In Black and White

A couple of weeks ago we returned to our fertility clinic for a “follow-up” appointment after our last failed cycle. It’s what’s affectionately known in the infertility community as a “WTF” appointment, as in “WTF went wrong?”

The thing is, we pretty much know what went wrong. I didn’t get pregnant (obviously). And I didn’t get pregnant because my eggs are crap and because we have virtually no sperm to work with. In short, the raw materials are rubbish, and that’s a huge problem before we even get to the complicated, roll-of-the-dice chance of whether an embryo implants and continues to divide and grow. There are all kinds of solutions, proven and otherwise, that can be thrown at things like implantation issues, but without the essential ingredients of the appropriate quality to make embryos in the first place we’re… well, we’re screwed. We don’t have any options.

I knew all that before we went. And I don’t think in my heart-of-hearts that I expected to be told anything else. We went because I needed some kind of closure. Some kind of point under which I could draw a line. I needed the last time that we walked out of that clinic, and the last time we saw staff there, not to have been a limbo moment. I didn’t feel finished somehow.

From that point of view, I suppose it helped a bit. It was the final chapter in a story which, if not exactly long, was certainly intense.

But in other ways it also left me feeling worse.

There were a lot of snotty tears. A lot of wishing for a magic solution, as if I really thought they’d have been withholding something miraculous that might work for us. I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t descend to that, and I knew I sounded ridiculous and looked an idiot. But I’m so not ready for it be over. And desperation is never a particularly rational (or attractive) emotion.

And then we got the letter summarising the appointment and it really hit home. The part which stated “further treatment is very unlikely to be successful for you and it is therefore my recommendation that you do not pursue further IVF and ICSI.”


There was something about seeing that written in black and white that reached right in to the very deepest part of my heart where I’m suppressing all the feelings about our failure to conceive another child that I don’t yet feel able to fully confront. Seeing it written like that meant it was no longer a choice that we’d made to stop. We were being told that we had to stop. That this clinic won’t treat us any more and they advise that we don’t go elsewhere either. And if it’s not a choice, then it’s out of my hands and out of my control. Somehow that just makes it hurt all that much more.

I don’t do failure.

All my life I’ve worked incredibly hard to achieve everything that I’ve set my heart on. I don’t accept being told “no” very well. It’s like a red rag to a bull, and the higher the barriers people raise to stop me getting where I want to go, the higher I’ll climb, the harder I’ll try and the further I’ll go to get past them. I’m tenacious. And I always get there in the end.

This is different. No amount of hard work or effort will change the facts. I can’t make a baby simply by trying harder. We can’t do more. And I’m finding that so hard to accept.

This time last year I had so much hope that we could be “fixed”. I still have that lingering spark deep in my heart and I think I’ll feel it flare every month for ever more. But I do have to start coming to terms with the fact that this isn’t going to happen. We have absolutely no choices to make because our bodies have made them for us. There is nothing to do.

For the first time in my life, I’ve failed.

It’s there on that piece of paper.

There, in black and white.


3 Replies to “In Black and White”

  1. Oh my dear. I want so much to sit you down and tell you that you have not failed and you are not a failure (and for the record I truly believe that to be the case; you haven’t left even a speck of dirt that might have been a pebble unturned in your determination to have another baby, you have simply been dealt a really horrible hand of cards when it comes to more babies) but I can see so many similarities in our personalities, especially when it comes to nothing being unachievable given enough hard work, and I don’t think I’d believe myself. At least not yet. So all I can offer is to say that this really sucks, and I’m thinking of you.

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