Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Regrets, I've had a few

[No, this isn't a post about my new haircut. It's perfectly cute, but I just can't get an "after" photo that I am happy with yet, mostly due to my fat neck and chubby cheeks and bad skin. But I will get one at some point.]

One one of my recent posts, a person left a comment that included the following:

Sarah, your posts were quite an inspiration to me for such a long time - thank you for sharing, truly. ... I saw what you and other ladies were going through - IVF after IVF after IVF after IVF after IVF - seemingly until infinity, with what was clearly an egg problem. ...[has a child through donor embryo]... Thanks to the experiences I saw of couples losing their homes and life savings to do endless IVF's all for the chance at genetic offspring that they'd never have and were left with nothing - thanks to all of that, I avoided the same mistakes.What a blessing. I wish the same for you.

Now, I have removed a lot of the information from the comment, so perhaps you could say that I am taking the sentences I have left in out of context. But I don't think so. And I know that the comment was posted with the best intentions, and perhaps to give me hope, but it really made so many assumptions about my life and my experiences that I wanted to comment on it.

First, lets talk mistakes and regrets. Sure, I've made plenty of mistakes in my life. I've had a few regrets. I think particularly of that time about 10 years ago when I got incredibly drunk after inviting a few friends back to my place, and decided that it was high time I was loud and proud about my new-found (and thankfully short-lived) love for Celine Dion and to tell them that I wasn't ashamed that I had a CD of hers. I don't think I'll ever forget the look of horror and disgust on one of my friend's faces as Celine warbled out of the CD player. That is something I'll regret for a long time. But I will never regret doing any of the IVF's that I have done. Never. They were not a mistake.

The IVFs and IUIs that I have done were a precious chance at following a dream that I have held all of my life. Sure, they were expensive. Of course I wish that insurance had covered them. But each and every one was thought through carefully, down to the choice of doctor, the medication protocol, whether we'd covered all of our bases, whether I should really do it or stop there. Each and every one of them gave me hope, and an opportunity to have the child I so desperately wanted. Each of them taught me something about myself, about my strength and resilience, about how far I was willing to go to chase a dream, about love, about compassion for myself and others. Each of them was a valuable, valuable experience. I do not regret them at all.

And "clearly an egg problem?" It's OK to say that in hindsight. And sure, we suspected an egg problem right from the get-go. But there was no "clearly" about it until I did that CGH testing. I have still not hit 40. It is still not beyond the realm of possibilities for me to produce a normal egg, even with a clear egg problem. It is not, even with an egg problem, a ridiculous notion to shoot for the moon. Even if you know the chance is slim, if it is a chance that you are willing to take, why not? Why shouldn't a person who has the emotional, physical and financial resources do IVF repeatedly? Even to infinity? Although of course nobody would do them to infinity, because everyone has a point at which they will stop. But there's not an RE in the land that would say to someone in my situation that I'd NEVER have my own genetic child. They'd rightly say it was a very low chance, but nothing in this business is an absolute.

Let's also talk about couples losing their homes and life savings. Losing their homes? I haven't come across that, personally. Maybe someone out there has lost their home due to infertility treatment. If so, it's news to me. Would anyone really go that far? Maybe. I know people who have taken out second mortgages to pay for IVFs, and that's certainly a valid financing option. I would definitely have considered it if that was the only way to pay for IVF. Maybe such a move tipped the balance for someone into a precarious financial situation. But presumably only after another situation, like losing a job, intruded into their plans for paying the money back. But it ain't me, babe. The only debt I have is my mortgage. There's just the one, no second mortgage. And even today after the housing slump, I have more than 50% equity in my house. Life savings? Well, let's be real here. What are we saving for? The vast majority of people doing fertility treatment have a good 20 years, usually more, to make up for any shortfall in retirement savings. So let's take retirement off the table. I don't know about you guys out there, but I was saving so I could have a good and enjoyable life. So I could provide for my kids, so I could pay for their college education. But if there aren't going to be any kids, then we're talking a whole different ballgame. There isn't so much of a need to have a savings cushion in the first place. Besides, going back to me, not only have I not taken on any debt, I have not spent my life savings. I still have some left. Plenty, really. Enough to pay for tuition for 3 years of a master's degree program and still have some left. And this doesn't include my retirement accounts, which I have not touched. I have not been left with nothing. I don't usually talk too much here about my financial situation, because I know that I am very fortunate in that regard, and I don't feel that it would be appropriate to rub that in other people's faces who are struggling much harder than I am with money. But just because I don't say it doesn't mean that you should assume that I don't have it.

So, please, don't make assumptions about me or how I might have ruined my life doing IVF after IVF after IVF until infinity. I have not. I have been through highs, and I have been through lows that I didn't think were possible to get through. It is causing me to completely change my life. It has opened my heart. It has given me gifts that I am grateful for. My financial situation is my own, it is not yours. My tolerance level is my own too.

I think it's perfectly valid to say "I knew I didn't want to do too many cycles" or "I knew I wanted to save my resources for an egg donor cycle or adoption in case IVF didn't work, so I stopped there" or "I didn't want to go into debt so I knew I could only afford one cycle" or many more other reasons for stopping IVF with ones own eggs. There are plenty, and we each have our own break point. But I don't think it's fair to effectively say "I stopped because I didn't want to make the mistakes YOU made." Because you know what? I didn't. I didn't make ANY mistakes. I took chances, with my eyes wide open. And they may not have given me a baby, but they gave me plenty of other things. I am at peace with that.


calliope said...

well said.
very well said.

I think it is very easy for readers to see parts of themselves in other's journeys. This is a beautiful aspect of blogging- the empathy is very real. But there is a danger in projecting your own story onto someone else's story.

While the commenter that you quote does seem to be coming from a place of good intentions, I think there might be a case of projecting her story on to yours. And well, it just isn't the same.

None of our stories are exactly the same.

bleu said...

Exactly Calliope. I agree Sarah that was very well said. I truly think this is a clear case of comparing apples to oranges and in this IF world you just can't. I remember having come across a blog or two where people were done trying after 2 iui's and a year of trying natural. I was shocked personally but that was only because I was comparing it to me, I never thought ill of them just surprised by how different we were. I know many who stop after 1 IVF, some after 2 but as you said Sarah, everyone in this has their own breaking points. So it is just futile to try and compare.

It could likely have been better said with a "I watched you go through so much with such strength and grace but I knew I could never do the same so I stopped trying and changes courses." Maybe that is a better way I am not sure.

Anonymous said...

Bravo. I moved on to egg donation relatively "early" - I was 35 with only two cancelled IVF cycles under my belt - but I had also had miscarried four natural pregnancies and I knew that another miscarriage would break me. I've met several women who endured many more miscarriages and IVF cycles than I in the hope of a genetic child, and it would never occur to me to preach my path to them (and ya know, some of them succeeded!)

Sarah said...


Anonymous said...

Very well said, Sarah.
I completely agree with you. Each person has their limits, whether that be financial, emotional, or otherwise.
And until you reach those personal limits, you won't have closure. So for you, you made the right choices. They wouldn't have been right for another person, just as their choices wouldn't have been right for you.
You go girl!

Larisa said...

I'm sorry I missed that the embryos arrested. I wish it would have been different for you.

I completely understand what you are saying. I knew I'd regret not doing the cycles; I wouldn't regret doing them and taking the chance. You took your chances and I wish it was different - you are extraordinarily strong. I'm glad you are at peace with your decisions. In the end, that's what's important.

Anonymous said...

We all have to do what is right for us.
Sometimes I still regret not trying IVF with my own eggs - chances were next to none, but at least I would have tried.
Nothing is a guarentee. I've just very recently completed a failed DE cycle. I know I'll try again. I dont know how many times, but thats for me to decide.
From what I've read you seem to know yourself and will decide what is right for you.

Almamay said...


I don’t even know where to start.

I’m insulted by that comment on so many levels. Unlike you and the people who have commented so far, I can’t see any kindness or best intentions in her comments AT ALL. You are obviously all much nicer people than I am. To me she is gloating and smug.

I don’t understand why women are so judgmental of other women’s choices. You have never hurt anybody with your choices to try for a family with your own eggs. To me her comment is typical of smug fertiles and smug infertiles. “I got my baby so I have all the answers. Do as I do.” Well, I’m sorry, we all don’t have the same path in life.

Sarah, if you think my comment is out of order and don't want it on your blog please delete.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,

I just wanted to post and let you know that I find that woman's comments insensitive. After everything you've been thru, the last thing you have to do is explain yourself to anyone.

Especially her. She seems rather selfish for posting such a comment given everything you've been thru.

I Pray for you daily that you will have your child one day. And you will. Because you have strength and determination. I am so sorry that you have to feel the pain and sorrow of infertility. It's a lonely, awful journey that I wish none of us had to endure.

Just know that you are not alone. That we are here for you. And that we admire you for your perserverance.

And for the woman who left those remarks, I feel she owes you an apology for trying to raise herself and pat herself on the back in the midst of your pain.


Sharon said...

We all have our limits and sometimes we don't know what they are until we get there.

I have admired your persistance and your hope.

I don't think your commenter meant any harm. I think she was trying to emphathise (maybe in an awkward way).

I wish you luck in your future journey - whatever it may hold.

tobacco brunette said...


I guess it's fair to assume the commenter had the best of intentions because she seems to be an admirer of your blog. But there is something realllly off in how she connects with others. She reminds me of the "friends" that I've had who are really good at insulting you, but in a way that you could never confront them over because it's so passive.

Anyway, I enjoyed your response and...ummm...can I hire you as my financial advisor?

Camille said...

Hi Sarah,
It is funny because that comment rubbed me the wrong way too. I think the person who wrote it was projecting her choices and it was an awkward attempt at best.
I feel it is all about the journey we take in life, it is the experiences we go through that make us who we are and what choices we make. We are all so individual and are lessons are as well. From my experience, life is not always fair, it never ends up how you "plan it" there are twists and turns. For me, it is so important to travel this journey with an open heart and mind. Otherwise, we miss so many things never imagined along the way. I have found peace and beauty in some of the most unexpected places. I wish you the very best and I believe you are following your truth and whatever path you take will be what is right for you.

Alyson & Ford said...

We all have choices and to express them and what we did in our personal situation is all fine and well.... to share with others... but this person went a little too far.
We have the best of intentions. I get so excited about talking about our adoption, I don't want to press our choice onto others, but how can I not talk about it? I am one of those who chose to stop treatments (besides I am older than dirt which played into it!). I hope I am not insensitive, I do worry about that.
I am just so glad there are so many choices for starting/expanding our families.

Alyson LID 01/27/06

Kymberli said...

My knee jerk reaction was to be insulted on your behalf for the comment, but after reading it again (and again, and again), I think that the suggested response Bleu posted was at the heart of what the original commenter wanted to say.

I think what she poorly tried to communicate is that by having read the experiences of others, she was able to gauge how she might be able to cope in similar circumstances and was able to draw her personal line before she ever got to those points.

Sarah, I love, love, LOVE your response to this.

Tricia said...

Do people really forget what it was like being infertile once they have children??
I know this poster was trying to be positive, but it was in the same way we all get told to "relax" and "it will happen when you least expect it".
We all make the best decisions we can, with the information we have at the time. No regrets on that. I think you can regret the outcome sometimes, but never the fact you tried.
It is a little disappointing to see someone view repeated attempts at IVF with slim chances as "mistakes". I only hope she doesn't project the same view onto cancer sufferers with only a 5% chance of 5 year survival.
I'm guessing her reply didn't come across as she intended - that these things might have been wrong for her at that time, rather than (hopefully unintentionally) implying they were mistakes for you too.
Eloquent reply to her, it does help that people understand the power of words - even well intentioned.