Dear Infertile People
Dear infertile people, you are rad as hell.
I’m not here to tell you it’s going to be OK. I have no idea where your journey goes. That’s kind of the reason your journey is so difficult.
I’m not here to tell you how to get pregnant. Although if you haven’t been to /r/shittyfertilityadvice you should go there immediately.
I’m going to tell you my 5 Steps to Being Slightly More OK With Shit. Will they work for you? I have no idea. I had to get to a certain place before I was ready to do any of them. But my second IVF cycle didn’t rough me up near as bad as the first one did.* So here they are, if they help.
(If they don’t help, print them and rip them up and stuff them in a cat box.)
1) Honor what you’re doing right.
All these people out there giving you advice and not one of them’s gonna congratulate you on what you’re doing right. You’re doing a CRAP TON of things right. Let me tell you some things you maybe did:
- You got help.
- You waited until you were ready before seeking help.
- You did research.
- You got awesome at charting your cycle.
- You know an OPK from an HSG.
- You learned how much they skipped in health class.
- You got through that baby shower without crying.
- You knew you couldn’t get through that baby shower, so you had the courage to stay home.
- You learned how to inject a medication from a nurse’s 30-second demo and a YouTube video.
- You learned how to inject five different medications with different mixing techniques and needle gauges and injection sites.
- You balanced infertility treatment and career and a small child.
- You heard your small child ask over and over for a little brother or sister.
- You lovingly answered your small child’s questions about why Mommy’s tummy is flat again.
- You tolerated that infertility website stock photos are 99.9% white people.
- You got crushing news at 8 AM and still got to work by 9.
- You and your SO managed to keep spark in your sex life.
- You had excellent taste in choosing your SO.
- Your SO had excellent taste in choosing you.
- You and your SO took it one day at a time.
- You and your SO talked about everything.
- You and your SO are still wild about each other.
li>You balanced infertility treatment and career and home life.
And that’s not even scratching the surface. Looks kinda badass to me.
2) Connect with other people in your boat.
This is easier said than done. For me, there was a real mental block to get over before I could join an infertility support community. It was like joining in made it real. No more keeping quiet because “next month might be good news.”
It wasn’t until after the first IVF failed and knocked me on my ass emotionally, mentally, and spiritually that I realized I had to do something different.
Finding people who had been through it, who were still going through it, and had worked out a general code of conduct for letting people share their truth in peace and understanding–no “baby dust”–brought me the sanity I was missing. I didn’t know how bad I needed it until I found it.
Uh, and therapy, too. Therapy is good.
For what it’s worth, over at /r/ttcafterloss and /r/infertility are some of the most beautiful supportive non-judgmental anonymous strangers on the planet. Struggling to conceive for 6 months? Welcome. Early pregnancy loss? They’ll never call it a “chemical.” Secondary infertility? Bring that kid. They’re like seven-foot drag glamazons of inclusion. Heal, diva.
3) Tell people
Like #2, this took getting over a mental block. Saying it out loud makes it real. But after that failed first IVF, slowly, one at a time, I started letting people know. As I’ve mentioned, reactions really varied. But some people poured out pure love and compassion to a degree that was really quite confusing. It was that love and compassion, with its waves of goodfeels and understanding, that let me know this “telling people” thing was the right track. You deserve that, too. I hope you find it.
It’s true that, along the way, I also had to mend fences with friends and family–friends I kept at arm’s length because I resented this or that; family I kept out of the loop because I was embarrassed to bring up the subject… or afraid of being hurt by their reaction. There was a certain amount of butthurt I had to get over, and resentment that it was my job–on top of treating infertility and not crying at work–to get over my butthurt. But maybe I grew up a little as a result.
4) Redefine success.
All the pamphlets and financing options and NIH reports define success as pregnancy (specifically one that makes it 8 weeks and to a detectable heartbeat.)
That’s a damn narrow target to hit. If after all the time, money, and emotional stamina of a treated cycle the only measure of “success” is getting pregnant, no wonder infertile people feel like failures.
What helped me was celebrating when a cycle phase was done.
Had well-timed intercourse? That’s one week of waiting and one week of keeping romance alive on a schedule. That deserves a night out.
Weathered a two-week wait? That’s fourteen days of sweating and hoping and spotting a thousand pregnancy symptoms and yet not going insane. Sushi at least.
Had an IUI? That’s about two weeks, six appointments–including two mornings back-to-back getting up ass-early to perform against the clock and then hurry the specimen to the clinic–and two procedures on a full bladder. Couple scratcher tickets might be fun.
Retrieval complete? That’s at least two weeks, five appointments, three trips to pharmacies, twenty injections, and a surgical procedure. That shit deserves a pancake brunch.
Transfer complete? That’s about two weeks, four appointments, two trips to pharmacies, and an outpatient procedure on a full bladder. You’re not supposed to drink, have sex, have sex goodfeels, watch horror movies, or exercise, so… Dragon Age?
Reward every victory. Demonstrate that you deserve it.
5) Use your powers to help others.
I would have rather had the kid than the lesson, but I did learn a lot.
Now when someone tells me they’re struggling with something severe–loss of a loved one, divorce, chronic illness, any of the brutal stuff that happens for no reason–I’m more likely to rush in instead of run away. I can listen without trying to fix. I can be a better friend.
Not that I always will, but now I know a little better how to go about it.
Empathy is transferable.
Hope this helps.
- (4/27) Dear Fertile People
- (4/29) Dear Self, One Year After IVF [the reason I’m writing these posts, because without context it will be very confusing]
* My third IVF cycle SUCKED ASS. Just so you know I’m a huge hypocrite.