Book Review: “Dear You: A Letter to my Unborn Children” by Tessa Broad

Dear You book cover

Most infertility memoirs end with a miracle baby; Tessa Broad’s book Dear You: A Letter to My Unborn Children, out in the UK on June 29, doesn’t. Instead, it’s a warm, honest and quirky account of her very own miracle; how she found a way to live a happy and passionate life without children.  As you can see by my name on the cover quote, I was privileged to review the book ahead of publication.

Whether you’re still struggling to find your path to your Plan B, or are out the other side, this is a must-read memoir of one of the biggest untold stories of our generation – what it’s like to survive and thrive after involuntary childlessness.

People often say to childless women, “You’d have made a great Mum” without knowing how much that hurts, because we’ll never know (although sometimes I quite fancy saying back, “And you’d have made a great childless woman too”, just to see how they’d respond!)  Tessa has taken that wondering that we all know so well and has turned it into an exquisite love letter to the children she never met. Brought to life in these pages, her imaginary relationship with her never-to-be-born children reminded me in some ways of those letters that mothers who know they are dying leave for their daughters to read at key stages of their lives: their first periods, their first kiss, their first heartbreak…

But I don’t want to make out that this is a sad book, although Tessa, like all of us who are childless-not-by-choice, has lived through devastating loss. In fact, this is a very warm, generous and intimate account of what it’s like to come through that experience with humour and integrity.

Tess Broad1Infertility is life-changing. It is stressful, painful and deeply upsetting and to have it ignored or brushed aside, diminishes the experience. Enduring the most arduous of treatments to join the parent club and to fail is tough and to be left on the periphery with apparently nothing to contribute toward the care of children is worse. I have at times wanted to wear my infertility as a badge of suffering for all I have been through, but I know that dragging my infertility around with me like a wooden cross, the smell of burning martyr filling the air, is not helpful. I feel it would be softer, nicer, to share how I have imagined you in my life, though I’m not sure how that would be received; with a puzzled look probably. (p.96)

As someone who hasn’t been through fertility treatments, Tessa’s account of how brutal that experience can be, and the unkindness of some ‘fertility docs’ left me stunned. Even though I’ve heard many versions of these stories from IVF survivors from all over the world, it still never fails to astound me that those who have taken a vow of ‘do no harm’ could be so causal with women’s physical, emotional and psychological health. Tessa’s gift as a writer is one that, as with Julia Leigh’s memoir Avalanche, I was taken right into those consults and procedures along with her, and I wept with her at some of the harshness she experienced.

In the book, and during email conversations with Tessa, I discovered that she had been a member of our Gateway Women private online community and had found it a great support in difficult times. It is wonderful to know that another childless woman has come through the dark years of grief and back out into the sunshine of life again. Yes, childlessness is devastating. No, it doesn’t have to be a lifetime sentence of misery. This message is important. This book is important. Thank you Tessa.

Dear You: A Letter to my Unborn Children by Tessa Broad
Published in the UK by RedDoor on 29 June 2017

3 Comments on Book Review: “Dear You: A Letter to my Unborn Children” by Tessa Broad

  1. What I loved most about this book was meeting Tessa as a person through it’s pages, because in our present society us childless peeps can feel invisible and inconsequential. Tessa’s vibrancy and passion for life, despite the hand she was dealt in the fertility stakes, was both heart warming and inspirational.

  2. I liken the above “letter to an/your unborn child” to a “letter to your younger self” describing how, if possible, ones life could be different. Not necessarily in a negative way but a positive way of how as a young person with old shoulders and experience of life,how one would, in a lot of cases, change parts of ones life. I found it therapeutic cos I left it too late to have a child. Hope this helps. Angela

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  1. [Register now] 'You're so Lucky to Not Have Kids! - Does that include when we are old?’ A free World Childless Week webinar: Friday 15 September 2023, 8pm BST (UK time) - Gateway Women

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