This week, the book I have spent five years researching and writing got a little closer to being published. For any readers who are new to my blog, this project is very close to my heart for so many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it spent over a decade percolating in my brain before I decided to set it loose.
The book is a series of fifteen stories that detail a woman’s journey through the most difficult decision she may ever make – whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. My interviews were focused on the process of making the decision more than the actual choice they made. I was interested in how each individual approaches the process of deliberation; do you ask yourself moral, practical, religious questions? Whom do you share the information with? How did issues of age and marital status factor in for you? The women were incredibly different in so many ways – age, background, socioeconomic status, marital/relationship status, whether or not the pregnancy was planned – but bonded together in their isolation. Regardless of their differences, each of these women was faced with trying to make a decision in a finite amount of time that they could live with for the rest of their lives. Each of these women was ultimately the sole decision-maker.
I had to force myself to stop interviewing after three years. I was so touched by the response that I got when I put the word out that I was looking for women to talk to. I was even more touched by the trust each of these women placed in me when she agreed to tell me her story. I was fascinated and appalled, saddened and proud to listen to their stories and I honestly could have gone on forever, but for the compulsion inside me that reminded me these stories needed to be heard by others as well. I chose the fifteen most compelling stories. Stories of planned and unplanned pregnancies, adoptions, abortions, fertility treatments and genetic anomalies. Stories of women who are sisters, mothers, daughters, aunts and co-workers of some of us. Women who could be any of us. I hope that the stories educate and inspire and touch some center of compassion inside each of us that transcends politics or religion or laws and allows us to simply read the stories and acknowledge the difficulty each of these women faced and perhaps enlarge our capacity for understanding other individuals around us.
I offered my manuscript to five agents at a writer’s conference last week. One of them wasn’t terribly excited, but the others all seemed intrigued. Each of them asked me some variation of the question, “Who is your audience?” and, I must admit, the question sincerely baffled me. Knowing that the vast majority of book readers in America are women, and that women love to share their stories with each other, whether they involve difficult subjects or simply how our children misbehave when we get on the phone, I can’t imagine a woman who wouldn’t be interested in this book. So I began talking to other people at the conference. Perhaps the sample was skewed because these were other writers, but I got a tremendous reception from everyone I talked to, men and women alike. Because of the apolitical nature of the book and perhaps because of the popularity of memoir-type books, an idea for a book of stories such as this was very well-received.
When I got home, I was determined to find statistics to back up my intuition. I learned, via a quick internet search, that there are roughly 60 million women of “childbearing age” (14-40) in the US and, at any given time, fully six million of them are pregnant. One point two million of those pregnancies end in abortion each year, and half a million babies are born to teenagers each year. Adoption statistics are difficult to come by because many of them are privately handled, as are fertility treatment statistics, but I would think it’s safe to say that there are millions of people in this country every year whose lives are touched by the issue of pregnancy in general and who either have to make tough decisions about it or know someone who has.
I am hoping that the agents to whom I submitted my manuscript will come to this conclusion as well. For now, I’ll wait for them to read it and see what happens.