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Infertility is Like Getting Rejected from Your Dream Job Over and Over Again

If you haven’t yet read Tess Vigeland’s brilliant speech from the World Domination Summit, I can wait until you’ve looked that over.  It’s right here.  It’s long because it’s a written version of a spoken speech, not a blog post, but it’s worth dedicating the time to get all the way to the end.

You finished it, correct?  No?  Then go back and read the whole thing so I can talk about it.

The speech focuses on that concept of leaping without a net, of leaving what outsiders think of as an incredible job to do… what?  She doesn’t know.  She left without a game plan in place, and while everyone cheered on her bravery, she tells the true story of what it is like to step into nothingness, not knowing where your future is heading.

Hint: it’s really scary.

There are parts of the speech that many of us will never be able to relate to — for instance, the hold her old celebrity has over her:

But will anyone want to listen to me if I’m not some national journalist anymore? What if I decide to follow what I think might be another passion and go work for the Red Cross… admirably, but relatively anonymously? Do I lose all my Twitter followers and all the fans – strangers — who’ve friended me on Facebook? Will I disappoint all those people who think I was really great at what I did? Does it matter? Why do I care what other people think? I KNOW I’m not supposed to care – but I do.

How do I get back to remarkable?

But she also veers into very familiar territory such as knowing your passion and being denied your passion, a topic that most of us with infertility can easily relate to.

She tells a story about applying for a job with All Things Considered, a job which should have been a lock for an already successful radio journalist.  She interviewed well, she performed well, she got excellent feedback all around.  But she didn’t get the job.

I didn’t spoil that part of the speech because I told you above to read the whole thing.

She knew exactly what she wanted (the All Things Considered job).  She was well qualified for the job, so it wasn’t a pipe dream.  She did everything one would need to do to get this coveted job including exercising patience.  Throughout that section of her speech, I kept saying in my head, she is so going to get this job and this is going to be a speech about always trusting that things will work out.  And she freakin’ sucks for writing that because for many of us, things don’t work out.

Or they work out but at a very high cost.  Or, yes, it works out, but it certainly doesn’t look like what you thought you would get in the first place.  Sort of like applying for a job at All Things Considered and ending up with a job at Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.  Fun in its own right and prestigious too, but not the same thing at all.

That’s the NPR version of Waiting for Holland: you apply for a job at All Things Considered but end up at Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.

So she didn’t get the job.

And my heart — the same one that was cursing her for having things be so easy moments earlier — was now sinking on her behalf.

It’s not a things work out speech at all.  It’s a sometimes things don’t work out and how are you going to deal with that speech.

The job I wanted to get wasn’t one that anyone else could apply for.  I wanted to be a mother to my future kids.  There were no other applicants I was competing against; just my own uterine competency.  I did everything one should do once they get their heart set on being a mother and begin defining themselves by that position.  I took prenatal vitamins and had sex at the correct times and ate well and slept well and jogged on the treadmill.  And did my kegels.  And when I didn’t get the job of mother, I couldn’t even look at another person who got the job of utilizing my uterus and say, “fair enough; they were good too.”  There was no one else, just me.  Just me not getting the job.

Thanks, universe.

It’s not exactly the same thing except that having been through publishing, which is just like applying for a job again and again — you constantly need to apply to keep the job of writer by writing more publishable things — and infertility, I can tell you that the rejection (by a publisher or your body) feels frustratingly the same.  It really doesn’t matter why you don’t have the job.  What matters is that you don’t have the job.  And that sucks.  Hardcore.  And is very scary because you don’t know how many times you have it in you to apply to another dream position or to attempt again to make a baby.  By which I mean, emotionally have it in you.  It hurts a lot to be denied something you really want, something you thought you’d get.

I don’t get a sense that Tess Vigeland (and this is an assumption from the speech, and I apologize if it’s completely off) feels the immediacy of needing a job.  She is taking on freelance work to skate by, and there is (likely) a second income with her husband.  In other words, she doesn’t need a job because of the money, she needs a job because a job defines her, as it does for many people.  While, yes, she obviously needs money at some point, she can hold out for the best position.  She is not exactly in the same place as someone who leaves a job and now needs to scramble as quickly as possible to land a new one so there will be bread on the table.

Her urgency in getting a job comes down to happiness: not having a job makes her unhappy, and having a job brings her personal fulfillment.  And perhaps that is how I could leap from job search to infertility; because while infertility is not life threatening, it is certainly lifestyle threatening.  It is hard to be free-floating in that experiencing, not knowing when or how it will end.  The urgency that comes with treating infertility isn’t one of saving your life; it isn’t cancer or a staph infection or something you need to treat now.  And yet, for our own emotional comfort, it has the same immediacy of those diseases.  Because that urgency comes from alleviating the emotional pain that comes from being kept from something you know is right for you in your deepest heart.

I hope Tess Vigeland finds the job of her dreams again.

I hope everyone experiencing infertility gets the resolution they crave.


1 Karen (formerly Serenity) { 07.17.13 at 8:27 am }

I loved this on so many levels. The walking away part? Could be walking away from treatments, too. And then you are left with “now what?”

Thank you for sharing. Great speech.

2 a { 07.17.13 at 9:27 am }

I think the urgency is in the wanting and hoping. And the let-down of “it didn’t work, now what do I do?” is applicable to anything that you pin your dreams on. It’s not life or death, but it sure feels like it sometimes. I guess it’s life or alternate life – the one you didn’t plan out in your head.

Thanks for pointing me to this – it really resonated.

3 Katie { 07.17.13 at 9:31 am }

“Because that urgency comes from alleviating the emotional pain that comes from being kept from something you know is right for you in your deepest heart.”


Thank you so much for sharing this.

4 Peg { 07.17.13 at 10:38 am }

Great post! Thanks for pointing me in the direction of her speech.

5 Catwoman73 { 07.17.13 at 10:41 am }

Thank you so much for sharing, Mel. I loved Tess’ speech for so many reasons. I have walked away from the idea of having a nother child, and am trying to walk away from a career that I’ve been in for 15 years. I know these are the right decisions, but I’m TERRIFIED. And after reading her speech, I suddenly feel like it’s OK that I’m not feeling brave and confident. And I love the bit about redefining remarkable. Redefining my definition of success has been key in surviving all the upheaval that I’ve had in my life. Love, love, LOVE this!!!

6 loribeth { 07.17.13 at 10:55 am }

Thanks, Mel — I loved reading Tess’s speech, and yes, there are certainly parallels to be drawn…! I also sent the link to dh, who was pink slipped from his job of 24 years two months ago & is trying to figure out, at age 56, what he wants to do when he grows up. ; )

7 Alicia { 07.17.13 at 11:56 am }

Beautiful post Mel. I love the comparisons you make between the Tess’ quest and infertility. There really are a lot of parallels.

I hope everyone gets the resolution they’re craving too. It’s a long road and resolution can be hard to find.

Thanks for sharing the article and your thoughts! A great way to kick off a Wednesday morning!

8 GeekChic { 07.17.13 at 12:45 pm }

“The urgency that comes with treating infertility isn’t one of saving your life; it isn’t cancer or a staph infection or something you need to treat now. And yet, for our own emotional comfort, it has the same immediacy of those diseases.”

This was a really illuminating statement for me – someone who is childfree-by-choice and also has cancer. I’ve never felt the urge to have children and don’t understand it. I do understand emotional pain and the frustration of being kept from things.

As I try to understand the struggles of my friends facing infertility and loss, this post has been very helpful. Thank you.

9 Katherine A { 07.17.13 at 2:28 pm }

Thanks for pointing out this speech and your insightful commentary/post. It’s really what I needed to hear today. Thanks again.

10 Jessie { 07.17.13 at 11:30 pm }

Thank you for sharing this.

The other part of it that jumped out at me was her description of it being time to leave when you have too much self-respect to stay. Because that’s how it became in my marriage. I had never been willing to consider divorce before. Not because of religion, but because I saw it as taking the easy way out, like my parents, and I wasn’t going to do that. But I reached the point in my marriage where I had too much self-respect to stay, even to be able to try a cycle.

11 Pepper { 07.18.13 at 8:09 am }

This may be one of the best infertility analogies I have ever read. Also, I may be borrowing it the next time someone asks why we are adopting rather than pursuing A, B, or C – because it’s time to apply for a different job, people. Or at the very least, apply for it in a new way that might actually get it for me.

12 Sara { 08.02.13 at 10:45 am }

Great post! I think that for people in their mid-30’s or older, this analogy can be extended to the situation where money IS an issue. The palpable sense of “time is running out!” pervades the infertility experience for women of a certain age, in the same way that the experience of “money is running out!” pervades the experience of the unemployed without a safety net.

13 fifi { 08.05.13 at 8:13 am }

This occurred to me after an acquaintance told me I was “lucky” being childless because I could sleep in on weekends. Hey, if I was unemployed I could sleep in all week! But I’d never tell an unemployed person that they were “lucky” because of that.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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