Tale of the Failing Perfectionist

“Perfectionist” never resonated with me as a label, a descriptor, until I met my therapist, and even then I found it somewhat insulting because he attached it to the way I “present [myself], aesthetically.” I thought, Pfffttt, this guy is way off. I’m a procrastinator, even a slob in some ways, the keeper of a household and workspace that one can only describe as an evolving organized chaos, and I’ve always struggled so much with time management and organization. This image of neatly pressed shirts, an immaculate desk, neurotic punctuality – well, it just didn’t fit, or so I thought. In time my definition broadened, and by using it as a lens through which to view my frustrations with a life that seems to have veered wildly off course, I gained a profound introspective insight. (Guess I got my money’s worth.) Ultimately, there are assumptions so central to our perceptions that we fail to recognize them, like a fish so immersed in the water that he’s oblivious of its existence.

I  D O N ‘ T  F A I L .

Of course, we all fail here and there, but I have always seen that as a short-term problem. Tenacity, resourcefulness – these have been the basic tenets of my ruthless climb from the trenches of poverty, abuse, and a household polluted by addiction and aggression. I meet failure on the battleground, not in the church pew, not in the Buddhist monastery, so rethinking and plowing ahead has been my savior, sparing me from falling into the sad rhythm of my family’s legacy. In that vein, it shouldn’t surprise anyone, that I coped with the loss of Dakota by goal-setting – Whole 30, the 10K, and reinstated plans to shoot boudoir photos for my husband’s 40th birthday, except now I just feel like I’ve failed at a multitude of things:

1. Work became so overwhelming at the end that something had to give, so I nixed my early morning jogs to meet those demands. I fell behind on my training, terribly out of shape as I am/was from pregnancy and sickness that left me couch-ridden. We went to Shelter Island for the race anyway, and I was planning to suffer through it, unprepared as I was. Then I drank a lot of wine the night before, whooping it up al fresco with my oysters and steak, so I woke up too sleep-deprived and dehydrated to run anywhere. The death knell was the thunderstorm that opened up an hour before the race, which I spent listening to a 3-piece string outfit playing covers at the bar of the Ram’s Head Inn and generally feeling like a loser.

2. I faithfully completed Whole 30 in hopes that the structure would wrench me out of my gluttonous rut. No. I am a fat, bloated cow (replete with baby weight) from the past month of reverting right back to eating and drinking my feelings, which is just perfect for bathing suit season.

3. As a result of points one and two, I am canceling the sexy portrait session – no need to memorialize my flub and cellulite in a bunch of absurd-looking lingerie.

4. I failed to create and carry a live, healthy baby, and my failure subjected both me and my husband to a torment I had always respectfully regarded with a sentiment along the lines of anything but that, the true root of all this self-loathing.

After a gamut of cyst-related delays, FET plans are (probably) moving forward this summer, and I’m consumed with fear that I will only mount failure on failure, like a soldier who just watched his brother-in-arms die in combat boarding a plane for another tour of duty where he’s bound to win some and lose some. I want to say that it won’t fail because I can’t afford that with my bankrupt stores of resilience, but it’s out of my control. Since one does not die from IVF failure any more than they do from 2nd trimester loss, the recuperation would presumably unfold similarly: wake up in the morning, heart still beating even when you might wish faintly that it wouldn’t, and try to get out of bed, wash your hair, feed the dog. I see, for all the women who abandoned the quest for biological children, why you redefined what ‘winning’ looks like, but I still have these four little lives in the freezer who bind me to this process, with my sense of self-efficacy resting on the odds of a coin toss.

30 thoughts on “Tale of the Failing Perfectionist

  1. Once again, I relate. I am in the midst of “my” whole 30 (which includes a glass of wine here and there. And that one time I had ice cream.) And there are a lot of things getting in the way of my Health goal. Mainly that I get up at ten and get distracted by housework and television.

    I read infertility blogs and forums. I calculate the next move, as I grieve the last moves. I waste so much time sitting and thinking. And googling and data processing. God damn this is exhausting, isn’t it?

    I wish you all the best this summer with your upcoming transfer.

    Thanks again for sharing you beautiful writing. Xoxox

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    • Ugh, the Googling is exhausting. I’m at a point now where there’s nothing left to research, just praying for good fortune. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse.

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  2. I am the same way. With every failed cycle and/or loss I come up with grand plans for diets (whole 30!) and other ways to get my life together and try to feel better about myself. It’s always a grief induced effort to try to exert control because I have no control over the one area that really matters. Of course all my grand plans quickly fall to the wayside making me feel even lousier. Please don’t beat yourself up. I think it’s all totally natural. I lost twins at 20 weeks. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face. After that my biggest fear became losing another pregnancy. It took almost 2 years and 3 ART cycles to get pregnant again and when that baby’s heart stopped beating it was my worst fear realized. It’s been another year and a half since that loss and 2 more cycles but I’m pregnant and hoping this baby is my rainbow. I hope this FET whether it happens now or later is your rainbow too. I’m sorry for your loss. I hope that knowing you’re not alone in what you’re going through is some small comfort.

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    • One friend also had a late-term loss and went on to have multiple failed cycles and miscarriages. That’s honestly my greatest fear. I’m so depleted…I don’t know how I could survive all that again, but that doesn’t mean I’ll get lucky. I never have.

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  3. One of the things I have observed in my male (therefore never pregnant) life, and in those of my patients, was how the characteristics we developed to survive childhoods like yours work only temporarily. We eventually hit a point where the cost of the adaptation that helped us finally comes due. Are you at that point? If you are, my guess is the tenacity you possess will help you achieve a new adaptation, one suitable to your life as it is, not as it was. In other words, a good thing for you going forward. Anyway, that’s the way it looks for 1000 miles away. Good luck.

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  4. I wish there were something to be said here that would vindicate your suffering (and your husband’s). There isn’t. Of course. I know if what you write. I hope that means something. You will be in my thoughts, hopes, prayers as you march onward.

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  5. You have a remarkable strength in you, and with all the hardships you have been through, you will no doubt get through this as well. But it´s absolutely not fair. It doesn´t get easier just because one has seen bad times before. At some point, any person needs to just get lucky for once, to not have to struggle every day. I hope those lucky times come soon for you.

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  6. Boy did this beautiful post resonate.

    I am so hard on myself and my body and all my failures. Right now, I am working out 2 hours a day to keep these feelings at bay.

    But it’s not fair. I’ve been pregnant three times, plus whatever IVF was, so of course, I have to redefine success. I am not sure if it gets easier, but I know something has to change.

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    • Yes and yes. It’s so hard to love your body through this, as it fails you in its most basic female function. That comes out in all sorts of neurotic ways.

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  7. Hugs. I think the first couple of weeks are so hard, and then some days seem easier. Yet, without any good reason, you find yourself again in such a dark place, and with more awareness of additional accumulated crap (like dead baby weight) that at least I had ignored initially. Hang in there, and best of luck for that transfer.

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  8. I am a reader who has never commented. Just wanted to say I am thinking of you and hope this summer brings good things.
    Also, it’s a small world, I was at that race on Saturday and you could not have gotten me out in that mess for any training I may or may not have done. I was spectating, and was a miserable wet mess at the finish. Definitely no failure in staying warm and dry 🙂

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  9. You’re not a fat bloated cow. I’m certain of this. I hate reading that you’re cancelling your portrait session. Your husband is your partner in this suffer fest known as infertility and no doubt appreciates what you’ve put your body through. I’m sure what he’d see is his hot wife who is trying like hell to keep some level of levity, sensuality, and joy during a hard time.

    As far as the race, I just have to smile. Isn’t that the worst? I have had so many races go exactly that way. 🙂

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    • Yeah, weather is always a crapshoot! There’s another one in September that I’ve always wanted to do, so maybe better luck next time 🙂

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  10. Oh yes. I get it. Do you think we’d handle things better if we weren’t tenacious? That perhaps we’d let go in a chilled out ‘it’s out of my control’ kind of way? Hang in there – you owe it to yourself to give those blasts on ice a chance. No regrets is my motto going into our 5th IVF after 2 failed pregnancies. We’ll deal with the fallout, as we do. Soldier on. Best of luck!

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    • It sounds like we are birds of a feather. I’m just feeling too tired and fragile to be so tenacious. I’ll be fine as long as nothing else bad happens, but, you know, no guarantees.

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      • You’re a brave brave soul – and an inspiration. People like you (and I) are meant to be mothers. The Universe better be listening. NO MORE BAD THINGS.

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  11. I cannot even fathom the trials life has put you through but I would like to point out that, despite everything, you are still here. You are still writing and making your marriage and career work, you are functioning and living your life when you could just as easily use everything that has happened to you as an excuse to just give up. And as long as you are fighting, you can NEVER be a failure. Ever.

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  12. Until I figured out what a perfectionist really is, I had trouble identifying with it. I’m one too and I feel ya. I don’t fail, but I’m scared of failure so I undermine. It almost seems like that’s what happened to you. Maybe you needed more time to grieve and forcing the process resulted in a backlash. In any case, you’re strong and resilient. You can fight through this!

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  13. Oh A. My heart still hurts for you. I wish there was something I could do to ease this heartbreak. Don’t beat yourself up too hard, you are well within your rights to still be healing. I’m glad you’re moving forward with the FET, but I can only imagine the terror you’re facing.

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