcoholic mom and runaway father. She gets pregnant by her dumb jock boyfriend and decides to give her baby up for adoption so she can land a fortune to fund her trip to Los Angeles (to star in a reality show).

Being a generous, magnanimous soul, India invites Lainey to move into their guest house because Lainey doesn't have a place to live. (Her boyfriend has kicked her out.) This awkward, unconventional arrangement inevitably has its hiccups, but India and Lainey form a tenuous friendship of sorts.

My favorite scene was when Jeremy's clueless, insensitive brother and his wife--who are pregnant--come for dinner. Stacey (and Jeremy's mother) represent all the completely self-obsessed pregnant women I have ever known. She not only blathers on about being pregnant, but she also constantly pokes digs at the fact that India could not possibly understand what it is to be pregnant and makes insensitive comments such as "I wish I could pay someone else to be pregnant for me." And it gave me great satisfaction when they got their comeuppance!

This scene called to mind an event I attended soon after I experienced my first miscarriage. Two of my friends--pregnant--proceeded to go on and on about their pregnancies, without any care for the fact that I was grieving. I ended up retreating into the bathroom to cry. When I finally mustered the courage to tell them how upset I had been (a few years later), I think they perceived me as being overly sensitive.

After experiencing the deep grief of the NICU, infertility, and high-risk pregnancy, I have absolutely zero tolerance for pregnant women complaining about minor aches and pains. The way I see it, a healthy pregnancy is a gift that should not be taken for granted.

It also reminded me of those clueless sorts who make comments about wishing that their babies would arrive early so they wouldn't have to be pregnant any longer...or saying to someone who's grieving that it was "meant to be." We all know clueless people like that.
One thing I have learned over the years--after experiencing infertility and infant loss myself--is to never, ever ask people if (1) they have children, or (2) if they are planning to have children. Never. It's a minefield and potentially hurtful.

Gaskell sensitively portrayed the desperation of infertility and the hopelessness of being young, single, and pregnant, combined with the special agony of giving up your child for adoption. She treats each of her characters with great respect and gives them depth and character. I enjoyed this book.
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