Narrative as a Method for Change
The loss of a desired pregnancy or the inability to experience pregnancy are intensely personal phenomena; these losses are also, in our culture at least, extremely private. Communicating Pregnancy Loss is a collection of first-person narratives about the experience of pregnancy loss. Although there is no shortage of books that help prospective parents cope with an unintended pregnancy loss or ‘survive’ infertility, most of these books are authored by physicians or therapists and address pregnancy loss through the language of guidance. This book is different. It is the first of its kind because the contributors (primarily communication scholars but also healthcare personnel and other scholars from the social sciences) tell their story of loss in their own words, offering a diverse collection of narratives that span experience and identity. The authors employ various feminist theories, narrative theories, and performance theories as well as other well-known communication theories and concepts. The book’s narrative approach to writing about and thereby understanding pregnancy loss offers readers a method for changing the way pregnancy loss is understood personally, culturally, and politically.
12. Once Upon a Time: A Tale of Infertility, In Vitro Fertilization, and (Re)Birth
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Fairy tales have always loomed large in my imagination. I read Grimm’s Fairy Tales at a very young age and found them to be confusing, terrifying, and fascinating. I continued to return to fairy tales by reimagining them in plays I wrote and directed. I liked turning the passive princesses into independent girls who rescued themselves. When my husband and I first started talking about having kids, I often pictured myself reading my revisionist feminist fairy tales to my spunky daughter.
When the kids didn’t come and I started on my journey of infertility treatment, I found myself returning to the fairy tales again, only now I noticed different things. I was struck by how many of them include longing for a child. “Rapunzel” begins, “There were once a man and a woman who had long, in vain, wished for a child” (Grimm, 2009b, p. 36). “Thumbelina” begins, “Once upon a time there was a woman who wanted a tiny, tiny child. She had no idea how to get one, so she went to see a witch” (Andersen, 1999, p. 30). In “Kip the Enchanted Cat,” the queen tells Kip, “You are luckier than I… . I may be queen, but I have no babies” (The Russian, 1999, p. 55). These fairy tales portray infertility as an unbearable longing, the beginning of a dangerous journey into the unknown, or a curse of bad luck.
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