The Olympics have begun! I LOVE. IT. One of my favorite parts has always been the opening ceremony, particularly the moment when the Olympians come out by country and walk into the cheering arena for the first time. I get goosebumps as I think about how intense that moment must be for them. The noise. The colors. Their overwhelming sense of pride in representing their country. Sometimes its 4 people walking out, other times it’s 230. You can tell that it must feel surreal for them. I can imagine some of them reflect back on all that it has taken to get to that point. The training. The early hours. The bruises. The highs from winning competitions in the past and the sorrows from losing others. The things that they have missed in order to train, maybe a school dance or living close to home. But in that moment, every sacrifice has been worth it. As they gaze around, the broken bones are a distant memory. The early alarms set, a blur. This is their moment. They walk and take it all in. They have hope and excitement, perhaps a little fear, about what is to come and what is on the line. They have invested EVERYTHING and now it’s Go Time. If you look closely as they walk out, you can see all of this wrapped up in their eyes, it’s pretty incredible.
Fast forward to a month from now. The Olympics are over. They are back home, perhaps taking some time off, resting and recouping. Or maybe they still need to drag their weary bodies to and from practice, knowing that they will get another chance in 4 years. Perhaps they are on an adrenaline high, a medal or two around their neck and memories that few will ever fathom. Or maybe their heart has been broken, everything they worked so hard for gone in the blink of an eye. A slight slip, a bump in the ice, a turn taken too sharp. They carry the shame of disappointing those around them, even though they are being told they did great and had the chance to be in the Olympics. You gave it all you had. I can imagine the that the adrenaline they had while in Sochi has vanished, that rush of what they were a part of a distant memory.
I feel like I can relate. No, not in the sporting part of the Olympics, because we all know that I am just about the least coordinated, talented athlete around. (It’s actually a little frightening, but I can read a 300 page book in a few hours so I have something going for me.) Anyways, for us a cycle of IVF felt like the Olympics. We had the date set. We knew when it was coming up. We cleared all the competitions beforehand. Check! Check! Check! You qualify! You are infertile enough! There were early morning doctor’s appointments, driving to and from the clinic every other day. Things are looking great! Way to go! We had our checklists, take this pill at 8 am, shots at 9 am, wait 4 hours, rub this on your wrists, take this pill after lunch, but not too close to after lunch. Eat this pineapple, chew this brazil nut. Here, do these evening shots. Sit on a heating pad. Lather, rinse, repeat. Another day down, the anticipation building as THE event got closer. The bruises becoming more apparent on my stomach but with each one was pride at what I was accomplishing as a result. The calendar dates were set. The “Olympics” in view. And with each step closer to that big day, the excitement built, the hope mounted, the adrenaline crept up.
Then the Opening Ceremonies begin. You get to your egg retrieval day. You walk into your clinic, proudly holding your flag (aka your pair of lucky socks), in a terrified ecstatic march, taking in everything around you. You worked SO hard to get here. Now it’s go time. The failed cycles in the past seem distantly behind you. You barely remember the nights spent crying when you found out your IUI failed. You don’t even try to pull up the blurry memory of the pain you felt when the doctor told you that Clomid didn’t work on you. You made it! The day ends and you go back home knowing what’s ahead. The actual event is so close. A few days later, the transfer happens. If you’re lucky. Perhaps you are one of the unlucky few that falls during a practice run and is eliminated, your embryos didn’t make it. Just like that, it’s over. But if you are one of the lucky ones, the race is still on. All of your adrenaline has lead you to THIS moment. The emotions are almost overwhelming but you have to stay focused. Positive thinking. Remember what you have learned. Listen to your coach doctors and then embrace the moment.
And just like that your event is over. You find out if you won or not. There are only so many medals given out. Maybe you received one – a silver! One of your embryos implanted! Congratulations!! Or a gold – TWINS! You leave the Olympics and enter a whole new world of unknowns – embracing the new challenges to stay a medalist, training for the new life ahead of you and protecting what you have.
Or perhaps you fell short. One attached but your beta fell a few days later and you lost your precious baby. It feels like coming in fourth, so close but not enough. You are devastated. Or maybe you get the news that your results are simply negative. You are in 8th place, so far away from the medal stand that you ache. Everyone around you tells you It’s okay! Look at what you got to experience! I’m sure it will happen for you sometime. And yet, still, the energy and adrenaline has been sucked out of you.
You go home. You somehow have to figure out what is next. Do you take some time off? Do you just jump back into your life and forget that you ever went to the Olympics? Do you make the commitment to keep on training and try again in 4 years, investing all you have into your dream? You are tired but you miss the adrenaline, that moment of walking into the arena and being cheered for. Now it’s quiet. You are pushed aside as the new up and comers take center stage and the focus gradually moves on.
For the time being, Josh and I have made the choice to step back from IVF. After doing 4 cycles in 10 months, it only makes sense for us to take a break, give my body a rest and pray for continued direction.
But I have to be honest … I miss the rush of the Olympics.
I miss the date on my calendar. I miss knowing how to navigate my hopes depending on the cycles and medications I am on. I miss being able to be incredibly involved – giving myself the shots, driving to the appointments, receiving the update calls and knowing what’s going on. I still have to be proactive, changing my eating habits to try to manage my PCOS the best I can, yet there is no event ahead that I can focus on. I miss the adrenaline. And let me be clear, I still have incredible peace about where we are, but I still deal with sadness that I managed to bomb my events so miserably. I am a little wounded, feeling like I was on a slalom ski hill, tripped on a gate and just tumbled down the hill face first, hitting every gate, rock and tree on the way.
So I picked myself up and went back home. And I look around me at all the other Olympians IVF-ers around me that got a medal. Congratulating them with a sincere heart, yet still wishing I was standing next to them on that podium.
And then I remember:
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.”
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NLT)
There is a time and season for everything. A time for high adrenaline and a time for quiet. A time to train and compete and a time to rest. A time to collect the medal and a time to go home empty handed.
Here is what I cling to in the quiet season – God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (v. 11) I may miss the Olympics, but God can and will make this after-math season beautiful. And until He changes our hearts about what we should be doing right now, all I can do is stop and embrace the day. Yes, perhaps fitting in IVF training sessions is not needed any more. Perhaps I won’t be meeting with my friend Wandy, the ultrasound probe, as often anymore. But that doesn’t mean that the aftermath of the Olympics should result in a life less lived. It means that right now, my work is to lay my petition, my request, and my heart before God.
My challenge for myself is to simply embrace this season. Because seasons do change. Winter doesn’t last forever (even though in Minnesota, it feels like it does, but that is besides the point.) In the words of Solomon, there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. Life a life close to Him, challenge yourself to deal with your emotions as they arise and embrace what’s in front of us. Our life goes by too fast to lose an entire season due to it not being what you want. We have everything we need to be present in today. So let’s live!
(And side note, I do realize how incredibly blessed we were to get the opportunity to go to the “Olympics”. Seriously, I know so many will never have the chance to do IVF and we feel incredibly grateful to have had the chance to do it.)
Anyways, off to go find and watch some Olympics events … let’s cheer these amazing athletes on, this is their moment!