There is Always Hope. A lovely and inspiring Banksy graffiti in London.

On Hope and Infertility

In Fertility by The Modern Belly18 Comments

Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing.Shawshank Redemption

It was the first day of a new cycle and I was about to start injectables for the first time. I was taking a shower, thinking about the days to come, when I suddenly found myself hoping. Hoping that the new treatment would yield better results than all the ones that preceded it. Hoping that this cycle we’ll finally hear good news. I caught myself and hurried to keep the hope in check and push those dreams out of my head, but it was too late. A glimmer of that hopeful feeling remained, like the droplets that show up on your shirt when toweling off hurriedly after a shower.

One of the things that infertility taught me early on is that hope can be a dangerous thing. Time and again, I got excited about a new treatment, a new opportunity, only to find myself facing another disappointment. I learned that no matter how many times I’ve been through this, the moment of finding out I’m not pregnant would be as big a letdown as ever. If I wanted to take some of the sting out of the bad news, I needed to lower my expectations and prepare myself for the worst. Hope just got in the way.

I’m a natural-born pessimist, so expecting the worst comes naturally to me. When my husband and I rush to catch the train, he always assumes we’ll get there in time and I always assume we’ll be late (he’s right more often than I am). I find it quite easy to expect a treatment cycle to fail, and it does help soften the blow of a negative pregnancy test. Yet despite my best efforts and my natural inclinations, I often catch myself hoping, daydreaming about positive outcomes, like that day in the shower.

It got me thinking, why is it that we hope? Even when it seems to go against our common sense. Even when it seems ‘healthier’ for us not to. Even when we resist.

I think it’s because hope gives us the strength to carry on. When I feel like I should eliminate hope from this process, I’m thinking short-term. I want it because I know it will help alleviate some of the pain of a potential disappointment. But if I really thought that all that’s waiting for me in the future is just more failure and regret, why should I even proceed? Why should I subject myself to injections, blood tests, multiple doctors’ appointments? Hope is what helps me see the bigger picture, the long-term potential of getting what I’m longing for. It’s stronger than shortsighted calculations on how to manage misery. It’s what keeps us going.

Yes, hope can put us at risk of failing once again, but those who don’t even try, don’t give themselves the opportunity to succeed. The ability of hope to find a way into our hearts, even in the darkest times, is what propels us to try and try again. It’s what keeps us moving forward, knowing deep inside that we’ll find what we’re looking for down the road, no matter how long and winding it is.

I started with a quote from Shawshank Redemption, and I want to end with one too, because I think this film captures really well the enduring spirit of hope. As much as we might perceive hope as dangerous sometimes, we only need to take a step back to realize what a powerful and almost invincible thing it is:

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

Notes: The beautiful photo of Banksy’s graffiti ‘Hope’ is copyright (c) 2004 Scott Burnham and made available under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license.
The link to stream Shawshank Redemption is an affiliate Amazon link, and I may receive a small commission if you click on the link and make a purchase. Thank you for supporting The Modern Belly by purchasing through this link!



  1. Thank you for such a beautiful post, I am a natural pessimist as well or realist as I called it myself. I am going thru a rollercoaster of emotions today, After the typical 2wpo my pregnancy test came out negative. I was searching this morning about infertility and found your blog n this post made me feel a little better even after the bad news. My husband is not doing so well today, he was sure i was pregnant. This is my second round of femara and ovidrel w natural intercourse. We had a Mc at 6 wk in january this yr and although everything is normal n i ovulated on my own, it doesnt seem to happen for us. We have been ttc for a yr now. Should i just give up on fertility treatments? should i keep going w it ? Should i not try anymore? This are all things that cross my mind but at the end of the day, i hope that we can concieve one day. I guess hope is the only thing the remains. My husband is very sensitive n he just feels defeated and/or preassure. How did your husband deal w all of this emotions? Did you undergo IVF? Any advice on the next steps to take? My dr’s nurse said to do one more round of femara or meet w the dr again and eval options.

    1. Author

      Thank you for your kind words. If there’s something we’re all so familiar with in the infertility community, it’s that sense of defeat every time we see the negative pregnancy test. It really is an awful feeling. Only you know what feels right for you and your husband – to keep going on or not – but I can share from my own experience that every cycle I felt like I never want to go through another round of fertility treatments, but I wasn’t willing to stop trying just yet. My husband struggled with these feelings too, and I know he often blamed himself for our situation, but we always talked about our feelings and assured each other that we’re there for one another. Our hope and mutual support is what kept us going. There are still so many options available for you – doing injectables instead of Femara, IUI, IVF… I know it sometime feels like this would never happen, but please remember that you are far from running out of options! Good luck in your journey, and I truly hope you’ll soon be back here to update that you’re pregnant.

  2. Found your website as I’m going through the infertility struggle. This post really spoke to me because I’m waffling with the dichotomy of trying to stay hopeful and positive, but knowing I need to be guarded and realistic to protect myself if/when something goes wrong. Thank you for writing this and sharing your story.

    1. Author

      Thank you! I hope that like many of us, you’ll find yourself feeling increasingly happy and optimistic as your pregnancy progresses, and the worries will give way to excitement for what’s about to come.

  3. My blog is called When Agony Met Hope… I’m the Agony half, but to say I’ve been without hope this whole time would be a lie. I have had so many moments of, “Wouldn’t it be funny if…?” or “If we ended up pregnant this way, wouldn’t that make the best story ever?” And then reality smacks me in the face like a cast-iron frying pan. It hurts every time. So you try to protect yourself (try being the operative word here), but that doesn’t always work the way you hoped it would.

    I wonder where the line between realist and pessimist gets drawn. I think I fall more firmly in the realist camp, but sometimes reality feels like pessimism. Maybe? I don’t know.

    This: “I think it’s because hope gives us the strength to carry on.”

    Yes. I think so, too. It’s something my husband knows and accepts that I fight in an effort to protect. But maybe I need to start embracing it a little more.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    1. Author

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I honestly don’t know if I could do agony without hope. Reality can hurt so much, but I suspect that without hope’s comforting qualities it might have hurt even more.

  4. Hope…definitely a dangerous thing at times, but one that is oh, so, needed. I used to have this quote on my blog, which I feel is a lot the same:
    It’s hard to wait for something you know might never happen;
    but it’s even harder to give up when you know it’s everything you want.

    Good luck!
    Here from ICLW.

    1. Author

      I agree. Given everything we’ve been through, realist is probably a better way to put it than pessimist…

  5. Lovely post. Hope is a wretched thing, I’m… well not exactly a pessimist, let’s say realist but despite logic telling me to go in one direction hope is always there, trying to sneak up and change my mind. Hope carried me through the 6 years it took to get my son and then the 5 years it has taken to get close to a sibling. The big picture, the one Hope is pushing like a neighbourhood drug dealer, drew us back every time we tried to shut it down. I am ever so glad though, even if at times I wished to be left alone.

  6. Great post and thanks for stopping by my blog. You’re right…it’s almost like we can’t help but hope and I think that’s actually a good thing. Where would we be without hope?

    1. Author

      Exactly. We can’t help but hope, and I’m grateful that hope sticks around even when I try to push it out the door…

  7. HOPE is one of the few things I did cling to with each new cycle. I clung to it so dearly that I bought a silver bead with that one word on it for my bracelet. I continued to keep my hope with each failed cycled. Even when my first donor egg cycle failed I kept hope though I did cry. The second cycle was a success and I now have my daughter. I now keep hope in my heart for each of my infertile cysters (sisters) out there that they may find their paths peace if not to motherhood.

    1. Author

      Thank you for your encouraging words, Rebecca! I love the bracelet idea.

  8. Lovely post. I am natural pessimist as well, and get so scared when hope creeps in. Thanks for the reminder that it is hope that is the reason why we keep going.

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