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Do You Live in Fear of Failure?

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

I do. Going through secondary infertility, I’ve had so many ups and downs, the fear of failure (or a BFN) haunts me. It's probably the no. 1 thing that's been holding me back. I’m an “all or nothing” type of person—once I’m in, I’m ALL in, with everything I do. And when I started on my IF journey last May (of 2011), it was a bumpy ride to say the least. But despite how rocky it was, I went from one cycle to the next—Clomid, IUI, IVF, a canceled fresh embryo transfer that followed, and then three FET attempts (only two of which actually resulted in FETs)—for 10 straight months.

I finally gave myself a break after my last failed FET earlier this year, and since taking time off I’ve felt restored. It took about a month until I felt like myself again, physically and emotionally. As much as I still want another child and have every intention of trying again, there's been one thing holding me back: the fear of failure. And it’s a big thing for me.

Though I’ve felt totally restored the last few months, I don’t think you ever feel like yourself again after having an experience like that. I suffered OHSS, got very sick, spent a lot of time in bed, and had to cancel two embryo transfers (two out of four scheduled). I experienced every negative side effect of every drug I took. No exaggeration there—every. single. side. effect.

But that’s not the reason I’ve been afraid to head back down this infertility road again. I can handle the drugs—I'm prepared this time. Though I’m in a new job at a new company now, which presents its own set of challenges, I'm fairly confident I can get through this in privacy, without letting it get in the way of work. There are definitely some concerns there, but I have a much clearer idea of what drugs my body can, and can't, handle.

Those issues aside, I know I’ll figure out a way to deal with the treatments and juggle my responsibilities at home and work; somehow I’ll get through it. My husband and I will get through it together. Part of the reason I waited to do this is because I wanted to be more settled in my new job before starting on all the FET treatments again. I feel like I'm there now...except for one thing holding me back.

What I’m nervous about is how I’ll deal with another (possible) failure, and the emotional aftermath. Not to be pessimistic, but it’s something you can't help but think about when you're trying to conceive, especially this way. It's a kind of failure that cuts deeper than trying to conceive naturally, because you're going to such great lengths to get pregnant and putting yourself through pretty invasive treatments. Only to find out you’re not pregnant? It’s a profound disappointment.

All the treatments and drugs and doctor appointments—the dozen or so ultrasounds and lab tests that accompany each cycle—contribute to the emotional build-up. No matter how much you tell yourself you’re not getting your hopes up this time, there’s no way around it. Of course your hopes are up—how could they not be? You wouldn't be putting yourself through all of this if you didn't have high hopes for the outcome.

But after everything you put yourself through, and no matter how many times you've been through it before, nothing can prepare you for the brutal two week wait (2ww)—it's the longest two weeks of your life. And nothing—absolutely nothing—can prepare you for the morning of your pregnancy test, and the hours until the nurse finally calls with the results, usually around 2 p.m. (the longest hours of your life). You answer your phone in breathless anticipation—half excited, mostly terrified—and you can tell the minute you hear the nurse's voice that it’s not good news.

“We’re sorry, but…”

I live in fear of that phone call. It's that phone call that's been holding me back. That, and being able to pick up, move on and stay positive—despite the odds, despite the setbacks. I always go in hoping for the best, but I've been through it enough times to know that "the best" isn't a sure thing with fertility treatments.

What is/was the hardest part of your infertility experience? 

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