I used to think I was pretty good at delayed gratification. I mean, I have a PhD, which means that after college I basically said, “You know what, 17 years of school isn’t enough. Let’s sign up for more school, which gets harder and offers less and less specific feedback as you go, with no promise of success or a lucrative job in the field that you love at the end.” I took that leap of faith, and there were times that were hard, but ultimately it has worked out pretty well.
I think the difference between doing a PhD and being in the long haul for fertility tests and treatments is that I really loved what I was doing when I was doing my PhD. So, sure, there were setbacks and difficult times, but in the end, I knew that I was doing something that I found challenging, awe-inspiring, and worthwhile with my time. The journey was worth it, even if I didn’t reach the destination I wanted to reach. Having pregnancy-related issues is a horse of a very different color.
Or is it? I mean, yes, it’s a slog. Much more of a slog than grad school ever was. I go from panicking about my ticking biological clock to the physical discomfort of tests and treatment to disappointment after disappointment as my period arrives or the next miscarriage starts. Every positive pregnancy test brings a cocktail of elated hope and terror and resignation. Every two week wait is an exercise in patience and acceptance.
But, would I choose anything different? My options are either this, or giving up on adding another much-wanted member to our family, or pursuing a totally different mix of hope, terror, elation, stress, and cost to add another family member a different way. And while this happens, I’m going on and living my life. I’m working hard at a job I love. I’m being the best wife and mother I know how to be. I’m raising my one living child with all the joy and commitment and love that I’ve been saving up and bubbling over with. It’s hard. But it’s the path that feels authentic to me given the choices I have.
Cultivating acceptance, cultivating patience, cultivating cautious hope in the face of setback after setback. This is the work of the current phase of my life.
What’s motivating these reflections this week, you might ask? I was supposed to have my MRI tonight, which was supposed to let me move on to the next thing, the hysteroscopic surgery to remove the adhesions and possibly fibroids that my RE thinks might be contributing to my recurrent miscarriages. But my RE neglected to mention that she was ordering contrast for the MRI, which you can’t have if there’s a possibility that you might be pregnant. And since I last saw her the day after a positive OPK result, there’s a possibility (a remote one, to be sure) that I might be pregnant, but of course it’s too early to tell for sure (my period is due on Wednesday). So I called her office today, trying to find out whether the MRI might still be worthwhile without the contrast. But she was on an international flight, and the nurse wasn’t helpful, and ultimately I just wound up having to reschedule the MRI for next week. Then I called to reschedule the follow-up appointment with the RE, which I need to do before we can move forward with the hysteroscopy, and she doesn’t have an opening for another three weeks! So there goes another wasted month.
I felt so frustrated today. I wanted to complain to someone, but there’s nobody I see on a daily basis other than my husband who knows what I’m going through, and I try not to complain too much to my husband because I hate to stress him out on my behalf. So instead I’m trying to put my frustration into context. It’s not really frustration with this one test being rescheduled. It’s frustration with the entire process of five years of four pregnancies and three miscarriages. It’s frustration with watching other women get pregnant around me with their second or third living child. It’s frustration with a medical system that feels so impersonal, with the uncertainty of never being sure that what I’m doing is a necessary or sufficient approach to adding another living child to our family. It’s frustration with my life not going the way I want it to despite my very best sustained efforts over a long period of time. And today it just bubbled over during the string of multiple phone calls with my doctor’s office and the radiology line.
I may be good at delayed gratification, but this is straining my abilities. I just hope that there is, ultimately, gratification to be had, and that this journey is worth it in the end.