What do you do with infertility? Do you deal with it? Do you treat it? Do you attempt to solve it? What are the right words? When discussing what my husband and I went through for seven years, it is really hard to articulate just how it all feels. A year of IUIs and whole lot of IVF is not easy to describe. It’s one of those, you had to be there things. But I’ll try.
I’m going to make this simple. First there is the time and pain of the actual treatment. Then there is the torture of waiting to find out if it all worked. Then there is that call from the doctor’s office. Before she even told me the news, I could hear it in her voice. It didn’t work. Again.
This hurts. After hearing this news following our first failed IVF, there is no other way to say it, we were destroyed. For many days my husband and I could not see anyone. We couldn’t leave the house. All we could was cry. And we did. We cried. Our souls hurt. Our hearts ached. Our minds swam with questions of why and how.
I wish I could say after that first time, the pain got easier to cope with, but it didn’t. Every time we got the news that it didn’t work, a piece of our hope was lost. There were times that I truly felt I could not take anymore. I had run out of pain. You might think this sort of feeling would be refreshing, a sort of break from the pain, but the pain was replaced by an emptiness. I started to doubt that we would ever find success, that we would ever have a child. This pain, this despair, was worse than anything I had ever experienced. I looked at people who had children with envy. When a friend of mine would announce they were having a baby, though I tried to be happy for them, my thoughts went straight to my own pain.
I did not wear this pain on my sleeve. No one could understand, so why bother sharing it. If I did speak about it, the people I shared it with tried different ways to make me feel better, to fix my saddness. They would tell me about a friend who did IVF and it worked. They would tell me about a friend who ended up getting pregnant while trying IVF (even though that’s impossible). They would tell me about an article they read that said something positive about IVF. All of these attempts to bring me solace made me feel worse and completely alone. So I stopped talking about it. I tried to fake it. I tried to pretend I was OK.
In the fall, my panic attacks began. At first I didn’t see a connection. I just thought I was dying. A panic attack is a horrible feeling a dread and doom accompanied by a racing heart, shortness or breath, numb hands, and a slough of other things that convince you are about to die. Through my years of IVF, my coping strategy was basically suck it up, you can take it. The panic attacks and overwhelming anxiety told me my strategy needed a change. I had bottled up all the fear, frustration, and pain to a point that my body was reacting in a very scary way. When I went to see a counselor about this, she saw that for years all I had done was IVF. She was shocked I had not been in to see her sooner.
IVF is a lot to cope with. There are different stressors coming at you from many different sides: the money, the pain, the time, the worry, the doubt, the expectation of failure, the fear to hope too much. One thing I learned late in the game is that I couldn’t do it alone. Though the people in my life tried to help, they couldn’t understand. My husband and I leaned on each other, but sometimes it’s hard to help someone who is suffering the same as you are.
So here is some unsolicited advice. When going through IVF, try to find someone who understands what you are going through. I know it feels nearly impossible, but it is worth it. Once I started talking to the counselor, I immediately started feeling better. I learned coping strategies. I started meditating. I stopped feeling like I was dying. I don’t know if one has anything to do with the other, but the IVF we tried after I started with the counselor and started dealing with my anxiety in a positive way, that was the IVF that brought us our two little girls.
You can take it. You can get through it. But you don’t have to do it alone.