09 June, 2016

When the absence of hope is a good thing

A week or two ago, I was reading a novel (We Are Now Beginning Our Descent by James Meek) that had an interesting comment on hope, and I thought it was worth sharing here, given that hope is such an major part of the infertility journey, and of our childless life.

The idea was that hope allows for the possibility that the desired outcome won’t come about. Hope means that whilst we hope something will happen, we know that it might not. This seems a perfectly reasonable comment to me, but one I’d never really considered!

It seems to me, therefore, that when many people say they’re filled with hope they’re actually saying they’re filled with certainty that they’ll get their happy ending. I’m pretty sure we’re all like this (unless we have had a diagnosis prior to beginning our quest to have children). We start trying to get pregnant, sure that it will be possible. When we realise that this might not be so simple, doubt starts creeping in. Are we hopeful, or are we still sure that it won’t happen to us? I guess it varies. Some of us go into denial, confident that we’ll find a way. Some of us start to realise that it might not be possible, shocked to see our confidence and certainty disappear, and we cling on to hope, though see it receding. That element of hope though - even when we fully realise that we might not be able to achieve our preferred outcome, even when we are terrified that this might happen – can keep us going and give us strength. Yet hope can also torture us into continuing treatments even when we know we should stop. Hope – it is very complicated.

I’ve heard some people say that they think it might be easier If they didn’t have hope, as they deal with the agonising stresses of assisted reproduction or waiting for adoption or the month-by-month waiting of trying to conceive. Elaine, a new blogger who has guest-posted on hope this week on Klara’s blog here, notes that there is indeed a sense of relief when letting go of hope.

But she adds that then you have to grieve, and “that was no fun at all.” I have also said that at first I felt that the loss of all hope was harder than having it. And so for a while we live with a certainty that our lives are never going to be happy.

But then hope sets in again, bringing in at first cracks of light, allowing for the possibility that maybe our lives won’t be so hard after all. Hope returns, but for something else.

Then, to come full circle, I think hope goes away again. A new certainty takes root, the certainty that I and and will be okay, that a life without children is not only worth living, but worth celebrating. In that case, I don’t need to have hope that I will have a good life. Because I know I will.


  1. How beautiful! Thank you for your thoughts on this, Mali.
    I love your last paragraph. I do wish for my "new" hope to be transformed into certainty one day, too.

  2. I'm at the stage where I am still hopeful but I feel less hopeful than I did at the start and doubt is starting to creep in more and more... (after two failed IVF, facing a third and possibly last in a few months). It's so hard not knowing what the future will bring.

  3. dear Mali and dear Elaine, it was lovely to read your thoughts on hope. Beautifully written!

    Mali - I just love your last sentence.

  4. I just found your blog today. Last week, we found out that our IVF cycle had failed. After four IUIs, one IVF, and 48 months of TTC, I believe in my heart that we are done. This post speaks to me, because part of me wants to remove all hope of a 'surprise' BFP from our lives. I know it's radical, but having my husband get a vasectomy seems like a reasonable path right now, and your post told me why. It's because that tiny nugget of hope eats away at me month after month after month. It makes grieving simultaneously impossible and never-ending.

    1. I'm glad that you enjoyed the blog, but right now, I wouldn't be making any drastic decisions such as a vasectomy. Give yourselves both some time, and then see how you feel.

  5. I agree with your observations about what most people mean by "hope." I still hope. Just for different things these days.

  6. What a beautiful last sentence! I have a complicated relationship with hope myself. I do think that hope can push you to do things past when it's really feasible, and it can create space for the "what ifs" that might keep you from living now. I agree that letting go of hope can be freeing, with that flipped side of the grieving. While it sucked so bad to make the decision to end treatment and realize I'd never be pregnant, it was such a lightness knowing that the decision was made, that there WAS no hope, and that I could look towards something else. Great post!

  7. Interesting thoughts on hope, especially the dark side of it where sometimes by having it, it must acknowledge the possibility of a different outcome and possibly the opposite. My blog title includes the word hope, but I came up with the title after the close of my first journey TTC. That relationship sadly ended in divorce and my whole world was turned upside down. I was at the lowest of the lows and felt so lost and broken. I felt as though I lost everything. I did not know how it could possibly get worse, but I did not know how it could get better. It felt as if I was stuck in some kind of void. The hope that I relied on was that of blind hope. I didn't know how things were going to turn out and had no answers, but hope allowed me to not give up, do whatever it takes and somehow find a way. Perhaps, I was more acting on faith, but it was hope certainly had a role.