Putting a Number on Hope

velo_cityBoiled down to its essence, inferitility treatment is a numbers game.  Everything about the process is quantified – number of follicles, number of sperm, percentage of motility, dosage of medication, size of cysts, size of follicles, number of eggs retrieved, number fertilized, number transferred, HCG number, number of heartbeats, heartbeat rate, measurements of the fetus, days of pregnancy,  number of miscarriages, the list just goes on and on.   And, statistics loom large with every decision, from how many IUIs to try to how aggressive to be in the number of blasts that are transferred during IVF.  Numbers are everywhere in infertility, often making a clinical process seem even more cold.  

You would think that there were some areas that were immune from being quantified, such as feelings.  Ah, if only.  When I was filling out the questionnaire for the acupuncturist last week, that last wall fell with this question:

On a scale of 1 to 10, with one being the lowest and ten being the highest, how would you describe your current level of hopefulness towards attaining your fertility goals?

Rather than treat this as one of those quizzes in Cosmo where you put down the answer that you know gets you the most points and proves that you really are boyfriend material, I knew that I needed to answer the question truthfully.  Much like you are instructed to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind in a Rorschach test, I circled the first number that came to mind:


I used to have hope of probably around 7.  If I could pinpoint that moment when my hope dipped below the magic halfway point of 5, though, it would be when I learned that my second miscarriage was also a monosomy, after we had been assured that it probably wouldn’t happen again.  I lost a lot of hope in that fiasco and most of it has not returned.  I don’t know if it ever will.  Like money, you learn not to put too much hope on the line lest you lose it all.

I have no idea what the acupuncturist will do with this information.  Like the rest of the questionnaire, it may go unread.  But, I thought it was interesting that of all of the things that we have left in this journey of infertility that have not been reduced to numbers, couldn’t they have left hope alone?

image: velo_city

10 thoughts on “Putting a Number on Hope

  1. i know that i have renewed hope for 2009, new year, new outlook, yes?

    if we didn’t have hope most of us would’ve given up a long, long time ago. it’s the one thing that keeps me going month after disappointing month.

  2. Very true about the numbers. I find the hope question a little odd. I don’t know how I would answer that right now. I would probably leave it blank…

  3. What an insanely tough question. As you know, hope and luck have been two words I’ve struggled with over the last few years.

    I think if I was presented with that question today, I would have circled 3. That bothers me to think about, but it is what it is I guess.

  4. You are so right. It’s all about the numbers. And odds. Sometimes I have the feeling that I’ll have better luck winning the lottery than getting/staying pregnant. And I don’t even play the lottery.

  5. I think that hope is just about the only thing in this whole process that can’t be quantified. It’s the one thing that keeps us going even when we find ourselves on the wrong side of statistics.

  6. I think it just means the acupuncturist will have to stick an extra needle in your hope center.

    Besides which, the acupuncturist is also probably just measuring how mainstream the treatment has become. When the majority of clients answer above 5, acupuncture has arrived! Until then, they’re only getting the people who are now at the point where they’ll try anything, no matter how outlandish it seems.

    That being said, I’m guessing you rate pretty high on the hopefulness scale in comparison to other clients…

  7. Here’s just a thought, but I bet the acupuncturist asked about hope because things like depression, despair, and worry are felt to impact the systems that power fertility in the Chinese understanding. So if someone’s deeply blue, it might affect the acupuncturist’s treatment approach.

    That said, it’s irritating to have to constantly reduce to numbers. What do they really mean, anyway? No one can say what your individual chances are…

  8. One of the hardest things about IF is what it does to one’s outlook. Over the past few years I’ve become more cynical than I ever thought possible. Not just because of IF, but IF certainly didn’t help.

    Putting a number on it is tough too. And if you’re anything like me, the number changes depending on the time of the day, what I just ate, whether or not the weekend is near, and the alignment of the moon and the stars.

    Big hug to you.

  9. at first I thought, how bizarre, but I think shinejil is right. it probably provides insight into your emotions, which my acu always asked about.

    I just hate those studies that suggest you have to have a positive attitude to be successful. sometimes I just want to say eff that.

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