Random header image... Refresh for more!

SuperBetter: Losing and Infertility

So I’ve really gotten into SuperBetter and have expanded to reading the book while I fiddle around with the app.  I’ve put a link to both the book and app at the bottom of the post in case anything I write resonates with you and you want to join along.

Anyway, I’ve been sailing through the information, nodding nodding nodding until I hit a thought that triggered an internal question that will probably be familiar for many of you.  I should preface this with a fact: Jane McGonigal talks about her own infertility in the book, so it’s a familiar topic for the author.

Somewhere near the beginning of the book, she writes about how games get us comfortable with the concept of losing.  Think about the games you play: The vast majority of the time, you don’t win, right?  I mean, yes, you ultimately clear the board in Candy Crush or get all the cards to line up in Solitaire, but there’s a reason most games come with multiple lives or chances.  She even states later in the book: “Gamers, after all, spend on average 80% of the time failing when they play their favourite games” (p. 86).

I am completely fine with losing games.  I am about as competitive as a slug.  In fact, the slug may care more about the outcome of games that I do.  I’m not competitive in the real world, either.  I don’t run races or care what the neighbours are doing… I just don’t feel particularly moved over whether I “win” or “lose,” even in everyday life.

Except in one place.

Losing during a cycle triggered the deepest grief, and I still can’t explain the reaction to this day.  Was it because I saw the stakes higher?  That doesn’t sound quite right, since the stakes are pretty damn high when it comes to other facets of life such as career, marriage, or health.  Was it the time factor — both the idea that time mattered when it came to fertility AND the length of time between tries?  It’s very different when you have to wait a month or two for another chance to play vs. being able to drop in a quarter and hit start to play again.  The effort expended with no “win”?  But it didn’t matter if it was a medicated or unmedicated cycle: I reacted the same way every single time.

I ultimately never found a way to be comfortable with losing when it came to trying to conceive.  I cried and raged and internally begged my way through every cycle.  Would it have been different if I had used the concrete exercises in this book back then?  Or do we all have places in life that are untouchable; that are therapy-proof?

I don’t have an answer: It’s just an observation about myself.  That while I can be okay losing at lots of things, the baby making game isn’t one of them.

I’m writing about SuperBetter the app as well as SuperBetter the book because… well… I learned about them via a podcast and now I want to talk about everything I’m learning on them.  If you want to talk about them, too, join along.  If not, skip the posts marked SuperBetter.


1 dubliner in deutschland { 10.26.16 at 8:27 am }

Interesting theory. I can see how playing games does get you used to losing. But then you practice or improve yourself somehow and keep trying until you eventually win. The whole “don’t give up” mentality. Whereas when trying for a baby, you can try everything and still fail.

2 Charlotte { 10.26.16 at 9:11 am }

I think it is different because it is so very, deeply personal, in a way not many other things are. Losing in this way means not being able to function in a way that women are supposed to function…we are supposed to be able to procreate. So when a cycle fails, we have failed;our bodies have failed. They failed to do the one thing that separates us from the guys, the thing we get reminded of from a young age monthly.

3 Noemi { 10.26.16 at 9:16 am }

I think it’s different because winning in the TTC arena affects the rest of your life. I’m trying to think of another win or lose that would so drastically affect your every day life, the actual make up of your family. Maybe the “losing” of divorce, but there the win is less obvious because it’s more of a not losing.

I mean, with most other things there is still a chance to win later. Even if you “lose” when it comes to a promotion or other work goal, that still might happen later in your life. But if you ultimately don’t “win” at conception, there is no way to win it later (if you’ve stopped pursuing parenthood or another child). You just lost. And the opportunity to win is lost too. And now the rest of your life looks markedly different.

4 loribeth { 10.26.16 at 9:51 am }

Hmmm… I would venture to say that with games, we know there’s a high probability of losing; we lose games all the time, and we others losing as well. Losing at family building, however, is a whole other ball of wax. Not just because, as you said, the stakes are higher, involving human beings, but also because we see everyone else around us deciding to have families, and then just doing it effortlessly (or at least it seems that way) while we struggle endlessly. Something that seems to come so easily to everyone else and that everyone else sort of takes for granted makes it all the more difficult when it doesn’t come very easily to us.

5 Working mom of 2 { 10.26.16 at 9:52 am }

Interesting. I’m actually fairly competitive (and I can picture my 10 year old self seething when my friend won a board game). I didn’t experience infertility as a competitive or lose/win thing though. I wanted a baby, ASAP, and as the years went by I felt more desperate and hopeless. Certain things can still annoy me for a moment (e.g. coworker who got married around 36–the age I started ttc–and literally 9 mo later there’s a baby) but that’s more of a “really?!!” than a competitive feeling, and it doesn’t last long bc I have my miracles. (I would be devastated by such things if I didn’t have my miracles. But I still don’t view it as a competition thing.)

6 Cristy { 10.26.16 at 11:47 am }

Absolutely agree with this. I went into family building assuming it was a given and easy thing. Those losses would have been very different if it was generally accepted that this wouldn’t be easy.

7 Cristy { 10.26.16 at 11:49 am }

THe other aspect is that losing in a game usually doesn’t land someone with a label of “defective.” That’s how I felt most of the time while trying to expand my family. I failed because there was something inherently wrong with me. When I lose at games, I just assume I either need to try again or find something that I’m better suited for.

8 Beth { 10.26.16 at 1:10 pm }

For me I think it also had something to do with the fact that games are supposed to be somewhat outside of my control, as they are not a part of me. But my own body should be in my control and therefore there should be a way to “win.”

9 Valery { 10.26.16 at 3:53 pm }

I will not admit to being competitive. but that is because i cannot stand losing. I rather not play than lose. Totally hooked on Farmville 2 because it seems you always win.
When we planned the IVF and I had a natural miscarriage just before I didn’t mind so much at first, because I thought I had another chance. When it turned out I didn’t I only then started to feel the loss.

10 torthuil { 10.27.16 at 7:49 am }

So true. There’s a special kind of angst for infertility/subfertility. I think of it as gambling rather than a game. You can “set a limit and stay within it” or you can risk everything. Either way you hope for a lucky break to change your life, while not getting it a lot of the time.

11 katherinea12 { 10.27.16 at 11:47 am }

Really interesting, thought-provoking post. I think one of the big reasons infertility hit me so hard was the sort of unique combination of misery it brings. Not only was it a medical issue – PCOS has the power to affect me in significant ways other than fertility (such as increased diabetes risk) – it also was a huge financial issue (we spent, literally, enough for a full 20% down payment on the size house we were considering on just the failed fertility treatments we did), wreaked havoc with work schedules for me especially, and caused a lot of marital reflections (and, yes, sometimes fights). There was also this very strong sense of how finite our window to have a baby was (after all, even if we’d had more financial and emotional resources, there was a definite knowledge that every failed treatment had wasted precious time and if we took a break afterwards to reflect, more time/youth were running out of our hands). Every time a cycle failed, it meant “losing” bits of all of these things. Also the hormones – right about the time the cycle failed, I’d feel miserable thanks to the sort of natural period hormonal down swing.

12 Mali { 10.30.16 at 6:51 pm }

Interesting thoughts, and comments. I have to say I’ve felt the opposite. I’ve been quite competitive growing up, playing sports and competing in music and dance competitions, and also competing with siblings. I liked being top of my class, and knew that if I was motivated, I could stay there. I didn’t like losing, but was taught that the most important thing was to be a good loser, not a sore loser. I struggled a little with that.

Infertility therefore, was, as everyone says, a real shock, to find that losing wasn’t something I could do anything about. It made me kinder towards myself, more understanding of failure, because I knew that it wasn’t my fault. Maybe that came post-infertility, when I had no option but to accept it. Maybe that’s why, ultimately, it has been different for me?

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
The contents of this website are protected by applicable copyright laws. All rights are reserved by the author