I can only imagine what must be like to be able to get pregnant and have children easily, without much effort. The analogy that comes to mind is the ease with which I taught myself to read, at age three. Watching public television along with my older brother, I learned the letters, their sounds, and how to put them together very quickly. I had my own library card by the time I was in preschool. Reading never felt like work--it was just something I did, and I took it for granted that I could read whatever I wanted. I had no idea that this was an exceptional experience, so I couldn't understand, and was probably insensitive to, other children to whom reading didn't come quite so easily.
Of course, while reading was my strength, other academic struggles presented themselves. My poor visual-spatial skills have created constant fodder for jokes for my friends and family. Math, physics, and chemistry did not come naturally. However, I was still able to achieve good grades in these subjects in school by working hard and pushing myself.
Society seemed to support my view that hard work was the only necessary ingredient for success. After all, I learned that watching public television too. In high school, I once remarked to my social studies teacher that a person could do whatever they wanted to in life as long as they worked hard enough. A wise man, he sighed, took off his glasses, and told me that was completely untrue. I argued with him, but he simply insisted--a person cannot do whatever they want just by working hard, as different people have different abilities, and there is also the involvement of luck. At the time, I felt he was being negative and discouraging, and I did not believe him.
Well, I believe him now.
Like almost everyone, I assumed that when I wanted to get pregnant, it would happen according to my schedule and my timeframe. I couldn't fathom that it might not happen when I wanted it to, much less at all--and if so, there might be very little I could do about it.
In the early stages of infertility treatment, I clung to my approach of working hard in order to achieve my goal. When treatment started going badly, I resolved to fight harder, to do more, and to keep pushing myself. I felt that if I just tried hard enough, I would get pregnant.
When it finally began to dawn on me that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't overcome certain biological problems, it caused a great deal of emotional turmoil. Not only was I very upset about my infertility; my entire world-view had been shattered.
I know that my story is far from unique because I hear it from my clients every day. In so many cases, infertility is the first real life stumbling block that cannot be overcome by hard work. Like me, my clients also must grapple with their grief and anger about infertility in the midst of developing a new approach to solving problems.
If you are reading this blog, chances are that you are also a hard-working, high-achieving sort of person yourself. If you too are struggling with the fact that your typical life strategies aren't working with your infertility treatment, know that you are definitely not alone.
It's important to realize that however hard you work at your infertility treatment, it will not be the deciding factor in whether or not is successful--that ultimately, success is left in the hands of biology, chance, and perhaps fate. By acknowledging this, you can let yourself off the hook a bit, and see that your don't need to work as hard as you have, perhaps exhausting or depleting yourself in the process.
On the other hand, it's important not to stop working hard altogether. Although hard work cannot ensure that treatment is successful, it can give you the best opportunity you can have to get pregnant. By making sure you understand your diagnosis and treatment options, and by following your treatment protocols to the letter, you can at least ensure that you've given treatment the best try possible. That's important later on--you don't want to feel that you have regrets that you could have done more.
In the end, it's like so many things--a balancing act. We must work hard enough to make sure we get the best treatment possible, but then we have to acknowledge that there is a limit to what our hard work can achieve. Once we've done everything we can do to further treatment, then we should rest, and try to focus on other areas of our life. This, of course, is easier said than done. But by recognizing that hard work alone doesn't cure infertility (or many other problems, for that matter) we can have more energy to devote to other aspects of our lives, thus making infertility treatment more bearable.