SHELF TALKER BOOK REVIEW: MY MISERABLE, LONELY, LESBIAN PREGNANCY (Cleis Press)
It’s her second attempt. She knows the routine. She’s purchased the sperm box for $320 with her bank card. She’s singing all the way to the clinic. Her partner of six years, unfortunately, has left her six months ago. Fine, she’ll do it alone. Then one day it happens–on the pregnancy test stick, two hot pink lines. This is it.
There’s nothing Andrea Askowitz wants more than to become a mother, and her no-holds-barred account of that journey, My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy, is the funniest memoir in years, not to mention so upbeat and heartwarming you want to give it to every woman friend you know, pregnant or not. Bursting with laugh-out-loud humor, enriched by the author’s deeply touching vulnerability, Askowitz’s book utterly belies its title–it has very little misery or loneliness in it. Andrea is surrounded by a delightful cast of big-hearted women who accompany her on her mission toward motherhood.
What a refreshing new voice! The humor is just salty enough, the language crisp, with a nice, honest bite. Askowitz has the expert timing of a stand-up comic but the honesty and sensitivity of a good Jewish girl who has dreamed her whole life of becoming a mother and is not going to let being a lesbian stand in her way. Her single-minded quest is so studded with revelatory, witty delights that the book is a page-turner simply because one funny scene follows right on the heels of another–her diary entries are energetic, bluntly honest and in their own whiny, bitchy way, dang near fearless.
From confronting her liberal but disapproving parents to facing the possibility that she could have two uteruses, her provocative diary entries leave you constantly wiping your eyes from laughter and tears. Accompanied by her hauntingly attractive ex-lover and her gloriously faithful, straight best friend, Askowitz bravely takes you along for the whole confusing, challenging ride of creating another human being, sharing it all with you right up to the minute-by-minute last contractions of the emotionally pitch-perfect ending.–Nick DiMartino
Shelf Talker: A hilarious and heartwarming memoir of a woman’s challenging journey through a long-desired pregnancy. April 2009.
Listen to Andrea live on the airwaves of KMOX, St. Louis, MO.
UK Review chromajournal.blogspot.com
“Andrea Askowitz’s story reveals the unique journey of her pregnancy. Empowered and frightened, Ms. Askowitz paints a vibrant picture of her excitement at being pregnant and her intense lonliness. Throughout her story Ms. Askowitz reveals her deep Jewish roots, values and questions. As much as this story is about the pregnancy it’s also about her own Jewish parenting discovery.”
–Rabbi Jamie Aklepi, Congregation Bet Breira
August 14th, 2008
Andrea is a 35-year-old pregnant, neurotic single lesbian. She wets herself when she sneezes, she pukes at the roadside and pretends that she’s praying, and she worries about getting a girlfriend.
“I hope I have a super-wide vagina. I certainly will after birth. I know this isn’t sexually ideal for most women, but I think lesbians like a wide, stretched-out vagina on their partner. The more she can shove in there, the more sexual prowess she thinks she has. Maybe someday this will be one of my selling points.”
My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy is extremely funny. It follows Andrea’s pregnancy from the days of sperm-hunting to insemination to birth, but it’s also the story of her complicated relationship with her ex-girlfriend, family, Jewish community, lesbian community and therapists (she is from Los Angeles, after all).
The book is a mixture of fascinating insights into pregnancy and hysterical hysteria:
“Week 9. I take a bath to try to relax. The books say baths in the first trimester are okay as long as the temperature doesn’t go above 98 degrees. The bath feels perfect, warm but not too hot. But to be safe I take out my basal body thermometer, the one I used to track my cycle, and take the bath’s temperature. 103 degrees. I’m sure now, at 3:45 a.m. that I’ve boiled my baby.”
“Week 34. With just six weeks to go, the Birthing Centre strongly advises beginning perineal massage to avert ripping the vagina or the need for an episiotomy (cutting the perineum) during childbirth.
“Instructions for perineal massage: place the thumb into the vagina and press back towards the anus until a stinging sensation is felt. Hold the thumb in place for two minutes or until the area becomes numb. For three to four minutes, slowly massage back and forth the lower half of the vagina, working the lubricant into the tissue.
“Perineal massage is best done with a partner. I find it very difficult to lean over my belly and insert the thumb at the proper angle. Instead, I take the backdoor approach and use my middle finger. I press it gently, and ow. I have a lot of stretching to do.”
Despite the name, My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy is surprisingly uplifting. It’s an unflinchingly intimate story, wrapped in black humour but delivered with honesty and warmth.
Review by Milly Shaw
Q: You had wanted a child for a long time, but at nearly 35, you were single and mourning the break-up with your girlfriend. What made you go through with it?
A: I really thought that if I didn’t do it, I might lose the chance forever. It was a five-year buildup. At 30, I was like, ‘Oh, I really want a baby’.’ I fell in love with my nieces, that whole feeling, and thought, I want that, too. Then when I got to 35, it was like this huge momentum I’d already started. I’d done a lot of research. I think I stepped into pregnancy with confidence. The day I got pregnant, that all changed. . . . I didn’t want to go it alone, but I just felt like I had to.
Q: You had a lot of friends with babies that kept telling you ‘You can’t do this alone.’ How do you think that affected how you felt about it?
A: I wouldn’t want to hear that. I just thought, ”Well, what am I going to do? What are my choices, then?” So I was just angry, really. I don’t really like to hear that something is impossible. . . . Tons of women have babies on their own.
Q: New mothers tend to lean on each other, whether it’s through websites or through friendships. Was that type of support hard to find?
A: No. There were eight of us in our birth class at the Hollywood Birth Center [in Los Angeles.] About two months after Tashi was born, I called the Hollywood Birth Center. We’d been sitting in class together for the month before the babies were born, and I invited them over and we just started meeting every week. They were my support. I loved these women. We’d talk about sex. I felt like I was the only woman who wasn’t having sex, but I wasn’t. No one was having sex. They were just so cool. It was no big deal that one person in the group was a lesbian.
Q: When you run into people you don’t know, or even people you do know, do you find that they are curious about how you got pregnant?
A: I actually want people to ask me how I got pregnant because I think it’s sort of strange that they don’t. When I was doing my daughter’s baby-naming, she was 5 months old, I was down here in Miami. We invited 100 people from my past, and not a single person asked me how I got pregnant. Some of these people I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. My aunts and uncles probably knew, and some people knew. But a lot of people might not have known. . . . To me, the not asking makes an even bigger deal out of the situation. It’s sort of like this scary secret.
Q: When did you first broach the subject with Tashi?
A: Really early. I said, ”I want you to know that you have a donor.” I was really careful not to say, ”You don’t have a dad.” Though she will say, ”I don’t have a dad.” And then I’ll say, ”Well, what do you have?” Then she’ll say, ”a mom” and she’s all proud.
Q: Tashi is now 4. What was harder, the pregnancy, toddler or newborn part?
A: Pregnancy. As soon as I had the baby, I really felt like the best me. I really did. During the middle of the night crying, I would dance to Come Away with Me, you know that song? We danced to that, me and Tashi, every night for like a month. Every single night at 3 in the morning. Even though the whole world was dark, it didn’t matter. I wasn’t scared making all the decisions I had to make — do I vaccinate or not? . . . It keeps getting easier.
Q: How do you think being a lesbian has shaped your experience as a mother?
A: It has been a good transference to my daughter because I’m not like the regular people. I know I’m not. I’m accepting of myself that way, and so I’m accepting of her.
Q: What do you mean?
A: She can wear whatever she wants. I want her to be her own person, and she does have strong opinions and a big personality. She loves to dress up. My stepmom got her a velvet [outfit] — it looks like something you’d wear to Easter, with a really long flowy skirt. She wore that to school. It’s not like she wants to wear it and feel like a princess. I support her in doing that.
Q: You have a partner now, but for awhile you were a single mom. What were some of the coping strategies that you had?
A: I had a wonderful nanny that became part of our family. I actually think a nanny is more important than a partner, especially in the beginning, in so many ways. Just having someone you trust, so that you can do other things like ride my bike and not have to worry about paying someone back a favor. . . . And the circle of friends I pulled around me at that time, [which was called] the nipple ring. The writing about it. And then I moved to Miami when Tashi was 2 because I wanted to be around my family. Now I have my mom and my dad . . . I’ve gotten a lot of help, and I’ve asked for it.
Q: What advice to you have for other potential single moms like you?
A: Do it before it’s too late . . . Lots of things happened for me that I didn’t expect. I didn’t know I was going to have a support group. I felt so alone until like the last month.
“Andrea is warm, funny and filthy.”
–Mickey Kaus, Slate.com
“This is one whiny, bitchy pregnant lady—and you can’t help but love her. Askowitz is funny and fearless.”
–Louise Sloan, author of Knock Yourself Up: A Tell-All Guide to Becoming a Single Mom
“You don’t have to be a miserable, lonely, pregnant lesbian to adore Andrea Askowitz’s awfully funny story. Anyone who enjoys schadenfreude, laugh-out-loud asides, and frank depictions of biological horrors will love this wonderful book. You read it dog-eared and quote the most outrageous parts at length to all your friends.”
–Jennifer Traig, author of Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood
“Andrea Askowitz hits on all the key points of surviving pregnancy as a single lesbian–dealing with donor choices and unreliable ex’s, coping with hormonal hell and morning sickness at all hours, and figuring out exactly what one will need for life with a new baby (and no, a new tent isn’t the best baby registry item!). It takes a brave mama-to-be to tell it like it is so honestly, and I am deeply grateful for her occasionally despondent, but usually hilarious, tale. Our community is in desperate need for more true-life tales from the pregnancy front, and this is one book that should be mandatory reading for all lesbian mothers-to-be.”
–Rachel Pepper, author of Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians.
“ Funny, sad, unblinkingly honest–I would give this one to any pregnant friend and a few who aren’t.”
–Joyce Maynard, author of At Home in the World and To Die For.
“ Andrea is the lesbian Annie Lamott. Her book makes me want to donate sperm.”
–Taylor Negron, author, actor, performer.
“My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy, Andrea Askowitz’s brilliantdebut memoir, is the exact kind of thing I’m always looking for at the bookstore—something that reads like an intimate yet super funny, painfully true letter from my very best friend. Andrea is like a girl version of David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs—mining perfect comedic moments from the very worst of life’s offerings. You don’t have to be miserable, lonely or a lesbian to completely relate to the hilarious journey that is Andrea’s life.”
–Jill Soloway, author of Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants, writer/co-executive producer of Six Feet Under and much more.
“Hilarious and all too true. After my own miserable lesbian pregnancy, Andrea Askowitz’s confessions cheered me up immeasurably.”
–Ariel Gore, creator of Hip Mama and author of many books including The Mother Trip and How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead.