By Sue McCarron
I’m a proud mother of an IVF-created 18-month old who’s considering jumping back into the fertility treatment game to go for number two. Over these past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time mentally revisiting the land of needles and endless blood tests, hormonal swings and emotional ups and downs. Even knowing that it’s worked once, it’s still daunting, sad and frustrating that my husband and I can’t just enjoy the baby-making process like everyone else. But it’s also made me discover some things I wish I could go back and tell my pre-IVF self:
- Get comfortable in the gray area. Undergoing fertility treatment is an emotional and scary process. And most of the time, nothing is black and white. Living in the “gray area” and the unknown can be what’s most painful and heart-wrenching – especially for those type-Aers who are used to checking to-dos off a list, getting things done quickly and moving on to the next step. The gray area and patience can be tough. But it gets easier as you go. I promise.
- The complexity involved at times is downright laughable. Everything is lengthy and layered and complicated. But it’s oddly like anything else in life. You just get good at it. You learn about syringes and medicines and estradiol levels. I once told my friend that IVF is like a new, weird hobby with how much you have to learn and know. You adapt to the lingo and the tools needed and gear involved. It adds a lot to your already full plate of life. But it is worth every second you spend looking at needles and meds and talking to the pharmacy or your nurse or doctor and trying to understand what goes where.
- Lean on whoever you need to, whenever you are ready. Everyone who loves you is cheering you on, silently or out loud. They are thinking it, whether or not they’ve said it. For the first several months I was in treatment, I was VERY quiet about it and didn’t want to tell anyone anything. I wanted to go through it and tough it out alone. But it didn’t work well. I struggled. I missed baby showers, I skipped outings where I knew lots of moms would be gathering. I think I leaned on my husband almost too much at times. And the process became somewhat lonely and isolating. When I was ready, which took some time, I found what worked for me was writing emails to a select group of close friends, when I needed it most, almost as diary entries. They didn’t ever need to respond. But it helped me to get my thoughts out of my cloudy, swirly and emotional head, and to receive encouragement when I was ready to quit. I also found RESOLVE New England and read other women’s diary entries like mine and felt so much less alone.
- You will find champions and new soul mates in the most unlikely places. Once I started opening up more, some women who were previously on the outskirts of my friend circle shared their stories and became extremely valuable to me. They “got it” and were there every step of the way. That friend in my book club who I never knew struggled with fertility. The niece of my mom’s friend who shared my same doctor. Some of my and my husband’s co-workers became our biggest advocates and confidants. If and when you are able to open up to people, they will surprise you with their own stories and their generous ability to support you.
- It may take time, but you will get to a more comfortable place of acceptance. Eventually, I made my fertility challenges a part of my identity. I talked about it openly where appropriate. I proudly promoted RESOLVE New England on Facebook and LinkedIn. I started to wear my challenge as a badge of honor – because the women who go through this are on another level of toughness. We turn our bodies over to science to have a baby and become mothers. It’s both selfish and selfless at the same time. Its hopeful one day and then crushing the next. But the mental and physical power you have will amaze yourself and inspire others.
Yes, I am reproductively challenged. I was lucky enough to eke one out. While I’m contemplating a second run, I know in my heart that it might not work again, and I might never have another. But I’m not going to let the challenge stop me from trying. It’s easy for me to share this advice in retrospect, but I hope it might help someone else out there who’s traveling this same road.
Sue McCarron, 35, works in healthcare communications and lives in Natick, Mass., with her husband Terry and her 18-month old daughter Nora. She is a patient of Dr. Raymond Anchan at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She welcomes comments, questions and requests for cheerleading at firstname.lastname@example.org