As you might have guessed from my silence, our first round of IVF didn’t take. It’s been a hard couple of weeks. I had a couple of big distractions — the holidays of course, and also a HOUSE that we found unexpectedly and are trying to buy — but all the time the grief has been there, like an underground river beneath everything that’s happening on the surface. This weekend is the first time I’ve been able to talk about it without crying.
We have another try, already paid for in the package we purchased up front. We’re taking a couple of months off and plan to start up with a new cycle in late February. I am just coming around to believing that it might be okay. Intellectually I realize that plenty of people have a failed IVF followed by a successful one, and that our chances are still very good. It’s just hard for me to shake the fear, and the belief that because this hasn’t happened yet, it’s somehow not meant to happen.
I realized that throughout this journey, I’ve been fighting off the feelings I’ve seen accompanying infertility with most people. I’ve tried being detached, being focused on the silver lining, keeping my hopes at a distance. It was only this last try that broke me down, that forced me to admit how badly I want this. That yes, it does feel unfair that it comes so easily to some people, while I have to struggle so much for such an uncertain chance. That sometimes I am very angry about that.
Each round we go through, I learn more and have to accept more. It’s tempting to read this as a story: with each struggle she went through, she grew and became stronger and wiser, until at last she was ready, and the thing she wanted was finally given to her. This kind of thinking comes very naturally — I’m always looking for what was “meant” to be, for the shape of events to fall into this neat story, somehow predetermined from the beginning. And at the same time, I’m always looking for ways to earn my happy ending, to make the right choices and moves that will mean some nebulous authority grants me the reward.
None of that matches what I actually believe, though. I don’t believe in a predestined outcome or path that I’m following along unknowingly. It’s easy to think that there is one, because looking back the path is quite clear. I can trace how all my choices and all the things that happened to me led to where I am right now. The temptation is to extrapolate forward, to try to see the path ahead as if it already existed. But it doesn’t. I carve it out of brush and undergrowth, turning to one side or the other if I meet an impassible tangle. When I look back on this stretch of path, one or five or ten years in the future, it will seem just as inevitable, just as predestined. But I am creating it as we speak.
The thought is freeing and frightening. Freeing because I am not trying to discover something, or hit just the right combination of magic words and actions to be finally “allowed” to get what I want. I get to make my own choices, and the person judging them is myself — the deep, secret heart of my self that I am only sometimes quiet enough to listen to. Frightening because nobody has planned my outcome, nobody is protecting me from unfairness, and nobody is responsible but me.
What does all this have to do with infertility? I think for me, infertility brings all these issues into sharp focus, because it is so important to me, so critical to the shape of the rest of my life, and in many ways so beyond my control. With every disappointment, I feel as if I’ve failed some test, that I haven’t found the “right” path, because if I had I would be getting my reward. And at the same time, I’m straining to see what’s ahead, to tell if I will ever get to carry the baby I want, because if not it seems like I should stop pouring my heart and time and resources into it.
I’m trying to shift my viewpoint. Instead of thinking in terms of paths and tests, I’m simply owning what I want: to carry a child. Right now, I’m making choices that will give me the best possible chance of getting that. I don’t have to know what choices I’ll make in the future, or what the outcomes will be, or whether our family is “meant” to have a biological child in it. I don’t have to cope, now, with what it will mean if that turns out not to be possible given the resources we have. There’s a lot of path to be carved out before that time comes, and I will know and feel things then that I don’t now.
My New Year’s resolutions tend to be about attitudes and philosophies, and this is definitely a big one to carry into 2018. I don’t need to ask for permission, or a sense of destiny. I can say clearly, “I want this,” and work for it, and fight for it, and trust that if a time comes when it’s best to let that dream go, I’ll know.