Ever since my husband and I vocalised our struggle to conceive, I have lost count how many people have told us to never give up. It is a phrase that makes my skin crawl, my blood boil, and if given the chance, I would lock in Frank Skinner’s Room 101 and throw away the key.
The TTC (trying to conceive) and IVF community have been my lifeline; we are all members of the same club, the same club that none of us elected to join, and yet we find ourselves stuck spending every day wishing we were elsewhere. We want to be part of a better club, part of a club where the only games we must play are things such as pin the tail on the donkey, pass the parcel and musical chairs, and only because our children want to. Instead, we find ourselves trapped in a room with other couples playing games of ‘pin the sperm inside the egg’, ‘pass the needles’ and ‘musical clinics’. Every day we spend in this club is a day, we hope, closer to graduating; joining the club where they don’t play the games anymore, but their children do, and yet with every passing day we know are also risking being one day closer to being made to leave the club and join the childless not by choice and no longer trying camp… the camp people tell us not to join when they say the words Never Give Up.
Never give up is terrible advice. It is a phrase I despise, not just in the world of fertility, but in the general world. Whether it’s a Maths exam, a driving test, a search for lost treasure or a quest to get pregnant, it will always be bad advice. Of course, those who discuss the concept of never giving up, those who offer the words as sound advice when the going gets tough, always mean it with good intentions. Nobody has ever used those words with malice or ill meaning, but simply put, what they mean is don’t give up without a fight. Don’t give up too easily. Don’t walk away before you have to. Persevere until you can’t anymore.
Simply put, giving up is sometimes the only option.
Giving up is sometimes the best option.
Giving up suggests a quitter; it suggests a person is defeatist, lazy or a coward. A person who gives up is deemed to be a person who is sitting and waiting for failure, they are ready to accept it, shrugging off any responsibility or duty. They are weak and a failure, ready to walk away at the first hurdle. The fact is, often, giving up takes more strength than carrying on.
Infertility is hard. It consumes your entire being, it drains everything from your emotional wellbeing to your bank account. You spend month after month monitoring everything your body is doing, spotting every symptom, and repeating the same feeling of heartbreak on the bathroom floor time and time again. Quitting – giving up – is powerful.
A person can only take so much. A person can only inject so many needles, can only subject themselves to the same said heartbreak so many times, can only listen to Doctor’s tell them there’s nothing wrong or there’s nothing further they can do, can only look at the same lonely pink line, so many times. A person only has a certain amount of money to pump into fertility treatments, they only have a certain amount of sanity. When the end is nigh, a person has to know when to walk away to keep standing. Knowing when to cut and run is wise, it is knowing yourself, and above all it is strength.
There isn’t a set in stone timescale; the finish line is in a different place for every person. It is not a race nor time pressured, the concrete isn’t set. The end is different for us all. And whilst for some people, never giving up seems like the only option, eventually they have to. For many, the perseverance ends with a baby, the graduation with pink and blue balloons, but for others it isn’t so rosy. It takes them on a different track, one of uncertainty and confusion, a road of rediscovery whilst they find their feet in a club they never wanted to join. For some, nature decided their line had been crossed, for others, the decision came with a heavy heart.
They are not weak.
They are not cowards.
They are stronger than everyone else.
So, the next time you think about telling someone never to give up, think about how much strength it takes them to do just that. Instead, squeeze their hand and tell them that you’ll support them until the end of the road – wherever that road takes them.
I'm Amber Izzo and my husband and I have been trying to conceive for over 6 years. I have PCOS, have had both Fallopian tubes removed and my husband has less than 1% morphology. We are currently preparing for our third cycle of ICSI; I blog about our journey on Instagram @amber.izzo and YouTube, lead the #fightforivf campaign and run a new fertility organisation - Innovation Fertility - offering support for people who are ttc.