Trying for a baby is supposed to be a wonderful and exciting time, but for those struggling with infertility it is a rollercoaster of emotions, where it is difficult to deal with even the simplest daily tasks without it reminding them of wanting a baby.

It can be an exhausting, heartbreaking and stressful time, full of ups and downs and feelings of hopelessness, failure and grief.

I know, I’ve been there.

I felt the grief every month that I still wasn’t pregnant, the grief for a life I wanted that included children. I felt that my life was at a standstill while everyone around me was moving forwards – babies, new jobs, new homes, holidays. I was putting off doing things ‘in case I get pregnant’. I felt jealousy towards people who were able to get pregnant, which made me feel worse. I just felt that they were living the life I wanted.

I had always known I wanted to be a mum

Each month that passed became harder to cope with it not happening. Every month I would dread going to the toilet around the time my period was due, knowing my heart would be broken again for another month when the inevitable happened.

This period of time in my life was extremely difficult. I was upset a lot of the time, crying myself to sleep, I was surrounded by pregnant friends and babies and everything reminded me of what I didn’t have.

I struggled through developing Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS), having to have all embryos frozen, a failed frozen transfer and having to go back on the pill to regulate my cycle. Finally, I realised that I needed to take control and do something to make myself feel better and take back control of my life.

I went to see a life coach that was recommended by a friend

She helped me deal with some of the issues I was struggling with, gave me tools to keep me thinking positively (or at least not being negative) and I created an action plan that would help me control other areas of my life.

This made a huge difference to how I was feeling and how I went in to my second frozen transfer. I was managing my emotions, controlling all the things I could do in terms of the treatment, I felt happier and more able to cope with the intensity of the treatment.

I now work with ladies going through IVF and struggling with infertility

I wanted to help others break out of the overwhelm and negative cycle that infertility can cause, to help feel stronger and more emotionally stable, so the chances of getting pregnant are higher and the journey is less traumatic.

I would like to share some of the things that helped me

These are tools I now work through with the ladies I work with. When you are struggling with fertility issues and feel like your life is on hold it can be difficult to work out how you can make changes. I would recommend taking small steps that you are comfortable with, don’t push yourself too far to start with.

Take control of what you can

Infertility can leave you feeling out of control of your life and your future, and unfortunately the process of IVF does mean that you have to put control of your body in to the hands of your Assisted Conception team.

However, there are some things you can take control of to make you feel like you are making choices in the process and controlling your future:

  • The process – do your research about the process and any add on treatments, think about any questions you have. This means you can go to your appointments fully prepared with questions and know that you are making informed decisions about your treatment.
  • Your health – follow guidance about what foods you should avoid and which can boost fertility, cut down/stop drinking alcohol and smoking, cut back on caffeine and take vitamins. Check your BMI is within the recommended range for IVF, and if not look at what changes you could make to reduce or increase it.
  • Your emotional health – your emotional well-being is so important when going through IVF. The treatment takes its toll emotionally and physically, so make sure you are being kind to yourself. Don’t judge yourself harshly for how you feel, it is normal to feel upset, jealous, frustrated and a whole range of other feelings. Have little pick me up treats that you can use to help if you are having a wobble. Plan in bigger treats for the tough parts of treatment (EC, ET, TWW) where you know you will need something else to look forward to, to keep your mind off treatment and make you feel better. These don’t have to be expensive treats, it could be having a group of good friends round to cheer you up.

Although you have limited control over the process of IVF, if you can finish a cycle knowing you have done everything you can to help the chances of success, at least you have the reassurance that you have done all that you can, so no matter the outcome you won’t have any regrets.

Support

Struggling with infertility can be an extremely lonely process. A lot of people don’t talk about what they are going through, even hiding it from family and closest friends. I hid it for a long time because I felt it was a private struggle, and I had dreamt about how I would make my surprise pregnancy announcement to my family.

If you don’t know anyone else that is struggling to conceive or going through IVF, you may feel that no-one fully understands what you are going through, so they won’t be able to support you properly.

However, it is so important to get support from somewhere. Infertility can leave you questioning everything – your future, your relationship, your friendships and most crucially your mental health.

Talking through your thoughts with someone who understands will help validate your feelings, make you feel less alone, help you see more clearly to be able to take positive action and also give you someone to just have a moan with about how draining, embarrassing and cringe worthy the process can be.

In my support groups, for instance, we often have a laugh about the lack of dignity you have in parts of the process, so meetings and chats can be light hearted and give some relief from the negative emotions.

There are lots of forms of support available:

  • Support groups – online and group meetings
  • Professional support – counsellors, coaches, hypnotherapists, acupuncturists
  • Staff at your assisted conception unit
  • Fertility Network
  • Resolve
  • Online Forums

This is in addition to friends and family, who may be a huge source of support for what you are going through.

If you have told family and friends what you are going through you will learn who is supportive, use these as your support network and tell them what support you need from them. It may just be having them there to listen when you need to vent, attending appointments with you or just making you smile when you are having a bad day.

Remember the desired outcome

Going through IVF is tough and can trigger some difficult emotions. I found it upsetting going to the hospital every day to start with, I felt it was a reminder of what I didn’t have and I couldn’t believe that I was having to do that to have a baby.

But then I realised that I could be going to hospital every day for treatment for a life threatening condition. I was going there for a positive reason, to get help to create a family. I reminded myself of this at every appointment. I started to see the hospital as a positive place and every appointment an opportunity to get closer to having a baby.

Its important to remember the reason you are going through treatment, your desired outcome of having a baby, to keep you positive and make the process more bearable.

I used this attitude to get me through all the tough parts of the treatment – injecting myself daily, egg collection, embryo transfer, every time I had my legs up in stirrups for my internal scans….!

Doing this played a huge part in getting me through treatment with my sanity intact. I felt I was taking positive action to have a baby. I’m not saying it will stop you having sad days, but it should hopefully stop every day being a sad day.

These are all things I did to help change my mindset going in to my second frozen transfer. I knew something had to change in me to change the outcome to a positive.

I chose to take positive action to increase my chances of success, or at least make sure I emotionally survived the next cycle.

In October 2013, after my second FET, my son Jack was born and it was the happiest day of my life.

Every injection, scan and tear cried was worth it to get this perfect little boy in my arms and every day I am thankful that IVF is available and to the team at my local hospital because they gave me my family.

Amazingly, after 5 years of struggling first time round, I fell pregnant naturally with my daughter, and in October 2015 my second miracle baby was born.

Struggling to conceive and going through IVF, I realised that there is a lack of support available.

I set up a free support group in my local area and a Facebook group that seem to be making a big difference to people emotionally. I also retrained to be a life coach, and now work with women struggling to conceive and going through IVF to take control of their fertility journey, to get them in a better place emotionally to increase their chances of getting pregnant.

If you would like to join my free FB group it is called ‘Surviving Infertility’

IVF has high stakes, but it doesn’t need to be a stressful and negative process. Take control of what you can, keep positive about your reasons for doing it and use your support network when you need it. Try to finish every cycle knowing you have done everything in your control to help the chances of success, and that you are emotionally in a good place, so you are able to cope no matter the results.

Good luck xx

 

Thank you so much to Sarah Banks for such a heartfelt and informative article. Do get in touch with Sarah on her Facebook group ‘Surviving Infertility’ or on Sarah Banks Coaching Ltd

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