Trying...to try. Again and again.
In our society we revere the win. Not the trying. We only respect “the journey” of an athlete once they have become champions. Or the singer wins the talent contest.
Recently there has been a move, largely influenced by America, to try to respect failing - or at least acknowledge it happens.
When I set out to create this newsletter - I was struggling to name it. As I have written before - I hope this will be a space where I can explore life’s challenges - the light and dark. But this project was born during a time of intense personal trying; trying for a second baby; trying to stay on track; trying to be a good mother, wife, daughter, friend and colleague. And so the name, like all good ones, stuck.
I am interested in the art of it; why people go back in a ring, whatever ring it is, again and again.
Recently I interviewed Andy Murray, the former tennis world number one, ahead of his wild card appearance at Wimbledon. Did he think he could win it? Of course he said yes, and I don’t doubt that self belief. He’s won it before; albeit pre hip-op and years of agonising pain, something we also discussed (as a bit of a pain connoisseur myself). Murray crashed out of this year’s tournament in the second round and the media interest spirited away as fast as it came.
But the hours and hours that man will have done trying just to get back to round one? Huge. Apart from the obvious, the desire to win, how does he motivate himself?
Notice, when talking of trying and overcoming adversity, I’ve gone straight to a sportsman. Partly because their efforts are so visible; but also because it is one of the main arenas we are trained to respect trying.
Trying for a baby? Less so. A pity case. Undeniably there is a lot more sorrow, grief and emotional pain - as well as the physical sometimes too. It is also largely a private quest. But I am equally interested in the psychology of trying away from tournaments where there aren’t medals and victory laps. Sometimes it’s just a word; or a walk with a friend. That’s all it can take to give you the energy and zeal to believe you could try one more time.
I am not one of life’s great repeat triers in some ways. Yes I have tried at my relationships and career - but I tend to find things I am good at and enjoy sticking with them. I do come out of my comfort zone but only in a way I want to, if that makes sense.
And yet, I have joined the great trying and failing ranks, in a bid to have our highly elusive second child. For years now. I almost don’t recognise myself. Almost. And yet here I am, even after vowing not go back to this limbo state after two and half years of trying for our son.
In this newsletter I would like to share some of things that got me back in the ring each of the six times I started a new round of IVF. But before I do - I want to acknowledge two things. Firstly, finances are a consideration each time and I know for some, are the reason they have to stop, not because they don’t want to go again. They simply cannot. Others make tweaks where they can to knock down the cost. For instance - during our last fresh round we decided not to freeze any extra embryos we were fortunate to make - in order to avoid an extra £1500 bill at the end for storage and preservation.
Secondly, there are many women and families who simply cannot do IVF anymore, emotionally, physically and psychologically, the process takes too much from you. I know and see you too. There is no right or wrong answer. Or “stronger” or “weaker” response by being able to try again.
With those two important caveats here are some of my motivators when the chips are down:
I have written in a previous newsletter about my tricky relationship with hope. But there is one quote by the Czech author Vaclav Havel, I return to again and again - in low moments when I don’t think I can try again: “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something is worth doing no matter how it turns out."
As the Apsen Institute puts it, when analysing Havel’s work: “Havel distinguishes hope from optimism - the confidence that things will turn out well. Rather, hope depends not upon the outcome of circumstances, but the goodness of the cause, despite the consequences. And if this is true, then perhaps hope is present all along. Hope Havel says, is ‘an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed’.”
A negative result
I have also been motivated by the brutal fact that the round hasn’t worked. You can’t be a bit pregnant. IVF, or any form of assisted conception, is a binary process. Ultimately one is doing it to be pregnant and have a baby. Wearily I remember that each time before I text my doctor and say let’s go again.
One time, it was pure rage that got me back in the ring. I am a fan of rage, however unfashionable that might be. Why I am not allowed to try to be a mother again? Or, as the question was prior to our son, why I am not able to be a mother like others who want to be?
My local IVF fairy and I pound the streets after failed our failed rounds, often with cheeky cans of lager. And somehow we get ourselves right. Whatever that means. We just talk it all out. She is one of life’s positive people; good at regrouping and making a plan. I particularly remember one walk when she singlehandedly, but very gently, got me out of the gutter. I signed up to try again two weeks later.
Of course the longest and most detailed discussions are with my husband. But because he loves me and is the only one to see the full impact of IVF drugs on my life, body and mind, he isn’t the one ever encouraging us, me, to go again. In a way, he can’t bear it. Once I have decided to go again, it is with his support - but ultimately, while he doesn’t encourage it, I am doing it for us; the three of us.
One of you, a fellow reader to this newsletter, messaged me this week. Her latest round hasn’t worked. She gave herself a little time and had semi regrouped by the time she messaged me - saying IVF was a “marathon not a sprint”.
I had hoped it could be a sprint. But it ain’t. She’s right.
And it’s a saying that works right across life - from sports to exams, to our relationships and health. We are all, in different ways, trying to try. Again and again.
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