Helene, on Being “Cautiously Optimistic”

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Categories Infertility, Infertility Theme Week

We have every reason to be cautiously optimistic,” she had said, as I pressed my cell phone harder against my ear, wishing so much that I had misunderstood her.

While tears filled my eyes, I asked, “So are you saying that there’s very little chance that we’ll have any viable eggs to work with?

Well, no, I didn’t say that. I think we should just be cautiously optimistic,” she tried to explain. I imagined her on the other end of the line, keeping a close eye on her watch, anxiously wanting to get off the phone with yet another desperate, yet hopeful infertility patient.

My chin quivered, my hands shook and it felt as if my heart would burst right out of my chest. “What EXACTLY does cautiously optimistic MEAN?!” I screeched loudly into the phone. “Does it mean that you think my eggs are crap? Does it mean you’ve seen eggs like mine make beautiful embyros?! What the HELL does it MEAN?!

Tim reached over from the driver’s seat and touched my arm, silently willing me to end the phone call and just accept the news for what it was.

We had been driving home after my egg retrieval during our 1st IVF cycle, when my RE called to deliver the news that most of the eggs which had been retrieved were not in good shape. She had called them “dark and grainy“.

No one had ever used the phrase “cautiously optimistic” with me.

Was it a good thing? A bad thing? I had no clue at all.

Within time, I came to learn that it meant something bad was in store for us…something tragic, heartbreaking and completely gut-wrenching.

The phrase soon became a personal jinx of some sort. Everything would be going along just fine and then a doctor or a nurse would randomly throw out, “We should just continue to be cautiously optimistic,” and I knew our fate had just been sealed.

As we anxiously waited for the blood results of that first IVF cycle… let’s be cautiously optimistic.

As we sadly listened to our RE explain that sometimes 6 weeks is just too early to see a heartbeat… let’s be cautiously optimistic.

When we learned that we had lost that baby, the good news was at least now we knew I could get pregnant… let’s be cautiously optimistic.

As we switched RE’s and were given all kinds of false hope that the 2nd cycle would be successful… let’s be cautiously optimistic.

When that same RE looked me straight in the eyes and told me my dreams of having a biological child had already slipped out of my grasp but there were still lots of options available to us… let’s be cautiously optimistic.

During our 3rd IVF when we begged and pleaded with him to allow us to transfer 4 embryos because we simply couldn’t bear any more heartbreak, we compromised and agreed to transfer only 3… let’s be cautiously optimistic.

After we learned I was pregnant with twins, every time I would experience sudden cramping and/or bleeding… let’s be cautiously optimistic.

Each time my body went into pre-term labor… let’s be cautiously optimistic.

After giving birth at 32 weeks, I watched with both overwhelming joy and anguished sorrow as my first-born miracle babies were whisked off to the NICU… let’s be cautiously optimistic.

Soon enough, we stopped hearing that dreaded phrase… as our twins were released from the NICU after 26 days and we entered our home for the very first time as a family of four. Something we believed would never happen.

After four months had passed, I lost another pregnancy… yet I had no idea that I had been pregnant until I was in the midst of a miscarriage. Even though there had been no time for dreams and hopeful expectations, I still grieved, blaming my damaged body once again for another devastating loss.

When I went in to my doctor’s office for a follow-up, I asked him if he thought I may be able to get pregnant again on my own in the future. His words stung me as I heard, “I would like to think so. You have every reason to be cautiously optimistic“.

Soon, there came a time when hearing that phrase didn’t hurt so badly anymore. I’d hear someone casually mention those two seemingly innocent words and it wouldn’t phase me in the least. The pain and burden of infertility had finally passed and wasn’t as fresh in my mind anymore.

Until we decided we wanted more children. I knew exactly what was in store for us as we begin another IVF cycle with our frozen embryos when our RE said, “All I ask is that you be cautiously optimistic“.

Yes, cautiously optimistic… with tragic results yet again. Another pregnancy loss. More tears and agony. And even more anger, bitterness and confusion than ever before.

After the loss, as I broke down in my OB’s office, I begged her to explain to me why… WHY did this happen again. Was I selfish for wanting more children? What had I done wrong? Is it because I wasn’t cautiously optimistic? WHY?!

She answered, gently, “These things just happen, sometimes we’re never meant to understand why. I know you want more children. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t. You’ll come to terms with it somehow. I know you will.”

Never once did she mention the distressing phrase I had come to despise hearing. Every single time I had heard it, throughout my journey of trying to conceive, my stomach would turn and my heart would sink.

As I went about my daily life, I knew I had to accept that more children may not be in our future. It was difficult and there were still times that I would find myself sobbing out loud, especially as my babies began to outgrow their little onesies and my broken heart reminded me that there may never be another baby to wear those same clothes.

Let’s be cautiously optimistic“, I thought I heard God whisper to me one morning while deep in prayer, as I begged for relief from the burden of grief. I thought I had overcome it but deep down I knew I hadn’t. There would always be a void in my life for what could have been… what should have been.

Three months later, I became pregnant with Garrett and Landon… our second set of twins. A completely (and surprisingly) spontaneous pregnancy.

It wasn’t supposed to happen. They had all said we would never conceive a take-home baby on our own without medical intervention, even as they made empty promises and advised us to be cautiously optimistic.

But finally, after everything, we had beaten the odds. Suddenly, it was okay to be hopeful, to feel excited and full of joy, to experience nothing but happiness and pure bliss… to be optimistic, WITHOUT caution.

The words "cautiously optimistic" plague an infertile woman who just wants to be a mother.

This post was originally published on I’m Living Proof that God Has a Sense of Humor as part of Pour Your Heart Out with Things I Can’t Say.


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

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One thought on “Helene, on Being “Cautiously Optimistic””

  1. I love this post. Your story. Your faith. I love how you have the perspective that something once so hurtful to you would be used in such a God-filled way. <3

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