The Stories We Tell Ourselves

After the FET didn’t take, Arthur and I had the usual picking up of the pieces and trying to reformulate them into something that resembles a whole.  As always, this involves a fair number of discussions.  Most of the time, even when we’ve disagreed on specifics or details, we’ve generally come to a compromise that both of us are reasonably okay with going forward.  If we’re not on the same page, we’re usually in the same book, as it were.

This time, it turned out, we were decidedly in different books.

We both were in wholehearted agreement that we’re done with ART, but beyond that was where things broke down quickly.  I was on team “let’s see where the chips fall for at least a few months and then move on if nothing happens”.  Arthur surprised me by declaring that he was on team “Done.”

Well, there’s really no compromise possible on something like that – either we’re open to the possibility of another child or we’re not.  The odds would not be in our favor on conceiving and/or carrying to live birth at this point, but it’s possible.

After a several skirmishes leading to outright arguments, the short story is the only realistic conclusion for us has been reached: we’re done.

~*~

I’m not going to pretend that I’m at peace with the whole thing or deny that a part of me is still harboring a small hope that Arthur might change his mind in the next month or so, but I also can’t say I don’t see Arthur’s point in this whole mess.  It’s been a long 7+ years and honestly, we’re both exhausted, physically and emotionally.  ART demands an amazing amount of energy.  Beyond that, I’ve been doing what amounts to a rotating shift for 4+ years now which messes up my sleep cycle (2 consecutive night shifts at work, then up during the day the rest of the week) and while 37 is by no means old, it’s also not the same as being in my 20s.  Arthur and I are often like ships passing in the night since he works a more traditional 5-day a week 8-5 job.  E goes to kindergarten in the fall of 2020, heralding a new phase in life.  M will probably start another day in preschool at that point.

Some of it, though, I think, is the narrative of “try harder” still echoes in my head.  Part of me feels like I’m giving up.  Like if I just kept pushing, trying, hoping, I could somehow still the voice that tells me that it’s possible and I have to do just this one more thing.  It’s the d*mn shadow that I’ve battled throughout the whole process – the one that urges scorched earth tactics, that says that until everything is completely destroyed, it’s not enough.

It’s a liar.

I know that.  I know that.  I’ve spilled volumes of word processor “ink” on this myth myself and read plenty of other essays/blog posts/books that urge the setting of boundaries and the importance of maintaining mental, physical, and relationship health.  It would have been enough no matter how the whole thing ended or at what point we stopped.

And yet, it’s surprisingly hard to push back from the table and say “no longer”.

~*~

I can’t change the facts, but I have been working on re-framing the story I tell myself.

In the last few weeks, the story in my head has gone something like this: I could try harder.  We could achieve this, even in spite of my history.  We could overcome the hardships of possible miscarriage, a geriatric pregnancy, and a failed FET cycle if I was tough enough to keep going.

Instead, I’m trying this on for size: Infertility sucks.  We fought incredibly hard to the absolute best of our ability.  We are beyond fortunate in so many ways.  Setting boundaries and respecting limits are good things.  Time to heal the wounds and move forward enjoying life.

I’ve written about this before, but I keep coming back to author Bill Bryson’s ending to A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail.  Near the end, Bryson has a conversation with his companion Katz.  Bryson is a bit disappointed that they didn’t make it as far hiking as he envisioned.  Katz, on the other hand, has an entirely different perspective:

‘“Anyway, we did it,” Katz said at last, looking up. He noted my quizzical expression.
“Hiked Maine, I mean.”
I looked at him. “Stephen, we didn’t even see Mount Katahdin.”
He dismissed this as a petty quibble. “Another mountain,” he said. “How many do you need to see, Bryson?”
I snorted a small laugh. “Well, that’s one way of looking at it.”
“It’s the only way of looking at it,” Katz went on and quite earnestly. “As far as I’m concerned, I hiked the Appalachian Trail. I hiked it in snow and I hiked it in heat. I hiked it in the South and I hiked in the North. I hiked it till my feet bled. I hiked the Appalachian Trail, Bryson.”
“We missed out a lot of it, you know.”
“Details,” Katz sniffed.’

 

We hiked the darned trail through infertility.  We hiked it through snow and heat (especially not fun when a cycle demanded being at the RE’s office, then an hour away over icy roads).  We hiked it through cancelled cycles and miscarriages and negative pregnancy tests.  We hiked it through bills and insurance fights.  We hiked it through joy and devastation.  We hiked it through an allergic reaction and Lupron and injection after injection.  We hiked it through ER visits and SCHs and c-sections and a long hospital stay and NICU.  We were enough all along, both seven years ago and now, no matter how this thing ended.

That’s the story I’m going to work to keep telling.

 

4 thoughts on “The Stories We Tell Ourselves

  1. Jen

    I really relate to a lot in this post. I wanted a third after one IVF (when I was 32) resulted in my two amazing daughters. My husband very reluctantly agreed to go along with the process since I was so passionate about wanting another child. After transferring our last frostie didn’t yield a pregnancy we did another IVF (at 37 almost 38) which failed. My husband is in the happily done camp and I’m still coming to terms with closing this chapter of my life.

    I needed this post — especially the end. “We were enough all along…no matter how this thing ended.”

    Thanks!

  2. I’m sorry I haven’t been commenting, but I promise you I’ve been reading and thinking of you. It’s all so hard and unfair and I’m sorry that on top of grieving this recent loss, there’s also disagreement.

    I can relate with the “never give up” mentality. Even though our brain knows better, our bodies and emotions are so fine tuned to this idea that changing this mindset involves a complete breaking of ourselves. Not scorching the earth involves fighting so many inner guardians who have protected us in the past.

    I’m thinking of you as you go through reframing the road forward. I’m not going to give you any platitudes because this process is a painful one, but I know that this journey towards resolution is one that can bring so much good with it.

  3. It’s hard, there is no compromise between keeping trying or stopping. I’ve changed my narrative somewhat too. When I was younger I used to think I would love to have two children.. Now I think that if things had been different – if I didn’t suffer from infertility I probably would have two children by now. However it is what it is, and we have one healthy daughter and that is wonderful. My husband and I are both done with infertility treatments so we are choosing to be grateful for what we have and focusing on that. Changing the way you think about things helps.

  4. This post is beautiful, and moving, and brought tears to my eyes. I’m sorry that you hear that “I could have tried harder,” it’s one of the things about infertility that I hate the most. Hope is not a bad thing, but it becomes toxic in the realm of infertility and pushes you beyond what can be healthy towards this mythic possibility that may or may not happen. I love Katz’s take on the Appalachian Trail, and how you weave it into your infertility experience. You did A LOT. You suffered and sacrificed and pushed and survived so many difficult circumstances to be where you are now. It is so hard to hit that “enough” point, and feel at peace with it. I wish you peace, and I love this post. Sending you so much love!

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