Friday, March 18, 2011

Title: Inconceivable
Subtitle: A Medical Mistake, the Baby We Couldn't Keep, and Our CHoice to Deliver the Ultimate Gift
Author: Carolyn & Sean Savage
Pages: 304
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Harper One (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: February 14, 2011

is Carolyn & Sean's true story of being mistakenly inseminated with another couple's embryos during an IVF procedure. In so doing, Carolyn unwittingly becomes a surrogate mother for this other couple's child while giving away her last opportunity, due to her age, for a healthy pregnancy that could have borne another child.

I had read about this story in PEOPLE magazine a while ago and was interested to learn more. Despite being a full memoir length, I still was as interested as I was in the original article I read. In terms of readability, this book was engaging and flowed well through the nine month experience and then some. It was broken up into four parts (first, second, third, and yes, a fourth, trimester) that had several chapters each. Each chapter has a part told from Carolyn's point of view and a part from Sean's. I had a couple adverse reactions that I realize were completely personal. For whatever reason, I naturally related more to the other couple in the situation and that led me to feel that the authors were unfairly harsh about them. There was a lot of anger expressed towards them for not being more grateful to the Savages for maintaining the pregnancy, for automatically assuming the child was completely theirs. There was talk about how the Savages were doing, it seems, a favor by not fighting for custody. (!!!) It might be that, dealing with infertility myself, I may have felt judgmental because this couple already has three children which made it difficult for me to relate since I have yet to have one. Of course, then I realized the other couple also already has two as well. But it still seemed like there was a lack of empathy for what the other couple must have felt, their embryos being essentially given away, the life of their child solely dependent on this couple. That aspect frustrated me.

But, ultimately, I do agree that this family did do something great for the other couple by essentially risking Carolyn's health by bringing their child to term. And just because the child wasn't genetically theirs, they treated the child as though he was and continue to feel they will always love this child as their own. And while I feel judgmental about their reactions about the other family and the way they were painted, I don't know the other couple and it's possible their judgments about them were more accurate than I realize. The situation was extremely unfair to both couples and neither one was really in a worse situation than the other in my opinion.

Those more religious readers may appreciate that aspect of this book, as the Savages are Catholic and talk, not too significantly but somewhat, about how this affected their decisions. They also talked about the things they didn't like people to say to them like "it's all God's plan". Despite their religious background, they felt offended by the fact that God would have planned such difficulties for them. So that aspect of the Savage's experience was definitely insightful as an outsider to better understand the totality of the emotional toll this took on them. I mean, I cannot imagine the horror of, after desperately hoping to become pregnant, becoming so with another person's child that you have to give away after enduring an entire pregnancy. But then, the religious aspect was also frustrating, as the Catholic stance is that these fertility treatments are immoral. No one dealing with infertility wants to hear that. (And trust me, I had a friend tell me that once...)

Overall this was a well-done book for anyone interested in more details about the situation. I will say as a note for those dealing with infertility to just be aware of whether you really want to spend that much time reading about pregnancy and babies etc. I think I overestimated my "okay-ness" with it and by the end I was definitely looking forward to a complete escape from the topic!


Zibilee said...

It does sound like this is a book that would touch a lot of nerves for me too, and I can imagine that it must have been a tough read for you at times. It sounds like there were a lot of controversial issues within this story, and I think it would be an interesting read for me. I also can't imagine how the other family must feel to have this book out, portraying them as bad people. Not very nice, I think.

heathertlc said...

This is certainly a horrible situation to find yourself in - having gone through IVF (unsuccessfully) I absolutely cannot imagine how I would have handled this.

Thanks for giving this controversial book chance. I enjoyed seeing your take on it!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Having gone through years and years of fertility issues and treatment, I am impressed that you were able to read this. I would have been a mess. There are so many things that you don't want to hear when you are trying to have a baby, and the emotions are so charged. People in these positions (the authors) have to be careful not to be too judgemental. Ultimately though, this story sounds interesting and horrifying.

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I've been hearing about this book, and imagining the situation and all of its horror.

From what I understand, though, the other couple has also written a we should be able to see their point of view, too.

Jenny said...

Heather: This is definitely a controversial book for a couple reasons. Apparently the other couple recently wrote a book too so maybe I'll get to that one eventually!

Heather(tlc): I have yet to start that part of my journey mainly because I'm scared to... definitely is a horrible situation!

Sandy: It's funny because I thought it would be fine because I'd relate somehow.... NO CLUE why I thought that, LOL!! It did turn out to be interesting but I definitely needed a change in reading material by the end, haha.

Laurel: For some reason I thought their book was pending and then I looked it up and saw the cover and realized that book came out recently! I need a break from the topic but may read theirs eventually too because I want to hear their side.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Powerful review Jenny. I was curious about what this was really about. I have been seeing it everywhere. How painful for both parties, it seems. I can't imagine.
We are currently trying for a second and it is growing increasing difficult. It's frustrating when you think it's something so simple can be so challening. My heart goes out to both of the families.
Great review.

Juju at Tales of said...

Wow. As a woman who struggles with infertility, this woman sounds like a rock star to me. Great review!

10yrstillhoping said...

Hi Jenny,

Thanks for your review of our book. I just want to clarify a few things....

First, when Sean and I decided to write this book, we were absolutely committed to being honest about our experience. With that commitment to honesty came the reality that we had to share some of our more unflattering moments including my rather visceral reaction to the genetic mother of the baby I was carrying. I shared these moments/feelings because I didn't want people to think that I "flipped on a dime" and assumed a role as a gestational carrier without some real human emotions (including resentment, anger and jealousy). As I struggled during the pregnancy, I just couldn't muster the emotional reserve to empathize with the genetic mother's plight . Thank goodness time can bring perspective!

The genetic parents wrote a book and published it in May 2010, when their son was seven months old. The paperback version was released two weeks before our book was published. (They were much quicker at writing their book than we were!) I recommend giving it a read. It may help you understand their journey, and better understand our reaction to them.

Best of luck in your journey to motherhood. TTC is tough....I truly hope and pray you get some success soon!

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