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The Art of Waiting

On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood

By Belle Boggs
10-minute read
Audio available
The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood by Belle Boggs

The Art of Waiting (2016) details the social narratives surrounding birth, pregnancy and parenting. These blinks offer poignant personal anecdotes alongside historical examples to shift the spotlight onto the often unheard stories of adoption, in vitro fertilization and forced sterilization.

  • Expectant mothers
  • Couples struggling to conceive
  • Anyone considering adoption or in vitro fertilization

Belle Boggs’ stories and essays have appeared in Harper’s, the Paris Review, Orion, Slate and many other publications. She is a professor in North Carolina State University’s MFA program and the author of Mattaponi Queen.

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The Art of Waiting

On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood

By Belle Boggs
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood by Belle Boggs
Synopsis

The Art of Waiting (2016) details the social narratives surrounding birth, pregnancy and parenting. These blinks offer poignant personal anecdotes alongside historical examples to shift the spotlight onto the often unheard stories of adoption, in vitro fertilization and forced sterilization.

Key idea 1 of 6

The narratives around birth and pregnancy are contradictory.

Do you remember those awkward sex-ed classes we had to sit through in high school?

Whether we knew it or not, courses like these were meant to teach us about the human anatomy and the privileged place that the concept of birth occupies in our society. In fact, from an early age, most kids are taught to value reproduction and child-rearing; indeed, cultures uphold the belief that children are the center of all life, as evidenced by sayings like “the children are the future.”

Beyond that, the desire for biological children is seamlessly coded into most world religions and art. Just consider the Hebrew Bible, which commands Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, or the Hindu belief that children are gifts and a reflection of karma.

Even the earliest known works of figurative art, produced around 35,000 years ago, feature exaggerated sexual characteristics like wide hips, voluptuous breasts and prominent vulvas. These artworks are thought to depict fertility goddesses.

So, due to millennia of cultural conditioning, most people now assume that their futures should include children. This belief is so ingrained that, during her time as a K-12 teacher, the author found that most of her young students saw themselves as future parents.

However, we’re also taught about contraception and the importance of protection against both sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted births. As a result, 62 percent of American women of childbearing age use some form of birth control and, at current rates, 30 percent of them will have had abortions by their forty-fifth birthdays.

Yet despite this contradiction between the simultaneous promotion of fertility and contraception, humanity has managed to reduce births with great success. We’ve been so successful that, compared to other members of the animal kingdom, humans have relatively few children, at a worldwide average of just 2.5 kids per woman.

These numbers are lower in developed countries and higher in poorer societies – but not in any extraordinary way. In developing nations, women have around four to six children on average, about half of whom die before sexual maturity.

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