The Bulls-Eye Method
by Stephanie Fry
During my first IVF cycle I lied a lot.
I lied to my friends, my family, my co-workers, my boss. I even lied to complete strangers.
What did I lie about?
Oh, you know, the usual…where I was going, what I was doing, why I was so tired. Why I was upset. I lied about my treatment, its length and details. I lied about small things and big things too.
(Side note/rant: Yes, I am ok with the fact that I lied. While I obviously don’t advocate lying in general, fertility treatment lies operate under a different set of rules. Treatment isn’t easy to go through and very hard to explain to those who don’t understand. The realities of going through a cycle, the possible loss, pain, confusion and the roller coaster emotions that go with it merit a free pass. It’s about survival, privacy and personal choice. And often, it is just way easier.)
Why did I lie?
For two reasons. First because I had no idea there would be so many ‘explainable’ moments and therefore didn’t have a plan. Having to explain absences at work, random crying jags, blood draw bandages, bruises on my thighs ( a lovely side effect during a summer cycle) and the like took me by surprise.
The second reason was because I was crazy emotional. On a good day, one of those days when I just knew that the cycle would work it was easy, even fun to share information. But on a bad day, a day when I got poor monitoring results or some other off-putting info, look out. Never mind sharing information, I could barely speak.
So, one day I would share some details of my cycle and another I would hedge. I would tell a friend or a co-worker I was headed to monitoring on Monday and on Wednesday I wasn’t willing (or able) to share the same info with the same person.
By the end of the cycle there was no way I could remember who I had divulged information to and on what level. So when someone asked about treatment or referred to my childless state (yes, they did!) I hemmed and hawed and skirted issues. Too often I inadvertently divulged information I didn’t mean to or the opposite happened and I under-shared (or got caught in one of my lies) and then had to back pedal.
A tangled web, certainly.
Because of this I was on edge, trying to remember who I told what, what details I gave or what questions to expect. I avoided people, racked my hormonally cloudy brain and gave it all way to much thought. The tangled web took up too much of my precious energy.
By the time my second cycle started I figured out how to fix the problem.
I came up with what I call, The Bulls-Eye Method. Basically, a simple way to define, categorize my personal network that allowed me (and my husband) to figure out what we were comfortable sharing with each group. For the outer rings I created ‘stock answers’ so I would be ready when I needed to ‘explain’ something or when unexpected (and expected) questions arose. This finally allowed me to stop the constant wondering, backtracking and (ineffective) lying.
If you aren’t familiar, a bull’s-eye is a circle. One circle which is surrounded by layers of concentric circles. It can be defined as an established point from which the position of an object can be referenced.
Here is what my Bulls-Eye and surrounding circles looked like. We (my husband and I) were the center circle and the outer circles became a simple way to categorize our personal network while keeping ourselves comfortably protected and at the center of things.
- The Center Circle: My husband and myself, the only two people privy to everything. Every detail, emotion, plan, thought, tear, joyous moment, question and more. This was our sacred space, no one else in or out. Us, fighting together.
- The Inner Circle: My immediate family and a few close friends. Privy to almost everything. They got dates, times, tests, results, you name it. These people knew me well enough to know that I wanted to control the conversations about my treatment. And while they were ‘in-the-know’ they did not call and ask questions, demand information or offer unsolicited advice. They were always there for me but never intrusive. For example, if I was headed to a monitoring appointment they knew it and would eventually hear how it went. Sometimes via cell to and from.
- The Third Ring: Friends and Relatives. This group knew we were in treatment and knew some details but my hard and fast rule was no dates and no numbers. “Yes we’re in a cycle, yes its going well and we’re hopeful (or sometimes not)”. Being vague about the whole thing allowed me to let people know our results when I was ready, not a moment sooner. To continue with the monitoring example, On the way to a monitoring appointment I was ‘Off to check in with my fertility clinic.” If they pressed, I went with ‘Just checking to make sure nothing has changed”.
- The Outer Circle: Co-workers, neighbors, distant relatives, strangers just about anyone who knew we’d been married for over five years and would likely want kids. This is the requisite ‘we’re working on it’ group, or ‘oh yes definitely someday’. Followed by a swift change of subject! As for the monitoring example – it doesn’t apply, that would be way too much info for this group.
So go ahead and try it out. Make a list of your ‘circles’ and what you feel comfortable sharing with them. Come up with a few stock answers or lines to deliver to the outer rings and commit them to memory.
You can structure your bull’s-eye and circles any way you like with as many or as few circles as you are comfortable with and hopefully it will give you a quick way to field questions about your treatment without feeling like a deer in the head lights.