Don’t dream it, be it (Don’t dream it be it, The Rocky Horror Show)

Counselling today. I didn’t feel I ‘needed’ it, I’m coping fine with the negative pregnancy test result, but I suspect that some of the reason that I am coping is down to having had this appointment in place.

9.15am appointment, urgh, early start out the door before 8am.

I was a smidge worried about whether the counselling appointment would be a good thing or not because I had not been able to get an appointment with the counsellor I have been seeing for months. Grr. On the other hand, I happen to have advance information that my usual counsellor is leaving in a few months (more on that some other time) so given I’m in the long game with this IVF thing there may be some benefit in lining up someone new.

Well, like counsellor one, she was also great. There was a certain amount of going over old ground but she was very understanding about the circumstances and appeared to be willing to work around my needs as best she could within the system.

We talked quite generally about IVF and infertility and my background / personality, not particularly focusing on the recent negative result as I didn’t have a huge amount to say.

The counsellor asked some interesting questions that prompted me to think in new directions, which is ideal and is the thing that helps me most in counselling. I therefore decided to make another appointment with this counsellor, I liked the way the conversation was going.

So we talked a lot about failure. I’ve said it before, I’ve not had a lot of experience with failure. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few tools at my disposal through nature and nurture, and I have put myself in the way of a lot of opportunities – which I have seized. I arse things up sometimes, obviously, but in the big scheme of things I decide what I’m going to do and then I do it. I always always always have a plan, although I’m open to my plans changing course. I’m a very intentional person – I decide to do something, weigh up the likelihood of success, then if appropriate I take steps towards meeting my goal. ‘Don’t dream it, be it’ is what I live my life by.

I’ve been married for eight years, but I wasn’t ready to have a baby until four years ago. I put a lot of thought into deciding when I was ready. Pregnancy, birth, babies, life changes. I thought it through. When I felt I could cope with the consequences of those things, the husband and I started trying to conceive. At 30, based on the stats, I expected to get pregnant within six months or so. I didn’t.

So subconsciously I’d set myself a realistic goal, and I did not achieve it. Four years on I still have not achieved it. That’s maybe 40 goes at natural conception and 2 IVFs, without a positive result. Eight times longer in elapsed time (so far) than I expected.

So I have not succeeded.

Which means I have failed. And I have not failed so spectacularly before: I’m not used to it, I don’t like it, and I’m not experienced in coping with it.

Not only that but I might fail a whole lot more – regularly, and for a prolonged period – as the IVF process doesn’t work for everyone. It might not work for us at all. I might have to admit defeat at some point. I might have to give up, having failed full stop.

Most people know it is OK to fail. I don’t. I give myself a hard time for failing. I think I should succeed.

I bet you took a sharp intake of breath when I said I have failed. I bet you want hug me and comfort me and say “no no, you haven’t failed, don’t think of it like that, don’t torture yourself, you’ll have a baby in the end I just know it.”

Here’s the thing though – giving myself a hard time about failing doesn’t mean I think I’m a failure. I don’t think I’m a failure, but I do think I have failed. Loads of times. Every try past that first six months rubs my lack of success in reaching my goal in my face. Which annoys and frustrates me, in fact it explains why my consistent and overwhelming emotion is frustration rather than sadness. Gargh! I should be able to do better!

But should I? Risk management 101 – do everything you can maximise the potential for success and minimise the potential for failure. IVF often takes a few goes and there is absolutely nothing I can do to influence the result (bar giving up my moderate alcohol intake, as I have) and in optimum conditions IVF still might not work. Short or long term failing is therefore to be expected, and not my fault. And actually I’ve always been clear on this, I don’t blame myself it is out of my hands.

So! With the distinction between ‘failing’ and ‘being a failure’ in mind, failing for me should be a transient and manageable issue rather than a fundamental knock to my psyche. I just need to find ways to cope, as it’ll probably keep coming up for a while yet.

The first step towards coping with failing is to give myself permission to fail. This helps me to regain control. So, new plan. Failing has happened, and failing is likely. Scrap this six months nonsense, I didn’t have the right information to hand when I made that plan. I’m a statistical outlier so I need to be thinking longer term and I need to take into account the vagaries and limitations of the IVF method. If I acknowledge the possibility of failing and build it into my new plan, I don’t need to torture myself about it. It is just part of the expected ups and downs of the plan.

This has worked, on a small scale, with this last IVF cycle. I told myself ‘this is the long game, it might not work this time’. And it didn’t, but that’s OK and I coped much better, and we’ll have another go.

So I’m going to ramp that up and promote it to being the ‘all new and improved plan’.

Actually, the all new and improved plan has been operating subconsciously and in a freeform state for a while now. But knowing I’ve shifted over makes all the difference. And it also helps me to understand another wee thing that has been niggling away.

Plenty of kind and caring people have told me I’ve not failed and that I will eventually get pregnant. I’m genuinely grateful for their sympathy, I promise. But the thing is when I hear this stuff it unravels the theoretical underpinning of my coping mechanism. I have undoubtedly failed against my own objectives so far, and even with revised objectives to ultimately fail remains a possibility. I need to acknowledge this to give myself permission to fail and stop beating myself up about it. In order to cope I must embrace this failure as part of the plan, and suggesting I should do otherwise questions my objectives, questions my judgement and stigmatises the failing. Which erodes my focus and confidence. Which damages my self esteem. Which makes me feel bad in quite a fundamental way.

This spectre of failing is what it is, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. That’s what I need to take forward.