Embryo Culture

Making Babies in the Twenty-first Century

Beth Kohl

Sarah Crichton Books

"Injections + Appointments + Egg Retrieval + Embryo Transfer = Resources (Energy x Time x Emotion)"
That's the equation that was projected onto the screen when Beth Kohl and her husband first showed up at the in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic. "Good evening," the program's psychologist told the gathered infertile couples. "Before you begin your treatment, you should know that this program is emotionally and psychologically stressful."

And how.
In this marvelously unconventional account of her struggles to bear children, Kohl leads the reader on an oh-so-up-close tour of fertilization in America, and the ways in which science and miracle, technology and faith, converge to create life in the twentyfirst century. Along the way, Kohl wrestles with a new world of medical ethics: Should she "selectively reduce" the number of embryos successfully implanted in the womb in order to prevent a potentially complicated pregnancy? How much genetic testing of fertilized eggs is too much? What is she supposed to do with the seven embryos left over from the IVF process?
When Andrew Solomon wrote The Noonday Demon, he opened the world of depression to readers as no writer had done before. And when Stephen L. Carter wrote Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby, many readers were forced to completely rethink race and prejudice. Kohl's spirited and rich exploration of "embryo culture" will completely revise how we see modern motherhood.


Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1 Dr. Kevin Hamlin, Cape Town transplant, tan and animated, rolls to a stop between my legs. Above the draped horizon appears a green paper cap, secured with four strings behind his head. I’m on an operating table onto which, moments earlier, a nurse had helped me, first supporting my elbow, then manually guiding my stocking feet into dual metal cups projecting from the table’s edge. I’ve worn my lucky socks, the same ones I slept in the night before my wedding, the ones I wear when I fly. The nurse is a motherly lady I’ve not seen before. Pre-op prep is


Praise for Embryo Culture

"A book of bold precision. Beth Kohl has always been a writer of clarity and intelligence, and the intersection of our hearts and minds with the dramas of our medicalized bodies is our new modern story." --Lorrie Moore

"The miracle of birth? The immaculate conception? Whatever. Beth Kohl's revealing new memoir takes us on a terrifying, hilarious, tender and profoundly erotic journey to the crossroads of biology, science and love. Don't miss a page or a minute of it."--Jim McManus, author of Physical and Positively Fifth Street

"With wit, sympathy, and a healthy dose of information, Beth Kohl offers a story that is at once intensely personal and universal -- infertility and its treatment. Her quest for motherhood is sometimes heartbreaking, but her spirit and humor make her a terrific guide through the dizzying maze of treatment options available today. A touching and timely book."--Robin Marantz Henig, author of Pandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution

"How do you tell a vivid, engaging story about trying with all your heart, mind, pocketbook, and sense of humor to have a baby and integrate into it just about everything known about Assisted Reproductive Technology (unironically known as ART)?  Embryo Culture is the very entertaining answer to that question. Remarkably, it's as instructive as it is fun to read." -Michael Ryan, author of Baby B and Secret Life

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Beth Kohl

  • Beth Kohl is the mother of three and lives in suburban Chicago. She has an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, an MA from Northwestern, and a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work has appeared in Tulane Review and Chicago Reader.
  • Beth Kohl Aynsely Floyd


Available Formats and Book Details

Embryo Culture

Making Babies in the Twenty-first Century

Beth Kohl

  • e-Book