On Saturday afternoon I got a DNF. Did Not Finish. I was participating in a long distance sea swim off the Dorset coast. It was supposed to be 2.5km; I managed 1.25km. It was choppy, I swallowed a significant volume of sea water. My nose clip kept falling off. Rolling in the waves, I felt I was making no forward progress. The motion and the saline intake were making me feel nauseous. It was all I could do to stop myself being swept backwards with the current. I was not having a good time.
After an exhausting 47 minutes, as I approached the start/finish area, I made the decision to go in, rather than attempt a second lap of the course. Disappointed? Yes. Right decision? Certainly. Better that than get in to difficulty and need to be fished out by the rescue boat. Other swimmers agreed that the conditions were tough, but, other than myself and two others, everyone completed the event. Many even did 3 laps.
I’m not sure whether it was my body or my mind that made me end my race early. Certainly it was very hard work, but one’s body will only do what your mind tells it. Maybe I could have struggled on, if only I had had the determination. I’ll admit, seeing the letters DNF on the results table was gutting. Its easy to have hindsight about how I could have done more; better, but I do think I did the right thing at the time.
DNF is a strange way of describing what happens when things don’t quite work out. In actual fact, I did finish. I finished half way through; I finished early. Had I genuinely not finished I would, presumably, still be out there. Would ‘Did Not Succeed’ be any better? Probably not.
At the risk of sounding like a 1990s motivational poster, maybe I need to remember that it’s not about the starting or the finishing. It’s about the (wait for it…. ) journey. Sometimes this fertility journey that we’re on feels a bit like that sea swim. Never moving forward in any tangible sense. The perception that other people are finding it so much easier than us to ‘finish’. Struggling against the tide. Wanting to get out, but knowing that the decision to stop and sit on the shore means admitting that it’s over, at least for the time being. You could tell yourself to keep going, and eventually need to be dragged out, or you could make a decision to stop.
My three pregnancies have been DNFs. These days, its more of a case of not starting. Treading water. But not quite ready to get out. Yet.