Failure is Not an Option…

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… or is it? I guess it depends on your definition of failure.


This latest philosophical debate kicked off in my head a few days ago. The catalyst? The contents of an email I received Monday from someone in the publishing world, which also caused my stomach to clench. (Note to self: in the future, do NOT open your personal email in the middle of a deadline day — even if it’s during the few minutes you have to catch your breath over lunch — especially on the eve of a big project that you are responsible for turning into a success.)

First some background. For my regular blog visitors, it’s no secret that I’ve been laboring in my spare time (and more intensely the past year or so) on a book. It relates a drama that takes place behind closed doors in households around the world. It offers a personal look at what happens when the babies don’t come — but that’s just the beginning.

When the protagonist (aka me) slowly discovers that her body has failed her, her world turns upside down. Relationships, self-image and plans for the future are thrown into turmoil. After accepting her biological failure she begrudgingly looks to science to help “right” her and put her on a path to (finally) starting her family …

… only to have science fail her.  (Lots of the “f” word here, but not the “f” word used by Brits and Irish alike as a verb, adjective, adverb and any other part of speech you’d care to mention.)

My book intentionally doesn’t provide a neat and tidy Hollywood ending. It isn’t just my story it’s a more universal one.  It asks readers to consider what happens when life doesn’t go according to plan.

I don’t know about you but I’ve always found stories that challenge me, that bring to light a different kind of outcome help cultivate a deeper understanding of the human experience. I’m clearly biased but I tend to learn more when things don’t turn out as expected.

So what exactly in said email caused my head to spin and my stomach to clench? This sentence: “Childlessness/living child-free is, as you know, the proverbial “orphan”, “ugly step-child” and every other insensitive and derogatory term you could come up with of the infertility world. Doctors almost always see it as failure. Other infertile people are terrified to acknowledge it as an outcome, let alone to explore it as a choice.”

Whoa. Reading such a statement in black and white came at me like a sucker punch. It never occurred to me that people would look at our decision to stop treatment in such negative terms and label our outcome with the “f” word.  Seriously. Seems I’m damned if I do – as most of society questions the sanity of couples who pursue treatment — and now I’m damned if I don’t … as in succeed that is.


Now I know that by infertility blogging standards, I’m in a small category and that in not succeeding with IVF I am most infertile women’s worst nightmare, but our decision to end treatment was not about choosing failure. It was about choosing to be free from what had become a destructive reproductive bondage.

Stopping all medical and new age-y yoga, herbal, acupuncture interventions was not without its own costs. It raised a new set of fears. After years of efforts aimed at one and only one outcome (getting pregnant), the idea of allowing another option to take shape was emotionally taxing — aided and abetted by a host of unknowns.

What exactly lay around the corner?  What would our future look like? Would we ever find ourselves whole again? Would we be able to look at newborns and not die a little inside — either from envy or from sadness? I was once again plunged into darkness. I could find nothing on the bookshelves or online to help answer those questions. And if the darkness wasn’t lonely enough, my childless state was further aggravated in my day to day life by those who assumed that our not “having” children was selfish at worst or hedonistic at best.

I’m not done, yet, with sorting out all of the unexpected twists and turns that have come my way (compliments of infertility) but I don’t think of my outcome as synonymous with failure.