I was delighted to be asked to review Dear You by Tessa and her publishers Red Door Publishing. I read many books and in my life outside Walk In Our Shoes, work with authors and publishers for many years. My story of trying to be a mum is similar to Tessa's and I was a little concerned that it would bring back memories I had tried to lay to rest.
So with trepidation I began to read Dear You, curled up on the sofa as the rain fell, quietly conscious that I'd picked it up a few days after the anniversary of a late miscarriage. It's testimony to Tessa's compassion and warmth which carries through every page, that I carried on reading. She opens the book with these words:
I’m writing to you simply because I feel that I know you, that I love you; and I’d like you to get to know me. I want this letter to feel like you have spent time with me and me with you.
Dear You is a letter to her unborn children. Her daughter Lily, and her siblings are written so vividly that it's easy to forget that Tessa didn't meet them. One cannot help feeling deeply sad when one remembers the context of the book and what a great mum she would have made.
That's not to say that Dear You doesn't lack grit. The details of the treatment isn't easy reading if you've been through it or if you know someone who has. But the painful memories felt easier because Tessa's narrative is accessible. At various points I wanted to give her a hug and say 'yes me too'. Her feelings of bewilderment in a world of complex abbreviations is palpable and real. I too spent meetings scribbling down phrases, worrying about phone calls in open plan offices - all practical problems that are identifiable with any illness but arguably more powerful when ones hopes and dreams for a family depend on it.
Tessa doesn't pull any punches when it comes to the procedures either. Having been there and done most, I don't know that I'd want to read this before I began IVF but then again, perhaps I should have? With the benefit of Tessa's observations, I may have known the questions I should have asked and the signs that I should have looked out for. This includes medical staff like Mr Pink, the tardy gynae with a people problem.
I appreciated the time Tessa took to speak about her relationships with honesty, detailing the struggles that treatment has on not just her, both those around her from friends to loved ones. From this comes the story of moving on. Tessa shares her advice which is incredibly sensible, accessible and based on the real world. I've read several books on life with involuntary childless that end with the author moving continents or taking dramatic lifestyle changes that can feel beyond the emotional and/or financial reach of many readers. Tessa's wisdom is truthful and reflect the narrative of her story and her emotive journey.
Who should read Dear You? If you're a survivor, I think you'll find the book cathartic and you'll feel like you've made a new friend. If you haven't had treatment but want some help to move on, then read this book. If you've never been through IVF or endured infertility then I absolutely urge you to pick Dear You up and read it today. It'll tell you so much and dispel so many myths. In short, please read this book.
I hope that it's been an ultimately cathartic process for Tessa, despite having to dig deep as I'm sure she must have done and I applaud her fortitude. I know that I'll be going out, buying more copies of Dear You to share with people and encouraging that it sits at the top of every reading list. I hope all book groups do, the world will be a much easier place for me, Tessa and all our communities too.