Mom-to-Be: The memoir "What I Thought I Knew" reads like a diary with the suspense of a thriller. As you turn the pages, you won't believe how much raw emotion, honesty and even humor its author, Alice Eve Cohen, has packed into less than 200 pages.
"What I Thought I Knew" is the almost unbelievable true story of what happened after Alice was told she was infertile in her 30s, became pregnant at 44 and didn't know it until over halfway through her high-risk pregnancy. Her book tells the story of her metamorphosis from a woman struggling with infertility to one struggling with having a baby she didn't know about -- and frankly wasn't sure she wanted.
momlogic: What were some of your concerns about finding out you were pregnant when you were so far along?
Alice Eve Cohen:
The first six months of my pregnancy were a disaster, in terms of prenatal care and lack thereof. I had been diagnosed as infertile many years earlier, and told never to attempt pregnancy with fertility treatment, as I could never carry a baby past six months. When I started to feel sick, doctors attributed my ailments to early menopause and other conditions related to aging. Six months, numerous X-rays, CAT scans, prescription hormones and a slew of doctors later, I was raced to an emergency CAT scan for a large abdominal tumor -- which turned out not to be a tumor at all. I was six months pregnant. My first reaction was shock, followed by the fear that I would deliver the baby prematurely, which would result in severe disability. I was terrified that I had already injured the fetus by subjecting it to so many terrible risks.
ml: Psychologically, you experienced pregnancy in a condensed time frame. Most people plan for their pregnancy and have nine months to mentally come to terms with how their lives will change. You had just three months for your emotions to run the gamut from joy to fear. What was it like?
AEC: Short answer? I don't recommend it. Nine months of preparation sounds positively luxurious, but with both my daughters I've had very little prep time. [I had] two months to prepare for Julia's adoption; three months to prepare for Eliana's birth. Since I was on bedrest for those three months, I had lots of time lying in bed on my left side to think, fantasize, worry, obsess, hope, rage, dream. Act II of my book draws from those highly saturated three months of pregnancy.
ml: You are in the unique position of having adopted a child and then having one biologically. How are the experiences different? How are they the same?
As every parent knows, raising a child is infinitely complex. Adoption contributes a layer of complexity to the parenting
equation, but there are countless other variables. Each of my daughters came into the world with a unique prenatal resume: Julia's backstory includes adoption; Eliana's backstory ... well, hers is the inciting incident of my book. Julia, now 18 years old, has always had very positive feelings about her adoption. This spring, her adoption story came full cycle when she found her biological mother and visited with her for several days. My daughters have both asked me about the relative merits of adoption and biological parenthood. In response, I sing the praises of motherhood -- by any method -- but readily admit that physically it's a hell of a lot harder to give birth at age 45 than to adopt. Ultimately, adoption doesn't change how or how much you love your child. Here's an excerpt from my book on the subject. This is the "What I Know" list where I finally get it right:
I love both my daughters.
The one who was planned for, researched, fought for, hard-won, rehearsed for, competed for and paid for on the not-for-profit Spence Chapin Adoption Agency's sliding scale.
I love the one who arrived unannounced and impossibly.
I love the one who was adopted, whose birth I observed from a comfortable and pain-free distance.
I love the one who I gave birth to at age forty-five, after forty-seven awful hours of labor.
I love the one whose birth mother didn't know about her until she was six months pregnant.
I love the one I didn't know about until I was six months pregnant.
I love the one who is off-the-charts tall and the one who's off-the-charts short.
I love the dark-haired one and the fair-haired one.
I love the symmetrical one and the asymmetrical one.
I love the one I desperately wanted, and the one I desperately didn't want.
ml: This happened about ten years ago. How is the baby today? AEC
The "baby" is ten years old and she's great. Eliana is phenomenally
smart, she has a wonderful sense of humor and a wild imagination, and
she's an awesome writer. She loves animals, donates much of her
allowance to World Wildlife Fund, and can't wait to go back to
sleep-away camp, where she has learned to take care of llamas and a
variety of barnyard animals. Eliana underwent a long and arduous
leg-lengthening procedure two years ago; her doctor predicts that she
will need a second leg-lengthening when she's in high school. She's
fully recovered from the surgery, and loves playing soccer.