Linda Carbone was scheduled for a fetal sonogram. A bit superstitious after having suffered two miscarriages, she wanted to skip the appointment, but the fertility clinic that helped her conceive this baby convinced her to go: "There aren't that many highs in life." Instead of seeing the baby's heartbeat, though, she watched as the technician kept enlarging the image on the screen, looking for a heartbeat or any sign of movement. The pregnancy wasn't viable, she was told, and the baby's body was about to "crumple." Carbone would soon miscarry for the third time.
A Little Pregnant is filled with moments like this that make one wonder just how much cruelty a person can endure. Carbone, an editor, and her husband, Ed Decker, a writer, faced nearly a decade of Job-like trials in their quest for a child. She was injected with dangerous, personality-altering hormones and underwent in vitro fertilization; his testicles were operated on to relieve low sperm count; they burst into tears whenever another couple or family member had a baby. And they drove each other crazy, nearly divorcing, not the least because Decker was obsessed with parenthood and Carbone was indifferent about it--and eventually developed a crush on her fertility doctor. All these soul-sapping events are told in a compulsively readable she-said, he-said format, suspended in a sort of magical realism, as if the pair can't now comprehend why they tortured themselves--or allowed themselves to be tortured by others--for so long.
The book escapes what might have been an overly oppressive tone because the reader knows from the start that Decker and Carbone did have a healthy baby girl, after--almost implausibly--an anguishing adoption attempt failed and they had finally resigned themselves to being childless. This is a magnificent examination of self-delusion, the cruelties of imperfect technology, and the gripping allure of parenthood. --Erica Jorgensen