The only people who utter such words to a couple with infertility are the people who have never experienced infertility. Because if you are staring in the face a childless life not by choice then you understand you can’t relax. Let me take away your children – forever. Feel like relaxing now?
These are the same people who have helpful tips based on urban legends or dubious internet searches. An HSG, the Pill, a D&C, a tropical vacation or my personal fave – just not caring anymore – don’t result in a baby. What results in a baby is 20% chance of the right things happening at the right time in a 36 hour window once a month. Really when you look at the odds, it is amazing that anyone gets pregnant ever.
It is worse when the fertility treatments get even more intense. Running out of meetings to take a nasal spray 5 times a day, missing calls from Senior Management because you are holed up in the bathroom at work giving yourself injections and living on a schedule dictated by medication is NOT RELAXING. And for goodness sake, please don’t tell me “well, it will all be worth it” because we have been there, done that, and we still lost the baby.
So please, don’t tell me to relax.
It is Canadian Infertility Awareness Week and so there might be a few more posts than normal (consider yourself warned).
How to Support Your Friend Going Through IVF
1. Understand your friend no longer has control of their schedule. The clinic now runs the show. Some things they take appointments for and others you line up like cattle in the stairwell at 6:30 in the morning. Your friend doesn’t know from day-to-day what the next day will look like. It’s hard enough managing this with employers, let alone with friends. But that’s not all of it – the pills, sprays and needles are all on a schedule too. Your friend is carrying a lot of medication and is tied to their Iphone alarms
2. Think before you speak. If I told a 12 week pregnant woman about my friend who miscarried at 6 months, I would be a total jerk. The same goes for your stories about all the people you know where “IVF didn’t work the first time”. Not helpful. Everyone has an opinion, consider whether or not yours is actually something a supportive friend would say.
3. Everyone has something to say about fertility treatments – but whether or not you would “put all those chemicals in your body” or whether or not it is “God’s will” – that’s your opinion. If yours isn’t supportive, gossip about it behind my back but please don’t think I am interested in hearing your thoughts on choices you have never had to make
4. Know there is a financial impact and don’t belittle it. The costs are significant – if you want to know what they paying you can look it up yourself. Saying “oh but it will be worth it” or “it’s a small price to pay” is pretty easy when you aren’t the one paying thousands of dollars – at once (no payment plans here!). And well, if it all doesn’t work, they are going to have empty arms and an empty bank account.
5. Your friend is probably tired of telling people her “bad news” to the point where it just feels like “old news”. If you want to know, ask. If you don’t ask, we will just assume you don’t want to know. Your friend has enough going on without having to manage your feelings too!
6. Be there. Your friend is alone and scared. A scary pile of drugs dictates her life. It is lonely waiting for morning appointments and injecting yourself in bathroom stalls. There is so much unknown and so much waiting. Your life is still plugging along but hers slows down to day-by-day. Weeks seem to take years as she hopes to make it to the next step – yes, that’s right, at any given moment something could happen to her IVF journey and now she is back to square one. Thinking about what happens “if this doesn’t work” is eating her alive. It’s a dark place to be in. Distractions are welcome.
I am not okay. Are you not okay too?
Maybe you are in the same spot where the miscarriage is still raw, or you had yet another negative test or your period came this morning at work. Maybe you just can’t handle one more Facebook baby announcement (there is seriously something in the water) or maybe another co-worker is expecting.
Either way you are not okay because your face has been shoved in your miserable shit just one too many times lately and you are getting a little too close to the ledge.
When I get too close to the ledge I have what I call “episodes”. I had one over the weekend. A bit of wine and I was off doing something else and all of sudden it came flooding back to me. I have been to Toronto twice in the last two years and both times I was supposed to do something baby-related with one of my closest friends. And both times it didn’t happen. The next thing I know I am crying and I can’t stop. It is horrible, embarassing, lonely and alienating.
Once I went to a friend’s birthday party and all the women who showed up were pregnant. Another time it was a brunch. Both times I am in the bathroom sobbing and wishing the floor would open up and swallow me whole. I wanted to run out the door and not look back. I just couldn’t face a room/table full of people and their pity.
When I tell you I don’t have control over these episodes, I mean it. Trust me. I don’t want to come out to that party with a red nose and my eye make-up rubbed off. But I can’t stop. It is a visceral reaction.
Everything hurts. Everything.
Those of you on this journey know what I mean and for those of you not on the journey, sometimes we need space. I can’t make your baby shower/birthday party/kid-centered event. It doesn’t have anything to do with you, it is me. I am not okay.
I know you want to shout it out loud. I do too.
“It was an oops”, “Announcing a whoops”, “ We weren’t really trying” or my personal favorite “We weren’t trying but we weren’t not trying” (Is that even a proper sentence?! Because it doesn’t even make sense!). These statements are coming from adults who clearly failed sexual education in elementary school. Did you have unprotected sex? If so, you should understand that could result in a baby.
These are also really hard statements for couples with infertility to hear. We have been trying (and for goodness sake I do mean trying) and planning and preparing. Money has been saved, books read – heck, even a shortlist of names made. In our case it also includes tests, drugs, needles and a whole heck of a lot of emotion. And nothing. It’s hard to understand how people approach such a journey with such a laissez-faire attitude. And it is even harder to understand how these are the people for whom it always works out. Why you and why not me? Why not both of us?
If you are thinking about trying or if you are just begining your journey, start with your cycle. A regular cycle (25-30 days, 28 is apparently “ideal”) is important. If you don’t have a regular cycle, you won’t know when you are ovulating. If you don’t know when you are ovulating, well then the rest of it is really hard. I don’t think a regular cycle is stressed enough in our health classes. I know a lot of women who don’t/didn’t have regular cycles and had no idea it would have such an impact on their fertility. It can be an indicator of so many fertility issues – and most women have no idea.
I talked about ovulation sticks on my last post, but those work best if you know how long your cycle is. If you don’t have a regular cycle and you have some money to burn, you can try the Clearblue Fertility monitor (there might be others but this is the one I am familiar with). You pee daily (every morning) and it monitors how close you are getting to ovulating by measuring your lutenizing hormone (LH). If you aren’t familiar with “LH”, don’t worry you will be soon.
If you have been trying for a while you probably just nodded your head at the blog title. You know exactly what I mean. Your life exists in two week increments: the two weeks of waiting to try (and then trying for that oh so small window) and then the two weeks of waiting. The longest two weeks ever. The two weeks where you question everything hoping it is a symptom and “just to be safe” you aren’t drinking and you’re skipping the sushi and hollandaise. And then when it is another negative you wonder…why the hell did I pass on that fabulous pinot (or that luscious eggs benny with the girls), etc and you slip from bitter disappointment and anger back to…waiting to try again.
You can actually live an entire year in two week increments. We have done it. 2014 flew by in two week increments after the miscarriage at the start of January. It’s not a nice feeling to get to December and realize that the year is gone, your arms are still empty and you aren’t any further ahead.
I want to tell you not to do it, but it isn’t that easy. Because once you are past that first year and the reality has sunk in that this isn’t going to be easy, making a baby becomes work. No matter how hard you try to make it otherwise, it is just is. You have about a 25-30% chance of making it work each month and trying to maximize your odds doesn’t happen by chance. (Remember I am talking about infertility couples here…not 16 year olds).
All I can tell you is try to work it into your life and not to let it consume you. I have traveled with ovulation sticks (ps. read the instructions! They can be pretty specific about how and when they want your pee!) and I have used them at work. I did my IVF injections in the mall parkade after a movie with friends. Isolating yourself is lonely. Try to keep some kind of “normal”.
Make memories. Continue to experience life. Travel. Don’t skimp on the Pinot. 😉
I want to start this first blog post with a link to my fabulous friend Christina Zini’s blog and her post “Mother’s Day Unspoken” (posted May 8, 2015). She talks about miscarrying on Mother’s Day (seriously) and how it changed her. In case the link doesn’t work: http://shedreamsbig.com/blog/
Her line “In losing my first child, I also lost my innocence as a mother” resonated with me. If you have experienced a miscarriage you will recognize “The Fear”. Once you have had a miscarriage, pregnancy will never be easy. I can’t relate with my girlfriends who walk into an ultrasound happy and excited to see their baby. I only know The Fear…of no heartbeat, of something wrong, of the baby’s life gone.
I am that person who will be fearful for my friends until that fateful 12 week ultrasound, during their 10 km hikes in 25C + degree weather uphill, during their step class and everything else. And if you are one of those people who are pregnant and don’t know why I am fearful for you…google it or click the link. And God help you.
It isn’t that these future mothers don’t care, they do – but they just don’t know The Fear. They haven’t had that hellish moment of silence when the ultrasound tech leaves the room to “get the doctor”. When you know exactly what has happened but you can’t quite believe it. When someone tells you in a soft voice, “I am sorry…”