Getting Ready: The Power of Preparation
Eric here, with a deeply personal revelation.
I hate to run. I mean I HATE to run.
But every September, Cathy and I run the rock and roll half marathon in Virginia beach, with thousands of runners, crowds of fans, and bands every mile cranking out pump-you-up tunes. And every year, I show up, less prepared than I’d like, and somehow I match my amazing, indestructible wife, step for step, sweating and puffing beside her, and we cross the finish line every year, hand in hand. No matter our finishing time or aches and pains, we prepare together, we start together and we finish together. And I LOVE that part. What in the world does this have to do with our journey through infertility? Stick with me folks, this might just make sense in about three minutes. Here we go…
Some of you know that I’m sort of a data-oriented guy. Especially in the messy, confusing world of real life and human emotions, I find that putting information into some kind of structure helps me see more clearly, and that can be really useful amidst the fear and hope and uncertainty of struggling to start a family.
As Cathy and I prepared for the challenges of fertility treatment, it was enormously useful to me to have a clear way to see, and be able to talk about, what we were really preparing to do, and how we would approach whatever happened. To oversimplify a bit, each round of treatment has a small and clear set of possible outcomes, just like any natural attempt at getting pregnant.
1. It works, and you have a perfectly healthy baby.
2. It works, but you have a not-perfectly-healthy baby.
3. It works at first but you lose the baby.
4. It doesn’t work.
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I realize that laying it all out in black and white like that can seem a bit cold, but I actually think it’s hugely helpful, and here’s why. This may be a weird analogy, but in the cyber security world where I work, there’s something called a “tabletop exercise” where you essentially game out a cyber-attack on your company and prepare in advance for how you will respond, e.g. what will the IT folks do to limit the damage? Who will notify the management? Who speaks to the press? Etc. The point of the exercise is the old axiom that during an actual crisis is not the time to figure out how you’ll respond. Advance preparation is key to getting through the challenge as whole and unharmed as possible.
I think the same is true here. We’ve said many times that open, honest communication is both the bedrock of a great relationship and the only way to get through the hard times. As scary, awkward and uncomfortable as it may be to discuss the possibilities here, I believe it is far better than having one of these challenges arise and then realize “we never talked about what we’d do or how we’d feel if that happened.”
Don’t get me wrong, the science and skill in this area is simply amazing, and at Conceive you’ve got some of the best people in the world on your side. You should absolutely have faith and hope and confidence as you begin, that the deck is stacked in your favor. But it is also critical that you and your partner talk about each scenario just in case, so you understand each other’s fears, feelings, expectations and emotional blind spots.
Your future child is still an as-yet unknown quantity, but your relationship with your spouse or partner is here-and-now. I think it can be hugely powerful, and a tremendous bonding experience that can gird you for the fear and uncertainty to come.
As Cathy and I considered every one of these possible outcomes, what it would mean, and how we would deal with it if it happened, a remarkable thing happened – We went from being scared and overwhelmed with uncertainty, to being scared but knowing that whatever happened, we would be OK. She and I. We prepared for whatever might come, and once we’d talked about it, we knew the other was right there with us, and we started the race, together and hand-in-hand, much better prepared. Stronger. More in love. Ready.
There is power in planning, in playing “what if” and in knowing that you’re prepared. Talk to your partner, look the possibilities squarely in the eye, and you will find, as hard as it may be, it will be much easier than it would have been if you didn’t. So grab your partner’s hand, and get ready to run. You’ll cross the finish line, whatever that may be, still a team and stronger than ever.