Local Nashvillian, Stuart A. Burkhalter, published Catawampus: The Fertility Process from a Man’s Perspective in 2014. We got the chance to interview Stuart about his book and his journey through the infertility process in the husband’s role.
NMB: What have you found particularly resonates with readers?
SB: I have had a number of different people say that it would be wonderful if medical professionals and—in particular—fertility doctors and nurses read my book. Perhaps there, it could do the most good because more than from a “man’s perspective,” the book is really from the patient’s perspective (i.e. a somewhat clueless, mostly desperate husband and wife). Perhaps such a perspective could be most eye-opening for those who deal with these patients every day. I tend to agree with this sentiment, although my usual response to this is something along the lines of, “Great idea, but, believe me, it’s hard enough to get normal folks or, you know, my friends, to buy and read a random book—let alone doctors!”
I have also heard from a number of different people that the book is essentially a love letter (of sorts) to my wife. I, of course, had some notion of this (and, indeed, the book is inscribed “For Julie”). In the end, I am happy that that has shown through, because the idea is not necessarily obvious at first glance.
NMB: What particularly resonates with women?
SB: I think a lot of it depends on where the particular person is in their life at the moment. Women who have not had any trouble getting pregnant and are married with children really do tend to appreciate the fact that the book is, as a number have said, a somewhat convoluted love letter to my wife.
Those in the middle of struggling through infertility tend to want to utilize what the book ultimately says about how we became pregnant. They want to figure out what worked for us and try it themselves. I 100% understand this response. Being caught in the middle of it, there was really such longing and desperation (for me, at least) that I was willing to do anything anyone told us if that could possibly increase our chances of getting pregnant.
NMB: What particularly resonates with men?
SB: In general, men who take the time to read the book and then reach out to me are mostly those who are in the middle of struggling through infertility. I would say the men are a tad bit more philosophical about the whole thing. They say they appreciate what I have done, definitely agree that the man’s side of things needed to be told, and say they are resigned to keep trucking along with their fingers crossed.
NMB: Who was your target audience?
SB: When I first had the idea to write this book, I would have said it would be people about to go into fertility treatments or those generally struggling through infertility—more than likely wives—who would buy it, read it, and then force their husbands to read it.
NMB: Why did you write this book?
SB: For me, the book is (and always was) very much a “literary” endeavor. I was an English and film major back in the day and have dabbled in creative writing (for me “creative” was always rambling memoir-ish non-fiction). I did feel very strongly that the subject matter in Catawampus was important. In fact, I felt that, having experienced this completely ridiculous process, a story needed to be told, and—for whatever reason—I felt that I was the person that needed to do it. The idea was that this wouldn’t be a book by women for women; this was a blow-by-blow account, by the husband, of exactly what this experience is all about.
I would not have written it if I didn’t think there was an important story to tell and that I had a unique perspective on how to tell it. I also wouldn’t have written it if I didn’t think I could make the book entertaining and/or interesting for people who might not have any interest in the fertility process whatsoever.