This post was updated on May 20th, 2019
The Most Important Lessons I’ve learned While dealing With Infertility
I remember the day I realized there was definitely something wrong with my ability to get pregnant.
It was 2012 and we had been trying to get pregnant for over a year with no success. And it dawned on me. I don’t remember if it was raining, or sunny. I don’t remember if the room temperature was cold, or hot. I don’t remember the time of day. I don’t remember what went through my head during that time—was it shock? Disbelief? Denial? This much I do know for sure—I thought I would never get through it, but here I am now typing this as a testament that I am surviving, somehow.
The few months after felt like a figment of my imagination; with the mindset that maybe if I blinked, it would go away. But it didn’t. And in retrospect, maybe I would’ve saved myself a lot of heartache, if I had known then what I know now.
Which is why I’ve come up with a list of things — things I wish I had known and things I’ve learned throughout my four-year journey dealing with infertility that I would like to share with you.
1. Fight your fears. Face the problem head on.
Learning you have infertility is devastating, I know. I’ve been there. For the most part, you’re going to just want to run away from the knowledge and wish that if you blink it’ll all disappear. But it won’t. Unfortunately, unless you start taking action to do something about it, things aren’t going to get better. Fight your fears. Face the problem head on. Educate yourself as much as you can. Dealing with infertility is the only way you can start to move past it.
2. Don’t waste energy on being angry.
There will definitely be a tendency to be angry. Angry at everyone and everything — and at yourself most especially. Do not waste your energy on being angry. This is so much easier said than done and it is something I definitely still struggle with but through learning mindfulness and becoming more aware of the fact that my anger actually was coming from sadness and grief I have learned to control it better, instead of suffering so much from it’s toxic effects. On the same note, learn that this is not your fault. It’s not. You’re not doing anything wrong. Would you blame yourself if you got cancer? It is your body not working properly and not any fault of your own.
3. Remember your partner is your teammate.
Never forget: your partner is your teammate. Talk to him, let him know how you’re feeling throughout your journey. This is most definitely not a one-man battle and he (or she) is the person who should stand by your side and be the biggest part of your support system. Dealing with infertility together will be much easier than dealing with it alone.
4. Dont settle if you aren’t happy with your specialist.
On the same note, your specialist is also your teammate in this journey. Find a doctor you trust and like and remember: you should never settle if you don’t feel that you are happy with your specialist. I have been with six different specialists over the four years that I have been diagnosed with PCOS and infertility. Trust your gut when it comes to this; follow your intuition. If you feel that your doctor is not doing the best s/he can do in helping you with your infertility, don’t be afraid to look for a new one. And most importantly: never be intimidated by your doctor. Again, he or she should be your partner. Your teammate. Your friend.
5. Build a support system.
Build a support system. This might not suit everyone’s personality, but I think one of the best decisions I made was to share my story with others so they knew what I was going through. I honestly don’t know how I could’ve gotten through this far without them and it is one of the reasons why I’ve started this blog, and my podcast so I can help support others who may have a hard time opening up and telling others. Hearing other people’s stories, and their own journeys has always helped me feel less alone.
Try building up the courage to share your story. You will be amazed by the number of people out there who you did not know have also struggled with and/or are struggling with infertility and can help you get through whatever it is your are feeling right now, or can be moved by your story. We weren’t born in isolation—humans need other humans to survive. Whether it be via listening to someone else’s story and finding inspiration from them; or helping someone out in their own journey, open up. You’ll be surprised at how much better and less alone you will feel.
7. It’s okay to be sad.
It’s okay to be sad. This feeling makes you human, not weak. Allow yourself to cry it out every once in a while. I know I did, and I really do believe it’s better to let it all out instead of keeping it all bottled up. Don’t worry if you think prioritizing yourself is selfish—if someone invites you to a baby shower and you don’t want to go, don’t. They’ll understand.
8. Set limits for yourself.
Set limits for yourself. And I mean this both financially and emotionally. The procedures can be really expensive. Know how much you’re willing to spend. On the emotional side of the spectrum, know how much you’re willing to take.
9. Take breaks.
Take breaks from trying to get pregnant if you have to. Who knew trying to get pregnant could be so emotionally taxing? But it is, and if you need to take a break, go ahead. Take as many breaks as you need.
10. Find other things in your life that make you happy.
Find projects that you’re passionate about and would like to devote your time to. Start a new hobby, learn a new skill. Paint? Do yoga? Try a new sport. Whatever you do, do not solely focus on it: “I will be happy once I have a baby.” I did this for a long time and all it brought me was unhappiness. And to be honest, I don’t think it helped me in any way. It made things really difficult because I was always living in the future instead of in the present. I wanted to have a baby, and I couldn’t and it made me so unhappy in my day-to-day life. By learning mindfulness and starting new projects and hobbies I finally learned to be happy in the present moment with my life as it was. Focus on other things besides trying to get pregnant.
11. Educate yourself.
Educate yourself on what to expect—but balance this out. I don’t think you should read every forum about what could possibly go wrong, like I originally did. But do read up about what you can do, what the solutions are, what the processes are. Learn about the costs, the procedures, your options, and how you need to prepare yourself. This makes things a lot less scary and a lot less stressful. Again, it’s always better to be prepared. I would not be as close to a solution in my fertility journey if I hadn’t learned everything I could and asked a lot of questions from the beginning.
12. Learn to look after yourself better.
Learn to look after yourself better. Make sure you de-stress, and avoid situations that are going to be more stressful for you. Especially when you are going through an IVF cycle. Create an environment for yourself where you won’t have any outside pressure. Like I said earlier: it’s okay to put yourself first. Prioritize yourself. Don’t feel bad, you’re not being selfish, just smart.
13. Get healthy.
Get healthy! If you’re trying to have a baby and it’s taking a while, you can use this time to change your diet, your eating habits and your exercise habits. Learn how to meditate, to be patient and just live in the moment. Try acupuncture (I SWEAR BY THIS, TRUST ME!). The time that it takes to get pregnant could be a blessing in disguise just for the fact that you could take this time to really be at your peak for getting pregnant. I suppose this has been the optimistic way of looking at my journey over the last four years. I think because of all of this I am in a much better place, not only mentally, but physically as well.
14. Do not lose hope.
And finally, my very very very last piece of advice: do not lose hope. It’s hard to be optimistic and hopeful when the circumstances aren’t looking like they’re going to be in your favor, but trust me, if you give up, you definitely won’t get anywhere. Try to learn patience (easier said than done, I know!) and try to keep the faith that things will eventually fall into place (even it may not be in the way you first imagined).
For me, things have not gone the way I have wanted them to and this has been a great lesson in letting go of the need for control. I have felt frustrated at myself, angry at everything, and almost wanted to give up on my body for not being able to carry a baby like it’s supposed to. I’ve had two miscarriages and many cycles of IVF. But I’m still here, and I am still hopeful. And I hope that this may help you feel hopeful too.
Remember, I am here for you. And our community is here for you. If ever you need anything at all, send me an email and let me know.
Kym Campbell is a Health Coach and PCOS expert with a strong passion for using evidence-based lifestyle interventions to manage this disorder. Kym combines rigorous scientific analysis with the advice from leading clinicians to disseminate the most helpful PCOS patient-centric information you can find online. You can read more about Kym and her team here.
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