Allowing Roadblocks to Become Detours

One lesson I learned early on in my fertility journey was to expect the unexpected. Something along the way will deviate from the carefully laid out plan we craft for the month or cycle ahead. In this volatile road of infertility, often those deviations can take on the form of “bad news”, “setbacks”, or “roadblocks.”

How many times do we hear bad news and, as a result, feel overwhelmed, helpless, and despair?

We all do, over and over again.

It is what we do next that makes the difference.

A dear client of mine experienced many of these unexpected “setbacks” on her journey. She started her family building experience with IUIs; as a single mom by choice, she went through a series of these procedures each month with an attitude of positivity, hopefulness, and faith in her body and her plan.

As time went on and the pregnancy tests remained negative, her frustration grew. In one of our conversations, I asked what her thoughts on moving to IVF might be.

“Never”, she said. “Not for me.”

Too many drugs, too many shots, too many appointments - it was overwhelming.

After another negative pregnancy test and even more frustration, she felt she’d hit her limit. The first major “roadblock”.

She took some time to process her next steps and her plan. She asked questions about the process of IVF, how to find a doctor, and how she might approach injections given she found the very idea invasive and difficult to wrap her head around.

She armed herself with information, chose a doctor that aligned with her values, and decided to move forward. From “never” to openness. What had once been a roadblock in her family building plan - IVF - now became a way forward, albeit on a new path.

The beginning of her IVF experience went relatively smoothly. She managed through unexpected side effects, made adjustments to her schedule and social expectations, and learned how brave and accepting she could be in giving herself injections and advocating for herself with her medical team.

And then came the Day 5 lab results. One embryo had made it to the blastocyst stage. One.

As she put it, “I feel like I worked a 40 hour week and got paid $1.”

So much time, money, effort, mental energy, expectation, and hope had poured into this experience.

Her doctor explained that, in her situation, there was a 33% chance of a pregnancy resulting from one embryo.

She felt empty. She’d spent so much time being optimistic and hopeful, with this disappointing news, she felt she’d run out of both.

As she put it, “I feel like I’ve hit another roadblock and I’m outside the car, kicking the tires in a fit of rage.”

In this world of IVF, the numbers can play tricks on us. Higher numbers - of follicles, eggs, embryos - indicate greater chances of success. The more we have, the faster we get to baby, so it seems.

Yet that isn’t always true. Yes, statistically speaking, more embryos means better odds of conception - but - when it comes to pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby, it really does take “just” one.

It is easy to lose sight of that in the moment so seemingly “small” numbers can feel defeating and disappointing.

We talked a lot about the possibility that was evident in that one embryo. 33% is far from 0% - and so many don’t even get to that point.

We talked about the path forward should a pregnancy not result from this embryo. She was open to future IVF cycles and started to make a plan for what those might look like and how this experience could teach her and her doctor lessons that would help to fine-tune the process.

At the same time, she felt she had to have faith in the one embryo. Faith without pressure on the tiny bundle of cells. Faith that she could move forward no matter the outcome of her transfer. That this, too, was a detour rather than a roadblock.

“Just” one embryo became a possibility rather than a disappointment. “Just” one embryo became all she needed - yet she felt confident if this one wasn’t “the” one, there could be another.

To continue her analogy, she got back in the car, took the detour and kept going.

As it turns out, that detour was the last one for her. That one little embryo implanted and grew into a healthy baby girl who arrived this spring.

I share this story to illustrate how setbacks in our fertility journey can be viewed as detours rather than roadblocks. So often, we get to the “roadblock” and think our way forward is closed. There’s no more to do, nothing left to give, no remaining hope.

This is a natural response. This is sitting outside the car kicking the tires or lying in the mud thinking we might never get up again.

It is when we choose to get up, get back in the car, to look for the detour sign or forge a new path forward, that the opportunities for what comes next will appear.

What roadblocks have you seen in your journey? What detours have you chosen to take?

Erin McDaniel2 Comments