Infertility, miscarriages and fertility struggles can be so overwhelming and oftentimes people have no idea where to turn for help. When I am working with people, I have found the most common questions I receive are around the lines of “what can I expect?,” or “what worked for you?”. In hopes of helping you feel a little more prepared, I’ve created 14 insights: what I wish I’d known about infertility.
I could have honestly created a list of about 53,482 things I wished I’d known, but who has time for that, right? But in all honesty, there is just so much to try to understand and navigate through; I hope this information allows you to feel a little more prepared and reduce the heightened anxiety I know many of you are experiencing.
I mention “breathing” with intention A LOT, I know. It is just such a powerful tool and you don’t have to worry about “having” it with you. The key to this really working is by focusing on only your breathing. While breathing in, think “I am taking in a deep breath” and while breathing out, think “I am breathing out a deep breath.” Do this over and over until you feel your emotions calming.
It also provides so many benefits including forcing you to be present in the moment, increased oxygenation throughout your body which decreases your cortisol and stress, and the ability to tap into the relaxed state more easily the more you do it. This is one that can really decrease the feelings of being overwhelmed when you incorporate it into your routine.
2. You Have A Choice
You can start to feel really intimated and think IVF is the only answer when you are struggling to conceive. When in fact, less than half of IVF treatments result in a live birth. Let me be clear, I am not putting down IVF, absolutely not. IVF has given so many their miracle baby(ies)! I am just opening your eyes and trying to diminish your fear that when you hear you may be struggling with infertility, this doesn’t automatically mean IVF.
Do your research and work with a doctor who sees you and your body as an individual. I cannot stress this enough! When we decided upon our specialist it was because he saw me as an individual. He investigated my history and he discovered issues that no one else has taken the time to learn.
You have a choice in all of what happens to your body. Be sure you are comfortable with all aspects of your fertility clinic and team.
And, at some point you may feel like you just can’t go on. Take the time to really examine all of what you are going through, if you are really at peace with this decision, do not look back. Trust yourself and don’t be afraid to change your vision of your future.
Remember, you have a choice in EVERYTHING pertaining to your fertility journey.
3. Be Kind to Your Body
During your journey, you may develop a love-hate relationship with your body. There is a lot of focus on “what’s wrong with me” and “why can’t I have a or carry a baby to term?” You may feel ashamed and even angry at your body for not doing what it is “meant” to do.
This is all very normal. But I urge you to focus on what your body can do instead! Focus on how a doctor might assist your beautiful, amazing body to create a miracle. Shift your image of yourself and your body. It is incredibly powerful and has been shown to increase your chances of carrying a baby by about 45%!! Just by learning to create a new relationship with your body.
Now that is worth trying, right?
(You may also like to read “How to Forgive Your Broken Body: 4 Powerful Steps.”)
4. You Are Not Alone
Let me repeat this-you are not alone. I know it feels like it right now. Like no one understands what you are feeling or could possibly know the pain and ache in your heart. But 1 in 8 struggle with infertility (the inability to conceive in a year); that is a lot of women surrounding you.
The issue is that not everyone talks about fertility issues and miscarriages. I understand it is private, but there are others like me, who want to help you and are waiting to provide you support. Reach out, ask for help. Connect with others. Don’t suffer alone.
I am here for you. This is also why I am taking the time to share with you what I wish I’d known about infertility.
5. Privacy? What Privacy?
Get ready to be poked, prodded and lose all sense of the word private for any parts of your body. I don’t mean this to be crude, it is just so true. I had no idea what I was about to put my body through and how common vaginal ultrasounds would become. You are doing the ultrasound where? Yep, I didn’t even realize that was a thing until I had my first miscarriage.
In all seriousness, you will have a lot of lab draws, doctor appointments, injections, supplements, and possibly different procedures such as HSGs, a hysteroscopy, biopsies, etc. You will be asked very personal questions and almost all aspects of your life will be dissected.
The more prepared you are the better. Ask questions-IT IS YOUR BODY! Do not move forward with any part of your plan unless you are clear why it is being done and what the result will determine. I found it helpful to keep a notebook with questions and answers. My awesome doctor also printed out his notes after every appointment so I could clearly see the evaluation and plan. This was extremely helpful.
6. Learn to Let Go
I mean, really, you will have to learn to let go of pretty much everything you knew as your life. Not negatively speaking, necessarily, but just everything changes.
It is so hard but at some point, you really realize that you don’t have control over the end result. No matter how perfect you are. Trust me, I aced all the treatment plans and was a star student-but I still didn’t get a 100% in the end.
You will also have to let go of making definite plans. With so many procedures, appointments, lab draws, etc, it can be difficult. You just don’t know when your doctor might call and say you have to come in tomorrow. I had that occur with both of my IUIs. They were pushed up several days and my husband and I had less than 24 hours notice to get it all together!
One really important thing to remember is that you can control your thoughts and how you handle all of the crap you endure. That is power and can help you in so many ways on your journey.
7. Work On Your Sh*t
I bring this one up because even after a having a baby, that sh*t will still be there, plus all the stuff you picked up during the roller coaster of your journey.
It’s easy to get caught up in the “when I have a baby things will be x, y, z,” but the reality is that whatever you don’t take care of while your trying to have a baby, will only be increased when your baby comes or if your baby doesn’t ever come.
There are just so many emotions, hormones and stress you endure that the more stable you are when you begin, the better you will be able to handle all the different situations that are thrown at you.
You need to be the BEST you -emotionally and physically-for whatever comes on your journey.
8. Determine Who Has Your Back
When you are faced with fertility issues it can be really difficult to open up. You can also have a hard time knowing who you can reach out to and ask for help.
Here’s the deal, you are going to need people in your life who you know will have your back. You will be faced with a lot of emotional sh*t and your significant other can’t be the end all be all of your tribe. Look deep into your friendships and determine who you can trust, who you can ugly cry to and who will really be there on terrible days.
Those people will be there to help pick you and celebrate the wins (even the little ones-like-yay-I’m ovulating today!), so build your tribe now and keep them close.
9. Get Ready for the Roller Coaster Ride of Your Life
I use this term a lot, but I haven’t found a better description yet. One minute you will be buckling up, excited with anticipation and climbing a huge hill with no idea what’s on the other side. The next minute you will be exhilarated and going at a speed you can’t handle.
The next minute you will be facing flips and turns and your stomach will flip. You will be scared and excited and not sure if you want to end or not. You will be holding on for dear life but also wanting to reach up to the sky and enjoy the ride, if only for a few seconds. Next, you will feel exhausted by the time you get off, yet you will want to get right back on and do it all over again. All for the hopes of holding your baby.
Your journey will be your journey, but it will be packed full of emotions-elated, depressed, scared, anxious, worried, exhausted and full of overwhelming feelings. But it is your ride, make the most of it every day.
10. People Will Hurt You (with the best intentions)
When you reach a certain stage in your marriage or a certain age, people will begin innocently asking “when are you going to have kids?” The longer you are married or the older you become, it seems the more frequently this is asked.
At certain times this question will hit you like a ton of bricks. You need to be prepared because the comments and questions will only get harder. If you mention your treatment plan and important days, then you have to be ready for the questions, while well-intended, that might crush you.
Choose what you share based on your ability to handle the situations, and again, who has your back. You can’t control what people say to you, only how you respond.
These two posts are helpful to put out there for those well-intended people who may just not get it: How to Avoid Hurting Someone Who’s Had a Miscarriage and 10 Meaningful Ways to Support a Friend After Miscarriage.
11. Triggers are Everywhere
Piggybacking off the last lesson, are triggers. What I mean by triggers is when you are emotionally smacked in the face and your world comes tumbling down. These can happen anywhere, and usually when you least expect them.
You expect a baby shower to trigger you and seeing a friends pregnancy announcement (for their 5th kid) will surely cause them. But I wasn’t expecting the host of my favorite dance show to announce her pregnancy the day I had my third miscarriage.
So, you can’t control the world and what is happening around you. Trust me-I’ve tried! But you do need to learn to say to “no” to events that you know will be too difficult and let go of the guilt. Protect your heart when you can, and be ready with tools for those moments when you aren’t expecting them to hit you.
12. Organize Yo’ Self
There about a gazillion things you need to remember when you begin your fertility journey. There will be medications, appointments, specific times of day for this and that, when you should have sex, when you should avoid sex, what you can and can’t eat, and the list goes on and on.
I found it to be super helpful to be organized and have it all mapped out in an excel sheet! I have mentioned I am kind of a nerd. But this really helped me stay on track and not forget all the little details, days and times of what I had to follow.
There are also helpful journals, tracking books and blank notebooks with cute designs you can purchase to help you keep track of all the details.
13. Alphabet Soup?
So, the first time I went on miscarriage forum I felt like I entered a secret cult with a new language. Everyone used lingo I had never heard and almost every other word was an acronym. For that reason, I spell almost everything out or give a link to help you. It made me feel even more isolated instead of connected.
However, there will be some key acronyms that will be helpful for you to know. My peer, Sheila Lamb wrote a book “My Fertility Book: All the fertility and infertility explanations you will ever need, from A to Z“. It is packed with so much valuable information and definitions of words you have never heard of. This is a must-have and one I would have absolutely had on my “what I wish I’d known about infertility” checklist if it existed back then.
14. Infertility Will Change You
The last thought I want to leave you with is that your fertility journey will change you. It just will. In some ways, it will be for the better and in other ways, it will just change how you look at yourself and others. There is some innocence lost and the dream of having “4 kids” may just not be in the cards for you.
You may experience emotions you never thought possible. Being jealous of your friends even though you are incredibly happy for them, is a very confusing feeling, but very common. Thinking in absolutes will be challenged, because until you are there at the crossroads, you never know just how far you might be willing t go.
You will still be you, but perhaps just a little bit different version than when you began. You have evolved.
My Hope For You
Looking back at my journey, I would have worked harder earlier to gain more control over my emotions and sought help much sooner. But almost all of the heartache and agony has led me where I am today. I am able to use my experiences and knowledge to help others, like you.
Being prepared and supported can truly empower you to ensure you are making the best decisions for you and leave you feeling less overwhelmed and anxious.
I truly hope you have found 14 insights: what I wish I’d known about infertility, to be helpful in guiding you. You are not alone. I wish you freedom and empowerment on your journey to mommyhood.