I was recently talking to a friend of mine, who had been going through IVF, about her experiences, and she was talking about the cognitive dissonance that seems inherent in all this.
You might never have done IVF, and you might not call it cognitive dissonance, but if you’ve ever been a teenager, you’ll know what she’s on about.
Maybe it was just me (I assumed it was everyone) who, as a teenager, simultaneously thought I knew everything, and that I knew nothing; who didn’t want my parents to know what I was up to, but thought they were completely moronic if they appeared oblivious to it; who wanted to press pause on everything, already nostalgic for a time that hadn’t yet passed, but was also desperate to grow up, move on and move out.
Cognitive dissonance is — according to Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge (I’m JOKING, but it is useful at times like this) — “the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values at the same time.”
From my friend’s point of view it was the fact that every single IVF cycle she goes through, she feels compelled to “think positive”, to think that this time around this is the one that’s going to work, while, at the same time, having to hang on to the thought that it’s OK if it doesn’t. So if / when it doesn’t, you don’t entirely fall apart.
I’m not even at that point yet, but it feels as if my entire life is currently punctuated by this sort of intellectual juggling.
I’ve pretty much decided that I am going to give things a go on my own, but I’m aware that with my age, my medical history, and the fact that, mentally and financially, I can’t embark on endless rounds of assisted conception until it happens, I may never end up being a mother.
So at the same time as thinking about all the practical and emotional problems that solo motherhood could bring, I’m also hanging onto the idea that I could have quite a nice life without a child of my own.
(And, let’s be honest, when I’m surrounded by people bitching about their offspring/lack of sleep/lack of freedom, it’s hard not to think I could have a NICER life without a child of my own.)
But the other thing is that I’m still dating. (Yeah, I know, ever the optimist, me.) I’d thought that freezing my eggs would take the pressure off dating. And it has, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s done that too effectively.
After all, having made the decision that fundamentally I’m OK with the idea of doing this on my own, it’s hard not to think “oh screw it, who cares if this works out or not”, while at the same time trying to be positive and optimistic that it might.
20-something years on from being a teenager, it’s still all basically headfuck-on-a-plate. Which, by the sounds of things is pretty good preparation for IVF, motherhood and all that stuff, so that’s something I suppose…