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Feeling Broody - Synopsis

by Tess 

Posted: 18 October 2006
Word Count: 1166

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14 Chapters/35,000 words


Tess Broad

Feeling Broody is a memoir of my journey, beginning in the late eighties, where as a ‘wannabe mummy’ I embark on what will be five years of fertility treatment. What follows is the breakdown of my first marriage, a move from London to deepest rural Cornwall and to a final acceptance of childlessness. A journey out of hiding from (at times) a dark place of wailing despair to where I am now, having embraced the role of non-mother. In a fairly Fever Pitchy way I re-trace my steps from that awkward ‘we’re trying for a family’ phase to finding a use for my redundant apron strings.
I introduce the book by explaining why I have found it so difficult to answer the simple question ‘do you have children?’ How it feels to be in a minority that appears to be without a voice. My story begins when my first husband and I decide to try for a family and how that decision seems to require a somewhat cringing announcement to the world that your sex life has taken on a new dimension, i.e. sex is not just for fun any more.
When the ‘trying’ doesn’t seem to be working I am referred to various gynaecologists. I detail some of my experiences under them (so to speak). I quote a joke I heard at the time . . .
Q: What’s the difference between God and a gynaecologist?
A: God doesn’t think he’s a gynaecologist.
Not such a joke as it turned out. I go on to explain how my first gynie did indeed flex god-like powers and that he was not a god of the loving and giving variety but a mean insensitive man who mostly treated his patients like small children. My second experience is an improvement but I find I am largely viewed as a set of ovaries and a uterus rather than as a human being. The last gynie I consult was, for me at least, the patron saint of gynaecology, a man whose sublime professionalism had a lasting impact on me.
I compare the difference between treatment on the NHS and the private sector. The sympathetic, hushed and carpeted hotel-like atmosphere found at private clinics to the sometimes chaotic and insensitive treatment programme I experienced on the NHS.
I talk about how demanding and stressful the treatment programmes are and the disconcerting thought that you might be recognised by your labia rather than any facial features, as you pass through the hands of many gynaecologists. This chapter also covers the effect all this has on the sex life and in turn the marriage. The relentless treadmill of treatment that grinds on through cycles of high hopes building and then plummeting to crushing despair. The sheer embarrassment of the whole thing. The taboo clouding its discussion. How I move through the black cloud of two IVF attempts to a successful ovarian diathermy treatment, but still no baby arrives. I talk about a half-hearted foray into the world of alternative treatments at a time when the word ‘organic’ was some hippy notion that a woman like me, with my ‘80’s big hair and shoulder pads, was bound to struggle with.
I tell of the dramatic event that meant the successful treatment could never bear fruit. The departure of my husband, who announces on New Years Day 1994 (six weeks after ovarian surgery) that he doesn’t feel ready to become a father. He later moves out of the marital home for some ‘space’. Space, I later discover, in which to shag someone else. The next section details how I deal with the breakdown of my marriage and how it wipes out the need for a child. A two-year journey of recovery, aided by counselling, self-help volumes and crème eggs, leads to my meeting my second husband and leaving London for the life of a countrywoman in Cornwall.
The time it takes me to get over my first marriage and to then commit to another means that the few precious years I had left in which to conceive have all but passed me by. I am then to take a different road, towards becoming reconciled with being childless. I recognise that during this period a sort of mourning takes place. Childlessness has been described as ‘unfocused grief’ and I talk about how this ‘bereavement’ can be diminished by a strange need to hide any suffering.
I talk about how other people’s children are such an important part of my life but how at times I feel my lack of experience exposed. How it might be misconstrued that I don’t even like children. How Mother’s Day can leave me feeling isolated and left out, likewise when childbirth experiences are discussed at girlie gatherings. How the honour of being a godparent can feel like a consolation prize, the meal for two instead of the car.
I talk about adoption and all the questions it raises; why I haven’t and the guilt that goes with that decision. Finally I talk about how I have landed in a positive place beyond childlessness. I also acknowledge that it is probably no coincidence that this acceptance of childlessness has come at a time in my life where my natural fertility (had I had such a thing) would have been on the wane anyway.
There are many self-help manuals on coping with infertility; on how to get through it, past it and over it. Most of these volumes are sad, poignant accounts that speak to those in the same dark place. Parts of Feeling Broody are sad, but they are punctuated with humour and the odd rant about Weight Watchers, baby on board stickers and ‘whinging moms’. The childless are in a minority but a growing one for various reasons. Choosing careers instead of family, choosing to be single (or not, sometimes desperately) or simply leaving it too late. I ask questions about the role an increasing number of childless people might have in relation to children’s lives. How it’s supposed to ‘take a whole village to raise a child’ and yet as Elton John said just before his wedding day ‘Gay men are the only group of people who aren’t looked down upon if they don’t have kids.’ I also discuss how the child has become king in our society and acknowledge the increasing pressures parents are under as they are expected to take sole responsibility for every aspect of their children’s lives.
This book will do for the involuntarily childless what Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch did for football fans. It is a place where they can recognise themselves and also use it as a means to help others understand them. It is also a volume, which might provoke some debate as to how we raise our children in a society always looking over its shoulder for the paedophile and in the process denying children comfort and protection from those they can trust.

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Comments by other Members

di2 at 06:14 on 20 October 2006  Report this post
Your synopsis gives a really good overview of what your story will provide to your reader. I read through it easily and understood what you were saying.

It's definitely an area a lot of people will identify with and it will hopefully help.

As far as presentation is concerned, I'm unsure if the layout follows any guidelines. It's not something I'm familiar with. I've noticed in my internet surfing moments that there seems to be formulas for synopsis. Have you checked out the WriteWords Synopsis Group and asked for their opinion.

Will you be "sending it out" soon?

Best wishes with your work

Tess at 09:38 on 25 October 2006  Report this post

Thanks for your comments - sorry not to have responded before but I didn't receive an email notification - I realise why because I didn't tick the box requesting such a thing! I did actually get some pointers on writing a synopsis for non-fiction from this web site so I think the format of it should be OK - whatever it's going out today! Thanks for your good wishes

Richard Brown at 10:17 on 26 October 2006  Report this post

I see I'm too late to comment - your synopsis is already hitting agents' desks! Sorry I missed the chance to coment but here's wishing you all the very best with the attempt to find a publisher. Keep us posted!


Tess at 15:52 on 26 October 2006  Report this post
Still feel free to comment! - I've only sent it to one agent so far - based on a recommendation - am presently editing the rest of the ms before I send it out to any others - so would welcome your input. Incidently I didn't intend to request 'not too hard not too soft' comments - I'm not precious about any of it - one thing I have learnt!!

Richard Brown at 09:24 on 31 October 2006  Report this post

The synopsis conveys masses of information and (I guess) the style of the book but I think it could be much tighter. I'm not sure, for example, about the use of the joke and (another example) - I'm not sure that 'There are many self-help manuals on coping with infertility; on how to get through it, past it and over it. Most of these volumes are sad, poignant accounts that speak to those in the same dark place.' should be in the synopsis. This might be more appropriate to the covering letter.

An aspect which interrupted the flow of my reading was the occasional change of tense. A difficult one, I know, but 'The last gynie I consult was...'is not very elegant! Might be worth trying out a past tense version to see how it reads. You might lose some immediacy but the narrative flow should improve.

Another slight sticking point - there are quite a few verb-less sentences. I'm sure this is deliberate but I'm not convinced that the device works. If you do attempt a past tense version it might be worth inserting the missing verbs.

A wee typo - in the very last sentence ' It is also a volume, which...' No comma needed!


Tess at 10:03 on 31 October 2006  Report this post

Thanks for your comments - I think I might have got the synopsis confused with a book proposal - I searched this site for some advice & took from a message from subscriber 'Dreamer' in Apr 05 details on how to form a book proposal & that's why I included stuff about who the book was aimed at etc. Ah well - will revise it before sending out again. Presently working on editing/re-writing the rest of it to just get it completely polished & finished - have got to that awful stage where I'm getting sick of it & want to move on to something else!


Myrtle at 19:06 on 20 February 2007  Report this post
Tess, just happened to find this on the Random Read and was completely absorbed. You make some really interesting points and the touches of humour worked for me. I would certainly be interested in a book like this. Have you had any joy with it so far from agents/publishers?


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