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Laura Bush on infertility

July 16, 2010

I bought my mother-in-law a copy of Laura Bush’s new autobiography, Spoken from the Heart, as a birthday gift. Then I waited a couple of weeks to give it to her, so I could read parts of it first. Happy birthday to me! My mother-in-law loves Republican politicians.  I have a thing for First Ladies of any party.

There were several interesting threads about infertility. Laura Bush’s mom suffered from recurrent miscarriages– many of them later term.  Laura was the only child that survived, and she said she often daydreamed of having (living) siblings.  Laura and George Bush tried to get pregnant for a long time before the twins were conceived. They were pursuing adoption with an orphanage in Texas, and she had started doing “hormone treatments” — I have no idea what that meant in the early 1980s. When Laura did finally get pregnant, she was so afraid of losing the babies (in part because of her mother’s experience) that she did nothing to prepare. She was on bedrest in the hospital for a long time at the end of the pregnancy, and friends set up the nursery for her while she was in the hospital. Because of concerns that she might have a miscarriage, doctors did some procedure where they stitched her cervix closed —  that was prior to the hospital stay. Whoa, kids –do they still do that?

Laura Bush writes well, and I particularly enjoyed this description of infertility. I read this on the plane enroute to Kansas (where my in-laws live) for the 4th of July and just cried …

For some years now, the wedding invitations that had once crowded the mailbox had been replaced by shower invites and pink-or-blue-beribboned baby announcements. I bought onesies or rattles, wrapped them in yellow paper, and delivered them to friends. I had done it with a happy wistfulness, believing that someday my time, my baby, would come. George and I had hoped that I would be pregnant by the end of his congressional run. Then we hoped it would be by the time his own father announced his presidential run, then by the presidential primaries, the convention, the general election. But each milestone came and went. The calendar advanced, and there was no baby.

The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful some not. Still we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only “I’m sorry for your loss.” But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?

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14 comments

  1. Wow, that’s an amazing reflection about IF and I’m so glad that such a well-known person is getting those feelings out there. The part about mourning absence is so beautifully put.

    Yes they still do cerclage for people who they are worried about their cervix shortening too much. It’s usually in the case of multiples.


  2. What a beautiful reflection. I know she didn’t have to include infertility in her memoirs at all, and I’m so glad that she did.


  3. Ack, that made me cry. Beautiful!


  4. I just got her book from the library because I heard she addressed IF. Can’t wait to read it!


    • Whoa, that is very moving.


  5. Wow, who would have known?

    Yes, they still put a stitch in the cervix to keep in closed! It’s called circlage. It works!


  6. I was hanging out in an airport this summer with a long layover and browsing through a Hudson News magazine stand and found that book. I’ve always like LB–classy and graceful woman–and I always wondered if her twins (the fact that they were their only children) were the result of some sort of fertility treatment. I flipped through the book and found the pertinent chapter and saw that beautiful insight into her own journey with IF.

    I liked her even more now knowing she’d walked in my shoes. :)


  7. What truth! When I saw her and the girls on Oprah I thought that she had struggled with IF because of what Pres. Bush said about the waiting so long for the girls to come into their lives. It was beautiful. LB is very classy.


  8. That last paragraph is just perfect. Perfect.

    In other news- how are you doing???!!!


  9. wow, that was beautiful. i always find it surprising and somehow comforting when i find out people i’ve heard of/know have suffered from infertility too. what beautiful words.


  10. I heard a few interviews with Laura when the book first came out and I was so interested to hear the part on infertility. Thanks so much for sharing! I love Laura! Now I wish she would just change her reflections on marriage and pro-life issues! :)


  11. This makes me want to read the book! That last line just says it all! Thanks for sharing.


  12. I read that whole biography, and that part really resonated with me.


  13. Thank you Laura Bush for sharing your struggles with IF. So many women who are heartbroken w/ this problem are also debilitated with guilt and embarrassment. The more women who speak out the more we can support each other. As that support grows so will recognition and perhaps we can get more funding.



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