As a psychotherapist and a former infertility patient I often help others and think about what got me through the most challenging times during the many years it took to have my daughter. I remember those days when I needed a friend to talk to, a hug, and most of all, a way to get me through the day sometimes without crying. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of good days and many great days, but it was a really hard time in my life. So, I have created a list (in my opinion) of the most important tools to have when you are going through the infertility process.
1. Support system- This is key, I don’t think I could have gotten through it alive without my husband and my dad. They were my rock after every BFN (Big Fat Negative). I think every time I said, “That’s it, I can’t do this again.” The next day I would wake up and say, “Ok, I am ready for the challenge again.” A support system, be it family, friends, therapist, good doctors, acupuncturist, dog, etc.… will be one of the most helpful things that you can have on your side. I suggest that you find people that you can talk to and vent to that will listen. My girlfriend said that what she found to be most important in helping her through the darkest of days were her two closest friends. They provided her with honesty and encouragement to keep pursuing her dream. Her husband is in the military and through most of it, could not be at her appointments or be physically with her. Sometimes, she just needed someone to listen to frustrations and to cry along with her.
2. Coping Skills- The therapist in me is talking, but it is so true. Without ways to cope and deal with the stress, sadness, grief, and anxiety, it will be very difficult. So, here are some recommendations of things that helped me and some of my clients. Reading, movies, physical activity/exercise (walking, running, hiking, swimming), listening or playing music, travel, baking/cooking, taking a class, yoga/meditation, snuggling or playing with a pet, and the list could go on. Basically, do something for yourself that you enjoy to get you through this time.
3. Education- You may say, “What? I know all about this. I live this. I look everything up on the internet.” I really believe it helped getting explanations or non-explanations from other sources other than the Internet. I spoke to my doctors frequently and went to different infertility clinic seminars for free (look on their websites or call and see if they have one). A lot of times the doctors at the IVF clinics will provide you with a free consultation. I learned so much from them. I also spoke frequently to my naturopath and acupuncturist that specialize in infertility. They provided me with a lot of info and support.
4. Social Media Cleanse- I don’t know anyone that hasn’t been affected by social media during this process. You see a post or read a headline that someone is pregnant and it upsets you. It is ok to feel that way. You can still be happy for your friend or family member, but at the same time think, “Why isn’t that me?” My girlfriend got off all social media because it was too hard for her to read another post about someone getting pregnant. The nice thing was that her husband got off social media too just to support her.
5. Strong boundaries/limits/thick skin- Let’s just say that it’s hard when people do not think before they speak. I had a family member say to me, “I threw out all the children’s books because I never thought you would need them.” Or “I did not want to get my hopes up” I was a week away from my delivery date. That was like a dagger. What about your really good friend that is having a baby shower? Do you go? Do you not go? These issues come up all the time. My husband and I went to a baby shower during the process because we were feeling good and were starting IUI and very hopeful. Well, we got hounded about when we were going to start trying. I finally said, “ We are going through infertility treatment.” That got them quiet. Be prepared, you are going to run into all sorts of challenges during this and there is no right or wrong way to deal with them. Just remember that people say and do thoughtless things and most of the time it is not personal. People do not know what you are going through and you might need to educate them or tell them how it made you feel.
The list could truly go on and on. Patience, commitment, strength, and courage are a few more really important ones too. You should not expect to have these traits or skills right off the bat. They come with time and with each unique situation. Remember, you are not alone. One in eight couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. (206-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, CDC). Although, some days it seems like you are alone, the chances are very likely that someone you know is going through it too. However, it is a process and we all have different feelings and reactions to things at different times. My hope is that this will get conversations started and people to start to feel comfortable about talking about infertility.
Check out the National Infertility Website www.resolve.org. There is a lot of useful information for you and resources in your community.
Make a list of coping skills and put them in a place where you can actually see them. Then, on the days when you are struggling, pick an activity to do to get through the day.
Reach out to a friend, family member, support group, or therapist and talk with them.