Monday, 7 July 2008

Faith, Hope and Longing

I am trying to untangle what hope is.

Hope is something that we all think we know what it is. Most people think that hope is a good thing, that we can't live without it. But us baby-less people know it as something else.

Hope is a monster.

Nothing makes this clearer then doing an IVF cycle. The very fact that you are doing an IVF cycle is a statement of hope. You are doing all you can to make real the hope of bringing a little person into this world and your arms. But for those of us who have been burnt a few times by this, that hope comes with a great amount of fear. We want to be hopeful, be positive, and at the same time protect ourselves in the event of failure. Managing hope is an exhausting process of hedging bets both ways. Of opening yourself up to possibility and shutting yourself down to disappointment. The process of wrestling hope also includes a strange entanglement with superstition.

It goes a little something like this.......

I need to be hopeful. It is important that I be hopeful. How can this possibly work if I don't think positively about it. I have to be positive for this to work. But what if it doesn't work. What if I have bought the lie and then have to pay the price. Maybe I will just pretend this isn't happening. I will go to the clinic and pretend the blood tests are for something else - to donate blood. I'll ignore that bit of the day where I have to give myself injections and just pretend, pretend, pretend..... and then maybe it will sneak up on me. Catch me by surprise. Yes, pregnant, Yes, delighted. Surprised! / No, no, I'm doing just fine. I never expected it to work anyway.

It is true, the amount of hope you have for a cycle does effect the crushing disappointment of a failed cycle. The higher you climb, the harder the fall. Last cycle I believed I was pregnant. For gods sakes I started lactating! The changes I felt in my body were real, so I believed them. Sadly, they were real changes that came as a result of injecting hormones into me, not as a result of being pregnant. The despair of the last failure was extremely bitter, and I am still coming to terms with it.

So I have this little flame of hope. The wind blows and it becomes a raging fire during an IVF cycle, and then my period comes and a fireman with a wet blanket starts beating at the raging hope. Smacking it into place. Suffocating it. Until, once again it is a tiny ember. Precious, suffocating, almost spent. I look at my little ember of hope and wonder if I have the courage to nurture it back to a fire, and face the chance of it being beaten again. Maybe this time it will finally be put out. Is that what the end of the road looks like?

People who want to "give you hope" have no idea what the hell they are talking about. That kind of hope is high risk, terrifying to the extreme, and could possibly kill you.

But I have had a different sense of hope that is growing alongside this. This hope is not like the fire that gets whipped into a fire storm and then beaten back down to a tiny ember. No, this is a very different kind of hope. And I think it is secure enough for me to build something on. Let me tell you the hope.... I have to whisper it because it's still tiny........ but it is this:

I'm going to be OK. No matter what.
See. Nothing like that out of control fire. Just a tiny little seed of something that might grow and grow and grow and become big and strong. It will stay with me through all of life. It won't be able to be suffocated. Sometimes I won't be able to see it but I will know that it is still there. It grows with strength and a sadness too. Because to live without a living child would be a very very sad thing indeed. But I would still live.
What is this kind of hope called? Is it faith? Or is this true hope and the other sort just desire or longing. What does it mean for my longing for a child? that other sort of hope? do I have to let go of that?