In the wake of yet another IVF “failure,” I’m grappling with the words to express my overwhelming feelings of loss that weigh down my feet, like rocks. Author Kat Lister from Vice summarizes:
When your body is the vessel and it fails to respond, find me a woman who doesn’t chastise or blame herself in some way and I’ll show you a fembot.
Indeed, the two most inextricable aspects of IVF are shame and blame. Shame that you’re forced to pursue this path in the first place and blame that your body still cannot perform accordingly. On your best days, these twin evils, omnipresent and unyielding, rest quietly. But on your worst days, blame and shame become grotesquely exaggerated and threaten to consume the very essence of what it means to be you: your confidence, your spirit, your body, and your womanhood.
Kat Lister continues:
My loss is my inability to conceive naturally and the sense of bereavement is so deep that on some days it has threatened to consume me. Way back in 1949 Simone De Beauvoir wrote, “What is a woman? … She is a womb,” and yet nearly 70 years later women are still defined as walking wombs and paying the price for the disservice. When our wombs fail us, we don’t just blame ourselves—we question our womanhood. The pressure to reproduce perfectly before we hit 35 is daily media fodder. It’s time the language changed and it’s time we listened more.
At current time, the most common “language” used to explain an unsuccessful IVF cycle is problematic: We reductively call them “failures.”
“Your frozen embryo transfer failed, ” my nurse says flatly to me over the phone.
“I’m sorry but this cycle was a failure,” my doctor apologetically explains.
“How many IVF fails did you experience before you had any success?” poses a trending question on countless fertility forums.
But the truth is, IVF “failures” are actually deep and complex losses: A loss of money, a loss of time, a loss of effort, a loss of hope, and a loss of an entire universe of life pulsating in one microscopic organism that you worked tirelessly, ceaselessly, and courageously to achieve.
Over the course of eight months, I’ve surrendered everything – including my body, but most significantly my emotional well being – in the pursuit of conceiving a child through the overwhelming endeavor of IVF. In doing so, I lost something more significant and precious to me than anything has been in many years. I am grieving. I am mourning. I need space.
In short, I need to recover from my loss, not be reminded of my “failures.”
Kat Lister is right. It’s time to claim new language that will elevate ourselves from “walking wombs” to actual hearts and minds.