Trying... to hope
I now have a difficult relationship with hope.
It was not something I had thought about prior to a life of trying and failing to have babies. Even prior to getting doctors involved the first (and only) time around, those two and half years were filled with the stuff. Or rather false hope.
Every time you pull your knickers down, after a slight twinge, and you see the first blood - hopes dashed. Immediately. Your face burns with sadness and you feel daft again, for hoping against hope, that this time, might, just might, be different. A period becomes a death instead of a regular monthly happening; the death of something but mainly the death of hope, as it drips away and you learn to mistrust hope itself.
And then you involve drugs, hope gets expensive and the stakes even higher. Because once you have actually seen an embryo placed delicately into your womb - you cannot not hope. It’s almost impossible. But you want to protect yourself from even allowing yourself the audacity of hope. (Sorry Barack Obama for inadvertently borrowing one of your book titles). That’s how it ends up feeling; like you aren’t allowed to hope, failure after failure.
Hope is by far, of all the many medical drugs I have done in the last few years, the most potent and painful. It raises me up and throws me back down. Mercilessly.
I talked a little about my tricky relationship with the stuff on Fearne Cotton’s podcast, Happy Place, this week. A lot of you have been in touch about that episode - and if you fancy it - you can check it out here. It was a generous and memorable exchange. (Thank you Fearne for having me to your beautiful she-shed).
And yet while I have grown to loathe hope and how stupid it makes me feel - having believed we might be pregnant yet again - only to be again proved wrong by my stubborn and unwell body - I still need it. We all do.
Because the flicker of it, remarkably rising again as you heal from whatever is hurting you, gets you back up. Literally. Out of bed. Or onto that call. Or into that car. Wherever you need to get to. Or shifts your mind away from the dark. Unbelievably, most of us, if we are lucky, can feel it rising again. Despite what’s happened.
Hope is life. It is the expectation of things sometimes going our way. It gives us energy that we need.
I remember recently admitting, as an aside, on Woman’s Hour, the radio programme I present, that I wasn’t too sure about hope - only to then be swiftly educated, as I am on a daily basis by our listeners, that hope had saved so many people. Especially during life-saving medical treatment such a chemo. It had also been a vital ingredient for survival for those caring for someone in a tricky situation.
When I wrote in my Times article last month, which kickstarted this whole newsletter off, that I previously never understood how women could go through round after round of IVF (that was until I joined them - I am now on my seventh), what I was actually saying is that I hadn’t understood the role of hope in getting them back in the saddle. I didn’t factor in that plucky irrepressible force that propels them on.
I must say that I have also heard from women where IVF or assisted conception has never worked. Hopelessness is a new and incredibly hurtful reality to traverse. But they have also told me stories of how they have or are coming through and learning to trust hope again.
And that’s it. Trusting in hope is hard. Sometimes impossible. But I’ve begrudgingly come to realise - hope is all we often have and fighting it is futile.
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