Failure = Success?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the post I wrote last week and how failure has shaped my life over the past decade or so. Then my Hubby sent this article to me that talks about how failure can actually turn into success.

I’m not sure how I feel about the article. I mean, I get what the message is; that in order to succeed you have to allow failure into your life. That we can learn from our failures. 

So what have I learned from my failures? Losing a job taught me that nothing in life is ever “stable.” Moving back to Detroit from Chicago after my Dad passed away taught me that guilt is a strong enough motivator. Infertility taught me that not everything that you give 100% into will result in success.

Not necessarily happy things, right? Truth is, failure has taught me to be more wary of people, of situations. The once confident woman that I was in my twenties, has morphed into a 40-year old woman with more self-esteem issues than a teenager. 

What I need to do, as Hubby keeps telling me, is realize that I should let go of these failures and move on. And I need to realize that everything I do won’t necessarily fail; that even little things in life (and work) can be a success. 

I need to believe in myself.

Dark Spaces and Other Things

I went to a dark space this past week. I went back to the land of longing for a child of my own.

That’s a place, while always in the back of my mind, that I haven’t been to in a long time.

It started when I found out that a newer co-worker of mine had triplets. So naturally I asked if this was a surprise to her when she found out she was having triplets. That’s when I found out that she and her husband had done IVF and had succeeded with pregnancy after their second try; a frozen cycle from the remaining embryos from her first try.

D*mn it. I was jealous.

So jealous that I thought of our one failed IVF cycle and the failed ability to even have tried a frozen cycle. Which then had me thinking that if we did succeed with our cycle, our child/children would be 9 years old.

Nine. Years. Old. What a different person I might have become if we were successful.

Maybe I wouldn’t be such a sad person inside. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so anxious all the time. Maybe I wouldn’t be so afraid of failure like I am about everything in my life.

I know. I’m realistic enough to know I could still be the same person I am today, with or without kids. However, I do know that my fear of failure stems from the belief that I grew up with: If you try hard at anything, you will succeed.

Except as hard as Hubby & I tried to conceive, we did not succeed.

Failing at trying to procreate was the first time I ever had to question that belief. The corresponding darkness that followed our failed IVF only allowed me more time to question whether anything I do would only result in failure.

So the dark place I was at this week? It all boiled down to my fear of failure in EVERYTHING I do. From feeling like I’m a failure at work, to feeling like I’m a failure in my personal life.

I’m still a little fragile from this past week … probably will be for a while, if I’m being honest with myself … but I’m trying to be better. Trying to realize that sometimes failures can be opportunities for improvement. And trying to remember that mistakes are really just mis-takes

Thirty Days of Thanks, Day Twenty

Spent part of my day outside today. That is, after spending most of it indoors at work. But at least I got to leave in the early afternoon.

My Mom and I went to place a grave blanket on my Dad’s grave this afternoon. We bought a bare blanket and spent some time decorating it with ribbons and bows. This is the first time we decided to decorate it ourselves and we actually had a fun time doing it. We did a fine job, if I do say so myself!

Afterwards, we went out for an early dinner and had some nice conversation. Overall, it was a great afternoon.

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So I’m thinking that Mom & I should make it an annual thing … something we can do together. Because there’s not much we do together.

It’s not that we don’t get along … it’s just that we don’t share a lot of the same interests or find a lot of things in common.

I wish we could … find things more in common. Which is strange to say, since she is my mother. We should have tons of things in common. But we don’t.

It’s one of those things that I shouldn’t do … but I blame part of it on the fact that I don’t have children.

(Yes, I’m bringing out the “Infertility Card.”)

We’ve never really had much in common, even growing up. But I always thought that once I had a baby, I’d be able to turn to my Mom for some “I don’t know what the h*ll I’m doing”-bonding.

And even if we didn’t always see eye to eye, I would put our differences aside if my kids wanted to spend time with their “Lola.”

But since the kids/grandkids thing isn’t going to happen, I want to find some way to bond with my Mom; to connect with her.

So maybe it won’t be bonding over what latest funny thing “Johnny” just did. Maybe it’ll have to be bonding over what we’ve lost together … her, a husband; me, a dad.

What am I grateful for today? The time spent with Mom, bonding over my Dad.

Practicing What I Preach (repost)

Here’s the last of my reposts for National Infertility Awareness Week. I’m especially proud of this one for some reason. Perhaps because this post forced me to stand up to the ignorance of infertility … Anyway, to see the original post, click here.

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Dear Curious,

Thank you for your comment on my previous post. As always, I welcome any responses to what I write. To me, any response means that I’m effectively getting my words out into the world.

My last post did not mean to belittle Cancer as a disease. And yes, I realize that I was a bit over the top and melodramatic at the end. I truly debated as to whether or not I should respond to you. But then I thought that I should really practice what I preach.

And what I’ve been preaching lately is that it’s better to educate others about Infertility than perpetuating a myth.

In this case, it’s the myth that Infertility is not a disease, but rather just a “condition” that is a result of a “badly dealt hand” in life.

Or as Margaret Wente’s editorial in The Globe and The Mail indicates, “Many things in life are deeply unfair, and infertility is just one of them … … [In the] meantime, record numbers of people are embracing childlessness out of choice. It seems that one person’s deep unfairness is another’s blessed liberation.”

So, as an RN Case Manager … who has not only taken care of many Cancer patients at the hospital and has followed up with them on an ongoing basis after they’ve returned to their homes … let me take the opportunity here to dispell this myth.

1. Let’s first get our definitions straight.

Condition: a usually defective state of health (from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Disease: a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms (from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Cancer: a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues (from the National Cancer Institute website)

Diabetes: a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin (from the American Diabetes Association website)

Infertility: a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse (as defined by the World Health Organization, as stated by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine website).

2. Now, let’s discuss the difference between a condition and a disease.

Many diseases started out as a being known as a “condition.” Diabetes was a “sugar condition.” Asthma was a “breathing condition.” It’s not until science began to do more research to determine the reason for its abnormal patterns in functioning that a condition came to be called a disease.

To me, this is why giving voice to Infertility and educating the general population is extremely important: so that more research can be done to discover how to effectively and consistently treat Infertility. And when I mean “consistently,” I mean that there should be a specific pathway (or guideline to follow) for treatment of Infertility. Much like there are standards of practice for treatment of the various types of Cancer.

3. Now let me discuss why I think all diseases aren’t fatal, as you’ve indicated.

Eczema isn’t fatal. Scleroderma isn’t fatal. Diabetes isn’t even fatal. What’s fatal is what happens if appropriate treatment is not carried out. That’s when other health conditions (or comorbidities) can add to the complications involving the disease.

Going back to Diabetes: If a Diabetic’s blood sugar isn’t controlled properly, then this could lead to diabetic nephropathy — or kidney disease. This is caused by the kidneys working overtime to filter out protein from the body. Continued overworking can cause kidney failure which could, again if untreated could cause toxicity in the body, ultimately leading to death. But would a pathologist consider diabetes as the cause of death in a situation like this? Likely no; it would most likely be kidney failure as a complication from Diabetes.

Now, substitute diabetes in this situation with, let’s say … pancreatic cancer. Again, pancreatic cancer could more likely be the complication in a fatal situation such as this.

4. So now let me talk about why I think complications from Infertility can be fatal.

First there’s the idea of an abnormal reproductive system; which, like most diseases, could be caused from a variety of different sources. In this case, it’s during any part of the reproductive cycle. But just for sh*ts and giggles … let’s say that — in determining the cause for Infertility — the woman discovers that she has Ovarian Cancer. Or we find out that the man has Testicular Cancer. Then I could logically assume (as you’ve pointed out) that Infertility can be related to Cancer (or vice versa, for that matter) and any complications that result from Cancer can be fatal.

Or … how about this? Let’s say, in the quest to have a child, a woman who has put her body at risk to become pregnant is suddenly more at risk during her pregnancy because of Pre-ecclampsia. And suddenly it becomes evident that a choice needs to be made as to whether to save the woman or her baby? I know women who have tragically been through this. And I hope, sometime in your life that you might have some empathy for them …

5. And finally, speaking of sympathy … I must point out that sympathy for my Infertility is not what I’m asking from you … or from anyone.

What I really want is empathy. And that would mean that I’d want the understanding from others that Infertility is a disease and it deserves to be recognize. It’s not something to be swept under the rug or ignored.

And quite frankly, I would hope that a person with Cancer would also want empathy rather than sympathy. For me, someone who is sympathetic can only “feel” pity and sorrow for someone’s misfortune. While a person who is empathetic has the ability to recognizecomprehendperceive and directly feel the emotion of another. Seriously. I’d rather have someone recognize and comprehend how difficult it is to be in my situation than to just simply say (perhaps in their head), “Too bad, so sad.”

So here’s one last set of definitions.

Sympathy: the feeling or mental state brought about by such sensitivity (from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner (from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

So hopefully you now have a better understanding of why I wrote my last post.

I’m not asking for more recognition than what Cancer, with its multitude of community support, already has. I’m just simply asking for recognition.

And finally … just so you know. I am a survivor of Infertility … not because one of my parents suffered from Infertility (because my Mom did ) … and not because I ended up having children (because I didn’t) … I consider myself a survivor because I was able to sustain years of treatment for Infertility and came out the other end of a verrry long tunnel with my dignity (relatively) intact.

Best of luck in wherever your life takes you,
Emily

I’m A Survivor (repost)

For National Infertility Awareness Week, I’ve been reposting some significant and relevant posts to this year’s theme: Don’t Ignore Infertility. Here’s the original link to this post.

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I am a Survivor of Infertility.

It sounds rather silly, given that I have nothing visible to show for the years I’ve been diagnosed with this disease. (Well, except for the added weight gain from all the medications … but that’s beside the point.) But it’s the truth.

It may sound strange to the average person that Infertility is considered a disease. After all, most people are rather inclined to think that it’s a “condition” rather than a disease. There’s even been debate that Infertility is considered a “lifestyle choice.” But we’ll get back to that one later.

Much like Cancer is a disease (an abnormal growth of cells which proliferate in an uncontrolled manner), so is Infertility. And I can even have the World Health Organization definition to back me up.

And much like a Cancer patient who has successfully completed treatment for their disease, I can also say that I am a survivor.

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I know, I know … I’ve made multiple comparisons of Infertility to Cancer in previous posts. And just so you know, it’s not as if this comparison hasn’t been made by other Infertility bloggers and/or other health care providers in Reproductive Health in the past.

Believe me, as an RN who has taken care of her fair share of Cancer patients, it’s not one that I do lightly. I do so, only to showcase the lack of support and education that Infertility receives when compared to Cancer.

If you’re like most people, the news of a family or friend recently diagnosed with Cancer will trigger a sense of empathy for that individual and their family. For me, it’s always been an immediate “That’s horrible!” or “How sad” statement when receiving the news. Then, the next time I see the individual or one of their family members, I might briefly ask them how they’re doing and how their treatment is coming along. And I’d make it a point to ask how they’re coping with everything. I do so knowing that I’m offering them an opportunity to let out some of those difficult emotions that come along whenever someone is going through a stressful situation.

For me, that’ how *I* like to offer my support. But others could likely offer to send a card, call the person, and/or offer to run some errands for them. And yet others will offer their unsolicited advice about how their “third cousin” beat by “sniffing glue” (or something just as odd). Either way, Cancer elicits that feeling of wanting to help a person out because … “G*d forbid, if something like that happened to me, I’d hope someone would do the same.”

Now, take this same situation, but substitute Cancer with Infertility. What immediate emotion would that disease trigger? Would you feel empathy for the woman? Would you feel more empathy for the woman, than the man (if that’s the case), perhaps thinking that Infertility is strictly her diagonsis? Would you send them a card?**

And the next time you see that person or couple, would you ask how they were doing? And how they’re coping with the disease? Would you ask them what kind of treatment they’re receiving? Would you offer to run errands for them, knowing that their lives have been tied to a specific minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour time schedule? Would you offer them unsolicited advice on how they should “just adopt” or “just relax”?

Okay, so I’m guessing that most people would answer “No” to those questions. Except maybe for that last one; because — believe me — I still get lots of incredibly insensitive “a$$vice” thrown at us on a daily basis. (Of which my response to those Infertiles who also deal with this situation … this is the perfect opportunity to educate others out there about how Infertility is a complicated disease with multiple layers of emotional struggles that can’t simply be “fixed” by just relaxing or adopting.)

Anyhoo …

As I said, I’m guessing that most people would answer “No.” And the reason is because Infertility is something that no one really wants to openly talk about. It’s the pink elephant in the middle of the room that people speak through it (rather than directly at it or about it). Even those individuals or couples who are diagnosed with it find it incredibly difficult to share. As stated in the recent SELF Magazine article, “Infertility is where breast cancer was in the 1970’s — completely in the closet.”

So this is where I, once again, emphasize that talking directly about Infertility is important. Giving Infertility a voice is essential. Educating others about Infertility is critical.

Why is this necessary? Because one brave and educated voice can spur a thousand other brave souls to tell their Infertility stories. And those courageous voices can turn around and educate their family and friends about the disease. And those family and friends can then tell their friends, and so on and so on … therefore creating a network of support.

And from there, maybe … just maybe, Infertility can receive the recognition as a disease that it needs. Maybe then, Infertility will elicit an empathy similar to that of Cancer.

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One last thing, and then I’ll wrap this up.

Yes, I do understand that Cancer is a “life or death” situation; and that receiving treatment determines whether or not a person survives. But let me ask you this? Isn’t Infertility a “life or death” situation when it comes to a child’s life? Isn’t receiving treatment for Infertility also determine whether or not a child survives?

For those affected by Cancer (whether as an individual, or a family member of the individual), the life of a loved one is on the line. For those affected by Infertility, the life of their child … not to mention their individual livelihood to sustain life through their own genes … is on the line.

And finally … for my “Living Child-free after Infertility” self, let me throw one more thing your way. What kind of sadness do you feel for a person with Cancer who has decided to stop treatments? A person who knows that his/her options are severely limited?

Would you respect the choice that he or she made; knowing that they gave considerable thought about their decision? Would you still respect their decision even though it might not be one that’s necessarily “conventional”?

Now … once again, substitute Cancer with Infertility.

Can you see now why Infertility is not a “lifestyle choice”? (Told you I’d get back to it … )

I don’t mean to come off as sounding like I can’t get “past” my own infertility (like Andie would think of me; as evidenced by her response to Pam‘s February article in FertilityAuthority.com). I don’t mean to sound as if any non-Infertile who reads this is an “ignorant fool” who doesn’t know me or my problems.

I simply write these feelings — these thoughts of mine — so that maybe … just maybe, a person (or two) can learn from them.

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My name is Emily … and I’m an Infertility Survivor.

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** Seriously, though … Have you ever seen a greeting card for Infertility? I think Hallmark needs to get right on this. Pronto.