Saturday, March 10, 2018


Failure is never fun. It never feels good. Especially when you've put your blood, sweat, and tears into your endeavors and have given it your all.

I almost failed high school chemistry. I just didn't understand the subject. And my teacher didn't know more than one way to explain the concepts. I kept doing my homework and studying for the tests, not understanding anything. To this day, I have no idea how I passed.

My first semester in college I had to take chemistry as part of the requirements for my biology major. I was really, really dreading it. But on the first day of class the professor explained his "No Fail" contract. If you went to every class and every review session, turned in every homework assignment on time, and kept a daily journal about what you did and didn't understand from lecture and turned it in at the end of the semester, you were guaranteed at least a D. I was relieved! It was actually going to be impossible for me to fail the course!! So, despite failing every homework assignment and every exam, I kept showing up. I went to all of the review sessions, again not understanding anything. I wrote in my journal every day after class about what the topics were and what I did not understand--which was, you guessed it, everything, but I tried to write in detail about what and how I did not understand. Then at the end of the semester he never asked for our signed contracts or our journals. So I looked up where his office was and trekked over to a part of campus I had never seen and to a building I had never been in. I nervously knocked on his door and he said to come in. I walked in to see a stereotypical scene, a professor writing furiously at his desk surrounded by piles and piles of papers everywhere. He said, "Yes?" obviously not recognizing me. (Chemistry was a very large class.) I said, "You never asked for our No Fail contracts or our journals in class, so I brought you mine to turn in." He stared at me for a second and said, "You did that?" And right then I knew I was the first student he'd had that had ever fulfilled the requirements of the contract. I said, "Well, yes. I don't want to fail the class." He said okay and asked my name and asked me for my journal, trying to find a spot in his office where he could set it down. I shared that chemistry was a difficult subject for me and thanked him for offering the No Fail contract. He smiled, said "you're welcome," and almost seemed entertained by me (but not in a condescending way). And you know what? After failing everything all semester, I got a C! I think by just doing all the requirements of the contract, he bumped my grade up from an F to a C. That is, by far, the grade I am most proud of in my life.

Which brings me to my biology course... It was the first class required for my biology major and the reason why I had to take chemistry in the first place. After going to every class and doing all of the readings, I still, yep, failed every exam. I was very concerned. I had wanted to be a marine biologist since I was a little kid, but how could I if I was failing the basic entry-level biology course? I went and talked to the professor. Who was also the head of the department. To say I was intimidated is an understatement. But he was very friendly and approachable and spent a good amount of time talking with me. Our meeting concluded with him basically saying to do whatever I wanted but he didn't think my calling was to be a biologist. Without putting me down at all, he encouraged me to explore other avenues. I took his advice and enrolled in the most random collection of classes the next semester in an effort to find something I felt passionate about learning. Not understanding the course numbering system, I inadvertently signed up for a senior level sociology course. And I loved it. After turning in our first assignment, the professor asked me what other sociology courses I had taken because she didn't recognize my name. I admitted I was a freshman but requested to stay in the class, assuring her that I knew it was my hardest class that semester and I was committed to putting in the time and the work it required. She let me stay and it was one of my most favorite classes of my life. I had found my new major.

So I've experienced failure. I've experienced disappointment. I've experienced having to change the course of my life when what I was doing wasn't working out.

But nothing prepared me for my "failure" to parent. Nothing.

Losing your children does not compare to failing a class. Not getting to parent and changing your entire life because of it does not compare to changing your major, even if you thought your career was going to be in one field your whole life and then it ended up being in a completely different field. There is no comparison between infertility and anything else.

But here I am. I survived. I survived two and a half years of taking my temperature every morning. I survived over four years of getting my period every month. I survived countless blood draws, injections, and ultrasounds. I survived five failed fertility treatments. I became an expert at failure.

And now I am failing my pediatrics course. Yes, after over 20 years of experience working with children, I am failing pediatrics. Yes, after digging deeper than I ever thought possible to find the will to engage in the world again and recreate my life, I am failing one of my last classes in my last semester of coursework.

I am stressed. I am angry. I am concerned.

I have attempted to set up a conference with the professor, but nothing has been scheduled yet. My classmates keep trying to tell me that it is fine, that it will all work out and that I will pass. But I cannot sit idly by, doing nothing, after everything I've been through.

There is no reason I should be failing. I blame the poorly designed assignments and the extremely poorly written exams. But here I am. I am failing the class.

Just like in the past, I will keep showing up. I will study my butt off for the rest of the semester. I will try to meet with the professor to express my concerns, and I am absolutely documenting my efforts to do so. I am keeping all of my study notes I have written as proof of my efforts and hard work. I will not go down without a fight.

I think I will pass.
I will be okay if I don't.
I am still going to move to a different state, and I am still moving on with my life.

Just like I've done with everything else so far, I will survive.


  1. Dear Phoenix, I know you will fight. Fight very hard if necessary. And I know you will pass the exam.

    I call this a fair fight - if you fight hard enough, you win.

    With infertility treatments - it is not a fair fight. I tried my best, I survived 10 failed treatments.

    I am keeping my fingers crossed for your last exams!!

    lots of love from sLOVEnia.


    1. Oh Klara, thank you so much!!! I like how you said this is a fair fight, unlike infertility which is not a fair fight. I hadn't thought of it like that, but I agree with you. Thank you!!

  2. Good luck Phoenix, I'm sorry to hear it's so poorly designed - how extremely frustrating when that's the cause

    1. Thank you. It is frustrating. I did get a conference scheduled so that's good. I hope everything turns out well and I am going to keep working hard until the end.

  3. Oh I love Klara’s comment! And I love your university memories! And I’m sorry this college program just keeps on sucking. But I think you will pass too: don’t let this defeat you! I hope my kids meet people like you growing up who can tell them the truth about striving and failing, because those are hard hard truths to learn but so important.

    1. Thank you torthuil! I take that as a great compliment, that you hope your kids meet people like me growing up. That's the kind of adult I have always tried to be with the kids I've worked with: honest about the hard truths of life but delivered with love, gentleness, and a sense of humor.

      And since you mentioned my university memories, you made me think of something. Yes, my current program sucks, but it's probably made worse by comparison because I went to such a great school for my undergraduate studies, a school with caring and accessible professors who taught very well. It's the complete opposite of what I am currently experiencing.

      Oh well I guess... I am glad I am so close to the end. Thank you for your vote of confidence!

  4. My take home lesson: infertility treatments are not a fair fight. I want to learn this world. I want to be the mom I want to be for my daughter and son in law as they go through this.

    1. Nope. Not fair at all. Getting to parent is not a merit-based endeavor. And I can't even begin to describe how devastating, isolating, and traumatizing infertility is while you're in the middle of it. It's awful and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

      Reading books, articles, and blogs may help you learn what it can be like for women and couples who have to deal with it.

      When you are grieving yourself (because it is also a grieving process for you), remember to "dump out, not in" as described in the article below. But also remember to preserve the couple's privacy at all costs. If you need to see a counselor to talk about your own grief (instead of a family member or a friend because the couple may not want to be open at this time about what they are going through), that's fine too. That's what I recommended to my mom even though she never did.

  5. I was completely going to say something along the lines that Klara did. I hate the word "failure" because it really doesn't sum up the commitment and effort people put in - to infertility, or to study, or anything else. But there are always variables - teachers who can't teach very well, for example. And so failure doesn't seem fair, anymore than "success" does for those who had it easy.

    And I'm so glad you finished with that last sentence. Because before I even read your post, I was thinking - "but you're a survivor. And that in itself is a huge victory."

    Good luck. And hugs.

    1. Thank you Mali. I had several tough weeks in a row and I really let everything get to me. What can I say, I guess I'm human haha.

      You are so right about the use of the word "failure." The word does not encompass all of the effort put in. In fact, I was talking to one of my classmates to get some new study technique ideas and the first thing she said was, "Well, it's not a lack of effort on your part." And I appreciated that. She agreed that the tests were poorly written and she thinks I just haven't figured out this particular professor's style.

      I'm not going to give up! :)