Infertility is hard and turning to IVF can sometimes feel like a last resort for a baby. We all hope for our positives, but sadly there are no guarantees in this journey. So, how should we plan to manage the situation when a treatment doesn’t work?
After three and a half years of infertility struggles, multiple failed assisted reproductive treatments including 3 IUIs and 2 IVFs, I have personally had to experience and learn how to rebound from the worst news; including learning that IVF is no longer a treatment option.
This small list are my retrospective thoughts on what I feel made all the difference for me when dealing with negative results.
1. Mourn your loss. When the results are in and the pregnancy test breaks your heart, it’s time to allow yourself to feel the grief of the situation. In this moment you are experiencing a profound loss in your life. You have vested time, energy, hope and likely plenty of money into this treatment option. It’s sad and frustrating when it is all for not. For me, sometimes the immediate reaction to bad news is to act normal and sweep my feelings under the rug. I have learned this avoidance instinct really only delays us from moving on. So, my advice is be prepared…considering taking the day off work you get the news…if you get a positive you can celebrate, if you get your negative…you have the space to be sad. You can cry that ugly cry and hide under the covers. During that time it was important for me to express to my partner how angry I was and talk about how unfair the circumstances are. Infertility sucks and recognizing your emotions and giving them space in your life for a bit will help you heal and move past them faster than sweeping them under that proverbial rug.
2. Put yourself first. We all have demands in our lives and it’s easy to give our time away to others doing things that aren’t for us. Recognize that in this moment in your life you need something that is just for you. For once in my life I said no to things that weren’t going to lift my soul up. I didn’t want to do anything I had to fake a smile through. For me, I ultimately needed an escape from my at home reality….so my husband and I took a little trip to distract us. Travel is a luxury and it doesn’t have to be a fancy trip, it can also be a quiet day drive to another town…the important part is that you are doing something for you that helps you recharge. Other things I have taken the time to do included – a facial, a pedicure, a massage or watching the sunset – the bottom line is to do whatever you want to do to take care of yourself.
3. Exercise & Clean Eating. During my IVF cycles I tried to eat healthy as much as I could to increase my chances, but if you are like me, I also found myself occasionally in line for Starbucks or grabbing a handful of candies…especially during the two week wait when my head was a circus. There is no doubt about it, I am a stress eater! Once the verdict was in on the results there was definitely that immediate reaction to eat poorly and throw in the towel on being healthy. Food was likely even a part of my mourning and putting myself first phases. This attitude towards food is fine for a few days, but I found the real magic of healing happened when I decided to focus my attention on exercise and clean eating. There is no disputing that exercise triggers those feel-good endorphins in your body and after a few workouts it can help you feel more like yourself. Combining the magic of exercise with a clean eating routine (whole foods, minimal processed foods, less sugar) meant that within a week my thinking was clearer, my outlook was more positive, and I was able to focus on the future versus getting stuck in the past. It was pure luck I stumbled on this exercise and eating routine after my first IVF, so when the next big negative was at my doorstep – I knew to take action – I cleaned up my fridge and cupboards and dusted off my shoes. And it helped again. The key is to just get your body moving and eat the good stuff versus the junk.
4. Support Systems. Share your story. I found that there is a lot of healing in telling others what you are going through. Now I know that infertility is a private struggle for many, so talking with friends, family or heading out to a support group isn’t always an option. So I recommend the alternative of using the anonymity of online forums like www.ivf.ca, private Facebook groups, or even the blogging community. No matter the choice, in person or online, the important thing is to express what you are going through. Getting your story out is cathartic. My personal experience has been that the few times I have opened up in person, I have also realized that I am not alone in this journey…many people face challenges with infertility. I have gained a lot of supporters and their supportive words for me encourages healing.
IVF is an emotional marathon and a physical sprint…and in the end I want every single woman out there to get their big fat positive. But, if your path heads more in the unfortunate direction of mine…hopefully these few thoughts can help you rebound and see the positive future ahead.