5 (More) Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Infertility Treatments
By Kristyn Hodgdon, Founder, The Fertility Tribe
Many of us know all too well that infertility can be a long, difficult road with lots of ups and downs. The longer you go through fertility treatments, the more you learn about yourself, your body, and the process as a whole. In my last post I shared the top “5 things I wish I knew when I started fertility treatments,” but if I only learned five lessons on my fertility journey, I wouldn’t have started The Fertility Tribe. That’s why I thought I’d share a few more things that I wish I could go back and tell my younger self about what to expect on my path to parenthood:
1. Infertility will test your relationships.
Infertility will seriously test your relationships with your friends, your family, and especially your partner. You could have the strongest marriage and the closest knit family or group of friends in the world, and it will still put a strain on those relationships in some way. Why? Because going through infertility treatments is time-consuming and exhausting. Not to mention your body is also being pumped with hormones, which doesn't leave anyone in the best mood.
My best advice for how to combat this is to communicate. Tell your friends and family what is going on and how you're feeling. If you keep everything in, there is no way for them to know how to be there for you in the way that you need them to be during this time. Also, don't forget to ask your spouse how he or she is feeling. No, they are not the ones being poked and prodded on a daily basis, but they are in the trenches with you, and trust me, they are feeling it too. Learn to lean on people. It will make your relationships stronger than ever when this is all said and done.
2. It's okay to cancel plans and opt for self-care instead.
Before infertility, I would go out every single Friday and Saturday night without fail. On Friday nights, you could normally find my husband and I at our local brewery drinking cold IPAs with country music playing in the background. That was our happy place. But with all of the added stress of fertility treatments, I started embracing the idea of staying in and watching a movie at home instead of having drinks with friends.
After a few months and several failed IUI cycles, I pretty much started avoiding social situations altogether in order to dodge talking about it. This was all out of character for me, and I really started not to feel like myself during those months. There were times when I felt like a bad friend for canceling plans, but after a while I realized that you can't pour from an empty cup. Anyone who is a good friend will understand that, and an even better friend will say, "no problem, I'll be right over with some ice cream!"
3. It's important to have an infertility mentor or community for added support.
I was extremely lucky throughout my fertility journey to have my husband's cousin as a mentor to me. She had just gone through a 3 year infertility journey and had just given birth to a baby girl via IVF. She was my inspiration and also my sounding board when I was confused and frustrated with the process. When it came to starting IVF, she answered all of my questions and made it seem a lot less scary than I originally anticipated it to be. For an entire year, we laughed together and cried together, and the whole experience brought us a lot closer. I know not everyone has the luxury of having someone in their life that has recently gone through a similar experience, but my hope is that you can all find support in our community here at @thefertilitytribe!
4. It's okay to take time to grieve.
One of the most important things my infertility mentor taught me is that it is okay to grieve. When you are having a bad day, when your body isn't responding to a medication the way the doctors thought it would, when you get a negative pregnancy test, it’s okay to be sad. No, no one died, but you are mourning a baby that you want so badly in your life, and that is as good a reason as any to cry, be angry, or upset.
At the same time, it’s not good to dwell on the negative for too long, either. After all, there is always the next cycle! So, after a few months of infertility I came up with a general rule for myself: when you're having a bad day take as much time as you need to be upset, but try to wake up the next day with the courage to go on. One of my favorite quotes that I came across during my fertility journey is this one:
“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher
5. I would become a better and stronger person because of my struggles with infertility.
I promise I am not going to be one of those people who says constantly, "it will all be worth it in the end," but I will say that I am a better and stronger person because of what I went through trying to conceive my babies. I learned how strong I am, because being strong was the only choice I had. I learned how to lean on the people in my life like I never had before. I learned about the importance of self-care. I learned to love myself for what my body could do rather than what it couldn’t. Now, my marriage is stronger than ever and my friendships are more genuine.
Most of all, I am grateful. Now that I'm on the other side of infertility and 6 months pregnant with twins I appreciate the good times so much more knowing what the alternative could be. I know that I am not going to take being a mom for granted. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing, because I wouldn't be the person I am today without what I went through to get here.