Book Review: Childless, Sian Prior


Sian Prior’s second memoir, Childless: a story of freedom and nostalgia is a deep and honest dive into the endless experience of trying – and failing – to have a child. For anyone who has ridden the waves of nostalgia, loss, hope, discouragement and trauma from miscarriages, IVF and partners who say, “this is just not the right time”, this book will echo your experiences. If fertility issues haven’t been part of your experience, this book will lift the veil on an invisible wound that many women carry with them throughout their lives.

Throughout the book, motifs of deceased parents and children, drowned people, and childhood terrors testify to the precariousness of childhood and the vulnerability of children. The specter of the Bad Banksia Man holding a small baby by the feet. The ‘fee fi fo fum’ of the giants who come to eat our blood and our bones. For Prior, the loss of a father she does not remember, who died on a beach in Queensland rescuing people from the ocean.

Throughout these memoirs, Prior battles the ghosts and losses of the past with the hopes and disappointments of her years trying to have a child, while at the same time her body continues to fail her. And yet the book is full of children. A curious but insecure child she encounters on a pier, whose mother ignores her while Prior watches and yearns to step in and take over. Three miscarriages with a loving partner, each traumatic in its own way. A second partner whose life is so filled with children and family that he can no longer fit into his multi-generational clan. Babies conceived by other couples through IVF. A beloved step-nephew who Prior bonds with but ultimately has to say goodbye when the pain of what has been lost becomes too acute. With each vignette, Prior establishes that she is outside those warm, cuddly worlds, looking longingly at something that will never be hers.

Some of what Prior explores in Childless is the disappointment and pain of middle age, that time when our dreams are now in the rearview mirror, and we have to pick ourselves up and find a new way to live. When we are young, we have so much hope for the future and for who we imagine we will be. Prior writes, “I always assumed it was a matter of when, not if, I would have a child.” It’s tempting to look back and imagine that we had an unshakeable belief about who we were going to become and what our future would be. But life has always been precarious and uncertain, as the stories of child deaths in the book demonstrate.

Childless is a reminder that no matter how much we aspire and imagine the perfect life, many things are beyond our control. This lack of control over the future, despite our best efforts, is reflected in the dissertation’s secondary theme, climate change and environmental destruction. Throughout her life, in addition to being an animator, musician, writer and teacher of creative writing, Prior has also been an environmental activist.

It is interesting to read this book during and after our recent Australian federal elections, when the Great Barrier Reef was used as a talking point in political debates, while at the same time its bleaching continues unabated, both in the text of Prior and in the warm waters of today. There is a heartbreaking story of a young boy who is terrified of the reef and doesn’t want to get in the water. Prior standby, unable to intervene. ”You don’t understand’, I want to whisper to him, ‘this could be your last chance?’

What makes this book so powerful is the intimacy and honesty of the stories Prior chose to reveal, moment by moment, as her ability to have a child crumbled. The most effective and powerful memoirs reveal something about us as readers, not just the author. Through its raw honesty and vivid imagery, Prior opens up so we can see and feel what it is to yearn, lose and give up on the idea of ​​having a child. For women whose bodies and hearts have been torn and broken by similar experiences, there will be catharsis and recognition. Even if it’s not your experience, the book will help you understand the heartbreaking fertility issues as well as the frustration and anger when our bodies fail us.

Read: Book Review: Fugitive, Simon Tedeschi

At the beginning of the book, Prior says, “We are allowed to feel anger when it is clear who is at fault… But anger is not acceptable in a situation like mine. Grief is fine, but it should be quiet, modest grief. For any woman who has felt the impossible rage at the loss of yet another child, the rage at yet another embryo that “didn’t stick,” this memoir gives you permission to be angry. And yet the book is filled not with anger, but with love and moments of beauty, and ultimately with a kind of muted acceptance as Prior flies off alone in a van along the Australian coast. It’s tempting to imagine that Prior has made peace with his childlessness, but overall these memoirs tell us that the loss and grief never truly leave us. But we can always find ways to create a life of joy and connection.

Childless: a story of freedom and nostalgia by Sian Prieur
Editor: Text Editing
ISBN: 9781922458568
Pages: 272 pages
Release date: March 29, 2022
MSRP: $34.99

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