Great Expectations: Infertility, Disability, and Possibility

  • Sally Bishop ShigleyEmail author


This chapter uses personal narrative along with feminist and disability theories to explore the relationship between personal experience of infertility and the 1998 designation of infertility as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Shigley summarizes the case law on this issue, but focuses particularly on how infertility appears in select literary texts. To begin this textual exploration, she examines the etymology and connotations of the word ‘infertile’ and its close cousins, and explores both personally and textually how the feelings and stigma of infertility linger long after the quest for pregnancy has been abandoned.


Disability studies Law Literature Personal narrative 

Research Resources

Theoretical Works on Illness and Infertility

  1. Gay Becker, Healing the Infertile Family: Strengthening Your Relationship in the Search for Parenthood (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  2. Jean W. Carter and Michael Carter, Sweet Grapes: How to Stop Being Infertile and Start Living Again, rev. edn (Indianapolis, IN: Perspectives Press, 1998)Google Scholar
  3. Anne Taylor Fleming, Motherhood Deferred: A Woman’s Journey (New York: Ballantine, 1994).Google Scholar
  4. Arthur W. Frank, The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness and Ethics (Chicago, IL, and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arthur L. Greil, Kathleen Slauson-Blevins, and Julia McQuillan, ‘The Experience of Infertility: A Review of Recent Literature’, Sociology of Health and Illness, 32.1 (2010), 140–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Arthur Kleinman, The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, and the Human Condition (New York: Basic Books, 1988).Google Scholar

Infertility, Illness and Literature

  1. Anatole Broyard, Intoxicated by My Illness: And Other Writings of Life and Death (New York: Ballantine, 1992).Google Scholar
  2. Pamela Butler and Jigna Desai, ‘Manolos, Marriage, and Mantras: Chick-Lit Criticism and Transnational Feminism’, Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, 12.2 (2014), 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Suzanne Ferriss and Mallory Young (eds), Chick Lit: The New Woman’s Fiction (New York: Routledge, 2006).Google Scholar
  4. Paula Knight, Spooky Womb: A True-ish Uterine Tale (2012). See
  5. Paula Knight, X-Utero: A Cluster of Comics (2011–13). See
  6. Lisa Loomer, Expecting Isabel (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2005).Google Scholar
  7. Peggy Orenstein, Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, An Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman’s Quest to Become a Mother (New York: Bloomsbury, 2007).Google Scholar
  8. Phoebe Potts, Good Eggs: A Memoir (New York: Harper Collins, 2010).Google Scholar
  9. Susan Sontag, Illness as a Metaphor and AIDS and its Metaphors (New York: Picador, 2001).Google Scholar

Infertility and Disability

  1. American Society for Reproductive Medicine, ‘Frequently Asked Questions about Infertility’:
  2. Lerita M. Coleman Brown, ‘Stigma: An Enigma Demystified’, in Lennard J. Davis (ed.), The Disability Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 2010), 179–92.Google Scholar
  3. Lennard J. Davis, ‘Constructing Normalcy’, in Lennard J. Davis (ed.), The Disability Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 2010), 3–19.Google Scholar
  4. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, ‘Integrating Disability: Transforming Feminist Theory’, in Kim Q. Hall (ed.), Feminist Disability Studies (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2011), 13–47.Google Scholar
  5. Shorge Sato, ‘A Little Bit Disabled: Infertility and the Americans with Disabilities Act’, Journal of Legislative and Public Policy, 5:1 (2001), 189–223.Google Scholar
  6. Saul Spigel, ‘Infertility: Causes, Treatment, Insurance, and Disability Status’ (2005), Connecticut General Assembly Office of Legislative Research Report:–0145.htm.
  7. United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Vital Statistics Reports:
  8. United States Department of Justice, ‘Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)’, Guide to Disability Rights Laws (2009):

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Weber State UniversityOgdenUSA

Personalised recommendations