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Silent Sorority: A Barren Woman Gets Busy, Angry, Lost and Found

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From celebrity and news magazines to TV programs to Facebook pages and mommy blogs, family-building successes are routinely and glowingly shared and celebrated. But where are the voices of those who are unable to have children? In relating what happens when nature and science find their limits, Silent Sorority examines a seldom acknowledged outcome and raises provocative, often uncomfortable questions usually reserved for late night reflection or anonymous blogging. Outside of the physical reckoning there lies the challenge of moving forward in a society that doesn't know how to handle the awkwardness of infertility. With no Emily Post-like guidelines for supporting couples who can't conceive, most well-intentioned "fertile" people miss the mark. Silent Sorority offers an unflinching and insightful look at what it's like to be barren in an era of designer babies and helicopter parents. Silent Sorority received the 2010 Team RESOLVE Choice Award for Best Book.

216 pages, Paperback

First published April 18, 2009

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About the author

Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos

2 books22 followers
Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos (Sig-din-us) is an award-winning author, a blogger and an infertility survivor. Her first book, Silent Sorority (2009), became the first memoir about infertility not authored by a mother. In May 2015 her ebook, Finally Heard: A Silent Sorority Finds Its Voice, became available.

Pamela's work gives voice to the large but little known population of women left to confront the often unpredictable and lasting impact of failed fertility treatments. Relationships and identity are among the casualties. With raw honesty Pamela draws from her experience to explore the stigma associated with infertility and the complex effects of living involuntarily childless. Pamela and her blog have been profiled in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The American Prospect, The Ottawa Citizen, FORTUNE, WIRED magazine,The New Atlantis, Redbook, Vancouver Sun and Yahoo Shine. Pamela was honored in New York in September 2010 at RESOLVE's Night of Hope where received the 2010 RESOLVE Choice Award for Best Book.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews
Profile Image for Shannon.
131 reviews21 followers
October 11, 2012
If only this book was required reading for everyone....

It really baffles me how people, mothers especially, don't understand what it feels like to lose a child over and over again. But many don't, and the insensitive hurtful comments keep on coming. Reading this book would probably help them to understand how hurtful actions and words can be, even when not intended to be.
Profile Image for Jeretta Hall-Robinson.
427 reviews24 followers
July 5, 2019
I wish that I couldn't relate to this book, but I very much do. Not being able to have children is emotionally and physically draining on so many levels. It hurts you, your partner, family, and friends. In this book, Pamela Tsigdinos writes the experience so well. In so many moments throughout the book, I thought she was writing about me and what I had been feeling. The anger, frustration, endless crying, avoiding people (especially babies and pregnant women) were all things that I dealt (and to some extent still do) with during the battle with infertility.

I usually don't up this much about my personal life in a book review, but this book is about a deeply personal topic. Unless you have been there or know some very close to you has been there, you can't understand what it is like. The book gives a good idea so hopefully you will be more sympathetic. I have encountered far too many insensitive comments and flippant remarks (especially the tips that will 'definitely get you pregnant'). Unless I give a full health history, you have no idea I or someone else will get pregnant. You don't know the heartbreak each month of trying and failing. You have no idea how many tears have been shed. How you can feel so anxious and hopeful one minute all to have it crash down the next.

After a few years of trying naturally, my husband and I decided to go ahead with adoption. We don't have a ton of money, so we could either invest in adoption or fertility treatments. Neither of us were comfortable with the physical and emotional toll that fertility treatments would take on us (particularly have having a miscarriage and unable to get pregnant again). We previously discussed adopting AFTER we had kids of our own and they were a little older. But now that plan has been put to the forefront. Tsigdinos perfectly discusses the adoption questions that arise for infertile couples. If someone chooses to tell me that I will get pregnant after adopting, then I have decided to start rattling off statistics. In the 1970's a study found that only 8% of people that adopted got pregnant naturally after their adoption was complete. If you discount the number of people that are taking fertility treatments before hand, then I am sure that the number is still roughly the same. Since we are not, there is a 92% that it won't happen. Please stop trying to "give people hope" when you say those things. It is unkind and puts their adoption in a disparaging light. They are not adopting just so they will magically get pregnant. People are choosing to adopt because they want to expand their family and be parents. It is not an easy process and it is not for everyone. Do not just jump to conclusions when people say that they cannot have children. And if someone does tell you they are adopting, BE SUPPORTIVE OF THE ADOPTION! Do not go into warning remarks or discouraging statements. This happen to me shortly after announcing we were adopting and it nearly broke me again. If you feel the need to give a comment, please do with an understanding that you may not know their whole situation. Is it really best to give commentary on someone else's life when you don't know all of the details? Would you like it if someone did that to you? On the opposite side, if someone said that they were trying fertility treatments and that they did not want to adopt, then don't harass them about why they aren't adopting. BE SUPPORTIVE OF FERTILITY TREATMENTS! It is a difficult decision that each person facing infertility has to make on their own. Adopting is not an easy process and can take a while. That couple may want the experience of pregnancy and a child of their own. If people were just all around encouraging of each other, things might be a little better for everyone.

I am so sorry to go on a rant, but this book really helped to me to see that I am not alone and that all the thoughts and feelings I had, someone else had as well. If you are infertile, read this book. If you are fertile, read this book - just so that you can understand.
April 9, 2021
I can’t thank the author enough for this book. She put so many of my thoughts into words and made me feel understood. This is the book I needed to read, living the pain of infertility.

I appreciate that she can bring humor to a situation that is anything but funny. She did it perfectly. Her term “Assisted Reproductive Roulette” could not be more accurate! That should be the name for a fertility clinic!
Profile Image for Natalie.
82 reviews
September 12, 2013
This is a book I highly recommend to anyone trying to understand a friend or family member struggling with infertility, or as comfort to someone who is experiencing it. It's an excellent chronicle and description of the author's experiences, that I think most women who are or have gone through with this will identify with; though our treatments and individual circumstances vary. I especially appreciated and identified with her descriptions of how isolating and private the experience is.... how even though you want to talk about it with people sometimes, the gory details of your experiences are not polite conversation... and that if you do find a way to share a few things, the responses you receive are often insensitive to the point you simply close off any discussion of your situation. Or that the majority of casual conversation does center around family and children. I also appreciate that she explains that the isolation never ends. That the most meaningful life experience and rite of passage for women is not a reality for all of us and the sense of being left out never goes away, but becomes a companion you learn to live with as you seek fulfillment in other life arenas.
8 reviews
November 11, 2011
I absolutely DEVOURED this book. I couldn't put it down. I felt like I was reading about the past 6 years of my life. I wish I could have all of my inner circle read it just to give them a better understanding of the emotional rollercoaster that haunts the most mundane of daily events of an infertile woman. Mrs. Tsigdinos put into words the complex emotions and internal struggles I have been battling since we received our diagnosis and bleak prognosis. She gave me words to use in difficult or uncomfortable situations with friends and family. A wonderful book!
Profile Image for Mandi.
11 reviews
January 28, 2016
This book is amazing. I felt as if the author was inside my mind, sharing my personal thoughts and feelings. I have had difficulty explaining our journey, struggles and decision to finally stop trying with our "fertile" family & friends, and this provided me with not only ideas for communicating, but also a feeling of support and understanding that is tough to find in our kid-centric, mommy-centric society. Thank you, Pamela!
Profile Image for Alison.
183 reviews3 followers
April 15, 2012
I'm one of the "fertiles", and although I've always tried to be compassionate towards "infertiles" (her wording!), this let me know just how much more compassionate I should be. Terrifying and brave. This should be required reading for...anyone, really! Since infertility is not discussed, it carries such a stigma, and as she writes, that just adds to the pain women are already experiencing.
2 reviews
February 13, 2012
Pretty much sums it all up. Something that I have struggled to voice. Thank you Pamela Tsigdinos for breaking the silence.
Profile Image for Katy.
41 reviews1 follower
November 19, 2015
Great book. There aren't hardly any books on the market about infertility, let alone moving on from infertility to live child-free (by choice and by chance). It's truly even more of a small minority group. I can't read enough from women who have also gone through infertility...and come out the other end. It really is like putting yourself back together again, as the author describes in the last chapter. I loved reading how angry, bitter and sad she was because that was my experience, and the experience of many women I met face to face and formed relationships with. It's enough on its own to go through infertility and the death of a dream most people take for granted, without heaping mounds of guilt on yourself for feeling and thinking "bad" thoughts. It's comforting to know someone had those same dark emotions. I like how she addressed that while you "move on" from infertility to create a new life, with new goals, dreams and milestones, there really is no such thing. It will probably always lurk just beneath the surface.Though, with time I hope it gets buried a bit deeper. It's not something to get over. Especially since we're reminded of what we don't have, simply by just living in the world we live in, where family is paramount and mothers are regarded as deities to be worshiped by society. My only wish for this book was that she had talked more specifically on her life after she decided enough was enough and stopped treatments. I was hoping for more of a "how to" book, or at least what helped her through this difficult transition. There wasn't much of that, but it was still a great read. Overall, it was nice to see a book address the rollercoaster of emotions without then ending the story with a pregnancy and birth of a baby (like many do). We can still have our happy ending, even if it doesn't involve a child. Life can be worthwhile, and beautiful, and meaningful and full, all without a baby.
Profile Image for Stampie.
292 reviews6 followers
October 30, 2014
I finished this book a week ago and am still not sure what to write.
All I can say for sure is, this book ought to be a mandatory read for ALL. 20% of couple struggle to conceive, and 14% are diagnosed with infertility (declared a disease by the WHO). Chances are you know someone personally who is suffering, and they likely have not mentioned it to you. I have been in this "silent sorority" for years, and am just now starting to speak out to those I know and love. It's hard because I don't want to deal with the reactions of the ignorant. Well-meaning people often say and do the most hurtful things.
If you want to understand the struggle, read this.
If you are suffering, read this.
If you feel lost and you don't know how you will carry on, read this.
It will not fix the problem, but it will bring knowledge to "fertiles" who can't understand, and comfort for those who are experiencing infertility.
221 reviews
June 12, 2020
This is a wonderful book; I read it in just two sittings. I wish that this could be required reading for high school sex ed classes. You never know if you're in the fertile group or infertile group until you start trying, and if fertile people read this maybe they'd stop being so insensitive to infertile people.

I admire the author---her strength, her self awareness---and I appreciate the journey she went through. My infertility struggles are still close/ongoing, but I needed to read something about someone else's journey because she's right when she says it's lonely. I'd highly recommend this book for anyone struggling with fertility who or anyone who knows someone struggling with fertility. It can be difficult to discuss (she says she only gave her mom the Cliff's Notes version), but this book would give people a good idea of the entire process.
Profile Image for Pamela Tsigdinos.
Author 2 books22 followers
October 15, 2009
Silent Sorority won the 2010 RESOLVE Best Book Award so I'm rating on behalf of the RESOLVE members. Many thanks for this honor.
Profile Image for Katie Nunn.
34 reviews2 followers
October 4, 2020
Loved how real she was. Also helpful to hear someone with a perspective on infertility that leaves room for not choosing adoption.
January 18, 2021
I can relate so much to how she feels when the topic of having children comes up. Every woman should read this book.
Profile Image for Yolanda.
73 reviews
January 16, 2012
I learned a lot from this book. It helped me to better understand what women who can't have children go through. I know I will continue to learn because I will probably never fully realize the magnitude of this unfair condition. I see it can be overwhelming at times and there seems to be no "getting over it". Pamela (this author) feels dealing with it and facing it head-on is what helped her but it is process, with steps like grief, and is different for everyone, just like the grief process. It was kind of hard to read her story, because I felt she really felt sorry for herself, but in the end, that was what she needed to go through to end up not cured, but resigned to her life and seeing more clearly what she did have and not just focus on what she didn't.
I totally recommend this book to all adults.
Profile Image for Traci.
150 reviews4 followers
November 8, 2012
This is one of the better infertility memoirs out there. It's comfort and validation for those who have been through the ringer and back to try to have biological children and learned that it's just not possible. It's also really good education (especially the chapters on her experiences with failed IVF cycles most importantly the adoption chapter) for the general "fertile"/childlessness by choice populations that just don't understand why people would go to such lengths to have a baby.

Profile Image for Jennifer.
28 reviews
August 4, 2011
I didn't know it was possible to laugh and cry at the same time until I read this book. FINALLY- a book about what it's REALLY like to struggle with infertility without the typical "happy ending". The author clearly describes the long and difficult road to a complete (and happy!) life without children and the hurdles to get there. I am making this required reading for my family and close friends who have no idea what we're going through.
Profile Image for Holly C.
20 reviews
August 3, 2013
I'm not sure how to review this book and do it full justice... A thoughtful and raw account of the reality that infertility plays in our lives, and the in-between world that those of us live in. Not childless by choice, not parents. The author gives hope that there is life without children, but also a haunting reality check that the hurt doesn't ever fully go away. A must read for anyone going through infertility or for their 'fertile' friends and family.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
34 reviews8 followers
February 9, 2013
I had a hard time reading this book because it hit a little to close to home. I totally understood the author's frustration, sadness, grief, and outright anger caused by infertility. The world would be a better place if "fertile" people read this book. Some compassion toward those of us who are unable to conceive a child would make a huge difference to so many people!
Profile Image for Niki Taylor.
9 reviews18 followers
December 18, 2021
The author writes about the downsides of infertility. I recommend this. She uses humor and personal experiences, and it makes me feel less alone as an infertile woman.
Profile Image for Sue.
Author 15 books26 followers
March 1, 2012
This is a wonderful memoir of the painful struggle to conceive and the just as painful struggle to accept that it isn't going to happen. Tsigdinos writes in an easy flowing style of a subject that isn't discussed nearly enough.
July 23, 2013
Terrifyingly true. I read the first half and thought someone had stolen my diary. I cried audibly when I read it. If friends of mine want to understand me better, they should read this book. Written by a brave soul about her own journey.
Profile Image for Pamela Tsigdinos.
Author 2 books22 followers
July 26, 2010
Silent Sorority won the 2010 RESOLVE Best Book Award so I'm rating on behalf of the RESOLVE members. Many thanks for this honor.
Profile Image for Luann Habecker.
204 reviews2 followers
October 30, 2019
a healthy disregard for the status quo

Not surprisingly, ovulation kits were positioned right next to the pregnancy kits. The logic being: if this, then that. HARDLY.

sigh. my self-esteem took another hit. The message was clear: Not qualified. Once more i felt like a failure.
I'd been trying on different clothes or looks to satisfy a greater urge to literally transform physically into a different person-a non-mom.

I always assumed I"d be consumed at this point in my life with more conventional concerns and distractions

I realized pain was not something one could compare or measure or put a value on.

The voice inside my head all but screamed out: Can't you see my suffering?

pg 104

primarily defining myself as an "infertile woman". My response: society already did that work for infertiles. We never had a choice in the matter. Day in, day out, countless references from other established "fertility" as a key component of their identity.
one positions oneself by positioning the other guy

pg 126 on adoption

pg 144 only child reference cliche

to disclose something i had been socialized to hide

pg 155

You think about what's going on in your life. If you want to be shielded from that conversation, you need to say something. Just as i have to say something when I hear a mothers tell her daughter she looks fat. It's a process of education. We all have our hot buttons.

I couldn't help but think, there goes another one, graduation and moving on.

we're living our own kind of normal. This is our normal. This is what our life is supposed to be.
That's when it became clear to me. I had spent the better part of m adult life in a losing battle bu allowing other people and traditions to dictate was was "normal," to let their ideas define me and my life. I had to stop using the fertile world as a measuring stick.

the buzz kill associated with my story... instead i was left feeling and closeted.
Why, i wondered, did we infertile folk feel it necessary to go out of our way to protect others from the reality of our experiences, to suffer silently wishing we had a repertoire of our own (fill in the blank) nature to tell?

I certainly never aspired to be an infertility community "poster child," but I was beyond frustrated at living in a society that preferred people in my situation to be silent, invisible. There are no walkathons, golf tournaments, fundraisers, or consistent celebrity-led efforts to raise awareness and understanding about the topic. The muted voices of the infertile only serve to perpetuate the shame and stigma.

I slowly realized that submitting to the pain, not trying to control or deny it, was the first step to healing.

Infertility clearly caused collateral damage. The losses extended well beyond me.

Adoption is NOT a solution for infertility. As if taking someone else's child and causing them pain and loss will somehow cure yours. That is most unfair to children who are made to feel like 'replacements.'
[continue to speak out!]

help educate those who want to be educated

pg 191

We can't take away the pain. All we can do it transform in response to it.
Profile Image for Frances.
101 reviews
December 5, 2022
This book came at an important time for me. I was also dealing with emotions related to infertility and wanted to be content whatever the outcome. I wanted to hear from women about how they built lives without children. This book made me feel fortunate to be living now when we are becoming more aware of the struggle many couples go through and learning to be more sensitive. At least this has been my experience. Of course I have been sitting at tables with women who talk a lot about their children, or have been asked when it will be my turn. I have also probably at some point committed some of the errors the author points out such as asking about adoption. I objected a bit to her assessment and assumption that the asker somehow thinks this will be the same as biological children. I think we do have to give each other some grace. I know if I’ve said it is in a genuine way where I want to be able to support a friend in their choices and have a genuine interest. I have also been asked this question. I appreciate the author’s sharing of her personal story. It gives us a lot to consider and hopefully have more thoughtful interactions with each other related to the topic of infertility.
Profile Image for Chandra Powers Wersch.
88 reviews9 followers
January 7, 2023
Anyone who's dealt with infertility or has a friend/family with infertility issues should read this book (or at least parts of it).
I got it from the library, but now buying a copy.
Profile Image for Anne-Marie Scully.
Author 2 books13 followers
March 20, 2013
As a woman suffering infertility I have read countless memoirs on the subject but this one really struck a chord with me. The author is a very talented writer and manages to inject some humor now and again into what is a very dark subject. I find it interesting how each person copes with infertility and although Pamela coped differently to me I could resonate with all the situations she found herself in. A truly inspiring read for anyone on this painful journey
Profile Image for Lori Holden.
Author 5 books8 followers
January 16, 2013
If you've ever wanted to get inside the head of someone who has experienced infertility, this is a must-read book. Pamela shares how devastating the diagnosis and treatments can be physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Of all the ways out of infertility, living child-free has been the least understood, and this book shows how one couple endured it.
Profile Image for Tara.
176 reviews1 follower
December 28, 2012
I appreciated Ms. Tsigdinos' raw emotion and her story. The last part of the book felt more like she had scraped some blog comments together into a chapter or two, rather than really exploring what happy adult life without children looked like.
Profile Image for Jenn.
242 reviews2 followers
July 2, 2013
I expected a lot from this based on the other reviews. I liked it, but it didn't quite meet my high expectations. I struggle with memoirs a little, and prefer to read novels, which may have contributed to my low-ish rating.
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