Guest blogger Tertia Albertyn on what kept her from losing it during her four and a half years of infertility.
Your loyalty lies to yourself first.
Life is too short, and sometimes too damn hard, to do things because of social niceties. Baby showers, parties, dinner invitations--only go when you feel you can deal with the situation and the company. If you are feeling too fragile, don't go. They would like you to be there, but they don't need you to be. Sometimes you need to protect your own heart more than you need to do the "right" thing. Remember: The right thing for you is to look after yourself.
Educate those around you.
The more your family and friends understand about your situation, the easier it is for you. If we can get just one person to stop saying "just relax," we will have helped the sisterhood.
I swear I could practically do my own cycles if it weren't for retrieval and transfer. I found that educating myself made me feel a little more in control. And control is so hard to come by in this process. Just be careful not to Google yourself into a frenzy.
Get online support.
A genuine sanity saver for me has been getting support through online bulletin boards. I have met the most amazing people and made some life-saving friendships. It is such a relief to be able to bare your soul to kindred spirits. Bulletin boards and support groups come in many different flavors--some all happy, skippy, and positive and others filled with cynical humor and the occasional swear word. Find one where you feel at home.
But leave when it gets too hard to stay.
Hopefully you will be among the first or even majority to get pregnant, but if you are one of the last few and it hurts to stay, leave. Find another support group for people who have been infertile a little longer. Remember, your loyalty lies with you first. Don't hang around pregnant people, even those who used to be infertile, unless you want to. They are pregnant, for goodness sake--they're happy.
Get help if you need it.
About two years into the process, I hit a particularly bad period where the sadness, bitterness, and pain were threatening to consume me. It was then that I finally bowed to gentle pressure from my family to go "see someone." I didn't want to go. I thought "What's it going to help? I'll walk in there infertile and I'll walk out infertile." And I was right, seeing a therapist doesn't change your reality--but it can help you deal with that reality. I ended up being diagnosed as clinically depressed and was asked if I'd like to go on antidepressants. At first, I rebelled at the idea of pills. But thank God I ended up taking them. What a relief not to be so furiously angry all the time. I could concentrate more so I did better at work. I slept much better at night. I actually managed to laugh again.
Don't ever consider yourself less worthy.
Being infertile is not your fault. Even if your diagnosis is blocked tubes caused by a sexually transmitted infection you had in your wanton past--please! Stop blaming yourself. That will gets you nowhere. And never base your womanhood on your reproductive ability. Being able to have sex and get knocked up doesn't define femininity. Last time I checked the requirement for being female it was having XX chromosomes, not a sparkling uterus and shiny eggs.
Know that IVF is nothing to be embarrassed about.
In fact my husband and I are actually damn proud that we did IVF. It shows our strength and determination to reach our goal. I mean, really, having sex to get pregnant--how last season! And don't be embarrassed about how many IVFs you've done. Who cares?! Some people might think you are obsessive (so what?) or that you don't know when to stop. Wrong. You might not know exactly when you will stop, but you know it is not with this IVF. You do as many as you want to do. If you only want to do one, that's your choice.
Decide on how many different versions your happily ever after could take.
For some people anything beyond sex is too much. For others IVF is a step they won't consider. Everyone is different, but the most liberating thing for me was the decision that I would do whatever I had to to have a child, whether it meant donor eggs, adoption, whatever. Never having to face the end of the road helped me stay on the road. This is not for everyone. You and your partner decide how far you are prepared to go.
Make sure you and your husband are on the same page.
Infertility can wreck a marriage quicker than an affair.
Be kind to yourself.
Infertility is hard. It sucks, it's unfair. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. So you are allowed to be sad, to cry, to shout, to feel sorry for yourself. You don't have to be brave and strong all the time. Get help, whether it's from your friends and family, a therapist, or your online buddies. It's hard, but you don't have to be alone in this.
Don't develop amnesia.
When you eventually succeed or decide to get off the roller coaster, don't develop amnesia and forget what it was like to still be struggling. Don't say things like "it will happen for you" (how the hell do you know?). Remember the big difference between those who have succeeded and those still trying is that those who have succeeded know there is a (happy) ending to their journey. The journey is finite. Those still trying don't know if they will ever succeed. Remember that it's hard to be around pregnant people, even if the person struggled for ages and did six million IVFs. You are pregnant, they are not. So be sensitive. Sometimes that means telling someone you are there for her but will wait for her to contact you when she feels strong enough.
Good luck to you all, may all your dreams come true, one way or another. I wish I had the elusive magic wand, because I would grant you all of your wishes in a heartbeat.