This post was written by a worry warrior in our community who wishes to remain anonymous.
Infertility is one of the most challenging things you can go through. Whether you’re starting the journey alone or as part of a couple, being prepared can make the process much less painful.
A recent study showed that infertility has the same impact as a bereavement or losing your job. What about if you’re a worrier as well? Well, then your infertility anxiety just got supercharged.
This spring I started my first round of IVF. I’m anxious and so is my lovely partner. We wanted a family, but thanks to my PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) it wasn’t going to happen naturally. So we saved up and decided to do a round of IVF together. “How hard could it be?” we thought.
It turned out to be the hardest thing we had ever done.
We both struggled with the uncertainty and upheaval of IVF. Fertility is hard enough, but if you’re also anxious, then you’re going to need to be super kind to yourself and your partner. If you’re a worrier who wants to start a family, I’ve got some important advice for you.
Here are my tips for dealing with fertility when suffering with anxiety:
1. Stay off internet chat forums
I was told to seek support online from the beginning of my treatment. So I found a group on a popular forum that started IVF at the exact same time as me, and we began chatting regularly. Worrier pals, please trust me when I say, STAY AWAY.
The problem with forums is that they often attract people’s deepest insecurities. It’s a breeding ground for worrying. And when you embark on IVF, IUI or any other fertility journey, it’s important to keep yourself calm and positive.
A friend of mine who was successful on her first ever IVF cycle stayed well clear of these forums, and next time, so will I. Speak to your friends, your family and your partner, but leave internet-induced anxiety to everyone else.
2. Remember to be really, really kind to yourself
IVF is an invasive, emotional and all-consuming process. You might feel like a failure on a daily basis. It might seem as if the entire world has conceived easily (they didn’t) and as if all your friends are getting pregnant first time (they aren’t). On top of these anxious thoughts, the hormones you’re taking will exacerbate how terrible you feel.
In this situation, my serious advice for you is to please, please be NICE to yourself.
Remember those hobbies you have? Do them every day. Remember how much you liked to get out of the house, and appreciate the little things around you? Do that too. Keep being kind to yourself. Whether it’s long walks, bubble baths, treats, dinners, cinema trips or shopping afternoons, it’s important to keep a sense of normality, and keep treating yourself.
3. Talk to your partner, or a fertility buddy
Your relationship may be the first thing to suffer if you go through fertility treatment. You can easily start blaming each other, or worse still, communication breaks down altogether. I learned during these dark times that it’s always best to keep talking. Lean in to your relationship, don’t pull away.
At the start of my treatment I also reached out to a couple of trusted people in my life. People who I knew would be able to take calls when I was feeling low, and had been through fertility issues themselves. I can’t recommend doing this enough to you.
Please reach out regularly to someone else in your life. You might feel like a burden, but you’re actually paying this person a compliment. And one day, you’ll be able to repay them too.
4. Expect the best, prepare for the worst
A final piece of advice, which I learned the hard way. Our doctors and health carers told us to constantly think positive. As an anxiety sufferer, I found daily meditation and reaching out to people close to me really helped with this. However, I did not allow myself to prepare for the worst.
Sadly, I lost my pregnancy and was absolutely devastated. I hadn’t prepared for things going wrong, and did what most poorly prepared people do: I blamed myself. This caused a spiral of bad things to happen. Arguments, tears, and sadness. Days spent in bed feeling worthless, and (sadly) too much alcohol when I didn’t want to go back to work.
It’s never good to think negatively when you suffer with anxiety, but in this case, it is important to be realistic and pragmatic. Protect yourself by preparing for the worst case scenario. Plan a series of actions you’ll take if things don’t go your way. Write this list down, and try to stick to it.
Infertility is one of the most difficult things to deal with, but I actually think that anxiety sufferers may have the upper hand in some ways.
A lifetime spent dealing with anxious thoughts equips us better than most at dealing with the twists and turns of IVF. Be kind to yourself, be kind to your partner and remember that fertility is a journey, and you will get there eventually.