Secret Hope Stories are what perpetuate the what ifs in our head. You know what I'm talking about--they're the stories of the ninth IVF that was finally successful and resulted in healthy twins. Or the blood work that finally revealed the problem and allowed the habitual aborter to carry to term. They're the debris that you grab for when you're drowning in the ocean. And they may help you float. Or they may drag you under. And you just don't know.
Hence the what if.
I am the product of a Secret Hope Story--the woman told to go onto Plan B because she wasn't going to get pregnant/carry to term. And then the miraculous conception and pregnancy resulting in a baby that a doctor told you that you would never have. Thank you, Mommy, for still trying even though you had already built your family.
I recently met up again with a friend from high school (hi!) and she had one of those Secret Hope Stories. Four failed IVFs and a doctor telling her to move onto donor eggs. And a "what if" nagging in the back of her head took her up to CRMI (don't these stories always end up taking the person to CRMI? I've begun thinking of it as a pilgrimage site) which resulted in the IVF cycle that worked and two chubbulicious twins (I just saw them and I swear, you could just eat the cheeks off the boy--that delicious).
You hear these stories and you can't help but ask 1000 questions, all the time comparing it to your own life and wondering if they found the key that could unlock your fertility as well. I've been trying to figure out why these stories give me hope and make me want to try "one more time" vs. the stories that well-intentioned relatives pass along when you tell them about your infertility. You know--the exact same ones I'm talking about now. But when they talk about their neighbour's cousin who became a mother after five miscarriages, I want to scream, "I am not your neighbour's cousin!" But when a fellow Stirrup Queen says, "I don't know why it worked that time, but it did" I want to start rolling the dice rather than following a doctor’s rational thought.
Because fertility treatments at some point--especially if you have unexplained infertility--begin to feel like gambling. As a rule, I don't gamble because I could totally see myself becoming addicted to it. Just one more time. Just one more time. This will be the time. And it truly is gambling with stakes much larger than the quarters I would use if I ever went to a casino. You're gambling with hundreds or thousands each cycle as well as your general physical health and mental well-being. So...I won't try Vegas, but I will try the fertility clinic? It doesn’t make complete sense.
And this gambling analogy has become even more constricting with secondary infertility. Do we take the gamble knowing that the money we use is being taken away from our current children? I think the money is well spent if it results in a child, but what if it doesn't? Part of me says, "play it safe--go with adoption. It's a real child in the end." But the other part of me starts thinking, "but if I got pregnant the first try with IVF, I would be spending half the amount that I would on adoption. So then IVF is the best financial option!" And you can see how you get back into that “what if” mentality.
My doctor shook his head and told me I should play the lottery with the odds I encountered during my journey. Odds of having FSH as high as mine at my age--slim. Odds of developing hyperemesis gravidarum during pregnancy--.5% of pregnant women. Odds of having perfect prolactin levels prior to pregnancy and no prolactin produced after pregnancy--under 3%. So if I hit that trifecta, who’s to say that I won't have that next Secret Hope Story in my back pocket?
Nina at Stella and/or Ben is going through this “what if” right now. She's not ready to move onto Plan B regardless of what the doctors are telling her. She's trying Plan A again while tweaking some lifestyle changes--no coffee, no alcohol, no fast food. And she asks at the end of her post, "Do you think we are just fooling ourselves? Do you think we are nuts?"
No, I don't think you're nuts Nina. And to be frank, if my heart was still on Plan A, I would continue with Plan A until someone pried Plan A out of my sweaty little hands. Because you know the same hope stories that I know. And in the back of your head, they start nagging you. It's not that Plan B isn't a beautiful and bright path. Finding it emotionally difficult to give up one path does not mean that you think the other path is a lesser path. It's apples and oranges. And if you were in the mood for an apple and your heart was set on an apple, it's difficult to start eating the orange, even if the orange is a perfectly delicious fruit that you usually enjoy.
It's hard to give up the desire for that apple when you know stories of people who went to a different food store or knew a different way to ask and received that apple. If it was a moot point--if the manager made an announcement to the store, "no apples today. Terrible frost up north. Killed off the apple supply. No more apples. Ever.” Well, you would probably grab your bag and head over to Plan B and a huge pile of oranges in a heartbeat.
But it’s that “what if.” And it makes you gamble because you know too many stories of women who are happy that they didn’t take the advice offered and kept pushing through until miraculously Plan A came true. Or didn’t take the advice offered, stopped pushing through, but miraculously, Plan A came true anyway. And I don’t know if overall these stories help or hinder. My heart tells me that they help. But I’m a gambler at heart. So should I listen to myself?
Hang in there, Nina. I hope you find some peace and that this cycle is that one in twenty.
What are your thoughts on my bold questions/thoughts?