The infertility lifestyle is a roller coaster of decisions, hope, and grief. Just when you think you have reached your limit, the next peak of treatment seems not much further than the last, and since you’ve already come this far, taking one more step seems almost natural.
I am pro-science, pro-treatment. I know many people who became parents through medical intervention, and I am happy for them. That being said, with our unexplained infertility diagnosis, we decided to stop relatively early, after only one failed IVF cycle. I think that some of my friends thought we should keep trying. After all, we knew couples who did keep trying, cycle after cycle, until they got their beautiful baby.
We live in a society that values hard work, perseverance, and sacrifice almost above all else. “Winners never quit, and quitters never win,” right? Unfortunately, I am perhaps too aware that there are some battles that will not be won, no matter how much effort we expend.
So, despite feeling stuck in the anger of the radical unfairness of it all, we decided we could stop, take some time to grieve, and then decide what to do.
When we stopped trying, we weren’t even sure whether we were going to try and embrace a child-free life or if we would pursue adoption. Quite uncharacteristically, we quit without a back-up plan.
Several years later, I still quietly admit that it is possible that if we had invested all of ourselves in this quest, all our money, all our emotional reserves, we might have achieved that magical pregnancy. We will never know if we could have persevered until we achieved success because we did quit.
It would be easy to say that you will know when it is time to stop, and I think I have been guilty of saying that to people myself. A slightly greater truth would be to say that you will probably know when you cannot continue. And even then, you may face feelings of guilt.
There are a lot of expressions about how quitting is easy and persevering is hard.
In the case of trying to conceive, quitting may be the hardest thing you ever do. There is just no way of knowing whether the next time will be the one that works. What if we stop too soon? Are we abandoning our potential children by not fighting harder? What if we are like the proverbial gold miner who stops digging just before hitting that hidden cache of riches?
We will never know. We may have stopped too soon, and even though I may still wonder, I do not regret quitting.
It wasn’t easy at all. I slipped into a pretty dark depression while trying to adjust to the suddenly very real prospect of a child-free life. I needed to go through that process before I could begin to move on. Still, going through the grief and accepting that I would be forever changed by this loss allowed me to come to a place where I could start to really examine what I wanted to do with my life. For a long time, I felt paralyzed by the lack of limitations – there were too many options, and I couldn’t really picture myself in any of them.
Finally, I was able to admit to myself that I was avoiding the topic of adoption almost out of spite to my infertile self. With the help of anti-depressants, I was able to come back to myself and ask the tough questions. Did I really only want to be a mom if I could have the children right from conception? Was that the only important thing for me?
Or was my desire to be a parent strong enough that I could skip a few steps?
Together, my husband and I decided to explore fostering. We figured we could experience parenting in a way that was also giving a service to our community. We were open to the idea of adoption, but we didn’t feel ready to commit our emotional resources into hoping for permanency – in other words, we found a different way to put off the adoption question by focusing on temporary parenting. Jump ahead about a thousand steps and tears, and we find ourselves the proud permanent parents of a 7-year-old girl and a 2.5-year-old boy.
Do I still have bouts of sadness over our inability to conceive? Absolutely. Now, though, my sadness focuses on the fact that I didn’t get to know my children sooner. My daughter sometimes says she wishes she had come from my tummy, and my heart both swells and breaks a little with those words.
We got a happy ending through adoption.
I have friends who got their happy ending through embracing a child-free life and discovering other ways to create and contribute to their community. The alternative happy ending stories are harder to find because once we leave the infertile lifestyle behind, we tend to really leave it behind. We leave the groups, we stop reading the articles, we move on. But the stories are out there, and they are as diverse as the people living them.
There is no right answer for when to stop trying, and each person eventually comes to their own decision in their own time. Many people keep trying until they reach a breaking point in their resources – financial and/or emotional. Sometimes, sadly, some people wait until their relationships reach a breaking point.
So, in the interests of seeing people reach that alternative happy ending more quickly, and for that one person who needs to hear it, here it is – it is OK to get off this crazy ride. Yes, it is OK to keep trying, and it is OK to quit.
It is Ok to stop.
Cindy Durrant, http://veggiesanddirt.wordpress.com