If you know me, you know that for a year and a half my life revolved around IVF. I tried fitting in as many damn rounds as possible. Or, so it seemed. One after another, over and over. I’ve had more shots (not the fun drinks) than I could count. I’m only two months out from my last round of IVF, and have been thinking of some advice, for those of you in the midst of it. So, here you go!
#1. LOVE YOUR SPOUSE
I remember the first IUI that didn’t work. It was a Tuesday morning in April, and raining like crazy. I took my test, and surprisingly saw one damn line. Not pregnant. The RE had said I would be such an easy case, plus I had been pregnant before, so I was pretty confident in this time. I went and told Dave, and his response was, “That sucks.” Oh man, I flipped. That sucks!? That is what he had to say. After a slight (okay maybe not so slight) freak out moment, Dave said to me, “I am just as upset and sad, but it is physically impossible for me to understand exactly how much this hurts you. I’m not the one on shots, I’m not the one that has to ‘feel’ all of this.” And, man was he right. It’s true. They won’t be able to understand exactly how it feels to be us. But, they do support us more than anyone in this world. This is their baby and story too. During some of our darkest days of our journey a friend of mine suddenly lost her husband. My heart broke. Absolutely broke. Still does for her, and she is beyond strong for continuing to put one foot in front of the other. This moment was a little wake up call for me. How lucky am I to be struggling to have a baby with THE greatest husband on earth? He is here, he is my best friend and biggest fan. What if I didn’t have him? I am so lucky. And that story changed me. It made me cling to him and appreciate him even more. I have seen infertility ruin marriages, and I have seen it strengthen them. It strengthened mine. We have gotten so close through the years, and we clung to each other through the struggle. I know it can be so hard, because men will be men. But, your spouse loves you, and is (hopefully) doing the best that they can to support you. Their heart is breaking too, so stick together and keep moving forward.
#2. FIND YOUR TRIBE
This, to me, is one of the very most important parts of an IVF journey. When I first started fertility shots, after a miscarriage three years ago, I was clueless when the doctor told me, “You have thin lining.” What the hell does that mean??? Over the months, I became a “not your typical case,” and… “we don’t know what else to try,” type of girl. So, what does one do? GOOGLE!! And, we know how that goes. Not well. My counselor suggested I sign up on a fertility site called, Resolve/Inspire, and it was the best thing I could have done. Please, go create an account, and I promise, you will find your tribe. http://www.resolve.org I remember my first post about CCRM and a girl named Betsy reached out to me, praising the facility and doctors at CCRM. She had just found out she was pregnant after an exhausting journey, and had a million wonderful things to say about CCRM. She and I quickly became friends, and it just was so awesome to find someone that understood the pain in my heart. Even though she was pregnant, she was so passionate about my story and wanted me to have my happy ending just as badly. She cheered from the sidelines, encouraged me, bossed me (haha we said she was like an older sister to me) and cried with me. She was, and still is, an amazing rock in my life.
Shortly after, while posting about thin lining and Asherman’s, I met a girl named Nancy. She was in the thick of her pain. My God, I wasn’t sure I could ever be as strong as her, and her story terrified me. There is NO way I could ever use a surrogate, or continue fighting and being as strong as she was. She, too, was a thin lining girl, and we clenched fists together, and crossed every thing we could to get our linings to increase. She was the first person I would email after an appointment, disappointed about my lining etc. And, I would be anxiously awaiting her lining news each time she saw her RE as well. She is the sole reason I was comfortable enough to pursue surrogacy a year after we met. We would email almost daily, and she answered all of my questions and worries. I will be forever grateful for these two women. I met so many other women on this site who gave me suggestions and support! It can be such a lonely road while going through this muck. And, most of my best friends, although so sad for me, just couldn’t understand how it felt to be in my shoes. Having women who could relate to me, simply saved me on MANY of my days. The past year I also met two more local friends through church and an IVF support group, and their stories were so similar to mine, it was eery. We are all now expecting our miracle babies this summer, and they will forever be best friends of mine. Find your tribe. Love the heck out of them.
#3. LOVE YOURSELF.
You are kicking ass at this. And you are inspiring someone to be braver. This is a hard process, and literally hurts ever piece of your body. Talk about feeling like a failure. Man, I couldn’t even carry a freaking baby. You think there were plenty of days I didn’t feel like a freaking failure and an absolute mess?! Of course I did. My husband’s numbers all checked out great, but me, oh shit I sucked. I have terribly thin lining, and then found out my eggs weren’t that awesome either. But, somehow I still treated myself kindly. I let myself have the days where sadness consumed me. I even ruined a day with Dave and his ailing dad at the farm (One of their last father son visits there,) calling him hysterically crying and begging him to come home because I couldn’t move and couldn’t get out of bed. Talk about feeling guilty, and almost hating myself. You have got to let yourself have those days. Don’t hide them. They suck. But, I truly believe the most important part is that you are strong enough to get back up. I always did, eventually get back up. Do what makes you feel better. Sometimes, I just needed a REALLY good night’s sleep, or a bath, a chat with a girlfriend, Mexican food (embarrassingly ate my feelings,) a long walk for fresh air, a spa day, journaling, etc. Do what makes YOU happy. Take care of you. This phase will end, eventually. I won’t promise that it will end the way you want it to end, but it will end and you WILL be okay. Just let yourself be sad, learn how to soothe yourself and be so very gentle to your heart. You are doing your best. Keep on going. And, keep on getting up.
#4. BE YOUR BIGGEST ADVOCATE
To me, being an expert at fertility was my thing. I like to dive deep into things, and learn it ALL. I do know too much about infertility, but I just have to know things. I learned so much online, and from other women on my sites. There were times I made suggestions to my doctors, and some of those suggestions helped! You can’t just sit back and expect your doctor to do it all. They will miss things. LEARN things. Even if you need to email me with questions, i am so happy to help. Learn the grading of blastocysts and learn what a morula is. This helped me so much and made me feel more in control. CCRM had put me on supplements, (google CCRM vitamin cocktail) and I had my best round while there. I wasn’t on my supplements for my two worst rounds. I had also run across women who used Human Growth Hormone (Saizen or Omnitrope) and had success with increasing egg quality. I brought that to my RE, and begged her to research it. She finally spent some time researching and put me on it. The two rounds that I used it (aside from my amazing first round when I was going to CCRM) are the rounds where I got my quality blasts. I strongly believe in supplements and HGH. The HGH doesn’t help for everyone, but why not try? My three frozen embryos all came from HGH rounds. I highly recommend reading the book It Starts With An Egg. This will go in to detail why supplements are so important. My biggest piece of advice is to get on CoQ10 immediately. It does take 2-4 months for supplements to help egg quality, so get started early. You need at least 400 mg per day, I did 800. I am such a believer in this, and every friend I have suggested this to, had much greater success after doing these supplements. Drastic difference. Find what works for you.
#5. EXPLAIN IVF TO THOSE YOU LOVE
Although my family and friends couldn’t truly understand what we were going through, they cared so much. They wanted this for us as badly. They don’t understand the process, and how could they? I explained the way the shots made me feel, and explained that my ovaries would go from the size of walnuts to grapefruits in just 10 days. I explained the weight gain, the no exercise rule, the emotions, thin lining etc. The people that have known and loved you forever, care more than most. If they are interested in learning, share this with them and it will help them to understand your pain and your craziness. Don’t just cut them out of your life. I got to the point where we stopped sharing all of the details, and that was beyond freeing. It took so much pressure off of us, and it helped to be able to finally surprise them with our exciting news.
#6. GET HELP.
This part took a while for me to accept, but it was a vital step in the process. Find yourself a counselor. I was lucky enough to find a counselor who had been through infertility herself, and works with women like me daily. She saved me on so many days. It was SO nice to have her support, and she worked with me to stop using harsh words towards myself and my ‘failing’ body. Her facility specialized in so many things that got me through this- Fertility Yoga, Femoral Massages, IVF Support Group to name a few. I met one of my best friends in the support group, and am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and walked into that group of hurting women. They got me. I also did acupuncture, and found a wonderful friend through my sessions. She, too had been through these struggles and helped me so much. I highly recommend Omaha Integrative Care and 13 Moons Acupuncture if you are local. Both amazing places. There were months that my life truly felt like it revolved around my IVF, and it did. But these appointments really helped me work through it all. Journaling and writing my thoughts also helped me. Find what helps you, and do it 🙂
I know, all too well, how awful it feels to be in the middle of IVF. I am sorry you are going through this. I will always have a place in my heart for any girl who is going through fertility. I love helping others, and obviously believe that we should all be there for each other. Although I am currently expecting my baby, via surrogacy, I do feel like a part of my heart will always be a tad broken, feeling left out of the ‘normal’ world. And, I feel a twinge of jealousy each time someone announces that they are expecting, and expecting easily. Sometimes I feel as if I will always be sitting on the sidelines, never being allowed to play for the team that doesn’t struggle. That team that wins and wins and wins. I put so much of my life into this game, while watching others just naturally succeed. I know this game by heart, and can play it in my sleep. It will always sting a bit. I know that. But, again, I will stand strong, and I will stand for all of you ‘infertile’ women and men. We have our own game, and although it may be more elite, and a different playing field, we can still win. And, we will.