Taking advice from Mr. Spock

Cheers, dear readers,

How does one decide when enough is enough?

How much emotional and physical trauma can a person or a couple withstand?

When is the right time to let go of a dream?

These are the types of questions that Eric and I were pondering after our second IVF attempt did not work. It was a big, fat failure actually. Even today, five years later, it is hard to ignore the reality of “We cannot control this failure – not us, not the doctors, not the acupuncturists, no book or new fertility diet or ‘fertility friend’ website.” Most of my life I lived as an optimist, a champion and beacon of hope for my friends, able to leap tall buildings figuratively in a single bound, able to eventually solve any problem. The ‘straight A student’ who never missed a deadline. The one everyone could count on. Yet my body and modern medicine had failed me. And there wasn’t a darn thing I could do about it. So what that I aced every quiz on noting fertility / ovulation signs and had taught myself all the ins and outs of cervical fluid, monitoring temperature readings and knew my very regular cycle like a well-read book? None of it mattered in the end. My plumbing and my fried eggs were toast (pun intended) apparently. No point avoiding the truth of the situation. As Einstein famously said: “Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”

There is a myth in our culture that anyone can have a baby with the help of modern medicine. Every tabloid has front page stories of another celebrity well into their 40s, beaming and pregnant. But they don’t like to discuss any back story of how they got there, including possibly withstanding a dozen or more grueling IVF attempts until success was finally in their hands and wombs. Eric and I did not have those kind of resources to battle the disease of infertility (that insurance does not cover as they do other diseases). But honestly I don’t know how anyone has the emotional fortitude to go more than several rounds. I had always thought of myself as a strong, healthy, determined woman. Yet after only two IVF attempts, I came to the realization that there was no way I was going to subject myself to another attempt with the odds strongly tilted toward disappointment, and another round of all of those needles, physically uncomfortable and emotionally upsetting doctor’s appointments, possibly going into debt. For what… another failed attempt? My logical mind as well as my sensitive heart could not withstand it. I was sure of it!

Coming to that decision was incredibly difficult. It was letting go of the dream of having our own children. At the age of 41 at that point, there was no going back. My eggs were only getting older, and Eric’s sperm were only swimming slower. Some days it felt like we were being punished for meeting later in life and waiting until we were financially and emotionally ready to take the leap to parenthood. But no matter how my mind wanted to spin the why’s and the what’s of our circumstances – my logical brain could not ignore the facts: my eggs did not want to fertilize with Eric’s sperm or fertilize for more than a day or two before they died out. That was simply a fact given the results we had so far. One or two more attempts would have severely depleted our bank account and entire savings, let alone my battered spirit.

Looking back now, using complete logic to make our decision to not go another round of IVF was partly another coping mechanism, but a sound one I believe. You do have to use the facts to help you make a decision of whether to continue or not. But truth be told, it was also another way to avoid the grief that we were feeling. It was like Eric and I were both channeling “Spock” from Star Trek and his uncanny ability to be “completely logical” and not understand human emotions. But hey it was working for us in that moment, so channeling our inner “Vulcan” mind it was.

We did allow ourselves several nights of uncontrollable sobbing during this decision process – both by ourselves in each other’s arms and at a friend’s house within earshot of their young baby girl. If I didn’t have some kind of release like that for the pain, I think my mind would have exploded from repression. But also the emotional pain that we were feeling from these failed attempts just further proved to us that we could not give it another go – we just didn’t have it in us. We subconsciously knew that we would only hurt ourselves more if we continued and we had to try to start to heal, or at the very least, diminish any further damage to our psyches, our hearts and my bruised body.

We made an early morning appointment with our fertility doctor, and very logically told him that we were not going to pursue another IVF attempt, as we’d rather set that money aside for potentially adopting a child, as it seemed this fertility medicine stuff just wasn’t working out for us. The doctor agreed that we were probably making the right decision. I felt both validated and a bit angry all at the same time. It was a weird mix of emotions. But his answer did give me a bit of closure that we were making the right decision. Our slow swimmers, fried eggs and my faulty plumbing just weren’t “making the donuts” or making our baby. So be it. Next!

The moral of the story in this post is to assure our readers that the decision to discontinue treatment is a difficult one to make, as well as a very personal decision. Each couple will have their own threshold for how much trial and error they can withstand, and everyone’s medical situation after a diagnosis of infertility is different and unique. Maybe you’re feeling lucky and determined, maybe you feel completely defeated and (reluctantly) ready to move on to a completely different life than you were hoping for – your own “final frontier” if you will. The choice is yours. If you have any reservations or questions, please feel free to contact Eric and I, and we will be happy to share any thoughts that we have or be a sounding board for you. We wish you much love and support on your journey.

Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.

Warm regards,

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