Crossing the Moon
Paulette Bates Alden
Hungry Mind Press
It’s not often that I revisit our infertility days.
Occasionally, of course, reminders surface – the most prominent ones being the almost-12 year old twins currently living with me and The Husband.
Sometimes there are other remnants.
A question from a new friend, or from an ever-so-inquisitive daughter.
A forgotten song.
For just a moment – or a few moments – I’m back to the future, like Marty McFly in his DeLorean.
I don’t stay long. Just long enough to still have a sense of wonder of it all, and gratitude, and amazement that despite everything in the past baker’s dozen years, this really happened and yes, Melissa, this really is your life.
* * * *
I was reminded of the infertility days earlier this week and in my typical style, I went all fangirl on Facebook.
Indulge me in a fangirl moment. Paulette Bates Alden just friended me on Goodreads. She wrote the most transformative, inspiring, mind-shifting (for me) memoir that I read during our infertility days (CROSSING THE MOON). One of the best books ever.#verklempt
Thus begat an email exchange with Paulette about Crossing the Moon (among other things), which is A FREE DOWNLOAD TODAY THROUGH OCTOBER 12 on Amazon.
I can’t really put into words how important this book was for me when I read it back in 1997. Well, I think it was 1997. Honestly, it could have been anytime between 1996 (when it was published) and 2000. Those days of driving 25 minutes to the infertility clinic to get blood drawn before turning around and driving the opposite direction to work, of waiting on HcG counts like they were Powerball numbers (which they kind of were), of constantly feeling like a pendulum of “should we or should we not?” emotions all seem so very far away now.
What I remember distinctly is reading Crossing the Moon on the porch of our townhouse, watching the sun go down and feeling like this nightly ritual was a metaphor for this seemingly futile quest. (Ours was a six year infertility journey.) Crossing the Moon was one of those books that arrived when I was struggling with some big, life-changing decisions – namely, whether I truly wanted to continue down this road in pursuit of some nebulous, definitely no-way-in-hell-are-you-getting-your-money-back guarantee goal.
I wasn’t in this alone, of course. Like the saying goes, it takes two to tango.
Or, in our case, a whole damn team of fertility specialists to drive you to the dance.
Before childfree was a lifestyle choice touted on magazine covers, there was Paulette Bates Alden quietly in the shadows with Crossing the Moon, a little memoir that even she admits didn’t get much attention when it was published in 1996. But it’s about so much more.
As the jacket cover says, “the author recounts her initial ambivalance about motherhood, the pain and frustration of following a course of treatment for infertility, and ultimately the birth of a new self: a writer, comfortable at last with her family of two. Inevitably, the book also touches a wide array of other issues: aging parents; being raised Southern and female in the fifties; the trade-offs between a life of work and one devoted to nurture; coping with grief and loss.”
As much as I love Crossing the Moon, it’s not one of those books I re-read often. It’s rare that I re-read any book, but with this, I hadn’t cracked the spine for quite some time.
When Paulette got in touch on Goodreads, I told her I’d be happy to do a blog post promoting Crossing the Moon being available as a free download. (That wasn’t the reason for her reaching out; that happened to be coincidental. And even if it was, I wouldn’t have cared.) So I decided to re-read the lines I’d underlined so long ago, to try and figure out, why, exactly, they were so resonant to me then and why they are still important all these 16+ years later.
(Yes, I underlined. In a book. So unusual for me, but I guess somehow I knew that I’d need to access these words in the future.)
“I had been going along so nicely, I thought, my ducks if not in a row at least in a circle, thinking I knew who I was, that I understood my life, when suddenly I felt like one of those contestants on To Tell the Truth: Will the real me please stand up? Several of us did. There was the me who felt her heart would break if I didn’t have a child, the me who felt her life would be over if I did, and the me who was stumbling around as if shell-shocked going “But …but …but …” (pg. 37)
“I had always assumed that the past, like the future, would always be there, but lately I was getting the feeling that I was wrong on both counts. Both were in danger of disappearing.” (pg. 38)
“I felt that I was an either-or sort of person, someone who could do either motherhood or writing ‘right’ – but not both of them. I was someone who had to choose. But for all my talk about choices, I was afraid to make them, because choosing meant giving something up.” (pg. 111-112)
Make no mistake: here, in 2013, I don’t regret our choice. Not for a minute. Still, it feels like exhuming a body, reading these phrases again. A glimpse down the path not taken, as if I had had the ability then to peek into this crystal ball and see this life and the manifestations of these decisions.
My hardback edition of Crossing the Moon has a different cover than this one that’s currently free on Amazon. (You’re getting the point of this post, aren’t you?) This one has a subtitle that mine lacks: “A woman’s struggle to have a child yields a joyful surprise – the birth of a new self.”
And that’s it, right there. That’s what I couldn’t quite see all those years ago. We could have gone in any direction all those years ago, and no matter what happened, that would have been the result. A new self.
What I didn’t realize is that it was the journey itself that gave birth to the new self. One that would have been born no matter what path we chose.