Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother

Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother

4.5 35
by Peggy Orenstein

View All Available Formats & Editions

Waiting for Daisy is about loss, love, anger and redemption. It's about doing all the things you swore you'd never do to get something you hadn't even been sure you wanted. It's about being a woman in a confusing, contradictory time. It's about testing the limits of a loving marriage. And it's about trying (and trying and trying) to have a baby.

See more details below


Waiting for Daisy is about loss, love, anger and redemption. It's about doing all the things you swore you'd never do to get something you hadn't even been sure you wanted. It's about being a woman in a confusing, contradictory time. It's about testing the limits of a loving marriage. And it's about trying (and trying and trying) to have a baby.
Orenstein's story begins when she tells her new husband that she's not sure she ever wants to be a mother; it ends six years later after she's done almost everything humanly possible to achieve that goal, from "fertility sex" to escalating infertility treatments to New Age remedies to forays into international adoption. Her saga unfolds just as professional women are warned by the media to heed the ticking of their biological clocks, and just as fertility clinics have become a boom industry, with over two million women a year seeking them out. Buffeted by one jaw-dropping obstacle after another, Orenstein seeks answers both medical and spiritual in America and Asia, along the way visiting an old flame who's now the father of fifteen, and discovering in Japan a ritual of surprising solace. All the while she tries to hold onto a marriage threatened by cycles, appointments, procedures and disappointments. Waiting for Daisy is an honest, wryly funny report from the front, an intimate page-turner that illuminates the ambivalence, obsession, and sacrifice that characterize so many modern women's lives.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Suspenseful [and] unsparing…Orenstein's interrogation of her own profiteering pregnancy retinue comes across as a welcome, even necessary exposé.
Orenstein's memoir is not just hers; it is the story of a generation of women who dared to wait for motherhood, took risks to achieve it and were brave enough to question their decisions every step of the way.
Just when you think there is no more to say about the comedy and tragedy of infertility, Peggy Orenstein comes along and changes your mind…Daisy is a fine meditation on what it means to live a fulfilled life.
Los Angeles Times
Riveting...It's no small feat to write a page turner that gives away the ending on the dust jacket, but Waiting for Daisy is more than just the Perils of Peggy. Orenstein has written a memoir, a confession, a polemic and a love story all at once.
Publishers Weekly
The author of Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap, Orenstein now offers a very personal account of her road to becoming a mother. Orenstein was a happily married 35-year-old when she decided she wanted to have a baby. While she knew it might not be easy (she had only one ovary and was heading into her late 30s), she had no idea of the troubles she'd face. First, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, fortunately treatable. After waiting the recommended recovery period, she miscarried with a dangerous "partial molar pregnancy," so she had to avoid becoming pregnant for at least six months. Soon she was riding the infertility roller coaster full-time, trying everything from acupuncture to IVF and egg donation. She endured depression and more miscarriages while spending untold thousands of dollars. Even her very understanding husband was beginning to lose patience, when, surprisingly, she got pregnant with her daughter, Daisy. While readers don't have to be fertility obsessed to enjoy this very witty memoir (with its ungainly subtitle), for the growing number of women struggling with infertility this book may become their new best friend. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Orenstein (Schoolgirls, 1994, etc.) chronicles her tortuous journey to motherhood. The author was 35, involved in a busy, successful career as a journalist and ambivalent about having a child, when her filmmaker husband broached the subject. A diagnosis of breast cancer six weeks later put the baby plans on hold, and Orenstein was 36 before she began trying in earnest to get pregnant. Her witty presentation of such nitty-gritty details as temperature charts, cervical-mucous consistency, sperm counts and timed intercourse at first make her memoir an amusing read. The mood shifts, however, with a pregnancy that ends in miscarriage, followed by another and then a third. One of the book's most moving chapters, which appeared in slightly different form in the New York Times Magazine, recounts the author's visit to a Buddhist temple in Tokyo; red-capped statues of infants lined the temple's shady path, offering ritual acknowledgement of the loss felt by women who miscarry a fetus (a taboo subject in the West). Orenstein's obsession with becoming pregnant increasingly placed a strain on her marriage. It eventually led her to spend thousands of dollars for in-vitro fertilization at clinics whose staff acted more like salesmen than doctors and treated her more like a customer than a patient. She tried acupuncture, another less-than-happy experience, and implantation of a donor egg, which failed. She and her Japanese-American husband finally decided to adopt a Japanese baby boy. That red-tape-snarled transaction became even more complicated when Orenstein discovered she was again pregnant. Would she end up with two babies, one or none? The answer is in the title. Intimate, funny/sad and remarkablyself-revealing.
MORE Ann Hood
…a raw, funny and poignant memoir….she writes keenly and with humor about the difficult road her quest takes. By the time I reached the end of the book, I was crying into my latte. Orenstein's memoir is not just hers; it is the story of a generation of women who dared to wait for motherhood, took risks to achieve it and were brave enough to question their decisions every step of the way.
author of Sweet Ruin and editor of The Bitch in th Cathi Hanauer
A gripping memoir of one woman's quest for a baby...honest, fascinating, and wholly enlightening.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adven Michael Chabon
Moving and bittersweet, Waiting for Daisy is as funny, thoughtful, biting, reflective, as filled with fruitful self-doubt and cautious exuberance, as its author.
author of Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith an Anne Lamott
An absolutely wonderful book. I couldn't put it down: it reads as easily and yet with as much texture as a novel. As always, Orenstein is both so smart and so human as she tells her story—and ours, too—about her marriage, career, indecision, breast cancer, and whether or not she can, and wants to, and ought to, get pregnant. Sometimes the writing is wrenching, sometimes very funny, but always profoundly honest and engaging.
author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier Ann Packer
Add to the best literature of motherhood Peggy Orenstein's searing account of her six-year quest to have a child. The story of what she put her body through is beautifully and movingly rendered, but it's her honesty in examining her own mind and heart that make Waiting for Daisy such a courageous and unforgettable book. I was enthralled.
Los Angeles Times Janice P. Nimura
Waiting for Daisy is riveting ... It's no small feat to write a page turner that gives away the ending on the dust jacket, but Waiting for Daisy is more than just the Perils of Peggy. Orenstein has written a memoir, a confession, a polemic and a love story all at once, describing the most frantic and confusing period of her life with clarity and candor.
"Critics Choice" People 4 Stars
This may be the most honest book written about the tsunami of emotion that hits women when what should come most naturally — reproduction — becomes instead one vast, expensive science experiment.... Daisy is a fine meditation on what it means to live a fulfilled life.
New York Magazine
The Rocky of infertility memoirs.
Must-read for moms: The story of author Peggy Orenstein's struggle with infertility is riveting, but what really makes her new memoir, Waiting for Daisy, such a compelling read is her refreshing honesty about the complicated emotions many women face on the path to motherhood.
Orenstein's nakedly honest account of her decision at age 35 to have a baby and her ensuing struggle to do so reads like a detective thriller.
San Francisco
What sets this book apart is the way Orenstein uses her reporting skills. When she visits an ex-boyfriend who's now an Orthodox Jew, she provides a detailed portrait of his life with his wife and their 15 children. When she travels to Japan we get an investigation into the way that culture ritualizes miscarriage. Best of all, she brings her erudition and intelligence to bear on her own experience.
Entertainment Weekly
Orenstein renders her experience in beautiful prose.
Washington Post
[Orenstein] treats her efforts to become a mother with intelligent skepticism and a brazen sense of humor (a quality not often found in Repro Lit)….Unlike many women who have written about the experience of trying and failing to have a baby, Orenstein doesn't leave her feminism at the door. She writes frankly about her initial reluctance to become a mother and traces the complicated evolution of her feelings from "no! never!" to single-minded passion.Once launched on the all-consuming path, she makes stops that will be familiar to many of her readers...But her voice makes all the difference in the world. Far from the anguished, often reverential, super-serious tone of Internet discussion groups….One of the best things about this book is that when she succeeds in her quest, Orenstein refuses to take refuge in the smug pieties so prevalent in fertility discussions. When a friend tells her that everything happens for a reason, Orenstein bristles (bless her!)….As Daisy moves on through life, and her mother and father move with her through the parenting maze, it would be interesting to hear Orenstein's intelligent, skeptical voice ruminate on the next stages. For if any writer has the verve and tenacity to supersede the typecasting of Mommy Lit, it's Orenstein.
If you have thrown your dreams of parenthood into the chill of the laboratory, this book will bring every memory to the surface. If you are thinking about supplementing old-fashioned procreation with science, this book is a good field-guide to what lies ahead. And if you are a woman in your 30s, this book should ring like a warning bell in the night —- at 37, you move into the "elderly gravid" cohort, and the chances that you'll become a mother start to drop dramatically.
Minneapolis StarTribune
Her painfully candid and moving memoir deftly wipes the Vaseline coating off the lens of modern motherhood and exposes it for the messy business it is.
San Francisco Chronicle
[A] funny, honest new book….Fertility issues have become Topic A; even the Dixie Chicks have a song about it. Orenstein's chronicle of her baby obsession is both quirkily her own and in tune with the moment.
New York Times Book Review Alexandra Jacobs
Peggy Orenstein's journey [is] suspenseful [and]...unsparing….the book describes Orenstein's rapid descent into the surreal community of the subfertile….It's to Orenstein's considerable credit that even when she's naked from the waist down, she never really takes her reporter's hat off, applying the same measured scrutiny to a -junior-high-school boyfriend with a brood of 15 or the plight of women left barren and disfigured by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima as she does to her own ultimately happily resolved situation….Orenstein's interrogation of her own profiteering pregnancy retinue comes across as a welcome, even necessary exposé.

Read More

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.86(w) x 7.83(h) x 0.66(d)

Read an Excerpt

Waiting for Daisy

By Peggy Orenstein


Copyright © 2007 Peggy Orenstein
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59691-017-1

Chapter One


* * *

My first birthday, Thanksgiving 1962. My aunts, uncles, and cousins are all in attendance. I am wearing a blue velvet dress, my chubby legs stuffed into white tights; my feet, which have yet to master walking, strapped into patent leather Mary Janes. A few pale, wispy curls are beginning to sprout on my head, though I don't have any hair worth mentioning. My mother has compensated by taping a blue bow to my pate, which I periodically rip off and stuff into my mouth.

As a Bell & Howell whirs, I tear into my birthday gifts, more focused on shredding the brightly colored paper than on the toys that lay within. My father steps into the frame, his hair still black, his face hopeful. He is seven years younger than I am now. Clearly excited, he presents me with my first baby doll, placing it in my arms. I am his only daughter. I glance at the doll, frown, and fling it out of sight. He fetches it and once again, patiently, sets it in my arms. This time I begin to cry and hold the doll by its foot, dropping it on the floor. My father tries one more time with similar results; the camera jerks and the image sputters.

What happened then, during those undocumented moments? Someone must've continued to cajole. Someone must've expressed disappointment. Someone must've demonstrated what was expected of me. Someone must've said, "Don't you want to be a mommy, like Mommy?" Because when the film rolls again, I gingerly cradle the baby doll, still sniffling a little, seeming anxious. I look up eagerly for approval from my parents, who are squatting next to me. This is my first foray into motherhood.

At eleven, I befriended Tibetha Shaw, who had untamed orange hair and was the only girl in the sixth grade of John Burroughs Elementary School to wear black all the time. Her mother, unlike those of the rest of my friends, worked outside the home and had an apron that read HOUSEWORK IS BULLSHIT in three-inch capital letters. At the Shaws' there was dust on the furniture. There was no adult supervision after school. Tibetha and I gorged on store-bought cookies and pored over Ms. magazine, which had recently resurrected the comic book icon Wonder Woman. Inspired by her, we fastened towels around our necks with clothespins and-in every working mom's nightmare of what the kids are up to in her absence-climbed a ladder onto the roof of the garage. The distance to the next building was slightly longer than a leggy eleven-year-old's stride, yet we took deep breaths and leapt-screaming, "WONDER WOMAN! WONDER WOMAN!"-flying from roof to roof and back again, towel capes streaming behind us. It was my first foray into feminism.

My understanding of the women's movement may have grown more nuanced over the years, but that sense of exhilaration remained. Feminism provided me with an escape route, an out from my parents' limited expectations, a chance to define for myself the person I wanted to be. Yet, even while soaring through space-whether the rooftops were real or metaphoric-I was conscious of the drop, never quite sure how far my towel cape would carry me. As an editorial assistant at Esquire magazine, I was peanut gallery to 1980s literary New York, an extra at cocktail parties for the likes of Jay McInerney, Tom Wolfe, and Tama Janowitz. Occasionally, while stuffing myself with free hors d'oeuvres (popping a few in my purse to supplement my $250 a week paycheck), I'd notice that there weren't many mothers in the room. There were few among the editors I worked with either, and virtually none among the writers. The same was true several years later, when I moved on to San Francisco. Their absence left me vaguely uneasy; was this evidence of progress-women no longer needed children for fulfillment-or its opposite? Could it be that things hadn't changed as much as I'd thought? And if they hadn't, in which world did I belong? "I'm not sure I want to have kids," I told my friends. "I'm not sure I want to have kids," I told my gynecologist. "I'm not sure I want to have kids," I told my editor. (She fixed my manuscripts, why not my life?) They all gave the same reply: "Don't worry about it, Peggy, you have plenty of time."

I believed them; I was in my mid-twenties. I thought I had all the time in the world.

I fell in love with Steven Okazaki on a postcard. We'd gone on one date, an after-work drink that deepened into dinner, but it hadn't gone well. I was newly out of a bruising relationship and knocked back a couple of Stolis to calm my nerves. Here's something to know about me: I can't hold my liquor. As my rational self watched from a helpless, anesthetized distance, my soused evil twin ran her mouth, spewing bile about former beaux and announcing, "If you're looking for anything serious, I'm not interested."

Luckily, he didn't believe me. "Women always say that kind of stuff when they like you," he'd joke later. We hugged goodbye awkwardly in the parking lot. A documentary filmmaker, Steven was leaving the next day for a shoot on the Big Island of Hawaii. "Call me!" I chirped, though after my performance that evening I figured I'd never hear from him again.

Then the card arrived, a photo of the lava flow on Mt. Kilauea. On the back, a note, jotted as if we were mid-conversation.

Last night on the Big Island there was a bad storm. Several boats were beached and sections of highway were temporarily washed out. I was having dinner with a pig breeder and his family near a town called Honaunau. The sound of the wind and rain on their tin roof was nearly deafening. The farmer noted that the roads would get dangerous and maybe I should spend the night. He said, "You can wear my pajamas and sleep in the kitchen." I thought, "No way, man. I want my hotel room." As I took the perilous journey home, I felt ashamed but frankly relieved. One doesn't have to experience everything, does one?

Forget roses; I'm a sucker for a man who has a way with words.

We shared our first breakfast shortly after he returned, gazing starry-eyed at each other across our eggs in a Berkeley diner. Steven was tall and stocky with a shock of black hair that was just beginning to gray, diamond-cut cheekbones, and eyes as warm as anything I'd ever seen. I loved the scratch in his voice, the touch of his skin, his dedication to a life of purpose and creativity. I admired the confidence he had in his own vision; I was still a magazine editor then, unable to work up the nerve to quit and write full-time. Steven was not the man I imagined I'd be with-nearly ten years older, Japanese American, a gentile-but soul mates don't always come in predictable packages.

He mentioned he'd grown up with four sisters. "I always thought I'd have a big family," he said.

I cut him off. "Well, I don't know if I want to have children at all."

"Really? Why not?"

"Why do you want them?"

This was when I first discovered my future husband's habit of speaking in set pieces. "I guess I think of life as kind of like an amusement park," he said. "If you're going to go, you should ride every ride at least once. And having kids is like the big, scary roller coaster. You can have a good time without riding it, but you would've missed a significant part of the experience."

"I get sick on roller coasters," I deadpanned, then added, "Besides, 'One doesn't have to experience everything, does one?' "

He raised an eyebrow.

"Look," I said. "I don't want anyone to make any assumptions about me or how I'll live my life. I don't want to do something just because it's expected, because everyone else does it. Maybe I'll change my mind, but there are a lot of other things I want to do besides have children."

"There's no way I can have a baby now." It had been two years since Steven and I had married, since I'd moved across the Great Waters from my overpriced apartment in San Francisco to his rent-controlled one in Berkeley. I'd simultaneously taken the leap into writing; my first book, Schoolgirls, about the challenges young women face in their teens, had just come out to flattering reviews. Suddenly I was fielding calls from Good Morning America, Nightline, and Fresh Air; lecturing at universities; giving keynote addresses at national conferences. My agent-a forceful, older woman who'd opted against motherhood-warned me, "You have to sell another book idea right now. If you wait a year, forget it. No one will remember you." I'd dreamed of this kind of success since publishing my first story in my high school newspaper at age fifteen. But I wasn't fifteen anymore. I was thirty-two.

How could I possibly cut back to take care of an infant? Sometime later, Joyce Purnick, Metro editor of the New York Times (who did not have kids), would tell graduating seniors at Barnard, "If I had left the Times to have children and then come back to work a four-day week ... or left the office at six o'clock instead of eight or nine, I wouldn't be Metro editor." She was probably right, but how grim was that? Maybe I wanted children, maybe I didn't, but I wanted the decision to be a choice, not a mandate. Last time I checked, childlessness was only supposed to be a condition of career advancement for nuns.

My own mother was no help. She had married at twenty, moving directly from her parents' home to her new life with her twenty-four-year-old husband. Within five years she'd stopped teaching elementary school to raise her children. We shared so little experience that without a child myself, I sometimes felt as if we were, if not a different species, at least different sexes. "Your life is so unlike mine," she'd say. "I can't even imagine it." I longed for a mother who could be a mentor, someone I could turn to for wisdom and guidance. Her limits made me short-tempered. Stop being such a bitch, I'd tell myself, which only turned my anger to guilt. I'd rather not have children, I'd think, than have a daughter who someday felt this way about me.

That's too easy, though. It wasn't just hostility I felt around my mother, it was inadequacy. I had loved my early childhood with her. We'd spent long hours playing beauty parlor and tea party, baking holiday cookies. On Saturday nights I would swoon when she left with my dad in a cloud of Rive Gauche perfume, so glamorous in her fox-trimmed coat. I wanted to be just like her-a mommy just like Mommy. Thirty years later, part of me still did. Although I publicly stood up for working mothers and day care, I knew that, for me, motherhood meant one thing: being there for your children like my mom had been there for me. I believed the responsibility for taking care of children would, bottom line, be mine, even if I was the one who had to swap my dreams for drudgery. It didn't matter that Steven expected to be an equal parent. ("I'll make a great mom," he'd brag.) The issue wasn't whether I wanted to turn into my mother if I had a child or even whether I feared I would; it was that I believed I should.

With Steven, I dodged the subject. "We'll talk about it later," I'd promise when he brought it up. "When we have more time." Or: "When I'm not traveling so much." Or: "When we're on vacation." Or: "At the end of the year." Or, simply: "Not now." There was no way he could pin me down. I bobbed, I weaved, I changed the subject, and if none of that worked, I gave him The Stare. "You have no idea how hard it is to get past that look," he'd complain, though of course I did. The Stare had taken me years to perfect: it was my force field, repelling all comers-my parents, lovers, friends, colleagues-who broached a subject that felt too raw to discuss.

The only time in twenty years that I ever had a fight with my friend Robin was at a girls' night dinner party on New York's Upper West Side, when I mouthed off about mothers who dropped their careers rather than demand that their husbands do the laundry. I was in town doing interviews for my next book, Flux, about how women make their personal and professional choices. A group of full-time moms I'd talked to that afternoon had claimed that staying home was a feminist right. I disagreed. "I don't know why women who make the pre-Betty Freidan choices think they won't end up with the pre-Betty Freidan results," I quipped.

"What about me?" asked Robin, sharply. She'd been a television news producer before staying home with her three kids. Her husband managed a hedge fund. "Is that what you think of me?"

I wasn't sure how to respond; the truth was, yes, I did feel that way about her, though I'd never say so to her face. My hesitation only made her madder. "You have no idea what it means to be married to someone who works twelve hours a day. If I kept working, I'd still have to do everything at home. It's just not realistic.

"I'm not stupid," she added. "I know the potential traps here. I knew what I was getting into. And I chose this."

"But how much of a choice is it," I asked, "if nothing else seemed possible?"

Nearly all of my girlfriends were having children, and one by one, like Robin, they'd dropped out of the workforce. The minds that once produced sparkling prose or defended abused children were now obsessed with picking the right preschool or competing to throw the most elaborate Pocahontas birthday party. Sometimes they seemed to me like something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Who were these women and what had they done with my friends? Sure, a few were content, but most, if not exactly unhappy, seemed trapped-fretting over what they'd do when the kids were older, worried that they'd never escape the stroller set. I was disappointed by how readily they'd fallen on the sword of traditional motherhood, how reluctant they were to assert their needs, how loath to rock the boat of their husbands' careers. They weren't the role models I wanted-needed-them to be. These were, after all, women I loved and respected. If they couldn't make it all work, how could I?

My working mom friends weren't much better, perpetually exhausted and resentful. One commented that Steven and I had the best marriage she knew. "That's because we don't have kids," I said, laughing, but I meant it. Steven and I had a great time together, traveling to Hawaii, Asia, and Europe; going to the movies; spending the weekend in bed. He read the first drafts of my articles; I watched the rough cuts of his films. He was my best friend. Maybe a baby would bring us even closer, but that wasn't what I saw around me. So many women were smitten with their children while begrudging everything their husbands did or didn't do: Kids may have been the glue holding couples together, but they were also the wedge driving them apart.

And yet. There were moments when I could almost feel the weight of a child in my arms, when I sensed that if I looked over my shoulder while driving, I would see an infant seat with a curly-haired bundle looking back at me. I would imagine the songs we'd sing together, the games we'd play, the books we'd read. Pasting photos into an album, I would recall leafing through old pictures of my mother, my father, my grandparents. Who would see these? Who would care?

One night, when I was thirty-three, I walked into the living room of our rented house in the rustic (read: lots of weeds, aggressive deer, druggie neighbors) Berkeley Hills. Steven was lying on the couch reading Mojo, a British music rag for guys who own everything-on vinyl-that the Kinks ever recorded. The floor beneath him slanted steeply for reasons that in Northern California were best not to consider; he had put shims of varying heights under all the furniture to make it appear level. On the upside, the house was large, with three ample bedrooms, two of which were glaringly empty.

"What do you think of the name 'Cleo' for a baby?" I asked him.

He put down the magazine and sat up. "Peg, we don't have a baby."

"Well, maybe we should."

"Really?" he said, skeptically. "Is that what you want?"

"I don't know," I sighed. "Maybe we shouldn't."

He shook his head, dramatically picking up his magazine. "Let me know when you want to talk about having a baby and then I'll talk about names."

"Okay," I said, "so what do you think we should do?"

"I don't want to do it unless we both want to. I don't want you ever to say, 'You talked me into this.' And if you don't want to do it, I'll be fine. I won't have that many regrets." It was all very self-actualized, very reasonable, except for this: punting the decision back to me effectively let Steven off the hook. He, too, put a premium on freedom, the time to pursue creative work, to travel, and, in his case, to lie on the couch reading Mojo. This was a guy who had stayed single until he was forty; he wasn't so eager himself to take on the responsibilities and lifestyle of parenting. My indecision played neatly-maybe too neatly-into his own.


Excerpted from Waiting for Daisy by Peggy Orenstein Copyright © 2007 by Peggy Orenstein. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >