Thursday, July 27, 2017

I Did Not "Give Up"

A friend of mine sent me this via text, and it made me smile:


Isn't it lovely?

I feel like I have had to explain this a bit over the past month or so, because people unwittingly say very casually "you gave up on adoption" and before that people would say "you gave up on IVF/pregnancy/your uterus/etc."  They don't mean it in a cruel or malicious way, but it is stabby nonetheless.

Maybe it's because of the mantra of "Never Never Never Give Up" that I used to hold so fast to, that works really great when you are successful and telling others how to navigate their experiences without taking into account just how multilayered and complex everyone's individual journey can be. Not all the nuances are apparent. What works for you may not work for me. We all have our different thresholds.

The mantra that used to push me forward (a relative term, since is doing 13 cycles of IVF without much success to bolster you FORWARD?) became a heavy weight, a feeling that I didn't have permission to move on because it would be seen as failure. Now you know how I feel about that.


It's a hard thing, explaining the difference between giving up which denotes quitting, failure, a lack of ambition or motivation maybe (at least according to our societal norms)... and moving on.

Moving on is my preferred term, because it doesn't connote those things, to me at least. It means that I found my point of ENOUGH,  that it was actually in my best interest to go in a different direction. It implies that this isn't a STOPPING point, as I think it could be construed. It's a shift. It's a movement onward to a future that holds every bit as much promise as any other one, possibly more because I won't have pushed myself past the point of health, physical and mental. It's an empowered choice, not a lying down and rolling to the side of the road. I mean, I do spend some time lying on the floor when I am overwhelmed by the grief of what I've lost, but I am also spending time planning out specifics for our fabulous California Coast trip and organizing my office space and spending time contemplating the big question of... what's next. It's not stationary. Stationary is what we were before.

There is a cost to persistence. I found myself fairly broken, body and soul, in the pursuit of something that just didn't want to materialize, not before the price became too steep. I am not against perseverance in the face of adversity, don't get me wrong. I believe in fighting for what you believe in, in pushing forward when things are hard, in pursuing the things that DON'T TRY TO DESTROY YOU. But sometimes it just makes more sense for sanity and for the health of the life you have, right this very minute, to move on. To let go of something that has become toxic to your existence. To say that it's okay to hope for a different kind of future, to celebrate all that you have instead of slamming your body up against a wall over and over and hoping for a different result before you are a broken sack of goo.

I didn't give up. (Unless it's giving up in the sense of giving up smoking, or meth.)

I found my point of enough. I decided to move on and take control of my life. I decided to let go of a dream, which was is painful and transformative and indescribably difficult, but it was so I could embrace my life and stop the death of a thousand cuts that left me in danger of losing myself.

I am empowered. I am strong. I have a beautiful life. I have new dreams. I am in mourning for the life I wanted that never came to pass, but I do not regret snipping the thread on that one. It was like the bittersweet vine that infiltrates my blueberry bushes, looking like a new shoot of the plant but in actuality squeezing the life out of what was already there.

The message bears repeating:


I'd had enough. There are many women who have also had enough, at all varying stages of the infertility game. Everyone's enough is different, for so many possible reasons.

Let's stop using the words give up in this context. It makes those in the throes of everything feel like moving on isn't an option, that you have to drive yourself into the floor or else have failed. Maybe if we phrased it as moving on, this choice (and I have issues with that word, too) wouldn't seem so scary, so prohibitive, so cautionary tale.

Moving on from the pursuit of parenthood should be a resolution like any other, honored for its strength and power and beauty in embracing a life to be lived fully and with purpose.

26 comments:

  1. I'm glad you gave up smoking and meth.

    Also I totally agree with everything you say. My story with regards to fertility is different, but in other areas of life, i have found it both healthy and liberating to say "this isn't working for me; I'm moving on." And it was a hard lesson to learn.

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    1. Ha ha ha, I almost spit my water across the room!

      Yes, thank you. I agree it's such a hard lesson, but I love your words "healthy" and "liberating" -- yes.

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  2. Beautifully said Jess! That last paragraph sums it all up so perfectly.

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    1. Thank you! This has been rattling about in my mind for days.

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  3. So much this: "There is a cost to persistence." And I have such deep respect for you for having the mindfulness, clarity, and resolution to monitor that and be decisive.

    And really, isn't giving up something that costs you too much comparable to giving up smoking and meth?

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    1. Thank you, your support and respect mean so much to me!

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  4. I can relate to trying to educate people on the term you'd prefer when referring to your situation. What's interesting is that my husband and I prefer "moving forward" to "moving on" as there is just no moving on from our daughter, ever. Nor would we want to! But in your case, the use of that term over 'giving up' ABSOLUTELY makes sense. It's so interesting how the same phrase can be used in different circumstances and be preferred in one case, and not preferred in another. And hey, there may be a loss mom out there who actually prefers moving on to something else! It's all so individual, and it's so important and empowering to use what feels right to YOU and to educate others on that preference. Taking back some control in our lives, where we can. Good for you.

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    1. Oh, I love "moving forward." It keeps what you experienced with you while going towards a different reality. Love it. Might actually like that more than "moving on." I think everyone has their preferences, but I'd be interested to see if anyone actually likes "giving up." And amen to talking back sooner control in our lives... Thanks for your thoughts!

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    2. I was just going to comment the same thing. After we lost Caiden and Kaylie there was a lot of talk about "moving on" and I was so uncomfortable with that thought. I starting talking instead about "moving forward" and felt much better about it. It might seem like semantics to some, but it was an important difference to me - I was not trying to let go of what had happened, I was just putting one foot in front of the other.

      Jess, I'm so glad you found a more comfortable phrase for you. And thank you for sharing it to help everyone understand the power of word choice.

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  5. It made me smile too :) It takes as much (if not more) strength to say 'enough'

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    1. I'm glad! It's a good quote. Absolutely, I just wish it was more widely acknowledged that letting go can be a better choice than plowing forward and plowing under.

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  6. I agree - while "moving on" is good, "moving forward" sounds so much more positive. And given that you and Bryce have been the antithesis of "giving up," I think there should be a new phrase to describe it. Maybe, "Going forth like J&B" which would denote moving forward from a difficult situation/decision with incredible grace, honesty, and strength. *hugs*

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    1. I am so tempted to edit or add an addendum endorsing "Moving Forward!" Love that one. I'm stealing it. You made me cry with "Going forth like J & B" -- you are too sweet. Thank you so much for the hugs. Always appreciated!

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  7. Words are so important! I love your parsing of the various terms and what you prefer & why. I am bookmarking this post! :)

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    1. Thank you! Although now I wish I'd thought of Moving Forward... :)

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  8. I love this post. Moving forward. Love.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, love the moving forward, too.

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  9. Your words are so strong, and so beautiful. Your words move me deeply. Love you.

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    1. Thank you so much, love you too!

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  10. I really hate the term "giving up" because it implies that it is the weak or easy option, when as you and I know, it can be the most difficult, the most painful option. Sometimes "giving up" is the strong option, the mature option, the option that says, "I deserve more than this," the option that will require more commitment and perseverance than not giving up. Somehow our society has taken the idea of perseverance and hard work, and made it a zero sum game. That you should "never give up" and that "giving up" is a moral failing. When in my book, so many times it is the exact opposite.

    I'm giving up on the idea of giving up, and embracing moving on or moving forward, and knowing when you've had enough. Language is important. Intention is important. Your last paragraph therefore is exactly what we all want. Brava!

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    1. Yes, I love what you say here! Perseverance as a zero sum game is definitely what it feels like. I love that, "I deserve more than this." I have made that choice before in a different context, and so it seems somehow ironic and unfair to have breached that point twice in my life...I just wish I could come to that point of realization before everything is at disaster level. :) Thank you so much for your thoughts!

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  11. Another insightful, thoughtful and mindful post. Yes on so much of what you wrote! The quote that you shared from your friend is awesome. Love it! Your words in this post bring a sense of turning a corner. There may likely be more corners along your path, but you sound like you are having moments of healing and it all adds up. :)

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    1. Thank you so much -- I like that, a corner-turning moment. I live in a maze it seems, so yes to many, many corners, but healing is definitely happening. Bit by bit. Thank you so much for your thoughts!

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  12. I read this post and started to muse on the negative connotations of 'give up'. I've personally always disliked those 'Never Give Up!' mantras in the context of IVF, adoption etc, in fact I hate them - the one I particularly detest is 'you are not a failure until you give up!' - ugh. But I've never examined the language and what alternative could be used. Myself, I tend to say 'we stopped, it wasn't working' when talking about fertility treatment (if I ever talk about it, which I don't much). Anyway, out of curiosity I googled the definition. "Cease making an effort; admit defeat", said Oxford Dictionaries. Synonyms are listed as "surrender, capitulate, be beaten; despair, lose heart, abandon hope". Horrible! So yes, let's definitely stop using the words 'give up' in this context. Beautifully-written post.

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    1. I hate it too. And it's everpresent, and so easy to fall prey to when you are so hopeful. I also think it's easy to fall prey to if you are successful, to think that it's perseverance alone that will bring someone else the success that you gained, but that philosophy only makes me feel like a failure, like I wasn't worthy to receive this favor from wherever that others did. Which is so completely unhealthy. I love your definitions, definitely not positive in any way and horrible for sure. Thank you so much for your thoughts!

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  13. I love this post - words and phrasing are so important! Like you say, "giving up" does connote something different than "moving on" or "letting go". Beautiful and insightful, one I'll bookmark.

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