When you are infertile the last thing you want is advice or tips from any one, especially fertile people or even infertiles who are now pg. So this is not an advice post, these are just the things that kept me relatively sane and functioning through out my 4.5 years of infertility. Every body is different, use them, don’t use them, perhaps some might help.
Your loyalty lies to yourself first
One of the things I learnt is that life is too short, and sometimes too damn hard, to do things because of social niceties or obligations. Baby showers, parties, dinner invitations, all of these, only go when you want to go, when you feel you can deal with the situation or the company, and if you are feeling too fragile DON’T GO. They don’t NEED you to be there. They would like you to, but they don’t NEED you to. Sometimes you need to protect your own heart more than you need to do the ‘right’ thing. The right thing for you is to look after yourself.
The way I judge things is who has the greater NEED. If your pg sister or friend is in a bad way and needs you there, you will be there, I know. But if your pg sister or friend WANTS you to listen to her talk about the pg, well I am afraid your need not to listen is greater. When a really good friend of mine got pg on her first IVF I said to her “I need not to talk to you for a while, I’ll be back, but for now I need to stay away”. She understood, I did come back and things are great between us. But in the beginning, I needed not to be around her for a while.
Decide whether you are in or out the closet.
The advantage of being out the closet is that your friends and family know and hopefully understand why you don’t attend baby showers etc. Your potentially anti-social behaviour becomes a little more understandable. My friends and family gave me a lot of leeway because they knew of my situation. If there was a lunch or some do they would say “I would love you to come but be warned there will be lots of kids and babies there”. That way I could decide whether I was up to it or not, and they understood.
The disadvantage of being out the closet is that you have 754 million people who you let down each time you have a negative, or so it feels. Instead of one phone call to your husband telling him of the negative, you have to make 80 phone calls. There is a downside. Perhaps limit the amount of detail you share.
Educate those around you.
The more your family and friends understand about your situation, the easier it is for you. Even if it is just sending them this link at least they might hopefully be a bit more sensitive. If we can get just one person to stop saying ‘just relax’ we will have helped the sisterhood.
I swear I could practically do my own cycles if it wasn’t for retrieval and transfer. I found that educating myself made me feel a little more in control. And control is so hard to come by in this process. But beware of the old adage ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’. Don’t google yourself into a frenzy. No you do not have all of those scary problems you have just discovered on the net. Discuss your theories with your Dr and online friends.
Get online support.
A genuine sanity saver for me has been getting online support through bulletin boards etc. I have met the most amazing people and made some life saving friendships. It is such a relief to be with people who get it. To be able to bare your soul to kindred spirits. Go online, there are many many bulletin boards and support groups, each in different flavours to suit your personality. Some all happy skippy and positive, others filled with cynical humour and the occasional swear word. Find one where you feel at home.
But leave when it gets too hard to stay.
Hopefully you will be among the first or even majority to get pg, but if you are one of the last few and it hurts to stay, leave. Find another support group for people who have perhaps been around a little longer. Remember, your loyalty lies with YOU first. I’ve left a few support groups as the last man standing, and still managed to keep a few of the friendships. Don’t hang around pg people, even former infertiles, unless you WANT to. Remember, it’s you first. They are pg for goodness sake, they are happy.
Get help if you need it.
About two years into the process I hit a particularly bad period, where the sadness, pain, bitterness etc was threatening to consume me. I had cut myself off from every one and the overriding emotion I had was anger. I was filled with a dark rage against every one and every thing. It was an impotent rage, as there was no one I could direct it at, and no solution in sight. That was my darkest time. It was then that I finally bowed down to gentle pressure from my family to go see ‘someone’. A therapist, a psychologist or whatever. I didn’t want to go, I thought ‘what’s it going to help? I’ll walk in there infertile and I will walk out infertile, speaking to some quack wont change my reality’. And it doesn’t change your reality, that’s right, but it can help you deal with that reality. I ended up being diagnosed as clinically depressed (no shit Sherlock!) and was asked if I would like to go on anti-depressants. Again I rebelled at the diagnosis and the need for pills. But thank God I took them, literal lifesavers those wonderful pills. What a relief not to be so furiously angry the whole time. They don’t change your reality, they don’t make you not sad, or obliviously happy. It’s just that the pain, sadness and anger no longer threaten to overwhelm you. They are there, but so so much more manageable. I could concentrate more so I did much better at work, I actually managed to laugh again, I slept much better at night and one of the best side effects was I lost weight. Ok you are not supposed to get excited about that, but come on, losing weight, YAY!!! Prozac and its generics are safe to take while cycling, TTC and even while pg. And remember you might have to kiss a few frogs (therapists) before you find your prince. Some therapists are assholes, move on from them.
Take breaks between cycles.
For various reasons. Mentally, physically etc. From a physical point of view I firmly believe your body needs a break from the terrible stress of a cycle. My worst cycles have been those that were done back to back. From my second IVF I decided to take three month breaks between cycles, best decision for me. It felt like a holiday, knowing that for three months I could live like a normal person, drink wine, have fun etc. Emotionally and mentally it does wonders, and I found my response was so much better. Don’t let the loudly ticking (screaming) clock rush you into doing cycle after cycle. Even if you take just a month or two as a break.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
Yes, apparently some people do conceive on their first IVF, or even their second. Unfortunately not all of us do. Don’t compare yourself to other infertiles or even worse, fertiles! It will get you nowhere. That’s them, you might be different. Compare yourself to me, you will always come off better ;-)
Don’t EVER consider yourself less worthy.
Remember child abusers, murderers and drugs addicts get pg. So getting pg is certainly not about worthiness. If it was we would all get pg easily, because we are damn fine, strong, intelligent, not too bad looking women. Clearly intellect is not a requirement in getting pg. Or else those dumbasses would be infertile. I know some pretttty thick fertile people. (and of course some pretty cool ones as well)
Being infertile is not your fault, or because of something that you did in the past. Even if your diagnosis is blocked tubes caused by your wanton past – please! How many mothers today weren’t big bonkers in their day. If every one who shagged around or had an abortion in their past was punished by being infertile, there would be a whole lot more of us around. STOP blaming yourself. Gets you nowhere.
Also never doubt your femininity or womanhood on your reproductive ability. Being able to have a shag and get knocked up doesn’t define femininity. Last time I checked the requirement for being categorized as being female meant having XX chromosomes, not a sparkling uterus and shiny eggs.
Doing IVF is nothing to be embarrassed about.
In fact I am actually damn proud that I did IVF to get pg. My husband feels the same. It shows our strength and determination to reach our goal. I mean, really, having sex to get pg, how Last Season!
Also, don’t be embarrassed about how many IVF’s you’ve done. Who cares!!! Some people might think you are obsessive (so what??) or that you don’t know when to stop. WRONG. You might not know exactly when you will stop, but you know it is not with this IVF, not right now. You do as many as you want to do. I applaud you for your determination and strength. If you only want to do one, that’s your choice. I honestly don’t give a flying fuck what other people think of my efforts. Let them walk in my shoes and then we can talk.
Decide on how many different versions your happily ever after could take.
For some people any thing beyond sex is too much. For others IVF is a step they wont consider. Every one is different, but the most liberating thing for me was the decision that I would do whatever to have a child, if it meant DE, adoption, whatever. Never having to face the end of the road helped me stay on the road. This is not for every one. That’s ok, between you and your husband decide on how far you are prepared to go, it makes the process seem less endless.
Always have a Plan B.
This one kept me sane. I was so anal about having a plan B that at the beginning of each cycle I had the money saved up and time allocated for the next one. It made the negative just a bit easier to deal with knowing that I had a back up plan, something to look forward to, in a warped kind of way. Again, trying to wrest some semblance of control in this crazy chaotic situation.
Don’t live like a nun.
Drug addict teenagers get pg while jumping on trampolines. Ok, I am not the best example to follow (no self control and an overwhelming fondness for wine and cigarettes), but seriously, take those breaks between cycles and eat sushi, drink wine, bonk for fun and just be ‘normal’ for a while. When I first started I stopped smoking, drinking, having caffeine etc. My body was my temple and all that crap. Well it got me nowhere and after about two years of that crap (I was never good at denying myself) I thought fuck that, if I am going to be infertile I might as well enjoy what I can. So drank wine again, had the occasional smoke (ok more than occasional) and had fun. And had the best cycles since starting. My 100% implantation rate last cycle (4/4) and this cycle (2/2) was done drinking wine through out stims and the odd smoke. Ok, don’t follow my example but get the gist of it, going through this shit is hard enough with out having to live like a nun.
I don’t have much advice on this but I know it is important. I was very fortunate that our trials brought us closer together, it doesn’t always work that way. I am sure other people can give you better advice here, suppose like talking or whatever. What worked for me was I took charge and he pitched up when told. I preferred not to have him too involved lest he see how completely obsessed I really was or how much money it was costing us. What you don’t know and all that. But that was what worked for us, we are odd. But make sure you and your husband are on the same page. This infertility shit can wreck a marriage quicker than an affair.
Be kind to yourself
Infertility is effin hard. It sucks, it is effin unfair. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. So you are allowed to be sad, to cry, to shout, to feel sorry for yourself. You don’t have to be brave and strong all the time. Get help, go online and chat to your online buddies. It’s hard, but you don’t have to be alone in this. Do what works for you.
Don’t develop amnesia
When you eventually succeed, or decide to get off the roller coaster, don’t develop amnesia and forget what it was like to still be struggling. Don’t say things like “it WILL happen for you” (How the hell do you know?) etc. Remember the big difference between those who have succeeded and those still trying is that those who have succeeded know. They know there is a (happy) ending to their journey. The journey is finite. Those still trying don’t know. They don’t know if they will ever succeed. Remember that it’s hard to be around pg people, even if the person struggled for ages and did 6 million IVF’s. You are pg, they are not. Remember that and be sensitive. Sometimes it means telling the person you are there for them but will wait for them to contact you, when they feel strong enough.
Lastly, remember life is too short (and too hard) to do stuff you don’t want to do. Stop trying to please other people, look after yourself. Who cares what other people think, if they love you they will understand, if not, who needs them? Surround yourself with real friends, not drains on your energy and mental sanity. And if you can’t do something (go somewhere, attend something) just say “I’m sorry but I can’t, it is just too hard for me”. Do you have any idea how liberating it is to say those words? The listener can do with it what he or she wants. You’ve been honest, more you can’t do.
It’s taken me more than four years to learn these lessons, I wasn’t always like this. But it is easier being like this than it was when I first started. But everyone is different, do what feels right for you.
Good luck to every one, may all your dreams come true, one way or another. I wish I had the elusive magic wand, because I would grant you all of your wishes in a heartbeat.