Learning to fail

As adults we tend to limit our failure options.  As children we don’t get the choice,part of growing up is learning through failure.  Learning to walk, to talk, to do things: these all involve failing multiple times before succeeding.  Of course, once we enter into formal education, the focus is on not failing.  Depending on where you go to school, this varies. Sometimes there is an absolute percentage that must fail, at other times the aim is to have everyone succeed.    When I was growing up there was a movement in education not to damage fragile egos with failure.  This has not turned out as expected. Not that it mattered to me, I was quite driven academically.

Sport is another arena for failure, although at least there, we admit that it is hard, and try to teach ourselves to be good losers. Even there, there are movements to reduce failure. During my childhood there was an emphasis on new games that encouraged cooperation.

So as children we are encouraged to learn from failure, to keep moving.  One of the privileges of adulthood is to do the things you are good at and avoid the ones you aren’t. I can’t sing well, the whole experience of singing in public was traumatizing as a child.  Result I rarely sing in public, and never by myself.  Karaoke requires significant amounts of alcohol.  I know people find that weird, but I very much choose not to sing.

Most of us do not spend much time in jobs we are terrible at.  This is both because it is unpleasant, and also because it is is unpleasant for the employer. We don’t enjoy doing activities where we fail.  An exception here might be sport, but we have some measure of control there too.  If we are struggling to do something, but we want to, we can put effort in.  I am not great at French but I desperately wanted to do JYA in college so I slogged through years of French.  I am still pretty crap, but I enjoy it now.

The point of this is that infertility is one long exercise in failure.  First you fail at getting ( or staying) pregnant.  Then you have tests, each one an opportunity to fail in a new and uncontrollable way.  Such fun.  And then you move to the assisted technologies.  This is even more fun. You are being given a cheat sheet, a leg up, and still you fail.  Each cycle is a new failure.

Pone of the things about IVF is that if you are going through it, you are probably pretty successful in your life.  No surprise here, if you are an unemployed drug addict, trying to have a baby may not be your highest priority ( I could be wrong). * The truth is IVF is something you do if you have the money, if you are willing to go to the doctor lots, you have a belief that you can get your body to do something it doesn’t want to.  Repeated failure is tough if you are not used to it, and most of us are not.

IVF is usually the resort of age- so the average participant has had more career/life experience, and it has probably been positive.

This is something we cannot control, we cannot work harder  to get a better grade.  This is a tough lesson to learn.  I don’t think I have learned it yet.

How do you learn to fail gracefully?

A huge part of the process is turning out to be an acceptance of the fact I cannot control my failures.

* i do think that everyone should have access to this option, but at the end of the day, it is a medical procedure that costs money.  You either have a job with healthcare that covers it, are fortunate to live in a country that covers it, or stump up the costs yourself.  Most people have to pay for for at least some of it.  And this is paying money so you can have a child and spend money on raising said child.  If we were earning significantly less, IVF would be a pipe dream.

4 thoughts on “Learning to fail”

  1. Hi, I’m here from Mel’s Wish List post.

    Your last sentence says so much. “A huge part of the process is turning out to be an acceptance of the fact I cannot control my failures.” That’s exactly right.

    Except that I also think that an issue of how to cope with this is thinking about how we define failure, and success. There is so much judgement around the word “Failure.” And “failure” to me is something that is more a flaw of personality, or of lack of effort. Therefore I find it hard to accept that negative results to an IVF cycle is in fact a failure. Because you’ve done everything you could to ensure a positive outcome. You didn’t fail. Technology, life, fate, the universe (however you want to define this) etc, didn’t give you the result you wanted. But it isn’t necessarily a failure. Because if you look at this as a failure, then you’re just beating yourself up. And you’ve been through enough.

    Believe me, I know.

  2. I have definitely felt like a failure in my infertility journey. And I even remember feeling like our IVF success didn’t count as a success because we pretty much “cheated.” As though we were bowling with the bumpers or something. Thanks for this post.

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