Where’s My Baby? A Graphic Memoir Tackles Infertility
Phoebe Potts’s beguiling graphic memoir, Good Eggs, is about infertility like Jane Austen’s novels are about marriage. Potts’s unsuccessful quest to conceive a child may be the spine of her story, but it’s a story with many limbs: liberal guilt, true love, rediscovered Judaism, clinical depression, and oh yes, pleasing one’s parents. The story, in other words, of a northeastern intellectual liberal infertile Jewish Everywoman. With a wicked sense of humor. Who knows how to draw.
“I went to Smith! I untangled my issues in therapy! I worked for the poor! I married a nice (partially) Jewish boy! I recycle! I vote! I eat my greens! I go to yoga!” Potts writes in her foreword. “So…WHERE’S MY BABY?”
In a city like New York, the capital of prenatal yoga, overpriced strollers, chic diaper bags, in-vitro twins, and new parents in their 40s, Potts’s book has an obvious audience. But if you’ve ever struggled with faith, creativity, a dead-end job, or a parent who always says just the wrong thing, Potts’s candid wit will comfort. As portrayed here, Potts’s mother, or “The Source,” as one therapist dubs her, is the kind of “fiercely controlling, overwrought, over-tired, ultra-generous” mother you can’t live with and can’t live without. “I hope you don’t talk about ME in there!” she says when her depressed daughter starts therapy. Potts learns to imagine a parallel universe where her mother says things like “that must be hard” and “tell me about it, I’m listening” and “you’re handling this beautifully, I can tell”–things we all could remember to say when confronted with someone in need of empathy. And Potts does hear those things, occasionally, from a colorful cast of friends, relatives, and her hairdresser.
Potts sneaks her funnies in around the edges of her panels (the frieze on a medical building, upon close inspection, reads “JEWS GAVE MONEY TO BUILD THIS HOSPITAL AND REALLY, LET’S FACE IT, THANK GOD THEY DID”), and she is quick to skewer the absurdity of the infertility clinic. In her imagination, hyperstimulated follicles release eggs who boogie to Marvin Gaye, and the waiting room is populated with every stereotype: “the doting gay men & their plucky surrogate,” “the woman who makes the rest of us feel hopeful because she is 44 years old,” and many more, including Potts and her fellow-artist husband, Jeff, “fresh off the boat from Denial.”
The years of repeated frustration are increasingly unfunny, and Potts lets us see that too. Jeff is her rock, her beloved, the one who says “the things I need to hear, even if they are not true, when the alternative is just too hard to take.” But even Jeff falters once in a while. “First it’s just you and me,” he says of the road to conception, “but now it feels like you and me and NASA.” Potts jokes that if they are lucky enough to have their own “fertility twins,” she’ll name them Finally and Agony. “Fertility treatments,” she says, “have put us on a long, expensive road full of hope and heartbreak.” But then again, she concludes, that’s a fairly apt description of parenthood, so when someday, somehow, she becomes a parent, she’ll be ready.
Strength comes from the progressive Jewish congregation next door to Potts’s home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, whose genial rabbi (“Omigod! He’s SANTA!”) and child-friendly community make Phoebe and Jeff, as “Jews-In-Training,” feel at home. And then, of course, there’s art-the book itself is a poignant tribute to Potts’s having transcended the demons of depression and blocked creativity that have plagued her all along. “Making art is like slicing open your stomach, spilling your guts out & saying to everyone: ‘Don’t you love it?’” a friend says to Potts.
In Good Eggs, Potts has spilled it all. You’ll love it.
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