A brilliant exploration of the natural, medical, psychological, and political facets of fertility
When Belle Boggs's "The Art of Waiting" was published in Orion in 2012, it went viral, leading to republication in Harper's Magazine, an interview on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, and a spot at the intersection of "highbrow" and "brilliant" in New York magazine's "Approval Matrix."
In that heartbreaking essay, Boggs eloquently recounts her realization that she might never be able to conceive. She searches the apparently fertile world around her--the emergence of thirteen-year cicadas, the birth of eaglets near her rural home, and an unusual gorilla pregnancy at a local zoo--for signs that she is not alone. Boggs also explores other aspects of fertility and infertility: the way longing for a child plays out in the classic Coen brothers film Raising Arizona; the depiction of childlessness in literature, from Macbeth to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; the financial and legal complications that accompany alternative means of family making; the private and public expressions of iconic writers grappling with motherhood and fertility. She reports, with great empathy, complex stories of couples who adopted domestically and from overseas, LGBT couples considering assisted reproduction and surrogacy, and women and men reflecting on childless or child-free lives.
In The Art of Waiting, Boggs deftly distills her time of waiting into an expansive contemplation of fertility, choice, and the many possible roads to making a life and making a family.
Boggs's essays about "Plan B family making," which chronicle her experiences with her spouse, doctors, and peers while dealing with infertility, touch on universal themes of hope, loss, and identity. Boggs (Mattaponi Queen) shows a profound awareness of the value of story, drawing on fictional models of infertility such as those in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, conversations with childless female writing colleagues, and Joan Didion and Adrienne Rich's writings on motherhood, as well as her own fiction. Even though she calls herself "greedy for every kind of model," her reach for connection to the world feels expansive rather than self-centered. This is true when she is playfully musing on the behavior of pregnant gorillas, or explaining the culture and many associated acronyms and neologisms of online support groups for women trying to conceive. It is also true when she connects with the alienation and shame experienced by forced-sterilization victims, the ethical dilemmas of adoptive parents, and the financial troubles of couples who are driven toward reproductive procedures that insurance does not cover. Boggs's contemplative view of waiting as a mentally active practice offers comfort to those who cannot get exactly what they need even by the hardest of wishing.