It takes a lot of courage to ask for help with something so personal. If you've reached out for help or are thinking about it, give yourself a pat on the back. You've already done what many couldn't imagine doing. Fertility treatment is not for the faint of heart. Making a baby is supposed to be fun and easy. "Don't you dare have unprotected sex or else you'll get pregnant!" I can't count how many times that was drilled into my head through the years. If only I knew then what I know now. I would have saved so much money on birth control!
Questions about my experience with fertility treatment is the #1 reason people slide into my DMs. So why is it that we're taught from a young age how easy it is to get pregnant, but theory doesn't always line up with practice?
My own fertility journey has been a complicated and long. If you want to read about my fertility journey, click here.
I am by no means an expert or a doctor, but I do know a thing or two about advocating for yourself, caring for yourself, and nourishing your marriage through fertility struggles.
Just a note - I'm going to use "Husband" and him/he to describe my partner because that is how he identifies. Feel free to sub out partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, or whatever term you use. The advice remains the same.
So here's my top 10 ways to survive fertility treatments:
1. Don't lose sight of the goal.
You're doing this because you want to have a baby. Fertility treatment can be all encompassing. It is medical, sterile and impersonal, but don't forget why you're there. Don't trade yourself or your marriage for a baby. You need both in order to be successful. A baby is the goal, and money and time is the only thing you should be trading for that goal. Don't let it take over your life. Keep your own interests apart from fertility treatment. Try not to let it consume you. Easier said than done, I know.
2. Care for yourself
I have seen too many women get caught up in the numbers and appointments and forget to care for themselves. Listen, that little baby you're working so hard for needs a happy and healthy mommy. It needs a womb full of nutrient- rich blood to nestle into. It needs positive energy to help it grow. Book yourself a massage, facial, pedicure, night out with your girls... whatever makes you happy. Book it and get it in your calendar every month. Don't skip it. You need this to look forward to.
Along the same lines, care for your marriage. While you`re booking your self-care ritual book a date night too. Get it in the calendar and make it a priority. It doesn`t have to be a fancy, expensive outing. Going to Menchies and talking a walk in the park, or watching a movie on Netflix and having sex for fun (gasp!!) all counts too. Just make sure every single month you have some special one on one time with your partner. And leave the fertility talk alone for this one.
3. Keep your partner involved
If you have female factor infertility keep your husband involved. Its easy for your partner to feel left out or confused by the process. Put your appointments on the family calendar, or send him the invite in your Google calendar. Whatever you use to keep each other involved in other appointments, include this too. Talk about your numbers, or what the doctor said, or how you're feeling about whatever is going on. Keep the conversation going but don't make it the only conversation you have. Tell your husband how he can support you. And ask him how you can support him. You're in this together. At the very least, he'll have a better appreciation of what you're going through in order to make your dreams come true. You may even score a foot rub out of it. Partners, if you're reading this, give foot rubs!
4. Don't be afraid to break up with your doctor
Your doctor and their staff are a tool you can use to reach your goal. If they aren't working for you or you don't feel comfortable using that tool, change tools. Changing doctors is easy to do. Yes, you may have to do some testing again, or you may not. But having the right doctor in your corner makes all the difference. Feeling understood and supported can change a challenging situation into a bearable one.
5. Find your support system
Find your people and tell them what's going on. Don't hold it inside. Be it your Mother, sister, best friend, or neighbour. Find someone or a group of people to keep involved. Your friends and family WANT to support you. They just need to know how. They can help cheer you on when you need the boost, or hold your hand while you cry. They will be the ones jumping for joy when you finally see that heartbeat. Trust me, you'll want a parade with confetti and a marching band once you find out its worked, and you need people there to celebrate with.
6. Stay away from Dr. Google
Yes, do your research. But do not obsess about what the numbers mean. To be honest, the numbers are subjective and only really matter in context. Nobody online is going to have that information except you and your medical team. Ask them all the questions. If you need more information, tell them. You're paying them enough. Make them work for it.
7. Build a network
Join the support groups if that's your thing. Reach out to people like me who have talked about their journey. Message old high school friends who have been through the same process. There's camaraderie in the clinical. Although it feels like you're all alone, you aren't the first and you won't be the last. Be sure to be open if someone works up the courage to speak to you about starting treatment one day too.
8. Seek alternative treatment options
Find a Naturopath that specializes in endocrine or fertility issues. Do acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy. These specialists can work in tandem with each other and with your medical team. Good news it, many of these are covered by extended benefits. Use them!
9. Eat the food
Eat all the good food! There's so much out there that people are convinced will help with implantation or growing good eggs. Here's the truth, yes, there may be some anecdotal evidence that eating the core of a pineapple for five days after ovulation might help with implantation, but there's no guarantee. Fill yourself up with good and healthy food. Love and nourish your body so it's ready to love and nourish a little one.
10. Celebrate all the wins
Big or small, celebrate all the wins. You made a follicle? YAHOO! Well done ovaries! You ovulated on your own? HIGH FIVE HORMONES! You made it to your appointment on time? WELL DONE! Find the positives, or the negatives will swallow you up.
So there it is. My road map for surviving fertility treatment. It's complicated, painful, and emotional but if you keep your wits about you and keep focused on the prize, you can make it through in one piece. I'm always here to chat if you need an ear.