A continuing theme I read in other IF or No Kidding blogs is the shock of having to deal with failure. I’ve written about this before, but I always think it is worth it to revisit it, for the benefit of new readers, or to remind old readers (and myself) to practise some self-compassion.
So many of us believed that if we worked hard we’d achieve what we wanted. There is still a theme of this amongst IF blogs, both amongst those who had their children (“we stuck at it,” “never give up,” “I knew I’d never give up” (how can you possibly know that?), “my faith will deliver,” and other slightly superior/judgemental statements). Or perhaps we grew up in the “girls can do anything” age, and truly believed that we could have it all. Or maybe we grew up being told we were "special" and we believed that meant we could have whatever it was we wanted..
Now, with hindsight, I look at people who say, “if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything.” They’re always the ones who were lucky enough to achieve whatever is their anything. Yes, they may well have achieved their goal through hard work, but hard work alone doesn’t do it. You’ll hear others – particularly in the IF community – refer to “wanting it enough.” Wanting something, even coupled with hard work, doesn’t do it either. I really hate hearing the implication in that statement that perhaps I don’t have children because I didn’t want it enough. Or maybe my friends here didn’t “want it enough.” I completely dispute that.
The truth is that achieving anything in life is so often by chance - genetic, parental, circumstantial, geographic, and many other circumstances that aid or hinder us in our goals. Working hard, whilst it is good, isn’t going to overcome other problems that occur by chance (or genetics). We need luck, finances, energy, good health, talent, looks, speed, strength or a high IQ (or a combination of some or all of these) to be in our favour, as well as hard work (or wanting something, or believing in it) to get what we want. Example: I’m not pretty. I have to work at looking presentable, but I’ll never be beautiful. Chance. I’m tall and athletic, and was a talented netballer when I was young. Chance. I wasn’t tall enough to represent my country though. That wasn’t going to be alleviated through hard work. Chance. I have a high IQ. I can learn things easily. That’s not through hard work. It’s pure chance, in the same way that my eyes are green. And I feel it is less praiseworthy than someone who works hard to learn something that I would pick up quickly. How is that different to fertility and infertility?
And as we all know, being fertile has nothing to do with working hard or wanting something enough. We all hear of people accidentally getting pregnant when they’re using contraception. And we all know (or are those people) who have gone without contraception for ten years, tried ten rounds of IVF, and still never conceived. But likewise, conceiving through fertility treatments isn’t a result of hard work or even perseverance. Sure, some people might say that they’d never have had their children if they’d stopped after one cycle of IVF. That might be true. Others say – after having their children – that they would have done anything to get them. But they don’t know that, because they weren’t forced to follow through. Still others know that they could have done 20 cycles and never conceived. Wanting it enough and hard work aren’t always going to reward us with the result we want.
Still, it is hard to change the habits of a lifetime, and stop believing that we’ll get what we want simply because we want it, or because we have tried and tried and tried, because we have worked so hard to the exclusion of all else. So we berate ourselves, we feel like failures, and we find that hard to cope with. That’s why I really dislike the word failure in the fertility context. It brings a degree of judgement, as if it is a failure of character, or effort, or virtue. Being infertile simply is - as much as the colour of our hair, or whether or not we wear glasses, or how athletic we are - part of who we are. It’s not a failure.
Most importantly, it doesn’t mean I am a failure either. Because I am not. Neither are you. Far from it. Knowing this intellectually is one thing. Accepting it emotionally is another. But it is possible to get there. Accepting that I wasn’t a failure, that the outcome really wasn’t my fault, helped me go a long way towards accepting not only my no kidding lifestyle, but other things that have happened in my life since.
I accepted I’d never be beautiful a long time ago. I have also accepted I’ll never have children. Neither of those are my fault. Neither of those make me a failure. However much society tries to make us think that.