I think it’s safe to say that most people (unless they have been through it personally) do not know much about IVF. Even those who know someone who’s gone through it don’t actually know the ins and outs of the process.
My hubs and I were no different.
I remember after our first consultation our heads were spinning with information. Statistics, numbers, this count, that count, blah blah blah. I sat there staring at the doctor like a deer in headlights. Were we really ready for this?
I started having conversations with other women I knew who were going through or had gone through IVF. Even though it is SO common these days, there still seemed to be a “hush hush” sort of secrecy surrounding it. One of my friends said having to go through IVF made her feel “broken”, like her body wasn’t doing what it was made to do. I thought about her words.
I didn’t feel broken but I did want to maintain a level of privacy. I wasn’t ready for the questions, comments, or well-meaning advice. Hubs is pretty much an open book in all things so I had to swear him to secrecy. Which, in hindsight, probably wasn’t fair to ask of him. I confided in my closest girlfriend but he was not allowed the same courtesy? Unfortunately, the person he is closest to can’t keep a secret to save his life. I had to do what I had to do to protect my privacy.
If privacy is something you want during this process, demand it. Talk about it with your SO and make sure you’re on the same page. This is such a special time for the two of you.
**I realize some women go through IVF alone but for the sake of this blog, I’m assuming there is an SO involved.**
There is no rule stating: Thou Must Update Friends and Family in Real-Time.
That being said, some women want and need to share with their support system immediately. Do what works for you.
Still, secrets have a way of being leaked. One well-intentioned friend offered to be my surrogate. I was floored. For one thing, it was an incredibly generous and kind offer. But I was also slightly offended. It was so early in the process, I didn’t even know yet if that was a path we’d have to take. And she was assuming I wouldn’t be able to carry my own child. I had a slew of emotions running through me.
Looking back, I think hub’s feelings may have been overlooked throughout this process.
Check in with your SO often. I know he had fears, frustrations, and hurt feelings…but the focus always seemed to be on me. Our SOs are part of the process too! Validate his feelings and give him a chance to voice his opinions.
We were both given the diagnosis of “inexplicable infertility.” What the heck was that???? Exactly what it sounds like. Both of us checked out plumbing wise…all the parts seemed to be working well…they just weren’t working together. And no one knew why.
Educate yourself and find a support system. I still wasn’t ready to share this process with the world, but I was ready to arm myself with some more information. I downloaded the What to Expect When You’re Expecting app–a plethora of info! Within the app, I joined several groups…Women over 35 TTC, Teachers, IVF, Married…there seemed to be a group for every walk of life.
Online support groups are great because they connect people from all over the world with the click of a button. You have access to ideas, experiences, and stories from people you’d never meet in real life. It can also be anonymous, bringing a sense of freedom and privacy to its members.
One word of caution: Because it is online, it’s not actually anonymous. Remember that when posting anything. Once it’s out there, IT’S OUT THERE.
Blogs and Facebook groups are also great ways to connect yourself with others going through similar circumstances. There are so many options to choose from!
As for a flesh and blood support system, I reached out to a few friends who happened to be going through IVF at the same time. (Lucky for me!)
Get help if you need help managing your emotions. I mentioned I had been seeing a therapist throughout this process. It was truly helpful to have a safe space I could go to every week (other than hubs) and just vent or cry.
Beware of the hormones! Some women have zero adverse reaction to the IVF hormones…I was not one of them. Try to be aware of your emotions in the moment if you feel like you are about to explode. Walk away if you need to or ask for a minute alone. And if you do blow up, don’t be afraid to apologize and ask for forgiveness. This is tough and you’ll both have to give each other “mulligans” every now and then. (For those of you not well-versed in the art of golf–like me–a mulligan is a “get out of jail free card”. This analogy is courtesy of my therapist.)
Acknowledge your feelings. IVF can be such an isolating experience. I remember feeling sad sitting in the OB’s office surrounded by beautiful pregnant women. I remember seeing my friends’ posts on Facebook complaining about their pregnancies. At least you CAN get pregnant! I thought, ruefully. I remember feeling like I had been punched in the gut every time I was invited to yet another baby shower. And I’m not a spiteful, mean person, I promise! I just couldn’t handle being surrounded by pregnant women and baby talk. My lowest point was when a friend told me three of her friends were pregnant but one had suffered a miscarriage. The first thing out of my mouth was, “Everyone’s pregnant but me!!” She looked at me in horror and said, “But xxxxxx just lost her baby.”
I realized at that moment that I needed to stop and check myself. My intense desire for a baby–along with the longing, the sadness, the jealousy and angst, had amounted to this. And this was a sad person who was genuinely happy for and cared about others…but was struggling with her own pain. I did not like the person I had become.
I’m not going to lie. IVF is tough. It’s tough on your body but it’s also tough on your heart. Be kind to yourself.