By Ellen S. Glazer
For members of the RESOLVE New England community who didn’t catch it, the title of this blog is a “revised” quote from Sheryl Sandberg’s moving graduation speech at the University of California at Berkeley in May. Speaking of her profound grief following the sudden death of her husband, Sandberg says that among other things, she had to grapple with knowing that she could no longer have Option A. Rather than relinquish all happiness after losing her husband – her Option A – Sandberg committed herself to, pardon the expression, “kicking the sh*t out of Option B.”
Sound familiar? I hope so! Infertility is never Option A. No one chooses infertility, and no one likes it. However, some people find a way to accept Option B and in the process, to joyfully and triumphantly “kick the sh*t out of it.” In the process, I think many gain something unanticipated—increased self confidence and an appreciation for the pleasures that can come from the unbidden. Here are some of my observations of how people make good on Option B.
“Option B kickers”, as I will call them, have the ability to find joy, satisfaction and meaning even in the throes of infertility. I’m certainly not saying that they are happy all of the time or even most of the time, but they are resourceful. An Option B kicker may plan and pursue travel, knowing that creating memories is one sure way of giving meaning to the passage of time. Another might take up a new activity—a sport, hobby, language. Again, it is a way of giving purpose to time and not letting it simply pass by in a blur of injections and ultrasounds. Giving to others is another vehicle for “Option B kickers.” I am reminded of one woman who decided, following her fifth unsuccessful attempt of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), to spend a day engaged in random acts of kindness. Pondering ways she could implement this, she ended up going to Dunkin Donuts and buying a pile of $5 gift cards. Then she spent the day walking all over Boston handing out the gift cards to homeless people, as well as to others who were simply standing in a Dunkin Donuts line not anticipating the kindness of a stranger.
For some people, being an Option B kicker is more a state of mind than one of action. They focus on communication—with their partners, family and friends—doing all they can to stay close and connected. With close family and friends, this often means serving as a forgiving educator, patiently teaching others what they need to know so that they can offer support that is authentic and informed.
Then there is the matter of Option C. Many people soldier on through IVF and other fertility treatments only to find themselves at a crossroads, trying to decide whether there is an Option C that they can embrace. What I’ve found, again and again, is that although initially daunted by the prospect of Option C, our “kickers” take it on and go for it. I am reminded most of a couple I knew years ago. She experienced ovarian failure in her twenties and initially bristled at the idea of egg donation. The couple took some time to travel, sort through their feelings and eventually, the wife joined her husband in optimistically seeking an egg donor. Sadly, egg donation did not work for them, and I can still remember her words when she called me, “You helped us get to egg donation. Now I need you to get me to adoption.” And I remember with such delight the call that followed several months later letting me know that they had been matched with a little girl from China. Two sisters from China followed. This is a family of “kickers” that embraced what I guess was Option D. But here’s the strange thing about all of this: seeing them together one would surely conclude that they got Option A.
To circle back where I began, infertility is never Option A. However, when confronted with Option B (or beyond), many are proud to discover resourcefulness and resilience within themselves that they did not know was there. Even in the midst of sadness and what is often profound disappointment, they discover the pride and sense of grace that comes from being able to accept, welcome and “kick the sh*t out of Option B.”
Ellen Glazer, LICSW, Family Building Counselor and Coach, is co-author of “Having Your Baby through Egg Donation” and author of “The Long Awaited Stork.” She is a frequent contributor and speaker for RESOLVE New England (RNE). Ellen is leading a session at the 23rd Annual RNE Conference entitled, “Your Next Steps: Egg Donation, Adoption, Both?”.