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Incubation time is too long, even for the baby-obsessed

All right, already.

By the time we get to the culmination of Peggy Orenstein's new memoir, "Waiting for Daisy," we're so ready for her to finally have a baby that we want to stand up and applaud. For her; for Daisy, the daughter she bears at nearly 42, after six years of trying; for Steven, her long-suffering husband; and, not least of all, for ourselves, for making it through the 226 pages of Orenstein's narrative.

Orenstein is, to be sure, a fine writer. You may be familiar with her work from the New York Times Magazine, Salon or the New Yorker. Her smooth, elegant sentences and paragraphs stream along like so much baby oil, with welcome flecks of a truly funny sense of humor here and there -- very much the writerly style of Anne Lamott, an author and fellow Californian Orenstein admires and appears to know on a personal level as well. (Lamott endorses this book with a gushing cover blurb -- appropriately enough for the subject matter, as you'll likely best remember Lamott as the author of the popular bestseller about motherhood, "Operating Instructions," which is itself an excellent read).

But still, 226 pages chronicling one woman's six-year journey through infertility -- a journey which is, of necessity, doggedly repetitive -- does make even the most interested of readers long for closure by, about, page 150 or so, no matter how much we like the sound of this author's voice.

The short version: infertility is hell. Especially when, as Orenstein describes it, your struggle with it is plagued by doubts and fears that you may have brought some of your problems on yourself -- by choosing a career over motherhood; by using contraception; by delaying a decision about childbearing until it's almost too late.

Orenstein, the author of two other books with similarly long and a tad too precious subtitles including "Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half-Changed World," did not want to have children at all, she writes, until she hit her mid-30s. (Her husband, documentary filmmaker Steven Okazaki, did, but he didn't pressure her.) Then, she changed her mind -- with a vengeance. Babies became her single-minded obsession, Orenstein writes, and as she grew older and achieving a pregnancy grew ever harder and less statistically likely, her mania veered out of control, threatening her marriage, her health, her relationships with her friends, and her own sanity. In the end, she writes, she "obliterated" much of her 30s with her pursuit of motherhood. (And, as Orenstein tellingly confesses, in this pursuit the goal of motherhood itself even got lost, subsumed in her quest to attain and sustain a pregnancy -- never mind the end product that the pregnancy would produce.)

There is much honesty in Orenstein's story. This is a woman who writes of her infertility drugs, "A girl could buy a lot of shoes with that kind of scratch," and of the thought of adoption, "Adoption still seemed compensatory to me, like a last choice rather than the best one."

Ouch. There is also much equivocation in her tale -- not in the telling of it, for Orenstein is nothing if not confident as a writer, but in the actions and thoughts she recounts. Peeing on a stick and finding herself pregnant, the first time around, Orenstein writes of her reaction and her husband's: "Then we looked at each other again, our eyes wide. I felt like Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross in the final scene of 'The Graduate,' staring slack-jawed out of the back of a bus: we'd finally gotten what we thought we wanted. What now?"

That pregnancy, like two others that Orenstein goes through before giving birth to Daisy, ends in miscarriage.

Orenstein's thoughtful writing and smart, funny attitude make this memoir worth reading, even if only in parts. But be prepared for the mental toll of the story within. It took Orenstein six years to "wait" for Daisy -- reading this book doesn't take nearly that much time, but it's a long road nonetheless.

Charity Vogel is a News features reporter.


Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother

By Peggy Orenstein


226 pages, $24.

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