I never suspected getting pregnant and maintaining a pregnancy would be so difficult. Unlike other struggles — the loss of a loved one, coming out to your parents, high-school bullying — where people say, “It gets better,” this does not. The longer it takes to get pregnant only highlights how ridiculously difficult it is to get pregnant.
More time equals more frustration, no matter how many “it’ll happen when the time is right” inspirational mantras you subscribe to.
If you’ve found yourself on IVF’s doorstep for the first time, here’s what I say is the best way to prepare yourself for it.
1. Do nothing differently.
Keep your same routines. Keep your life as “normal” and “regular” as it always is. Your IVF month is stressful. Cocktails of fertility drugs, the expense of the procedures (and drugs, and monitoring, and, and, and), the uncertainty of whether it will be a successful cycle. It can be so much to handle. Don’t try to change everything else in your life right now. Keep it simple. Keep it the same.
2. Do everything differently.
You know you’re having a hard time getting pregnant — you wouldn’t be about to start or consider IVF otherwise. Now’s the time to focus on YOU. Eat better. Be more active. Quit smoking. Find new ways to relax. But do all those things before your IVF month. Start them before your first appointment, your first consultation. Make it habitual, make it your “regular” before you begin treatment.
3. Find someone to confide in.
And not just your partner, if you have one. You need someone to talk candidly about the roller coaster that is IVF. You need to be able to call someone and say, “Holy shit, these injections are crazy.” Don’t go this alone. While it’s great that you can possibly talk to your mate about it all, find someone more removed from it so that you can truly just talk — without worrying which one of you this is more intense for. Whether your partner is a man or another woman, they have their own experience, their own story with this, and because we’re the ones who “go through it,” we often feel like our story has more value, is more important. Talk to your partner, but don’t only talk to your partner.
4. Listen to your partner.
The meds are intense — the whole process is intense — and most of us have someone by our side through it all. If you do, remember this is happening to them too. Sure, you’re the one whose eggs are going to be sucked from you. You’re the one whose skin will be pierced by needle after needle. You’re the one. But you’re not the only one. This is their story, too. Check in with them. Ask how they’re doing. Let them know they can express their feelings too. And that you are there for them.
5. Let go.
Let go of it all — even all of my previous advice. Because, in the end, it’s all such a crap shoot. Yes, there are things that might increase your chances of a successful IVF cycle (acupuncture, proper eating, relaxation). But I’m here telling you that even if you do everything exactly as the books suggest, exactly as the doctors recommend (heck, even exactly as I write) you could still have an unsuccessful cycle. It’s unfair to the greatest degree of unfair. But it is what it is. After three years on this journey, I wish I had realized that sooner.
6. Keep at it.
It’s a hard road. It might be long (though I pray it’s not for you). It’s unfair. It will change you. You’re likely to cry more than you ever have before. You’ll know what it’s like to miss something you’ve never had. Your relationships (lover, family, friends, work) will be strained. But keep at it. Keep at it.