Fempower Health founder, Georgie Kovacs, articulates what it’s like to be past her own fertility journey and look back. Here is what she wishes she had known years before she began trying to conceive. To read more about Georgie’s individual journey, click here.
One: Fertility is Unknown Territory
First, until you’ve been through something, you will never understand it as well as once you’ve gone through it. This means that you have to give yourself a break. There are a lot of “coulda, woulda, shouldas” in fertility. You cannot anticipate what you will or won’t encounter in your own journey.
It’s like having a wedding. Once you have a wedding, you reflect back to all of the times you were in or around weddings and had opinions. Pre-experience thoughts and feelings are very different than post-experience thoughts and feelings. And once you’ve been through something, you have an unparalleled shift in understanding and empathy for others.
Even after I had a baby, I can look with such clarity on all of the missed opportunities to help out or communicate better with friends who have children. I could have bought more thoughtful presents, but I just didn’t know.
And the reality is, you don’t know what you don’t know. There is such an immense gap even in what fertility specialists do and don’t know. The number of unexplained fertility diagnoses alone is testimony to that. In large part, women are the champions of their own health when it comes to overall wellness and especially fertility. That’s why there is such an acute need for Fertility4Me and platforms like this, that do some of the research work for you and provide a context for connection.
Every journey is unpredictable and uncontrollable. Acknowledging that your journey will be personal and challenging is the only way to find peace. You will make the best decision you can on the day that you make it. Own that and rest in it.
Two: Planning for Fertility and Childbearing is Possible
When it comes to IVF, the data shows that it takes an average of 2.7 rounds of IVF to get pregnant. I know some women who’ve been doing IVF for 10 years, trying to have a baby. It’s really easy to get on an emotional roller coaster with fertility treatments. You think, “next month it’s going to work,” or, “the next round is going to succeed.”
The reality is, as you get older, it will be harder to get pregnant and it costs a lot of money. If you don’t set some sort of boundary for yourself, it will be an endless journey.
I’m not saying be rigid but you do have to be realistic. You probably have a budget. Things will come up and in a moment you may choose to do something else. The boundaries and planning provide guidelines that protect you from making bad decisions in an emotional state.
As I look back, there are moments when my gut told me not to move forward with something and I stuck to plans. When you pay for something, you feel like you “must” go forward because you’re committed to it. In hindsight, my body was telling me what I needed. I was on the ride of “must,” because I wanted things fast.
Using tools like visualization and meditation are very helpful.
Three: Be Mindful of Using Banked Embryos
Many women will bank their embryos and move forward with fertility treatments. There is an urgency to rush into pregnancy. The waiting is very hard. It’s equally important to know why treatment or embryos may not be successful. If you’ve had a lot of negative pregnancy tests, you have to assess your own stress.
If you are at your max stress level, a couple months of waiting may be okay. Your body needs to be ready.
If your endometrial lining isn’t where it’s supposed to be, do what you need to do to take care of your health.
If you’ve had multiple miscarriages and you’ve got a couple of frozen embryos left and you’re in your 40s, could you wait and find answers to why you miscarried?
The frozen embryos are the youngest you will ever have and you want to be thoughtful about using them. In the process of building my own family, after I had my son (with whom I had used fresh eggs), we tried to have another child. For that, I used frozen embryos from the earliest days of my fertility journey. I did so under the pressure of knowing that my endometriosis was returning and the urgency of my timeline. In other words, I felt like I had to have a baby, NOW. The reality was, I wasn’t in a place in my life where having another child would have been the right path. I was highly stressed and had a lot of complicated events in my personal life. I had a chemical pregnancy. No embryos. I was only 43 but it was clear my journey was at an end.
Four: Fertility Finances and Planning
Planning for fertility is important. It is a significant financial investment. The finances you’ll have to organize or save don’t just apply to IVF of specific treatments.
The financials include:
Support care, like a psychologist or acupuncturist
You can also get a surprise diagnosis, like endometriosis, which may require surgery. The financial planning isn’t just: “I need 3 IVFs, it’s this much per IVF, done.”
You also need to plan on which doctor you’re going to go to and make an up-front decision about when you’re going to move on. It could be that the doctor isn’t the right one for you.
You need to make plans around all of the different scenarios that can happen. Again, these are flexible boundaries. They should contribute to your confidence and peace of mind as you move through this important season.
Five: Take Care of Yourself
Your path is your path. Until you’ve completed your journey, wherever your journey may end, you need to be true to yourself. It’s scary. You don’t know when the light at the end of the tunnel will happen.
I always wanted to know, “How much longer?” If I just knew how far away it was, I’d be fine. The waiting was fine, I just wanted a date. I’m not going to tell you to never stress because it is stressful. But you do take care of yourself. You have to make time for self-care. There is importance in acknowledging the stress of this situation. It is not stress-free. You have many decisions to make and your path may not be a straight line. “Trying to relax” may only augment your stress. Acknowledgement and acceptance are key.
This self-care can take the form of support groups. Don’t isolate yourself during treatments. I didn’t know about all of these options until very late in my journey.
Resolve: The National Infertility Association has call-in numbers to get answers to questions and you can get live support groups in your zip codes
Facebook: you can join support groups on specific topics
Friends: one thing that surprised me was that I didn’t speak to a single person who didn’t either go through a fertility treatment or know of someone who did
Seven million people in America struggle with infertility. Talking to people was the way I figured out why I couldn’t have a baby. I learned so much about things I never would have known if I’d just gone on Google and done my own research.
Mentally it’s hard to be isolated. But it will also limit your learning. You can open up the world of possibilities and receive constant encouragement
I want to say, “thank you!” to everyone who is sharing their stories so publicly. Ten years ago I struggled with whether or not to tell my workplace about doing fertility treatments. Now, we’re so open about it. Being fertile is something that we always think should happen naturally. When it doesn’t, it breaks you. But you don’t have to be broken.
Don’t be hard on yourself.
You’re not alone.
If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your gut.
Those are the basics. I wish everyone their best on this journey.