Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Great Expectations. . .or not

One bit of advice that was repeated several times in the course of our MAPP training is that the best approach is to have no expectations of our child and of what parenting will be like. I understand the reason behind this advice: expectations can lead to disappointment and it's best to just deal with a situation as it is without comparing it to the image of what you expected it to be. To be honest I was annoyed by this advice. I thought, infertility has taken so much from me and now I have to give up hope too. Unlike all my friends who are parents, I can't have hope and dreams for my child? Screw that!

I stewed about all of it for a while, until it occurred to me that hope and expectation are not the same thing. I hoped that my closure IVF cycle would work, but I didn't expect it to. I hoped there were lots more eggs in follicles hiding in my ovary that, lo and behold, the RE would find during retrieval, but I didn't expect that to happen. I hoped my one little embryo would be the one, but I wasn't expecting it. It hurt when my last IVF cycle failed, but in a way I hadn't expected it to succeed in the first place (after all, there's a reason it's called closure). The pain was not the same as when IVF#2 got converted. Then I had expected to have the same number or more eggs as I'd had during IVF#1. I'd expected to transfer 3 embryos this time to up our odds. Instead, I ended up with one dominant follicle and an IUI. Now,that was disappointment.

So I've been thinking a lot about expectation vs. hope, and this is how I've come to see it:

Expectation is clearly defined. There's one outcome, an image of what the outcome will look like, and a way to get to that outcome. There is little room for deviation. In fact, deviation leads to disappointment. Expectation is, "I don't think that's too much to ask." Expectation is about control.

Hope is open-ended. It accepts the possibility that the journey may end up in a completely different place that the original destination. It is looking forward to happiness, to good things, without the specific plan of how those good things will come to pass. Hope is, "Wouldn't it be nice, but hey. . . it's all good." Hope is about letting go of control.

And so, I think what our MAPP trainers were warning us against was creating images in our minds of the happy family with the child who loves to read, play ball with Dad, who is smart, well-behaved, funny, and just makes us into the family we've always dreamed about. I think also they wanted to be sure that we don't expect a child to make life better for us, to erase the wounds of infertility. I can see how these expectations could become heavy burdens when loving a child who has experienced trauma. They're too narrow to allow healing to happen.

So DH and I are learning to let go of our expectations, but we still hold on to hope: hope that we can help our child heal from whatever hurts life has inflicted on him, that we'll help him meet his potential whatever it is, that we have enough love in our hearts to take whatever life hands us and make it better. We hope that hope is enough.


Me said...

Exceptionally insightful post.

I get ahead of myself a LOT. Even after all IF has taught me about the dangers of it, I still do it. But I'd be better off if I didn't. Ah, there's always something to work on!

L said...

This is a great stance to take. Hope is never a bad thing; expectation can lead to disappointment. Very, very, poignant post.

Torina said...

It doesn't hurt to have expectations either. Some of the trainers are so cautious or biased against couples adopting after infertility. My expectations were: I expect to adopt a child. That child will be mine forever, no matter what. Even as I parent my kids, I need expectations. They just constantly shift depending on my kids' capabilities. IMO

Allison said...

Thank you for this. I needed to read it right now. Wonderful post.

Lost in Space said...

Karen, this was such a beautifully written post. It seriously gave me goosebumps.

I remember when my first IVF failed and you sent me a PM describing how it felt to a T. I couldn't formulate the words at the time, but when I read your message, I kept saying, "That's it, that's it!!"

The message you have written here does that once again. You have such strong insight and wisdom, my friend. Thank you for sharing it with us.

There is no doubt in my mind that your child will reach his potential and beyond simply by being loved and raised by you. All my best.

Anonymous said...

Hope and expectation are different. I never thought of it that way. Good post.