From Seal Press September 2012 Press Release:
In February 2011, 61-year-old Kristine Casey delivered the greatest gift of all to her daughter, Sara Connell: Sara’s son, Finnean. At that moment, Kristine—the gestational carrier of Sara and her husband Bill’s child—became the oldest woman ever to give birth in Chicago. Bringing in Finn: An Extraordinary Surrogacy Story (Seal Press / September 2012 / $24.00) tells this modern family’s remarkable—and until now, untold—surrogacy story.
After trying to conceive naturally without success, Sara and her husband Bill dedicated years to a variety of fertility treatments—but after Sara lost a third pregnancy (including the loss of twins at twenty-two weeks), they started to give up their hope. When Kristine offered to be their surrogate, they were shocked; but Kristine was clear that helping Sara become a mother felt like a calling, something she felt inspired to do. In this achingly honest memoir, Connell recounts the tragedy and heartbreak of losing pregnancies; the process of opening her heart and mind to the idea of her sixty-one-year-old mother carrying her child for her; and the profound bond that blossomed between mother and daughter as a result of their unique experience together.
Although my free time is very limited these days, I had heard about this book and was interested to read it. So when a publicist from Seal Press contacted me through this blog and asked me to review it, I was happy to oblige.
Bringing in Finn was a quick read for me. I found the author's writing style very readable, and although our paths through infertility were different, I could relate to her story. It bore a resemblance to many I have read in this community, at least up to the point where her mother offers to be her gestational carrier. (I can't recall running across a blog of anyone whose mother had carried a surrogate pregnancy for her.) Like many of us, Sara first tried to achieve natural conception, to enhance her fertility with eastern medicine practices and then eventually moved on to timed intercourse and stims and to pursuing parenthood through IVF.
Sara writes poignantly about the emotions she experienced as a hopeful wife just starting to try to conceive, as an infertility patient and as a mother who lost twin boys at 22 weeks gestation. She also does a good job of telling the story of her relationship with her parents before, during and after these experiences.
I think the part I enjoyed most about the book was how the surrogate pregnancy deepened the relationship between Sara and her mother. And I couldn't help thinking as I read how my own mother would NEVER volunteer to do something like that at age 60 (heck, at age 50!). What an exceptional person her mother must be!
I found a few things about Sara, as related in the book, to be remarkable and unusual. Not so much so that I believed them to be untrue; for me, they served more to highlight how, in more ways than one, her experience was outside the norm I have come to know for patients with infertility. First, it seemed that she and her husband remained positive and grateful throughout the process, despite the losses and failures. I know firsthand that this is hard to do, indeed, impossible for many of us.
Second, Sara talks about how her relationship with Bill, her husband, was deepened by their experiences. I certainly think that dealing with infertility and taking an alternative path to parenthood strengthened my relationship with MM in many ways, but I know from reading blogs of others over the past few years that infertility often has the opposite effect on a marriage.
Finally, Sara is the only infertility patient I know who actually obeyed her clinic's instruction not to POAS before her first beta! LOL! She followed this edict so closely during her treatment cycles that she is incredulous when she finds out her mother cheated and used a HPT the morning of her first beta. OK, I kid a little. . . there must be *some* other people who actually follow this instruction besides Sara, but they are few and far between, I'd say, at least based on my experience. (Even I, who was never much of a one for POAS, tested before my first beta.)
As I have found to be true of most books that talk about infertility, there were minor inaccuracies. For example, when writing about her first IVF transfer, the author at one point talks about how one or more of the embryos would be "implanted" in her uterus in less than an hour, when I believe what she actually meant to express was that the embryos would be "transferred." (It's a minor distinction, but a crucial one to anyone who has undergone IVF. There is no way to make embryos implant; all you can do is transfer them to the uterus and hope for the best.)
Also, when writing about her mother's pregnancy as her gestational carrier, the writer makes reference to viability, the point at which the baby can survive on its own outside the womb, as being "somewhere between thirty and thirty-five weeks." As a former nurse and a mom of preemie twins, I know that viability is actually more often around 24-25 weeks gestation, and in fact, I know of quite a few babies born before 30 weeks who have not only survived but thrived.
Still, most of the descriptions of her experiences with treatment and with pregnancy and loss seemed accurate, and her descriptions of her thoughts and feelings through the experience ran true.
The only other question that ran through my mind as I read the book was to wonder why Sara and Bill decided to take her mother up on her offer to act as their gestational surrogate rather than Sara's attempting another pregnancy herself. Sara seems to attribute this to her extreme anxiety and fear after the loss of twins at 22 weeks due to incompetent cervix, and I do not doubt or discount those feelings. But I know other women who have lost babies for the same reason who have gone on to successfully carry pregnancies to term, and it did not seem from reading the book that any doctor ever told Sara that she would've been physically unable to do this.
Ultimately, Sara and Bill were able to achieve their goal of parenthood through her mother's pregnancy with Finn, so perhaps they had simply decided that becoming parents was more important to them than the method by which they did so. (BTW, this is not a spoiler alert, since Sara is pictured with Finn on the inside back cover. . . and he is an exceptionally cute baby.)
Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to a friend. If that friend was still in the throes of infertility and treatment, or had suffered her own loss(es), I might caution her about reading an emotional account of someone going through similar experiences. (I am not a crier by nature, and I bawled like a baby when I read the book So Close early on in my own TTC journey, not long after I'd been diagnosed as infertile.) Nonetheless, I still think it is a worthwhile read, and I would probably read other books by the author.
Does Bringing in Finn sound like a book you'd like to read? If so, you're in luck because Seal Press has agreed to provide a free copy of the book to one of my lucky readers! Leave me a comment, along with a way to contact you via email (if your Blogger profile does not include that information), and I will choose someone at random after midnight PDT on Wednesday, October 10.