After having been fully immersed in the infertility community for the better part of six years, including our experiences with trying to build our family, this blog, and Nick working with Fertility Centers of Illinois, we’ve learned a lot. Not just about infertility and the people struggling with it, but about ourselves as a couple and as individuals. As they say, everyone’s journey is different. Oliver Goldsmith wrote, “Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations.” And while that definitely sums it up, some people don’t particularly enjoy quotes about journeys. So in addition, we’ll offer this quote from Journey that we find particularly impactful: “Don’t stop believin’!” Here’s what we’ve learned:
You’re in it for the long haul or not at all.
Money, time, appointments, medicine schedules, insurance plans, and everything else that goes with it will wear on you. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, so you need to be ready and dedicated.
You’ll never be ready for it.
You’ll never know how you’ll handle the next step. First it’s only the exceedingly embarrassing conversation with your doctor where they ask if you’re having sex properly. Then the ultrasound. Then the IUI that has one shot. Next thing you know, you’re taking three shots a day and wondering how you manage it all. Reproductive Endocrinologists: the gateway to injectable drugs.
You’re partner is just as invested as you.
They might not be going through the physical aspect, but they see it and participate and feel it just as much. The “it’s not happening to your body” trope seems played up by those who aren’t going through the process.
Others just don’t get it.
And not that you should expect them to. Studies suggest that infertility is as emotionally taxing as a cancer diagnosis. We don’t presume to know what a cancer patient is going through. This definitely highlights the fact that everyone needs to feel empathy for others, regardless of what’s going on.
Have a strategy.
Know ahead of time how you’ll try to react when someone who doesn’t get it asks you “when are you having kids” or when someone else tells you that IVF is evil for whatever reason they think. Knowing what to say and what you’re comfortable with helps ease the social anxiety that develops.
Jealousy, anger, dislike will happen.
It’s a natural part of grieving and/or coping. Don’t feel like you have to cover your emotions, because you don’t. Just try not to be a total jerk and you’ll be doing just fine.
Baby showers and listening to
parents complain about kids sucks.
Just don’t. Avoid it if you can. Remember the part where negative feelings are natural? Be happy for the new parents-to-be. But you can still curse them under your breath or in private. Oh, and the people consummately complaining about their kids? Bye.
Relationships in your life change.
There will be people that you’ll distance yourself more from (the IVF hater, the complainy parent, etc) and that’s ok. Relationships change through the course of any life change, so why would this be any different?
And some will be for the better.
We’ve gotten much closer to several couples after we started being very open about our struggles with infertility. Having someone who has also experienced it or something similar is so helpful. We got SO many messages on the first day we launched our website from people saying “Wow, we thought we were the only ones.” As a person who works in the industry, I can tell you that you are far from the only people battling infertility. 1 in 8.
Pick a person.
Someone who isn’t your spouse or partner that can listen; judgement free. Because sometimes, you have to vent and you don’t want your spouse to think that it’s somehow their fault. It’s not. You know that, they know that. But sometimes, it feels like it is.
We’re stronger because of infertility.
We know that our relationship is stronger than it’s ever been. Seeing our partner’s strength in getting poked and prodded every day. Or your partner learning to administer HUGE shots every day. It takes a real dedication to your goal to make it through, and when you do, you are better because of it.
Bonus: Don’t tell us to relax.
Or that it’ll happen when it’s supposed to. Or that everything happens for a reason. Get outta here with that. Nothing stresses someone out more than being told to relax, like this is somehow our fault because we have too much stress in our lives.
And there you have it! What have you learned during your infertility journey? We’d love to hear from you!