Regardless of where you’re at, struggling to conceive is overwhelming and often heartbreaking. Data shows this journey makes one feel as distressed as being diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, or HIV. After both 8.5 years of experiencing this journey myself and talking one-on-one with many like-minded women and couples, there seem to be a few key themes for coping.
Accept this will be a journey you can’t fully control.
Probably the most commonly heard quote is, “You will get your baby, but the path may not be as anticipated.”
As you know, there are several paths, including using a woman’s eggs ordonor eggs, sperm, or embryos. There is also the option of surrogacy and adoption. One may start out hoping for a biological child, but due to a variety of circumstances, may find this is not possible and from there, must make several tough decisions.
Alternatively, should a biological child be achievable, the length of time it takes for the Reproductive Endocrinologist (REI) to determine the underlying medical condition(s) and just the right protocol is unclear. Remember, reproductive medicine continues to evolve, and there remain many mysteries around the miracle of life. This truly is personalized medicine.
Simply put, one’s path and timeline is unpredictable.
Be clear on your goals and parameters.
Trying to conceive can be an addictive ride. We are left to plot how we optimize costs, ensure work won’t find out, manage doctor appointments, plan when to proceed with a given treatment to least disrupt our schedule, talk to people about how their treatment worked and how that success might apply to us.
After all this, we start planning and plotting. Then, if we don’t achieve our goal for a given cycle, it’s as if we were knocked over by a bus. “The doctor had us convinced it would work,” we say.
We scream, cry, pick ourselves up, and go at it again.
When do we know it is time to move on? This could mean changing clinics, deciding to go the donor route, or even deciding the journey is over.
Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?
Before the ride begins, search deep inside and set your goals and parameters. These are not set in stone, but instead provide an anchor point for you. That way, when you feel anxious, revisit your plan. Is your anxiety telling you that the plan needs to be adjusted or is it you just needed to be reminded of your plan and stay focused?
You will know.
If it does not feel right, pause, assess, and be your own advocate.
Hindsight is always 20/20. Some off the most commonly heard learnings include:
“If only I started the process earlier.”
“If only I changed practices.”
“If only I skipped IUI and went straight to IVF.”
“I wish I asked more questions.”
I’d bet along the way, there was a little voice inside trying to speak up, but the anxiety was so pervasive, we couldn’t hear it.
First, let’s acknowledge medicine (and infertility) is complex.
Healthcare operates in one big silo, where patients may work with several different doctors’ offices, each of whom focus on or are aware of a subset of our health issues yet they often don’t talk to each other.Medicine is changing quickly and physicians have limited time with patients. This makes both keeping up with and applying the latest best practices for patients nearly impossible.Insurance companies often have protocols that make no sense for an individual’s situation, often costing more money and more time overall. Given so much can be found online, one is overwhelmed by information overload and then confused by what to believe.
This is why we must be our own advocate.
And there is good news.
Given so many have experienced infertility, specifically, there are several advocacy resources so we don’t have to fully go at it alone. Examples include Resolve and Facebook support groups, along with1:1 support through fertility coaches, cycle-tracking apps like Glow, and medical devices like OvuSense.
Experiencing infertility is hard. Hopefully, these three tips — acceptance, set goals, be your own advocate — will help you cope.