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Book cracks open fertility industry

Special to The Recorder

“Cracked Open” by Miriam Zoll (Interlink Publishing, 200 pages, $20)

Every year, more and more Americans come into contact with the field of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) while trying to have a baby. Sometimes, they end up with multiple children. Sometimes they end up with no children at all.

The process of trying to have a baby with the help of science can be exhausting. Would-be mothers are often so shot up with hormones that their emotions swing wildly. When the technology works, most parents decide that it has been worth the stress. When it doesn’t work, they are often devastated—and broke.

Nevertheless, because conceiving a child by any means is such a private matter in our society, even when we know people who are going through fertility treatments of some sort, we seldom discuss it.

Miriam Zoll of Conway wades straight into that discussion with her new book “Cracked Open.” Subtitled “Liberty, Fertility, and the Pursuit of High-Tech Babies,” this memoir describes her own struggle for many years to conceive a child, first via in vitro fertilization and then with egg donors.

Zoll frankly explains that, like many contemporary American women, she put off having children. She was happy in her career. She carried emotional baggage from her childhood that made her wonder whether she would be a good parent. She married late. She thought she had plenty of time.

When, at the age of 40, she decided that the time to conceive had come, she apparently expected that she would go to the doctor and get pregnant fairly quickly. She points out in her book that the fertility field is relatively unregulated and that most people have no idea that the majority of fertility treatments are unsuccessful, particularly for older patients.

“Cracked Open” depicts the growing disillusionment Zoll and her husband experienced with the ways in which science and scientists treat people who want to be parents — and with what she views as society’s implicit promise that having a baby after 35 is a piece of cake.

Zoll honestly recalls her own obsessions, mistakes, and periods of depression during her struggle to conceive. The book’s only major flaw is that it spends less space on her eventual path away from the depression and the struggle than it does on describing them.

Even so, Zoll has succeeded in calling attention to an increasingly common yet under-discussed segment of American life. Her dramatic story should be read by anyone considering a journey into the strange, unnatural land of fertility technology.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of The Pudding Hollow Cookbook (www.merrylion.com) and Pulling Taffy (www.pullingtaffy.com). She is always looking for new books from Franklin County-related authors to review for this paper. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com.

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