Expectations & Assumptions

First of all, I want you to know that I'm doing well. Truly, not just on the surface but I really am happy. Sometimes I think my musing on these posts gives the impression that I am still in the depths of the struggle, but I sincerely feel that I'm in a good place. And just I want to tell you about how I got to a good place so you better understand me, and so you see how I can relate to you.

To give you some background, for a round of IVF you go through an uncomfortable set of hurdles in order to even have the chance to get pregnant. And what is the anticipated outcome? That you will indeed be pregnant (seems obvious right?). You put in a ton of work, and the day of the blood test/results is filled with an almost unbearable amount of pressure and stress. And for us, disappointment, shock, sorrow, confusion, etc. have been the continuous result. It has felt like the end of the world every single time. You don't think you can be in a worse place, then it happens again. The disappointment of years of trying piles up, and more frequently than you can fully recover, you've been dealt another jab, and another. Every month, then more intensely every time you complete fertility treatments. Quite frankly, I felt like the last straw was when we had our miscarriage, which was after the second round of IVF. But then we mustered every ounce of hope we could and tried another round of IVF---I was certain that we were having twins. Certain. Not certain like, that would be cool and we have a good chance, but certain because we used two of our precious embryos and I had personal experiences that led me to believe we would have twins. Then the blood test came back completely negative. I had been pushed over the cliff, and I began this long trek to find my way back up.

Throughout the process of counseling, I've had some mind blowing realizations. You know when you talk to someone outside of your situation and they say something that makes you sit back and go, "Whoa. That has never crossed my mind before, but it makes so much sense." So with my counselor knowing my background, one day we discussed the devastation I have felt after each IVF failure, more specifically the most recent attempt that seemed unbearable. In our discussion, she taught me a new way of thinking. [This isn't the exact conversation, but the gist of it as best as I can summarize. She is so much more loving than this might sound in order for me to get the point across.]
Counselor: So you did a round of IVF, and you expected what outcome?
Me: To be pregnant
C: And pregnancy seems to be a destination of sorts, although it is also a transition into parenthood. But what if pregnancy wasn't the destination this time around, and this round of IVF was merely one step of your full journey to becoming a parent?
Me: ...confused/I don't know if I want to hear that...
C: Is it possible that you put the expectation on yourself and on this round of treatment that it has to be the solution, the time that gives you a baby?
Me: ...still confused, but wondering...
C: [backing up in reasoning a bit] Is it absolutely certain that a round of IVF will work?
Me: No, it's not
C: Did you possibly impose that expectation on the IVF treatment--that it must work, or else?
Me: Yeah, probably (definitely yes)
C: So do you think it might be unnecessary to impose that expectation that this must work, and it would be the worst thing in the would if it didn't?
Me: Yeah I guess it might be unnecessary, although I haven't thought of it that way.
C: Do you have to create that expectation going into a fertility treatment...or anything for that matter? Maybe it would be less painful when it doesn't work if you remove that expectation.
Me: You're probably right (And honestly, less painful is what I'm looking for)
C: Do you think it might be possible to move forward without an expectation that the next thing you do has to be the thing that works? And instead change your approach toward the idea that each thing you do is part of a journey, not the last possible attempt that would be life-crushing if it didn't turn out how you hoped?
Me: (Mind blown)

I realized through this conversation and some pondering that there are many things we live our lives assuming, which is generally in innocence, and which assumptions/expectations seem somewhat reasonable to count on...until unexpected events happen, goals are not reached, or solid aspects of your life crumble. Then we have this internal conflict filled with confusion and disappointment. We may blame others, God, or ourselves without the right perspective. I'm learning that we can instead assess our assumptions and expectations, and let go of them to decrease some of this pain. This might not make a ton of sense, so I'll try to give some clear examples.

Here are some assumptions & expectations I always counted on, that I've had to let go in order to live my life more fully:
-Expectation: When you follow fertility guidelines, you get pregnant (That's what you expect, right?)
-Expectation: If you do a round of IVF, you definitely should get pregnant (An expectation that justifies and gives purpose to the whole process)
-Expectation: Once you are pregnant, you soon give birth to a baby (Another expectation that causes trauma when miscarriage occurs)
-Assumption: Heavenly Father wants me to have children in this life, in fact, He wants me to have them right now because I've felt good about that idea.

Now here are some more general expectations & assumptions (that also apply to me, but maybe you'll find these more relatable). Notice that every single one of these has exceptions and opportunities for disappointment:
-Expectation: Because I received an answer to prayers to do X, doing X should have a positive outcome or get me what I prayed for.
-Expectation: If I try hard to make the best choices in my life, I will have my basic needs met because God loves me (health, safety, love, respect, etc.) (I realize this rides on the assumption of a loving God in the first place)
-Expectation: If God has commandments and I'm willing to follow them, I will be able to fulfill all the commandments in this life (entering the temple, marriage, having children)
-Assumption: Failure at something I felt I was supposed to do means Heavenly Father wasn't helping me, or maybe I wasn't really supposed to do it (causing self-doubt & doubt in God)
-Assumption: I will receive recognizable confirmation from God that ____ is something I should/shouldn't do if it means a lot to me.

Each one of these expectations is flawed, and there are many exceptions to each one, right?? (I find it funny that expectations and exceptions are such similar words) But these expectations still take root in our hearts and lead to some really negative feelings when they go unmet.

How much extra pain did I drag myself through while allowing these expectations to decide the amount my Heavenly Father did/didn't love me? Or how much I could/couldn't handle? The clash of reality with my expectations is what strained my relationship with God, with myself, made me question spiritual promptings I had, all instead of recognizing it was my own ideals causing some of this pain. Once I realized that what I thought was a given was actually just an expectation, I suddenly felt like I had power to let go of those expectations. I had power to say, "I'm not going to let my happiness and sense of worth be determined by that blood test, even though it's incredibly important to me. I'm going to choose not to expect that this will for sure work, and if it doesn't work I'm going to take ___ route instead of allowing it to rob me of my life."

Now I'm not saying let's all just expect, hope for, assume, and rely on nothing. That doesn't foster hope, and it's ignoring things that we should count on. But I am trying to point out that maybe sometimes, our degree of disappointment/sadness with an unexpected situation (or even another person) is more severe because of the expectations we created surrounding the situation (person) rather than the reality of the situation. This also isn't me saying, "Instead of being devastated about something life-changing, just change your attitude and expectations and you'll be fine." No. This whole idea is more an attempt at decreasing some degree of future suffering by not creating a story I expect life to go by, and not tying deeply-important beliefs about self worth and happiness to how life measures up to that beautiful but extremely optimistic story. Look at the goals you've set for yourself. Examine the aspects to your life as they are right now. What expectations do you have for the future? What assumptions have you made about the way your life is supposed to be/will be? What do you have that you could lose, but you assume it would never be taken away because that would be too hard? Is your happiness and willingness to submit to God tied to those things? Can you let go of some of those expectations, or at least realize they are in fact only assumptions/expectations, not a given?

I hadn't realized my expectations could be shifted so easily and that in the midst of no relief to a situation I could claim power over it simply by removing my expectations of it. Decide to do things because you are strong enough to give life your very best try and to act on what you feel is right, and you'll more easily accept where your attempts take you with no preconceived, rose-colored idea of what the results of your efforts should be. Let go of some expectations, but continue to make goals and act on them. It's not easy, and I'll need a lifetime to practice recognizing and adjusting my expectations, but the mere effort of realizing has changed how I approach the future.

I love this quote by Mandy Hale. It reminds me that these concepts apply to joyous moments that are sometimes robbed by our expectations, as well as devastating moments that can be softened by letting go of the expectations unmet.


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