Caitlin Constantine's Reviews > Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict

Impossible Motherhood by Irene Vilar
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Mar 04, 10

Read from February 28 to March 03, 2010

It's interesting that so much of the discussion surrounding this book focused on her abortions, when really, the abortions were almost incidental to the story. This could have been a book about an eating disorder or alcoholism or cutting, because the point wasn't so much that Vilar had all these abortions as much as it was that she was an addict, just like nearly everyone else in her family (including an older brother who ODed on heroin).

Her issues were no doubt helped along by her relationship with a pathologically narcissistic man, the kind of man who took credit for all of the good things in the lives of his wives, who blamed them for all that went wrong with his, and who found everyone else boring unless they were talking about him. He took up with Vilar when she was a precocious teenage college student and he her much older professor, and he used to tell her that "family kills desire," and that his previous relationships had been destroyed when the women decided they wanted children and they became bitter and wounded and less pliable, all by the withered old age of 28.

I had moments where I wanted to track this man down and beat him senseless with a hardcover copy of "The Second Sex." I would say that I have a hard time believing such a man could actually exist, except I don't, because I've known men who were quite similar in philosophy and temperament.

Like many readers, I found myself frustrated with the author, but not because I was envisioning all of the pregnancies she terminated (which came out to something like 15, which is a lot of pregnancies!) It's the kind of frustration you feel when you come across someone who consistently and repeatedly engages in self-destructive behavior, even though you KNOW they know better. It's the kind of frustration I feel when I watch "Intervention," where I just want to shake the person by the shoulders and tell them to snap the fuck out of it already. However, my frustration is tempered by empathy, as I know I was at one point in my life the woman others wanted to take by the shoulders and shake the sense back into, and so I cannot be too hard on her, especially as it seems as though she is in a much better place now.

Unfortunately, while she spends several chapters laying out the disastrous events of her life, the analysis by which she explains it all felt a bit flimsy to me. I wish she would have elaborated more, because I had glimmers of understanding but nothing like what I look for when I read a memoir. I also wish there would have been more written about the impact the U.S.-directed program of forced sterilization and birth control experimentation had on the women of Puerto Rico. I don't want to say too much, but the bit that Vilar did divulge broke my heart and infuriated me, and it reminded me of how a single devastating act can echo across generations.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, despite the criticism I have of the ending, I have to say the book was beautifully written. Some of the language Vilar uses is so perfect that it was easy to overlook the flaws. I hope she writes more because I would absolutely love to read it.
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message 1: by Ciara (new)

Ciara that book sounds kind of scary. "abortion never offered any honest person easy answers"? what? it offered me a pretty easy answer. does it totally pathologize abortion, or what?


Caitlin Constantine Ciara wrote: "that book sounds kind of scary. "abortion never offered any honest person easy answers"? what? it offered me a pretty easy answer. does it totally pathologize abortion, or what?"

Where did you see that quote? Just out of curiosity. I couldn't find it.

I'm a hundred pages into it, and I would say that this woman is not exactly what I would call the average abortion recipient (is that the right word to use? recipient?). She has something like 11 in 12 years, while she's with this professor she met when she was 16 and he was 50. It's a completely dysfunctional relationship, and if anyone or anything is pathologized, it's the two people in the relationship, not abortion.

So far it's shaping up to be an interesting read, with a lot of writing about secret family histories and the legacy of colonialism. The prologue talks about how the author is pro-choice and she was afraid to write her story because she knew it would bring down holy hell from all sides of the abortion debate. I'll post more once I finish the book, which at this rate should be tomorrow night.


message 3: by Ciara (new)

Ciara i saw the quote in the goodreads official description of the book, which might be jacket copy or from the publisher catalogue or something. very weird.

i read a bunch of reviews of it here after i left this comment, & the thing that bothered me the most was all the people that were like, "i am pro-choice, but this woman goes too far." i was like, O RLY? i don't understand how you can be pro-choice but decide that some women's choices are not acceptable. based on the description & the many reviews & what you said, it sounds like this woman was in a seriously fucked up relationship & not necessarily making the best choices she could make in all areas of her life, but i still support any woman's right to have as many abortions as she feels she needs to have in order to have the life she wants to have in the moment. & ugh, all the shit about, "abortion is such a difficult decision...this book illustrates the scars that abortion leaves behind..." blah blah blah. that is what i mean when i refer to "pathologizing abortion". why is it so unacceptable for a woman to say, "i chose an abortion & all i felt was relief at not having to be pregnant anymore, & it was the most obvious & happy option available to me." surely i am not the only woman in the entire history of the world that has felt that way?


message 4: by Caitlin (last edited Mar 01, 2010 11:34AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Caitlin Constantine Yeah, I often find myself having that argument as well. Either you are pro-choice and you support a woman's right to choose what she does with her body 100 percent, or you aren't. Doesn't matter if you would or would not have done something, because it's not your body with which to make that decision.

I didn't bother reading the other reviews of the book because the reviews and discussions are all these knee-jerk things, like they are unable to see past their initial squeamishness over abortion to actually assess the material properly. I remember when Jezebel wrote about it and there was this huge uproar in the comments, and it's like, no wonder Vilar was so worried about writing this book, because she accurately gauged the way a lot of her supposed political allies would receive it.


message 5: by Ericka (new)

Ericka Ciara wrote: "why is it so unacceptable for a woman to say, 'i chose an abortion & all i felt was relief at not having to be pregnant anymore, & it was the most obvious & happy option available to me.' surely i am not the only woman in the entire history of the world that has felt that way?"

Most certainly not. I wrote about that in a zine after my abortion in 1997. I felt downright joyous & lucky about the whole thing.


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