child wishTheater director Maaike van Langen (51) lives in Amsterdam and Berlin with her husband and twin boys (11). She wrote her debut novel about the journey she took to become pregnant after years 28 embryo’s. The book is about four Amsterdam couples who do everything they can to fulfill their greatest wish: to have a child.
Van Langen introduces you 28 embryo’s participate in the process of getting pregnant if it does not come naturally. Nowadays everything is possible at home and abroad, but how far can and should you go as an intended parent?
To what extent is 28 embryo’s autobiographical?
,,Really bad. When I experienced this eleven years ago, I saw a story in it all the time. Many events in the book are true. Because of the absurdity, I started putting them on paper. I have used my experiences to write a novel about the possibilities of having a child in this new age, and how to find your way in this. When you’re in the middle of it you act like it’s all normal, but I often thought: how bizarre this is. Yet this world is a reality for many people.”
How important was having a child to you?
“For a very long time it was not a subject that concerned me. I loved working and traveling and never expected that my happiness in life would depend on having a child or not. I wasn’t into it before I met my boyfriend and had the attitude of having a child anytime could, if I wanted to. Quite arrogant actually.”
How did you end up in that absurd world eleven years ago?
“I was 34 when I met my partner. When we wanted a baby together, we couldn’t get pregnant. The doctor advised IVF, but we couldn’t imagine anything. We signed up for an adoption and on the adoption course we met three couples with the same problem. Together we went looking for what was possible.”
A fair is being organized in Germany about treatment options around the world. At the entrance, people dressed as storks are handing out leaflets
What was it like meeting people who also couldn’t get pregnant?
,,Fantastic. The evening of the course we ended up in a warm bath. Not getting pregnant was an uncomfortable topic to talk about. Everyone around us seemed to get pregnant on their own, which made it even more difficult. When we met couples going through the same thing, our ‘problem’ suddenly appeared. It was great to find fellow sufferers and to hang out with them.”
The fellow sufferers become new friends, what kind of relationship did you have with each other?
“All these couples had already had a failed IVF process. As desperate and sad as we were, we laughed a lot together. In the novel I emphasized that and magnified the bond between the ladies. They discuss things with each other that they cannot discuss with others. It is constantly about how many embryos everyone has, the amount of cells that make up the embryos, but also about when you have to come for the best chance of pregnancy and which underpants the men are absolutely not allowed to wear.”
You describe the adventures the ladies go through: they travel to a clinic in Spain and visit a fertility fair in Cologne, did you know that all this existed?
“There is a world behind the unfulfilled wish for children that you as a layman have no knowledge of. Did you know that in Spain there are more than 200 IVF clinics where you can get pregnant with anonymous sperm and eggs? And in Germany every year a fair is organized with information about treatment options around the world. At the entrance, people dressed as storks are handing out leaflets. You don’t make it up, but it exists.”
How did you end up pregnant with your twins?
“Through IVF. I was very apprehensive about the process, because according to the doctors we had virtually no chance. Nevertheless, we went for it after four years. I didn’t want to regret not trying. I found it both physically and mentally tough, but luckily it ended well: I got pregnant with our two cute boys.”
An anonymous sperm donor is prohibited in the Netherlands, but allowed in Belgium. Egg donation is allowed here under strict conditions, but it is very easy in Spain
How do you view the fertility industry, after all you’ve been through?
“It is confusing that every country has different rules. It is difficult to find your way in this as a prospective parent. An anonymous sperm donor is prohibited in the Netherlands, but allowed in Belgium. Egg donation is only allowed in our country under strict conditions, but it is very easy in Spain. The rules are so different that there is continuous travel. This encourages trade and I don’t think we should want that. At the same time, I think it is only logical that people look for opportunities.”
What do you want to achieve with your book?
“I hope that people are gripped by the characters and get an insight into what it is like to find your way in the world of fertility. The emotions that come with it and the confusion that is inevitable. I also hope that my book makes people think; it is not a simple matter and you can look at it in different ways. I’m showing the human side with this story, not the medical or the legal. I also hope that readers enjoy the book. Because the fact that the couples always have to respond to situations that they could not have imagined gives the book a high pace and a high dose of humor.”
The other three couples have had a failed IVF process, will they eventually have children?
“I can reveal that several babies are being born. But with whom, how they originated and how much, you can read that in the book.”
28 embryos by Maaike van Langen will be published on February 7, 2023.
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