My competitive nature has been such a tough part of this IF/RPL road. I was the 2nd grader who had to come in first in every silly school track competition. I had to get the most votes in any contest. I wanted to win everything for as long as I can remember. I don’t know where it came from. Certainly not my parents who never cared about my grades or accolades, only if I was kind to others. Because of such a strong moral compass at home, my competitive nature never really got too out of hand and I knew that I had to hide it socially and manage it appropriately to avoid being obnoxious. Nobody wants to be around the kid that has to always win. I would line up to run the weekly mile in junior high casually joking and acting silly but my heart would be pounding in a deep desire to beat everyone and win. It was just part of my being.
It has served me well in so many areas. I excelled in school and sports and eventually my career with this deep desire to win. I was able to keep it from dominating and isolating others by minimizing on the outside what I so desired on the inside. To win. I learned to accept loss somewhat gracefully but only after training myself to over time.
Where it originally did not serve me well is this struggle to have a baby. When anyone around me got pregnant, it felt like a huge loss. I knew rationally that is not how it worked but I was so used to controlling my destiny and my future, the lack of control drove me crazy. I hated the feelings of jealousy and anger that coursed through me. I wanted to just feel grace and joy but didn’t know how to. That couple that got married after us and had a baby first made me want to hide in bed. I would obsessively check the FB feed of anyone married close to us to see how many were procreating and how far behind I was falling. I would think- ‘if only I can be pregnant before this event or this date or this person I would be ok’. It was ridiculous and painful and isolating and shameful.
Then I finally hit a lightbulb moment right before my miracle toddler’s successful IVF cycle. There was a couple in our social circle who announced their pregnancy and another couple who announced their second baby. A few days later we were expected at a Halloween party with all these people. My first instinct was to hide at home and burrow in my sorrow but was sick of doing that. I wanted my husband to have the wife he married not the shell I had become. I knew I couldn’t just ‘get over’ my desire and emotions so I tried a new tactic. I wanted to change my definition of ‘winning’ in this battle. Winning could not simply be having a baby because other than doing anything medically I could, that was out of my hands. I knew I needed a way to ‘win’ that was in my control. I wanted to be able to face this fight with grace and perspective and in a way I could be proud of. In a way my husband and sisters and Mom would admire.
To do this I needed to try to trick my brain into celebrating anything I could do because I wasn’t pregnant (run, drink etc) and also to change my internal dialogue. Every time my inner voice said ‘they have what you want and you will never have’ or ‘you are falling behind, your body is broken’ I would picture an eraser erasing those thoughts and saying ‘no one else is being given your own child. It is their journey. Keep moving forward and just control what you can’. I found a way to change my definition of winning from successfully having a baby to successfully managing the mental anguish of it. A win to me was if I could keep some semblance of joy and grace during the fight.
So this method did not exactly work at first. There is no way to circumvent the pain and anguish. It ebbs and flows with some days better than others. But once I made those inner dialogue changes over and over and over I found they became reflexes, I found I could manage better overall. My inner voice wasn’t so ugly. The pain was still there. The twinges of jealousy still hit me but the complete dehabilitating pain ebbed. I felt less shame and less despair. My inner voice wasn’t yet another enemy making this hell even worse. I found ways to bounce back from a negative beta or an early loss. I would cry then regroup and go for a long run, open a bottle of wine, flirt with my husband and keep my hope alive. Let go of a timeline and just forge ahead. Now there were plenty of times where the wall of strength would crumble and I would just cry. Where I would inject myself with another dose of hormones and fight back the tears. When I would read a pregnancy announcement and feel a stab in my heart. But these times were blended with times of joy for the life I had, truly living in the moment and focusing on what I had not what I wanted. It made me feel powerful and it made me feel like another month that passed wasn’t all a waste. I was living too.
I read a blog post on here recently about being a victim. It was insightful and a new perspective on how society does not like victims and does not allow people to wallow or grieve when we should. She felt we should let people be victims and not expect them to stay positive or move on. I could totally see her point and appreciated the post. I just have always felt different in my own coping. If I stayed in that victim mentality for any amount of time it just sucked me in and made things worse. I needed a way of coping that made me feel powerful, in control, like I was ok. A way that made me feel like I was at least ‘winning’ a mental battle. A battle to stay positive and to act with grace and perspective.
So while my intense competitive nature made the start of this IF/ RPL road horrendous, it also helped me find a way to feel like I could ‘win’ along the way. I could win by finding a way to be ok. By finding a way to not simply waste away the days until this was over- as much as that is really all I wanted to do.