One of our society’s most cherished beliefs is if you try hard enough, you can achieve anything. We, as humans, cling to that life raft with the tenacity of a toddler with its blankie. If you find yourself quitting something (like trying to get pregnant) you may find yourself caught in the crossfire of your friends/family and this desire for control over one’s dreams. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we also can admit that we too will miss this comforting idea of might over matter.
Pamela Tsigdinos recently blogged about women foregoing or stopping IVF in her post entitled, “Strong.” In it, she describes how society views pulling out all of the stops to get pregnant as heroic. She then, rightly points out, that it can be just as heroic, if not more so, to pull the plug on infertility treatments. In her post she mentions fellow bloggers, Sarah, at Infertility Honesty, Mali at No Kidding in NZ and Elaine from Switzerland who posted Klara’s blog, The Next 15,000 Days. These women all recount the battle to feel heard, understood, and accepted when they opted out of additional infertility treatment. And so does Tracey Cleantis, self-proclaimed “Dr. Kevorkian of Dreams,” infertility survivor, blogger, and therapist, in her book, The Next Happy: Let go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way Forward. Tracey makes the bold assertion that quitting, and letting go of your dream will allow for the possibility of getting the essence of what you wanted all along. For instances, by having children I wanted to give, nurture, have meaning, feel fulfilled, create something wonderful with My Man, and claim a lasting part of the family lineage. I can get most of these other ways. Even the last one can be attained by leaving an impression legacy by interacting with my nieces and nephews. Am I still sad I don’t have the children I so longed for? Hell, yeah. But most days, I love myself to trust that I am going to fulfill the dreams on my list via an alternate route.
In her book, Tracey chronicles her journey of infertility and treatments and her decision to finally stop treatments. I found reading her book to be like walking down the unmarked corridors of quitting with a friend who was showing you the way, all the while explaining the sights, adding salve to your wounds, and even making you laugh now and again. Her book is speckled with vignettes from client’s experiences, punctuated with movie and book prescriptions, and loaded with self-help coaching suggestions, and is well worth a read if you are still struggling with the idea of quitting or its messy aftermath.
Unfortunately, we feel that the more we sink our precious time and energy into achieving something, the harder it can get to take the exit off of that dream superhighway. We can be so focused on getting, that we lose sight of all that we are losing along the way (like our sanity, our health, our money, our ability to take pleasure in life, etc.). And all that we are losing is part of the price that we are paying for that dream. What if the price is simply too steep? Suppose you make an offer on your dream home that was received with a hefty counter offer. Would anyone begrudge you for refusing to take the counter offer you could not afford? No, they would think you were being sensible, but when it comes to hopping off of the crazy train of fertility treatments, the same people will cheer you on while the train careens off of the cliff. Other people simply don’t know or care about the price we’ve paid. We have to care about it, if we truly care about ourselves. They are more than willing to see us wreck our finances, health, marriages, and sanity to maintain their mirage of “you can get what you want if you just try hard enough.” But like how being house poor isn’t fun and doesn’t let you do a lot of other things that life offers, neither does putting your life on hold (and worse) while you try to find a way to have children. We know deep down inside when we are quitting something because we are being undisciplined, lazy or scared. In those moments we are letting ourselves down. But there are other moments, and quitting fertility treatments was one of these moments, where I would have been letting myself down by not quitting. If I gutted it out and soldiered on despite what is was doing to me, I would have been quitting on me.