Monday, September 6, 2010

The availability heuristic

I'm in the office because I promised myself I would finish my talk for the California conference today. And I did! Yay ME! Now I just have to grade a few more of these craptastic papers (Sample: But, as time went on and great minds became exposed to head injuries as well as the effects of said injuries on a person’s personality and a person’s ability to function the thought that the brain and the mind are closely related to each other began to surface. The problems with that sentence, they are many.) and I can go home and watch more terrible movies.

But it seems that finishing the talk has created a little empty space that is now filling up with worries. It may also be the case that three days without speaking to another human being (except the grocery store clerk who sold me toilet paper) is taking a toll on my ability to stay chill.

I'm not freaking out. I'm still doing the one day at a time thing, but there's a growing sense of unease. And it's all thanks to the stupid availability heuristic. This is a basic bias in human thinking, and describes the fact that people think things are more probable as a function of how many examples they can bring too mind. It also captures the fact that simply thinking of an outcome makes us believe that outcome to be more likely. So this fucks me in two ways. I can bring to mind a great many examples of cases where rising betas were followed by miscarriage. I can bring to mind very few examples where rising betas were followed by healthy pregnancies. Second, because of the former and because of my own chemical pregnancy, I can vividly imagine the outcome where this pregnancy doesn't survive. But for whatever reason, I can't really imagine an outcome wherein I get a baby out of this. When I try to, my brain is like, WOOOOAAAH NELLY! Let's not go there. Let's just focus on this step. So does this mean I should go home and imagine a healthy pregnancy and a fat baby bunny as many times as I can to make that notion more available? I dunno, that just seems so reckless.

If you've got any words of comfort, let's have 'em. And please let this whole discussion not be moot after tomorrow's beta.


  1. There are about 7 billion people living on this earth and every single one of them is an example of rising betas that were followed by healthy pregnancies. (That terrible essay writing student of yours being just one unfortunate case.) Tomorrow's beta will be SO HIGH that you won't even know what to do with yourself.

  2. The problem (as I'm sure you realize) is that you've surrounded yourself with a population whose stories you know because they haven't turned out well, or if they have, it wasn't easy getting there. Maybe start reading No, that doesn't exist; I checked. But if all else fails, you can always check this one out; just the headline gave me hope: Hoping for huge, amazing betas tomorrow :), but sorry you've had rather an isolated weekend. :( (((Hugs)))

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  4. i hope your beta tomorrow is ridiculously high enough that your worry goes away. i can think of sooo many girls who are now well into their pregnancy who were living in fear every day that something would go wrong. and nothing did or has so far. leslie being a prime example, but i can name so many more.

    do you realize what feb 3, 2011 is? that starts the year of the rabbit ... how can you, a bunny, NOT have a bunny baby (or three)??? it's in the stars my friend. so, you must accept, bc it is happening :o) oh, and i fully expect for your nursery to have a bunny theme. bc elephants or giraffes or anything else will just *not* do for you :o)

    ps - another thing - i can list at least 10 girls who's beta's did not properly rise, and they're all well into their pregnancies (and some with twins). YOUR 2nd beta was uber high, so this doesn't put you in the same category!

    pps - that seriously long-assed sentence that your student wrote is worthy of getting him (i'm gonna guess pretty confidently that it's a he) an F!!

  5. ps - "richard" was me. hubby was logged in to gmail and i didn't realize when i tried to comment :o)

  6. Huge, huge excited CONGRATULATIONS!!! So happy to come home from vacation to this news that a lil bunny is on the way. AWESOME :-).

    I can think of so many women whose beautifully rising betas have led to successful pregnancies. Thinking of you and hoping for another perfectly rising beta tomorrow.

  7. stephanie/benjaminpenguinSeptember 6, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    I could never imagine a scenario in which I would actually bring a baby home. In fact, when I did finally achieve a pregnancy that I carried to term (after 4 losses), I still stared at the baby in disbelief after he was born. For the record, I never visualized taking home a healthy baby, and I did just that. So maybe visualization is nothing more than our mind exorcising our demons.

  8. Words of comfort? "Ah, it'll be fine." Doesn't really help does it? But I sincerely hope you will. And best of luck tomorrow.

  9. My therapist always tells me to imagine things turning out the way I want them to for the very reason that you mention - it always seems to be easier to pull out the negative from my overactive negativity outcomes file and that is reinforced over and over (apparently this is a protective measure for human beings WHAT? :) ).

    It sometimes helps me when I do this and it's a whole lot nicer to have these positive daydreams than the worry which is why I write it here for you.

    Hoping this helps in even a small way and doesn't annoy the hell out of you.


  10. fancy talk! i was referring to this same problem -- in my case, exacerbated by the fact that several members of a small online group i'm part of got pregnant at the same time i did, and then they ALL miscarried/had ectopics -- as PTSD by association. it did get a tiny bit better once i recognized that, but only a little. and you've already done that.

    however. you and i both have the advantage of being the kind of quasi-fertiles who don't get pregnant in the first place, as opposed to the sort that get pregnant relatively easily and then miscarry. (okay, you had the chemical, but you're past that stage now, so i say it doesn't count.) while i am aware that being one kind doesn't preclude being the other, i do think intellectual honesty requires subtracting the people on your "rising-beta-miscarriage" list who have had more than one miscarriage. you're likely not in their boat, so don't compare yourself to them.

    you also have to subtract anyone you know has miscarriage risks you don't -- like anyone much older than you are, for starters, cancer/radiation survivors, people who do IVF multiple times with bad fertilization rates (indicating some kind of genetic tomfoolery that you probably don't have), etc.

    now you're left with the folks whose boat you're actually in, right? and if your list is like mine, that's quite enough to be getting on with. BUT. you and i both know that we need to add to our boat all those happy, blissfully ignorant fertiles we see walking/waddling around all over the place. because the fact -- okay, circumstantial evidence -- is that you and i, minus some structural issues we've side-stepped (thanks, SCIENCE), are in their boat after all.

  11. I will agree with Finch.

    It's impossible for me to imagine a baby at the end either, so I just focus on a positive outcome for each step. I won't tell you not worry, because you undoubtedly will, but try to focus on the positive result for tomorrow, and also do something nice and relaxing.

    Note to behbeh bunny - deliver some sky high betas and stop making your mama worry already!

    Seriously though, I am sure the results will be excellent. xo Thinking of you.

  12. Hang in there. Try treating like a good analytical scientist, if there is no bleeding or cramping everything is o.k. Repeat this statement several times. Then try making some of tasty jelly doughnuts.

  13. Go read the pregnancy threads on baby center. Those gals rarely have a chemical or miscarriage. There are way more of them then us.

  14. Bunny, I'm more than halfway through this pregnancy gig and I *STILL* cannot imagine a conclusion that includes a naked, healthy squalling baby in my arms. When I try to imagine those first few moments after giving birth all I see is one giant question mark. This probably isn't much comfort, other than maybe to emphasize that this ubiquitous uncertainty will probably always lurk and linger in some capacity.

    I hear you on the availability heuristic. Combine the facts that A)my primary support group is a bunch of [rockin'] infertile ladies; and B)I spend my professional life working with sick NICU babies and mothers with hugely high risk pregnancies, and it's no fucking wonder that my brain is warped, that I can't truly relax into my pregnancy for an extended period of time, and that I usually find myself returning to a defensive state of mind. BLURGH. (This makes me sound like a miserable bitch, but I promise I'm not. ;)

    Good on you for finishing your talk! Best of luck tomorrow. My magic 8 ball says BIGGEST. BETA. RISE. EVER. :)

  15. I am living proof you can come back from the near dead Bunny. I am walking, talking and finally now mothering PROOF of encouragement. Vague? Yeah, I know, but now isn't the time to unload it all.

    Cracking up at Baby Center and

  16. I also have to agree with Finch.

    With Monkey, I was in denial from the first BFP, all the way through "One more push and he's out."

  17. I think I am for getting on the pregnancy train and going Whoo-hoo! It won't make it hurt any more if for some horrible (statistically unlikely, let's remember) reason something goes wrong. So why not be let yourself be excited in a present-minded, step by step kind of way?

  18. Thinking of you today - hoping that beta is nice and strong!

  19. Everything is fine, everything is fine, everything is fine.

    I know, it is soooo hard b/c we all know VERY WELL how badly things can go. I feel that I'm walking on eggshells every single day. But you will get thru it. And so will Bunny Jr(s)! Ahhh, to be a gloriously naive fertile.

  20. bunny.... i hear you barking! (or hopping?) i really do. it seems we're in the same boat right now. i'm not sure what time you're expecting your results today but i'm wishing, hoping and praying for a big fat number for you and for me! we deserve this bunny - we really fucking do!

  21. Oh if you figure this out, I want to know!!
    But Finch is right. Once you ignore us on the blogs -- and there is just HUGE sample bias in this group, so you basically can't pay attention to anything you read here because it is statistically meaningless -- then you actually have to look around you and see that there are real, live babies and children and frankly adults everywhere, and women hugely pregnant, and I'm guessing that many of the people you know also just got knocked up and had babies without all of this stress.
    Wishing you just huge amounts of luck with this beta today.

  22. I love the availability heuristic concept. Totally. I just read the wikipedia article that you linked to, and did not find it one bit comforting. Specifically: "whereas more common causes of death, such as medical error, tend to be widely under-reported." Greeaaaat.

    I also love Lay Pumpkin's link to the neurotic woman article... funny! Se, I KNEW relaxing didn't do shit.

    I also have to concur with Sienna's assessment of me. Those hits of information that the baby is still ok only last a day or 2. I need some stronger stuff... maybe when the kicks start up in earnest?

    Anyways... it's a long haul. Worry is the name of the game for, well shit, probably the rest of our lives. Or the rest of our children's lives, whatever comes first (knock on wood, I better fucking die first!).

    Ooh, and 2/3/11 starts the year of the rabbit? I should look up what this year is. My due date is 2/4/11, so, should this actually result in a baby, it could go either way!

  23. p.s. Congratulations on getting your talk written! That's huge! I wish I could see you give it, I bet it's BRILLIANT. And you can wave to me if you pass over So Cal in the plane...