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Thursday, February 01, 2007

To Whom It May Concern: Choose Me

Adrienne, otherwise known as Max's Mommy, has this wonderful post this week about doubt. She describes this feeling of second-guessing as "I'm in a space right now that is so incredibly uncomfortable and painful, but I can't find the door so I can leave. With my fingers I'm frantically searching for a handle, a doorknob, a crack, anything that feels like a way out, but all I find is smooth wall, from floor to ceiling, corner to corner. The space I'm in is doubt. I'm doubting my choices - those already made, those I'm planning to make - and wondering, worrying that they were/are all the wrong ones." Which is, of course, exactly how it feels.

I think fertility treatments (and all paths to parenthood) are fraught with minefields of doubt. When you first step onto the path, before you've made any major decisions or really gotten the ball rolling, you're filled with such hope. And I can say that even when I'm not feeling true Hope (that capital "H" hope; that I-am-so-on-the-right-path kind of hope; that you-could-even-tell-me-about-your-pregnancy-and-I'm-not-going-to-have-a-nervous-breakdown-because-I-believe-it-will-happen-for-me kind of hope) on CD1, I am at least feeling something more akin to hope than despair.

The reality is, if I didn't feel any hope, I would give up. I wouldn't spend the money or expend the energy or check my cervical mucous or give myself that injection if I knew without a doubt that it wouldn't work. Even when I say that I'm feeling hopeless, I know I'm not truly at the bottom because the day I hit the bottom will be the day that I turn my back on still building my family and say, "I give up."

Fertility treatments are more addictive than gambling.

Coming hand-in-hand with that hope is fear. And after the helium deflates out of the balloons of hope and fear, the emotion sputters into doubt. Because there are so many places for something to go wrong. We have a friend who had settled for transferring a certain amount of embryos. At the last moment, she asked if they could transfer one more. They did and she ended up with a singleton. Is the singleton the result of that final embryo or was he one of the embryos who was already designated for transfer? She'll never know, but those sorts of stories plant seeds of doubt. Did I transfer too many and will I end up with quadruplets? Did I not transfer enough and will I end up with none implanting? Did I choose the right RE? Should I have chosen adoption over another round of IVF?

I think more than anywhere else in life, we feel like any wrong turn equals an instantaneous loss of chance because this clock is ticking somewhere and while we have hope (as much as we refuse to call it hope), we also don't believe that we'll be one of the lucky ones and beat it before time runs out. Even if we are able to look at other points in our life when we thought things wouldn't work out, but they did (the marriage I thought would never come, the job I thought I would never get, the house I thought we'd never buy), we can't believe it. For whatever reason, though our rational mind understands that parallel, our heart can't compute the comfort or clarity.

It feels like you're waiting to be picked. And though there are things you can do to ensure that you won't be chosen (not having sex, let's say. Or not turning in your paperwork for an adoption or not showing up for the egg retrieval or not choosing a donor or surrogate), there seems to be little you can do to ensure that you will be chosen. Hence the doubt. Did you make the right decisions? Did you screw yourself in some way? Was there anything you could do to make yourself more pick-able. More choose-able.

When I'm in those moments of doubt, I completely understand Meredith Grey's impassioned plea to McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy when she told him, "Choose me. Love me." It's not just that she wants McDreamy; she also wants what having McDreamy means in the larger sense: that she has been chosen; that someone chooses her; that she now has a boyfriend and perhaps a future husband; a partner in life. She isn't alone. She specifically wants McDreamy to be the man who completes the picture and takes her away from being alone; but at the root--she simply wants to know when she will no longer be alone. Once we know our child exists, it is this specific child that we want to keep us from empty parenting (those parenthood impulses with no recipient). But moreover, we want to know when we're going to be parents--either for the first time or again. It is why those losses hurt so deeply--they were the specific love--and why we are able to continue on (albeit bruised and scarred) the path to parenthood after each heartbreaking, frustrating attempt. We are still searching for that completion.

In every other place in life, I've always been able to get myself out of a specific emotion. I may not be successful in removing it altogether, but I've given myself moments of reprise within my day. Except with doubt. And that's why Adrienne has it completely right--it's a room without a door. At least not one that can be opened by ourselves. Every time I have been let out of that room, it has been because someone else has opened the door and let me out with a new piece of information--something that brings back the hope (even if at the same time, it brings back the fear).

And while I know this is the case--at least for me--that doubt can be removed in a second with any positive twist in a maze of anxiety--it also unsettles me to have that so far outside my control. To know that doubt is a room without a door. And that I have to wait until someone or something opens it for me.

Or is this only me? Have you figured a Houdini-like way out of doubt? How do you reinflate those balloons of hope (and unfortunately, its evil twin, fear) when the helium tank is empty?


MelnHead said...

I'm not sure if this is a good answer, even for myself.. but I spent a lot of time thinking over this at lunch today. I've come to the conclusion that I'm exhausted over everything- and I will take time off. I called for an appt with my re & ob/gyn-- and I'm planning on taking off for at least 6 months... to just step away and be semi human. I'm hoping that when I come back to fight the fight again- my hope will be high, and my attitude won't be so stepped on & trashed.

BTW: my book arrived today- shall start this weekend!

Bea said...

The short answer, of course, is no.

(I'm going to get into your interview later, by the way. Thanks for doing that - I'm looking forward to it.)

The longer answer is I try to find peace with making the best decision I can at the time with the information I have at hand. If I know I've done the best I can - gathering info, mulling things over, following through properly, etc etc - then I don't have to regret the outcome.

And whilst I want a certain result, I accept I can't really make it happen. If I can avoid regretting the outcome of my decisions, I don't have to doubt myself so much.

If that makes sense. So it's research and mentally disciplining myself to think logically. And walking away to see if a decision will stand the test of time if necessary.

But the short answer is still no.


Adrienne said...

While I hate to admit that here is one more thing - doubt - that is controlled by outside forces or people, I have to admit that you're right. It's been my experience, too, that someone/something has to open the door from the outside, and no amount of talking to myself (not out loud of course, or people start to stare) pries it open.

This fact makes me insane, by the way. Control - the ability to make things happen when you want them to happen - is how I feel safe. An irrational feeling, I'm sure, but I don't think I'm alone in that. Chaos (the ying to Control's yang) is unsettling.

Perhaps the best I can do is try to be more comfortable in that room while I'm waiting. Make the best decisions I can and then let be. Easier said than done.

Or maybe accepting the chaos is the key. Doubt about your choices springs from doubt about yourself (at least it does for me). If I can accept that somethings just are (the chaos) and not a result of who I am (but isn't it all about me?), then maybe, just maybe, the door will swing open all by itself.

j said...

Doubt is a constant bedfellow who hogs the covers and tosses my pillows on to the floor. It's not pleasant, and it doesn't seem to go away. Not when actively trying, not when taking a break. The best I can do is to quiet it down by thinking positivly, and looking at my reassuring wife, and knowing that..."it'll work out." Which it will. It may not work out the way we'd orginally intended it too, but, it'll work out. But...yeah. The doubt is always there.

karen m said...

Have I found a way out of doubt/chaos? No. I can stomp it down, so that it doesn't interfere with my being a mom, or all the rest of my life. But it's still there. It's worse at night, when I'm going to sleep - all the "maybe if I had hung in there longer, maybe if I had tried IVF again" thoughts are all there.

Anam_Kihaku said...

good post. no real answer. what helped me was trying to acknowlegde the fear and do the things anyaways.. go from what if it goes horribly wrong to what it is is wonderful. but work on a day to day basis. I have learnt that if i look more than 2 or 3 days ahead, the fear comcomes the hope and i never get free to do anything. i think hope is what sets us apart from others - we spend our own lifes in hope and self doubt and it all SUCKS.

ps. is there a book that helps with the guilt about having a baby (after IF) and trying for a seocnd but again ending up on the IF train but people keep telling me i should be thanksfully/grateful etc for my little girl, it is so bad to want another one ? and how is the seocnd lot of infertility not counted by some people with IF (no kids yet) as not real IF and other people think i have no right to complain or feel low becuase i already have a kid?

Elizabeth said...

Hi, I've been lurking here for awhile but this is my first comment... You put it beautifully. For myself, doubt weighs in more powerfully than hope most of the time, which I suspect has contributed to our not pursuing ART more aggressively than we have. I find it easier to believe that things won't happen the way I want them to - but my husband is the opposite, so I guess we balance each other out.

sariel & shlomit said...

sariel and i often note that fertility treatments are gambling. and they are the biggest gamble we will ever make.

as for doubt and it's's always in the mix...sometimes it's a silent presence, sometimes mumbling and, every once in a while, it's jumps in front of me screaming, scaring the krap out of me!

sometimes i put the doubt blinders on. sometimes i push it down, or put my head in the's not a familiar feeling for me so i'm still learning to live with it...although the reassurances of sariel, friends, family, doctors does help, so far i've had to find my own way out of that room; that sorta works for me...i guess that's me finding the door from the inside, with a little help from those jiggling the handle on the outside...

theoneliner said...

I strive to keep hope but its so hard.
Meditation and yoga help.
And the thing is you have to keep hope.

Artblog said...

If I think about it too deeply, I'll scare myself rigid and just give up out of fear.

So, I don't let myself think about it too deeply, I just blindy try again and again.

I have, as you know, lately given myself a time limit which means that I'm up for whatever can go wrong in that time frame and that way I stay in the game and not lose hope or let doubt creep in.

So far so good :)

serenity said...

I have been trying to post all freaking DAY it feels like... *sigh*

Anyway. No brainwaves here - I think there will ALWAYS be doubt. It's how we manage that doubt that's important - to make it so that it doesn't overwhelm us.

For me, managing my doubt as it relates to IF consists of refocusing. I KNOW that I will be a parent someday; we just don't know how right now. But we won't quit until we have built our family - however that turns out.

That's the thing that keeps me centered. The one point which stops the room from spinning.

I suppose I probably put the blinders on doubt at that point too. I say "I'll deal with that later."

Support from others helps too. You don't always have to climb out of that room of doubt yourself, yanno... relying on others isn't always a bad thing.

Provided, of course, that they can always be there when you need for them to let you out.

Jess said...

No way, you're not the only one!

We all doubt our choices. Another IVF? Adoption? When? WHENwhenwhen? If we wait, did we miss *the month*?

But the thing I believe is...there is no "perfect time" no "perfect chance" no "perfect decision." You just have to go with it. Take the hope you have up on its offer and ignore the doubt when you can. Because what else is there to do??

Watson said...

Lovely post, Mel.

IF is the only area of my life where doubt means KEEP GOING ANYWAY.

Usually, if I am so unsure about my path, and how to achieve my goal, I stop and reconsider an entirely new plan.

But trying to get pregnant has forced me to continue moving ahead, one step at a time, with the doubt right there beside me like an unwelcome traveling companion.

I can go from hopeful to hopeless and back again all within a couple of cycles, but the doubt is always there.

I guess the ultimate goal (of being a Mom) is what drives me to continue, even with this everpresent feeling...

It's unsettling, makes me feel unmoored. And yet, what else can I do?

If I'm not ready to quit and try another option yet, it means I must continue on.

But it sure is exhausting...

Natalie said...

This was such a good entry for me to read today.

I haven't found a way out yet.

Susan said...

Yes... infertility treatment is more addictive than gambling. I've never been a gambler but now I can understand how people become addicted to it. You make your first bid because you have the HOPE that you are going to win. But, when that big win doesn't happen, you keep going for FEAR of losing. Hope is why I started, but it is really, I think, the fear that urges me to keep going.

stickybun07 said...

I just stumbled upon your blog today and this post *really* spoke to me. I know the question of hope is one that we all struggle with all of the time, and it's certainly one that's been in the forefront of my mind this week. I wish all of us could find the answers!

Carol said...

yes - hope, fear, doubt. and totally with you on fertility treatments being more addictive than gambling.

I have no silver bullet. As much hope as I have, even on my best days, the doubt never goes away.