5 Lessons I Learned From My Infertility Mentor
By Kristyn Hodgdon
When I was going through infertility I was fortunate enough to have a close relative who had recently gone through a 3 year long infertility battle which resulted in a beautiful baby girl. When I opened up to her about my struggles early on, she was immediately willing to help guide me through the process, answer my questions (no matter how ridiculous), listen to my rants, be a shoulder for me to cry on, and make me feel infinitely less isolated in my journey. God, was I lucky to have her. So today I am sharing the top 5 things I learned from my infertility mentor.
1. It’s okay to grieve.
Everyone is going to tell you to “be positive,” but the truth is, you are mourning a baby you wish you had in your life, so you have every right to be sad sometimes. I came across this quote recently, and it’s spot on:
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love that you want to give but cannot.”
If that doesn’t apply to infertility, I don’t know what does. So let yourself be upset when you get bad news. Take an hour or a day to cry your eyes out if that’s what you feel like doing. Then pick yourself up and try again.
2. Every step, no matter how small, matters.
Every diagnostic test and seemingly small step in the process teaches you and the doctors more about your body and what will or will not work for you. Not only that, the smaller steps can help to mentally prepare you for the bigger steps. It may often feel like one step forward, two steps back, but it is all working towards the end goal of getting you pregnant, trust me on this.
3. IVF isn’t as scary as you think. In fact, it's hopeful!
For the longest time I had a complete mental block against doing IVF. I thought I was too young to need it, and I was convinced that ovulation meds would do the trick since that was my main problem. Well, they didn’t, and after almost a year of trying everything under the sun besides IVF and the heartache of multiple failed cycles, I became a lot more open to it. My infertility mentor is the one who finally convinced me to move forward with it. She told me that although the injections would not be easy, I would feel so much better after my egg retrieval. She also said I would breathe a huge sigh of relief when I had frozen embryos in storage, and she was right. I ended up with 12 frozen embryos, and it was a big weight off my shoulders knowing that my future children were now on the outside of my body.
For the record, I know not everyone is lucky enough to get so many embryos out of a single IVF cycle, but I think the takeaway here is that although IVF is a lot harder on your body, it can produce more tangible results and higher success rates than some of the other fertility procedures. That being said, this was just my personal experience-I totally understand the financial burden of IVF and that some people choose not to do it for personal or religious reasons.
4. Infertility is tough on every relationship, not just yours.
Going back to people telling you to “be positive,” at the start of our infertility journey my husband was the biggest culprit when it came to that. It would drive me absolutely insane to hear him tell me to be positive after getting yet another negative pregnancy test, even though I know he was just trying to make me feel better. After all, he was not the one being poked and prodded at the doctor’s office every other day. He was not the one whose body was failing him. The hardest part, I think, was that even though I knew the heartache and stress of the whole process affected him just like it did me, it affected him in different ways and on different days, which often put us at odds against each other. Know that this is going to happen with your partner, it's only natural, but communication and honesty about how you’re both feeling is key. Infertility is hard on every relationship, not just yours, but try to remember that you are a team and that your love for one another is the whole reason you are doing this in the first place!
5. Infertility will forever leave scars on your heart, but will make you a stronger person and a more grateful mother one day.
My infertility mentor constantly told me that she would never fully heal from the scars infertility left on her heart. I didn’t fully understand that until now, but despite “crossing over” into pregnancy the truth is that infertility never fully leaves you (hence the reason for this blog!). Sometimes it feels a little like PTSD, and sometimes it feels like I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn't gone through it. Either way, infertility is now a part of who I am, and I know I am going to be a more grateful mother to these two sweet babies because of it.
I am forever indebted to my infertility mentor for her unending love, guidance, and support throughout my journey. However, I know not everyone has a friend or family member in their life who so recently (and successfully) went through infertility to guide them through the ups and downs of the process. I also know that even some who do would still choose not to open up. However, even if it is a therapist who specializes in infertility or an online community like @thefertilitytribe, I think it is extremely important for everyone to have some sort of a mentor or community with whom they can share their story and find support. It is so important for your mental health not to go through this process alone.
If you are looking for a one-on-one infertility mentor to confide in, I would highly recommend checking out Fruitful Fertility. Fruitful is a free fertility mentorship program that connects those struggling with infertility with those who've been through it firsthand. Click here for more information!