How to get there
A Map of the Quest for a Child
Illustration: Magdalena Říčná
I am not sure whether you expected the kind of map that I have created, but hopefully you will be able to orient yourselves. It will be easy for those with an understanding of programming.
A small oval indicates the beginning and the end of the trail. A small rectangle means some activity (for instance, choosing a therapist, undergoing treatment). Finally, a rhombus is a crossroad, a point at which you have to make a decision. These signs are connected by lines with arrows that show the direction you could go. Psychologists sometimes divide mental activities into acting, experiencing and knowing. The map follows this division.
Acting on the quest for a child refers to the respective steps that you may take. Usually, you first establish that you are not succeeding (unsuccessful attempts), then you decide how to resolve the situation, then you engage in the process of resolving it and in the end the solution is achieved and you find yourselves at the end of the quest. (If only it could be done as quickly as it is said!)
The seemingly illogical placement of the question whether the situation is resolved immediately after unsuccessful attempts has its reasons. It often happens that after a certain period of unsuccessful treatment a couple chooses adoption as an alternative solution of the situation and enters into the adoption process without interrupting the treatment. It may then happen that, during the adoption process or while waiting for a suitable child, the couple have their own child. They stop the adoption process, they do not wait for the adoption or do not accept the adoptive child (but sometimes they do). The situation is resolved. Of course, the opposite can happen as well when, during treatment, a couple adopt a child and after the adoption they terminate the treatment. To make it possible to resolve such situations in the diagram, I had to place the question about the resolution of the situation before the decisions about the mode of solution. You know it from pc switching: you click “start” first and then “switch”.
Everything that happens to us and everything we do, including the quest for a child, creates some feelings in us and influences our experiencing. Of course, this also holds true the other way round — our experiencing more or less influences our decisions and what we do.
But it is not just our feelings that influence our everyday actions. We also decide according to our knowledge about the particular issue. In this case, knowing does not mean an awareness of a dry piece of information but information formed by our own mode of perception, the current situation, our relationship with the source of the information, our emotions. When you try to explain something to a group of people in which each member has a different personality and each is in a different mood, you can be sure that each person will understand what you say differently.
Our personal knowing is formed by a system of our opinions, our prejudices, attitudes, and values. Similar to the relationship between acting and experiencing, the influence between acting and knowing is mutual. Our knowing influences our acting and, vice versa — our acting enriches our knowing.
The diagram does not capture all the alternatives. For example, it would be hard to show the frequent situation when a couple is undergoing several kinds of treatment with various therapists at the same time, often without the therapists’ awareness (such as combining hormonal treatment, the Mojzis method, and acupuncture; it is also common to work with several different gynaecologists at the same time). Hopefully, it will not be difficult for you to adapt the map to your own situation.
Apart from certain forms of foster care, it still takes two to gain a biological child. Infertility is a special kind of illness, for it is an illness of a couple. Even when the cause of the illness (the lack of success on the quest for a child) is on the side of only one partner, the whole couple is ill. Even when sometimes only one partner undergoes treatment, he or she is solving a problem of the couple. Each person has a special, individual, different way of experiencing and knowing. Thus, as a couple you have two ways of experiencing, two ways of knowing, but always only one way of acting that is common, on behalf of both of you. It is the age-old situation: you have to decide what furniture to buy, or where to go on your holiday. You did not have the option of buying two sets of furniture and you could not be together if one were to go to the sea and the other to the mountains. You had to look for a common solution.
What Can You Find in the Map?
When you get a bit oriented in the map, you will realise that the quest for a child eventually leads to three possible destinations: your own child, an adopted child, and childlessness. None of these destinations is inferior to the others. The sooner you accept this, the better, because then you will avoid running into a dead-end when, for example, all the available therapeutic methods have failed you or you do not have any more money for another IVF cycle. You will always have an option. However, accepting the option to adopt a child or stay childless is a task for strong people, and it can take a long time to achieve. When I encourage you right at the beginning to consider various options, I do not want to suggest that you should give up the quest for your own biological child early on. The other way round! You must not give up or lose faith; you have to struggle and do your best. For you to have enough strength for a long fight, it is necessary to have several irons in the fire, that is, to think ahead.
You will notice that there are quite a few crossroads in the map. Usually you make the decisions. Therefore, you are not helpless, as it may often seem, but the quest for a child is, to a large degree, in your own hands! The map shows clearly whether you are going in circles (for instance, the first IVF, the second IVF, the ninth, the fifteenth...) and whether you are using all the opportunities to decide. When we realise that we have freely and consciously decided, we feel more in control of the situation. Often when people make a decision, they do not realise that they themselves have made the decision. They feel that they are being weighed down by fate. Then they refuse to take their future into their own hands and expect others to decide for them. And then they start feeling sorry for themselves…
The quest for a child is almost always a journey of two people who have different ways of experiencing and knowing. For optimal decision making and acting, it is necessary to communicate with each other. Even when people do not talk about their problems together, they communicate. But the probability that they will find an optimal solution through such communication is, of course, reduced.
(Based on the book The Quest for a Child, Anshan, UK, 2008)