5 Things No One Told Me About InfertilityJul 16, 2023
5 Things That No One Told Me About Infertility
On my bedside table, there’s a photo of my husband and I from the day we got married. He’s spinning me around on the dance floor, my arms are wrapped around his neck, both of us are smiling and giddy with excitement.
There is so much love in that moment. So much to look forward to. But so many things I didn’t see coming.
Fast forward a couple of years and we’re sitting together in the billing area of our IVF clinic. My face is covered in tears while my husband is trying to pay the final bill from our unsuccessful IVF cycle which resulted in zero embryos. I was 35, I’d always been healthy, I’d never had any inkling that starting a family would be difficult.
But that’s infertility for you. For so many of us, it sneaks up when you least expect it.
The five years that followed were, without a doubt, the hardest of my life. Struggling with fertility takes a toll on your marriage, your mental health, your bank account, your relationships, and your identity. Endless medical appointments, scans and surgeries mean your body is no longer your own. It affects every little area of your life – from planning career steps, trips away, and all your future plans.
Despite the fact it’s now reported to be 1 in 6 couples that struggle with fertility, it’s still largely something we choose not to speak about it.
Here are 5 things I wish I’d been told about this journey:
- Treatments are not a guarantee
When we first started encountering fertility challenges, I always had in the back of my mind that we’d be able to seek treatment if we had to. But sadly, even medications and assisted cycles (like IVF) don’t always work. Infertility is one of the few things in life where effort doesn’t necessarily equal reward. You can spend your life savings and still come home empty handed.
Of the 3 rounds of IVF we went through, only 1 was successful – and that doesn’t include the dozen or so rounds of medicated cycles we did prior to that point. The anger, frustration and feelings of complete helplessness were overwhelming.
- Your friends and family won’t get it…and that’s ok
Even as awareness grows around infertility, it’s difficult to speak to someone about unless they’ve been through it themselves. The intricate details about treatment options and the rollercoaster of emotions make it hard to discuss with someone who hasn’t been there.
Like many women who have struggled to conceive, I was constantly met with comments like “you can always try again next month” or “just do IVF” or (my favourite) “everything happens for a reason.” Often, your family and friends just won’t get it.
But that’s ok. Because there’s an amazing community out there waiting to support you. Women from all over the world who are sharing their stories and sending love when you need it. You only need to jump onto your favourite social media platform to find them.
- Going through it when you already have a child doesn’t make it any easier
I’m one of those unlucky women who experienced fertility challenges for both of my children. While I suspected things would be difficult the second time around, I always thought it’d be easier to go through the process if I already had a baby.
But secondary infertility comes with a whole new set of challenges. The crushing guilt you feel for wanting more when you already have a beautiful little person in your life is unbearable. The shame you feel for spending so much of your time & energy worrying about giving them a sibling.
I used to sit in the fertility clinic and watch women come in with a small toddler, thinking “Why would you go through all this? You already have a child.” But it’s not that simple.
- Your doctor is only one part of the solution
In a lot of cases, infertility is a medical condition which requires medical attention to resolve. Doctors are incredibly important. But they are trained to do their job. And their job description does not include counsellor, nutritionist or mental health worker.
Creating a support network around you is so important. For some, this might mean finding a functional nutritionist or naturopath who will more closely into lab results for you. For others, working with a fertility coach or therapist may provide the emotional support you need.
I also found it helpful to confide in a small number of friends who understood what I was going through. People that didn’t offer advice or diminish how I was feeling. Sometimes all you need is a person to say “this is really tough and I’m here for you.”
- It takes over your entire life
When I look back now at my life during those years of trying to conceive, I am overwhelmed with memories of all the things I had to fit in each day. Cycle tracking, medical appointments, scans, blood tests, acupuncture…the list goes on.
The mental load of infertility is huge. What appointments do I have this week? Am I going to ovulate this month? Do I need to attend that person’s baby shower? Will my friend be offended if I cancel dinner? How can I get to work on time if the clinic is running late? Can I commit to a group holiday in 6 months? Are these symptoms early pregnancy or PMS? Is it too early to test?
It's common to feel engulfed by your journey. But try to keep some moments for yourself, too. Find things that you love doing and don’t forget about them. For me, that was my yoga practice. It provided me with space to breathe, space to connect with my body and allow some calm into my life.
More than anything, I found speaking about my fertility challenges the biggest help of all. There is no shame in this journey, and the more we talk about it, the less likely you’ll feel like it’s only happening to you.
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