An open letter to my fears

Infertility is humbling.  I can think of few other experiences in my life that have brought me to the depths of despair or buried me with fear to the degree that recurrent miscarriage and secondary infertility (and before my one successful pregnancy, just plain infertility) have done.  Repeatedly.

Humility is educational.  Most days, I can find some way to embrace the knowledge that I am learning, growing, expanding my mind and opening my heart along this journey.  Some days, fear creeps in and I want to balk at the prospect of one more chance to learn or grow.  I just want to be pregnant with a healthy baby and to parent two (or three, I would happily embrace twins over zero additional children) children to the best of my abilities. I want to be the best parent I can be to the one child we have been blessed to have.  And some days, infertility makes doing so a real challenge.

Looking back, I’ve been afraid my whole life.  Afraid of failure, afraid of being told I was not good enough.  Afraid of believing that, of not being good enough by my own estimation.  “Not good enough” was the subtext of my upbringing, in some respects.  It was the message I took from many experiences I had with my own parents growing up.  It is a message I do not want to convey to my children, living or dead.  Of this, I am also afraid.

My biggest fear at the moment, or the one most pronounced because there is so much at stake, there is so much being sacrificed for this one, simple, elusive goal – the conception, carriage and birth of a healthy child – is that our upcoming IVF cycle will fail.  Either I won’t produce enough eggs, if I do produce eggs they won’t be mature, if mature they won’t fertilize, if they fertilize they will fragment and not survive to transfer day, if they do survive to transfer day they won’t implant, if one or more does implant, they will not survive and develop into a healthy baby and I will miscarry for the 6th time.  Why?  I am too old.  My eggs are too old.  Not good enough.  Of this, I am terrified.

I follow the blogs of other courageous, aching-hearted women who are on the infertility highway and I know I am not alone in my fears.  And I am deeply grateful for the support you all offer, by reading, by writing, by following, by liking, by showing up and spilling your own tears, sharing your broken hearts  and dreams in blogspace, in forums, on twitter.  By breaking silence, we name our hopes, dreams, fears.  This is a good thing.  Thank you, all of you, for taking those leaps of faith and courage.

But all of this is not enough.  I feel pulled down, as though drowning, into the abyss of fear.  Again.  My fears and I, we are not in dialogue today.  I am running away from them.  They are pursuing me and I am not facing them.  This is not who or where I need to be.   I am not my fears.  This is not good enough.  Today, I write the following open letter to my fears.

Dear Fears,

Thank you for accepting my invitation to chat.  We have been together so long, but we so rarely sit down together.  This is long overdue.

Let me start by saying I love you.  And I am so sorry for your loneliness.  You must be so lonely, even though you all have each other.  You poor things.  You work so hard trying to protect me from the heartbreak of yet another disappointment.  You are so clever, trying to shield me from the pain of losing another baby, this dream I so long to come true.  It must be lonely to toil tirelessly on this unrewarding task.  You are the bearer of bad news in perpetuity.  What a cruel purgatorial joke your fate has been.

Next, let me thank you.  I am grateful for all of your efforts, the myriad ways you try to protect and keep me safe.  Thank you for looking out for my bruised and battered heart.  You have the best of intentions.   I have not always appreciated or understood this, but I see it now.  Thank you for doing all that you can for me, all that you know how to do.

Finally, let me ask you a favour.   I need your help.  Let’s try something new and see if it works.  I would like us to work together for our common goal – a healthy little baby body for my spirit baby to call home.    I know you want this, as I do, or you would not work so hard at protecting me from every possible disappointment on my journey toward this goal.  You also know, as I do, that sometimes our intentions get in the way of what we most want.  Sometimes we need to let go and just be.  When we do, success often follows. 

So, how about this?  I promise not to try to crush you or push you into a corner where you cannot be seen or heard.  You promise not to scream so loudly at me I cannot think.  We check in, once a day (more if necessary), and make sure we are still in the same playbook, even if we cannot always be on the same page.  If you like, we can make pancakes together, dance, hold hands, go shoe shopping or have a cup of tea together (not one of those icky fertility blends).  I would like us to be friends.

What do you say?

6 thoughts on “An open letter to my fears

  1. Beautiful. Perfect. Am taken aback. Was just reading a Pema Chodron book and thinking about all of this! Humility, yes. I’ve been humbled profoundly. Afraid of fears. But at the same time, living *in* fear–fear, depression, and hopelessness are familiar, like an old (not-so) easy chair. I love how you point to the fear’s best intentions–protection, yes! And personify fear: “You are the bearer of bad news in perpetuity.” It creates space for kindness toward and acceptance of fear. When I think of “getting back in the stirrups” for that next ultrasound, I feel terror, even though it is so far away, and might not even happen again. We prepare for fear, even while fear is just trying to help us out! What a situation. You’ve inspired me to sit down with mine, too.

  2. Thanks so much. I’m so glad you posted your comment. After I wrote today’s post I thought, I should go back and read (my favourite Pema Chodron book), When Things Fall Apart. Your comment has confirmed that I must do so. Which book were you reading?
    I’m hoping personifying fear and trying to show compassion, gentleness, love and kindness to my anxieties (which really are a part of *us*, right?) will help me embrace the idea that I cannot control outcome in all of this, only the energy I put into myself, the journey, those I love who are with me for the ride… I would so love to be “detached” from outcome, but IF doesn’t really lend itself to that for most of us. Still, we can but try.
    I’d love to hear how your attempts to reach out to your fear are going. Wishing you peace on this long and winding road.

    • I was reading—sort of am continually reading—Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change.

      I have been kind of anti-reflective in recent days. I guess giving myself a holiday from thinking about any of this at all and looking at my home, cleaning it, organizing it. Trying to create order and peace.

      Treatments—they’re the opposite of detachment, right? They are attachment in action. It’s difficult sometimes to apply the Buddhist teachings while cycling—if the word “cycling” speaks to the Wheel of Samsara!

      • Thank you for always having such thoughtful yet heartfelt comments.

        I think trying to conceive of any variety engenders attachment to outcome. I don’t really know how to detach, cycling or not, but I love the concept of acceptance I hope to bring to the process. I will throw the kitchen sink in… Then try to sit back and watch what unfolds. I will write a new post soon (I hope) about the lesson I think this spirit baby is trying to teach me – to chill a little. This is a journey. A ride. A trip, as you so aptly note. All those words to me strike chords of adventure, enjoyment (even when I’m uncomfortable on a trip I appreciate the novel experience and what I might learn from it). I want to hold my fear’s hand on the roller coaster that is this trip, try to keep my eyes open at least part of the ride, and hope we are lucky. See? Can’t let go the attachment. Doesn’t help to pay gobs of cash if you want to not give a leap about the outcome, does it?

        • My friend in WY often reminds me–This is an adventure. She has said that about so many chapters of my life. It’s a wise perspective. Not always possible to embrace it (esp. right after a loss) but wise! xx

  3. Also, cleaning and organizing can be deeply therapeutic. If that is where you are at (in nesting mode), you must need to be there and I trust it will help soothe you even if that may not be obvious at the time. Let me know if you want another tidying project 😉

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