Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
John Adams, ‘Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials,’ December 1770
Facts are stubborn things, and in a court of law the statement attributed to Mr. Adams makes great sense. ‘…Whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” What this quote fails to address are the situations in which emotion outweigh fact, override fact and outright overwhelm fact,
We are meeting with our IVF counselor this week to discuss the timetable for our next treatment. We will sit and discuss the day by day steps to be taken, hear factual descriptions of the laboratory procedures and be given % chances of success. All the facts will be laid out before us, helping us understand how our chances of conceiving will be good. And yet, we will probably leave the meeting with some degree of trepidation, some niggling concern, and perhaps some fear….what if it doesn’t work this time? The cause of these feeling is emotion, overriding the logic and the facts.
The facts of IVF are only part of the story, in fact (pun intended) they are only a small part of the IVF journey, Emotions are the main event, and this is where the trouble starts. Emotions are irrational, they can sneak up on us and they make this entire process much harder. Couples going through infertility treatment have to deal with a lot of new facts whilst at the same time dealing with a lot of new emotions, many of which will be strong emotions. Whilst the IVF clinics are sensitive to this it is not their role to handle the emotions for the couples, that is something the couples must do for themselves.
Couples are a team, and strong couples will work together through the hard times, supporting each other, with each person playing a part. Usually hard times impact one partner more than another, such as a the death of a relative. This is not to say couples don’t share pain but there are very few occasions that truly impact both people equally; the loss of a child perhaps being the most obvious. IVF is a little different, the hard times are experienced by both people at the same time but the nature of the hardship is likely to be different for each person. With IVF it is rare for the issue to be linked to both partners, so perhaps one partner may have feelings of guilt that they are ‘at fault’. Conversely, the other partner may feel guilty because they don’t have any issues and therefore are causing pressure for the person with the issue. This type of second guessing is all to easy, and comes from us making assumptions and trying to apply logic (often flawed logic) to try an understand emotional situations.
Couples that do not communicate often and openly are liable to fall victim to this second guessing and assumption making. Couples that try to conform to stereo types are also at risk. If a man feels that he should be supporting his partner and should be the ‘pillar, the rock, the strong supportive one’, then he is not being honest to himself about his emotions and he is not being honest with her about how he feels. This type of approach can be done with the best of intentions but cause the worst of responses. The man may appear to be unaffected by the issues and thus the woman may wonder if she is over reacting and end up hiding her feelings. This is the complete opposite of what the man may have intended.
So what am I getting at here.? Openness, honesty and regular communication can help prevent misunderstandings when dealing with strong emotions. We (Dani and I) have found that talking a little and often has helped us, talking in the shower together, whilst preparing dinner or when driving to the shops. There is no schedule for us to talk about the emotions we feel, there is no time that is off limits and this helps us…at least I think it helps us….perhaps Dani is not being open with me and I am making assumptions….see how easy it is to get caught in this line of thought?
By being open about how we feel means we don’t get washed away in a torrent of emotion when faced with tough facts. Knowing that we are not hiding anything from each other makes the journey a little easier, a little safer, and a little less scary.