When you are unsuspectingly thrown on the infertility rollercoaster looping through hope and disappointment cycle to cycle, the reins of control over your life seemingly slip with the consuming desire to conceive a baby. Offspring shares some tried and tested methods to empower your fertility journey while nurturing your relationships and yourself.
Many of us grow up assuming that one day, just like our mums and dads and their parents before them, that we too will have children. But it is a confronting reality that one in every six couples faces difficulties trying to get pregnant.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) may be hailed a revolutionary miracle for those unable to conceive naturally, but it is far from a quick fix to the plethora of complex and complicated medical and financial hurdles some couples face in their quest for parenthood.
Infertility, an emotionally loaded word, is simply defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse. The causes of infertility are many and varied. For women, age is the single most important factor affecting fertility. No matter how young you feel, after 35 years old your eggs are considered more fragile and declining, and it doesn’t help that the term ‘elderly primagravida’ is added to your medical notes, meaning older first time mum.
the modern woman may delay parenthood including meeting a partner later in life, focusing on a career or travel, experiencing a medical issue and for many it is simply thinking there was more time left on the biological clock.
There are many reasons the modern woman may delay parenthood including meeting a partner later in life, focusing on a career or travel, experiencing a medical issue and for many it is simply thinking there was more time left on the biological clock. Tick Tock. All these personal reasons for putting off having a baby can compound intense feelings of blame, anger, shame, guilt or regret, when slapped with the infertility label.
Infertility counsellor and principal life coach at Authentic Empowerment, Claire Hall, says a life crisis such as infertility can make a woman take a very severe inventory of herself: “While you may not get a choice in the matter, it is an opportunity to question who you are and decide what you actually want from life and empowering yourself wherever your journey takes you.”
“People like being in control of their lives and when faced with infertility there is a monumental sense of losing control,” she says, which, if left unchecked, “can lead to a diminished sense of self worth and ripple through to profoundly impact relationships and even cause marriage breakdown and loss of friendships.”
Sydney-based Hall explains her book, Empowered Fertility: A Practical Twelve-Step Guide, was written with a focus to help empower women to manage their psychological and emotional wellbeing, expectations and attitudes in the face of infertility.
A key recommendation for people taking the first daunting steps in fertility treatment is to get back to basics, put thoughts down on paper and keep communication channels open especially with partners and doctors. It is also advisable to think about restricting fertility discussions and time spent online, which can lead down a wayward isolating and discouraging path.
“If you have engaged a doctor that you truly trust, and you surround yourself with a solid support team, you have no need to be online seeking further answers,” Hall says. “You are not alone, you have a whole team on your side barracking for you, knowing your unique story and wanting the same outcome.”
Co-author of Hall’s book and well-respected fertility and women’s health specialist Dr Devora Lieberman says there has always been plenty of counselling available but what are lacking are concise tools for helping patients positively and confidently navigate the treatment phases, especially if the couple make the tough decision to stop and implement their ‘Plan B’ lifestyle choice.
“Some couples start treatment already knowing the number of cycles they are willing to try, while others receive medical advice or stop due to financial constraint or physical and emotional strain,” Lieberman says.
“When the decision to stop trying is finally reached there are many mixed emotions, like a grief process. The realisation you can start redesigning your life may not come immediately, but there are so many possibilities and opportunities for an empowered, meaningful and fulfilling life with or without children.”
Tip #1 Start with the right expectations
IVF is a journey which may take 1-6 cycles or more. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking each cycle is a process itself.
Tip #2 Keeping it together
Keep all your treatment and research in one central location so it is not scattered all over the house, impacting every aspect of life and constantly reminding you.
Treat your experience with the importance and care it deserves.
Tip #3 Empower yourself
- Accept your journey is personal and unique.
- Start a journal.
- Create a vision board of who you wish to become as a result of the fertility journey.
- Identify what you can and can’t control and manage your expectations.
- Positive and proactive thinking. Practice daily affirmations. “I am worthy of happiness and love”; “I am grateful for my body”; “I graciously accept my life”.
- Learn to say ‘no’ to events that cause you undue stress.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
- Support and love your partner.
- Book some pamper time to rejuvenate and calm your nervous system.
- Visit new places or learn a new skill to escape the reminders of infertility.
- Try yoga or meditation to quiet your inner dialogue.
- Be kind to yourself.
Tip #4 Know your triggers
Be prepared for questions from family, friends, work colleagues and even strangers. Brainstorm your personal triggers and prepare calm and collected responses. Practice your comebacks to build confidence using them.
Here are some responses to dispel the well intended question “When are you going to start a family?”
- When the time is right
- That is not something I can answer right now
- Why, are you selling yours?
- Or change the subject back to them.
Remember you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Tip #5 Nurture your relationship
- Attend fertility specialist appointments together.
- Limit fertility talk to 20 minutes a day.
- Remove inflammatory words from conversation such as ‘why’ and ‘you’.
- Listen without judging and explore how each other is processing the journey.
Remember love is your core motivation for this journey. Keep the reasons you are together at the forefront of your mind:
1. Send love notes
2. Go on a date night
3. Keep a happy memory snapshot close at hand, in your wallet or on your desk.
Tip #6 Call on your supporters
- Ask for support and a listening ear.
- Remind them they can’t fix the problem or take the pain away.
- Ask for private notice of pregnancy announcements.
- Be honest with family and close friends and let them know you need space, this may include declining invitations particularly those related to babies.