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Giving Up Control in Order to Gain It

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a blog by Ellen Glazer, February 3, 2011

Sometimes the most brilliant ideas in life are seemingly the simplest. That was my sense yesterday when a client came in and told me that she had asked her fertility doctor and staff not to give her any information during her current in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle.

She does not want to know what her numbers are. She requests not to know how the follicles are measuring and many eggs are retrieved. And please don’t tell her how many fertilize. She wants to know only the number of embryos available for transfer and for freezing. Not their quality. Not their cell count. She has a need not to know.

Sound crazy? Perhaps it does to some readers, but when my client told me her plan, it made complete sense. Prior to making this plan, she counted herself among the many well-informed infertile women who keep careful track of all the details of their cycles. In her words, “I had a spread sheet for my eggs and then another, for my embryos.” Somewhere along the way, between spreadsheets and on-line exchanges with other like-minded women, my patient realized that her efforts to try to gain some control were backfiring. The lists, the details, the spreadsheets were just painful reminders that when it comes to infertility, we have so little control.

And so it was from this perspective — giving up false efforts for control — that my client made her plan. She reported immediately feeling relief. Unlike her earlier IVF cycles, in which she felt like there was a dark cloud of numbers above her head at all times, this time she felt she could live her life. She was able to do things she enjoyed while doing what she needed to do to go through the cycle. She said that she had more energy for family and friends because she wasn’t wasting so much energy in the fruitless pursuit of information that, in the end, did not really matter. She credited her fertility doctor with helping her gain this “freedom from the details.”

“It was liberating,” my client said, “when I asked my doctor what she would do if I had only ‘C’ embryos for transfer. My doctor smiled and said, ‘I know a lot of C embryos that grew into healthy, robust babies.”

I learned long ago that with infertility, as with so many other things in life, “what works works.” For some people, “following the numbers” closely offers some measure of comfort. If this is your experience, my advice is to “stay the course.” However, if you are like my client, burdened unnecessarily with details that in the end don’t seem to matter, you may want to give some thought to her approach.

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