Sunday, December 1, 2013

Leslie Morgan Steiner's "The Baby Chase"

Leslie Morgan Steiner lives in Washington, DC with her husband and three young children. Her 2009 memoir about surviving domestic violence, Crazy Love, was a New York Times bestseller, People Pick, Book of the Week for The Week magazine, and subject of the first TED Talk by a domestic violence survivor.

Steiner applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, The Baby Chase: How Surrogacy Is Transforming the American Family, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Baby Chase is filled with pictures of the Wile family! So I have to quote from p. 100 instead. And yes, I think this single page completely captures the book and how much I enjoyed getting to know Rhonda and Gerry Wile and writing the amazing story of how they overcame infertility.
The first issue to address when Gerry and Rhonda started their baby making was Gerry’s…ahem…vasectomy.

Astoundingly, he had not told Rhonda about the operation during their courtship, the early years of marriage, or their many, many conversations about how much Rhonda wanted a family.

"It just never came up," Gerry says now, as if still trying to mask the significance of his omission. But really, what had stopped him from confiding in Rhonda for nearly six years was that he didn’t want to risk losing her. He knew how much she longed for a family. He figured he would fix the vasectomy without the girl of his dreams ever finding out about it.

In 2004, after he and Rhonda had started to talk seriously about starting a family, but while he was still deployed in Iraq, Gerry moved forward with a solution. Fourteen years before, the Canadian military doctors had performed a simple vasectomy, cutting the vas deferens tube, removing a small portion of it, and bending the cut section backwards, as one would fold over the tip of a plastic straw. Gerry consulted a military doctor and made plans to have the surgery reversed. He didn’t tell Rhonda. No confrontation, no tears, no betrayal. There was simply no need to upset her.

His vasectomy could be reversed with a relatively simple operation, the military doctor who’d examined Gerry explained, via a detailed email, sent to their home email address in Florida, read by…

Rhonda Wile.

That’s how Rhonda found out her new husband could not father the children she’d always dreamed of having. In an email, followed by an official letter, both meant for Gerry. Not easy for a woman whose first husband had been a compulsive liar.

Rhonda was stunned. And furious. And flabbergasted. Had she given her heart away, again, to a deceitful man?

With Gerry still in Iraq, Rhonda bit back her instinct to confront him. This was not a conversation to have via satellite phone. Although she was experiencing an emotional war zone, Gerry lived every day in a real war zone. She simmered and wondered what the hell Gerry had been thinking. She tried to smile and chitchat during their daily phone calls. For the next several months.

She felt sick at the thought of not being able to have children. Would she ever be able to forgive him? Did she love Gerry enough to stay with him, if that meant never having the babies she had dreamed of since she was a small girl watching Happy Days, playing dress up, and devouring her Eat-More candy bars?

“I didn’t know if I could,” Rhonda explains today, closing her eyes and shaking her head silently.

What hurt even more than the devastating news about Gerry’s vasectomy was that he had lied to her. Rhonda valued honesty above almost every other quality, in herself and her relationships. The betrayals in her first marriage had left her with an insistence on candor in every nook and cranny of her friendships, professional relationships, and most of all, in love. Without honesty, she couldn’t trust Gerry, or how she felt about anything in their marriage.

The day Gerry came home, she was overjoyed to see him back safe and sound, despite her questions and deferred rage. Rhonda waited as long as she could. She lasted close to four hours.

As they sat next to each other on their bed, she silently handed him the doctor’s note.

Gerry read a few lines. Then his face, filled with joy seconds before, crumpled. He buried his head in his large, calloused hands. He began to cry.

What he said next – the first words out of his mouth – deflated Rhonda’s rage, because she knew it was the truth.
Read more about The Baby Chase at Leslie Morgan Steiner's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Baby Chase.

Writers Read: Leslie Morgan Steiner.

--Marshal Zeringue