I’ll be totally honest — when I started writing this “infertility is” series, I thought by the time I got to “hope” I’d be ready to write about it. I thought maybe by now I’d have some again or maybe even have some amazing insight about hope after all of my emotional processing following our IVF failure. But as it turns out, I continue to struggle with hopelessness, and I feel entirely unqualified to write about hope.

In an attempt to cure my hopelessness, I’ve been searching for hope everywhere — in books, blogs, quotes, exercise, therapy, sermons, meditations, you name it. I even desperately asked my therapist what I could do to feel hopeful again, knowing already that there was no easy answer for this, no checklist or homework assignment I could complete. She told me that I needed to feel my grief first. Sigh. “I’m tired of grieving,” I complained. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. But she was right. Hope cannot be turned on, just as grief cannot be turned off.

And after all of my searching, I can only conclude that which I already knew: hope isn’t “out there” waiting to be found — it is within me. As Emily Dickinson said, “hope is the thing with feathers” and it’s in my heart singing, or at least trying to. Sometimes it sings loud and clear. Sometimes it sings very, very softly. Emily claims that the thing with feathers never stops singing, but there I think she’s wrong — sometimes all hope is lost. Sometimes the hope inside me actually does stop singing… as if it has completely burned away, leaving only the ashes of my hopes and dreams.

When all hope for something is lost, I have to let go of that hope and find something new to hope for. In Resilient Grieving the author wrote about redefining what we are hoping for now when all hope has been lost. This really resonated with me because we’ve been redefining hope throughout our infertility journey: at each step in the treatment process we’ve had to let go of the hope that the previous treatment would work and grow new hope that the next treatment would work. Further, infertility has made me consider what I’m hoping for in my life and with Matt in the event that we do not have children.

The process of grieving and redefining hope takes a lot of hard work. It’s not quick or easy, and I try to be patient.  It takes time for my phoenix of hope to grow anew, to slowly rise out of the ashes and start singing in my heart again. I cannot just turn up the volume because I want to. I cannot just turn off all of my other prevailing emotions to feel only the things I want to feel. I have to feel all of my emotions, process and work through them. Only then will there be room for other emotions, space for the phoenix of hope to grow.

My infertility is trying to hold onto hope in the face of repeated disappointments, loss, and heartache. It is trying to hope when all seems hopeless. It is struggling to redefine hope after all hope has been lost. It is working through hard emotions and letting new hope grow in my heart again. My infertility is trying to maintain hope that this pain will end, that there will be more peace and joy in my future, and that our lives will continue to be filled with love and happiness regardless of the outcome of our infertility.

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