by Rachel Cartan
Genre: ‘Based on the author’s true life experiences, 336 Hours is a humorous and poignant diary about one woman’s quest to be a mother.’
Release Date: 13th February 2017
Publisher: SilverWood Books
The next 336 hours will be tough. No, the next 336 hours will be really tough…
I feel like an Olympian, waiting to see whether the years of hard work, sacrifice and dedication are finally going to pay off, or whether my body is about to fail me at the last hurdle and make me wonder why I ever hoped I could win.
My best friend is pregnant, my single friends are planning their pregnancies and, after five long years of tests and investigations, I’m coming to the end of my third – and supposedly final – IVF treatment. There are 336 hours to survive before I’ll know if I get to join the motherhood club. That’s 224 waking hours of pure psychological torture. 112 sleeping hours to stare at the ceiling and wonder, what the hell am I going to do with my life if it turns out I can’t have kids?
Based on the author’s true life experiences, 336 Hours is a humorous and poignant diary about one woman’s quest to be a mother.
They should have IVF farms for women like me to book into at times like these; pretty padded cells with flat-screen TVs and row upon row of feel-good DVDs and relaxation CDs, and beautiful gardens and luxury bathrooms with hot taps that would never heat up to embryo boiling temperatures, and gigantic rocking chairs so that we could legitimately sit and rock ourselves backwards and forwards for hours on end without looking completely crazy in the process.
I can’t pretend to have a clue what she means, of course. I don’t know what it’s like to have little people shouting, ‘Mummy! Mummy! MUUMMEEE!’ all day long, to never be able to go for a wee on your own, to make spaghetti bolognese and then watch your dinner dates tip it straight over their heads, to stay up all night comforting a teething toddler, to spend hours coercing and pleading with very small people to put shoes and coats on so you can at last leave the fucking house.
But I want to know this life. Because that stuff gives you stories, first-hand experiences, and the right to exchange knowing smiles of solidarity with other frazzled parents as you all manoeuvre your wayward shopping trolleys around the aisles of Tesco.
And it comes with other stuff, too: the good stuff.
ABOUT RACHEL CATHAN
RACHEL CATHAN is a writer from Bedfordshire. In 2001, a mutual friend introduced her to a part-time pub DJ in Southend-on-Sea. A month later, they had moved in together, around seven years later they tied the knot, and a little while after that – just like so many couples before them – they made the exciting and terrifying decision to start a family. And then, like a growing number of couples today, well…not a lot happened.
Throughout the subsequent years of fertility investigations and failed treatments, Rachel kept a diary of her experiences, and it’s from these first- hand encounters in the world of infertility and IVF that her first book, 336 Hours has been adapted.
Why I Wrote 336 Hours
My initial reason for writing 336 Hours was pretty simple: it was a form of therapy. And a form of therapy that was much-needed at the time.
This story emerged from the diaries I kept during the years that my husband and I were trying for a baby. It was as we approached the third anniversary of trying to conceive that my need to get pregnant, and my need to manage the negative emotions that had overtaken me, required some kind of outlet. And I found that writing can be therapeutically powerful.
I decided to turn the diary entries into a fictional story rather than a straight memoir, maybe because I wanted to distance myself from what was happening, or maybe because I hoped to gain a little perspective on our situation by imagining that it was happening to somebody else instead.
When I first put pen to paper I don’t think I knew who I was writing for; it didn’t feel as though it was solely for me, but I know it definitely wasn’t for the world at large. Perhaps it was just for a friend; one of my virtual ‘Tarantino buddies’ as they’re referred to in the story, somebody who wouldn’t judge me and who would already understand exactly what I was experiencing.
Working on the story helped me. It wasn’t an escape from my problems; if anything it drew me further into them, but then my overriding problem had become my sole focus in life, and I wasn’t looking for escape.
What it allowed me to do was to validate my experience, make sense of it somehow, and understand why it had consumed my life and everything in it so completely.
More than that, it enabled me to laugh again, and to find a kind of dark humour in the depths of the despair I’d fallen into.
I divided the story into fourteen chapters, each one focusing on one day in the notorious IVF ‘two-week wait’ – a mind bending, wall-climbing stretch of time where there is nothing to do but wait to see whether or not you are finally pregnant. It was the part of the process that really got under my skin and even made me question my own sanity at times, so it felt natural to set the story during this intense 336 hour countdown.
I showed the first draft of the book to my Dad, who I knew to be a harsh but fair critic; someone I knew would give it to me straight and tell me whether or not this was a therapeutic exercise for me or something that should be shared more widely. He said it needed work. He advised me to replace ‘penis’ with ‘wiener’. He told me chapter ten might be a little short on the word ‘fucking’ (‘Remember Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles’, he suggested, because if you’re going to flip your lid, you may as well do it properly). He urged me to keep at it.
I rewrote it, but I didn’t want anyone to read it. It was too raw and it made me feel too exposed. It was just too close to home.
Fast forward four years, and as I held my new-born daughter over my shoulder one afternoon while searching for some paper for my two-year old son to scribble on, I stumbled across some pages of the book that I must have printed out for a proofread a few years earlier. Immediately, it transported me back to that terrifying place.
Four years had turned my world upside down. I had lost my Dad to the cancer he was fighting while we’d been in the throes of IVF, and I had acquired two children that I feared I would never meet. I had not forgotten our journey to parenthood; I knew it had left an indelible print on my life. I wondered if reading my story (or the story that was so heavily inspired by my story) could help somebody who was in that terrifying place, or if it could help somebody who had no idea about the impact of infertility to understand what it might be like to walk in these shoes.
I asked a few friends who had experienced infertility and IVF if they wouldn’t mind casting an eye over it. They told me I should get it out there; they wanted people to know that this was how it felt to be singled out by the universe as the ‘one in six’ who wouldn’t just ‘decide to have a baby’.
Now that I have decided to put it out there, am I worried about sharing something so personal with the world? Absolutely!
I expect many of the women who’ve been through infertility will connect with that awful bitterness and rage that my narrator wrestles with throughout the book, but how I will be judged by the rest of the world, I really couldn’t say.
But I have learnt in recent years that life is short and that risks are worth taking. And if there’s a chance that this book I wrote in grip of my darkest days might serve to make somebody else’s dark days just a little more tolerable, then I guess it is better off in the world than in the bottom of a drawer.
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33350325-336-hours?from_search=true.
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