As I’m sitting here happily drinking my morning coffee I started thinking back to the time, not so long ago, when I wouldn’t let myself drink coffee, or even tea, forget about wine/beer/margaritas. The time when I was eating kale like it was my job. And blueberries and pineapple (only the center) and avocados and avoiding anything with sugar or corn syrup. I was doing fertility yoga, avoiding nail salons, doing meditations and spending hundreds of dollars a month on supplements. I was driving myself crazy. I have some thoughts on that time, from the other side, for those of you who are there now. For me (this may not be true for you) this was what was going on…
- I needed a sense of control. Infertility takes away your control over your body and over your future. These measures, however silly they may seem, were a way for me to exert some control over my life.
- I needed to DO something. There’s lot of waiting involved when you are “actively” dealing with infertility. You’re waiting for your cycle to start, waiting for your appointment, waiting for the cyst to go away, waiting for the blood results to come back, waiting for a call from the doctor… it was something to DO.
- I wanted to make a “deal”. I was raised to believe that if I was good enough, tried hard enough, did well enough I could do whatever I wanted. Generally, this has been true. So I felt like if I did everything, tried everything, ate perfectly, exercised properly and consistently, avoided anything potentially harmful – if I made myself the perfect vessel I could have a baby. I just needed to figure out what all the right things were, and then I could have my family. I wanted to make a deal with the universe – “See, I’m perfect. I did everything right. Can I have my baby now please?”
And it didn’t work (obviously). And so I started getting into this very emotionally damaging cycle of “it must not be working because I’m taking the wrong brand of supplement” or “I must not be exercising/eating/mediating enough”. Eventually this morphed into a general “I’m not good enough.” Even though I knew (logically) that I had a medical condition and even though I understood very well the odds of us getting pregnant I still felt like I could make a deal, if I just tried hard enough. After all, I had read the well-worn stories we’ve all read about the woman from Europe who took the supplements and suddenly had lots of healthy eggs, or the woman who started doing yoga and got pregnant naturally after years of failed fertility treatments. If they could do it, why not me? I know now (and knew then too although I didn’t want to admit it) that for every “success story” there are thousands of “failures” (although I don’t like to think of them that way anymore – now I think of them as “the ending we hope for” and the “road less traveled”).
I’m not trying to take away your hope,or telling you not to try every single thing you can, especially if it will make you feel better in the long run to feel that you did everything you possibly could. What I’m saying is cut yourself a break. Your fertility doesn’t hinge on one glass of wine. Eating one more pineapple isn’t suddenly going to create the perfect viable egg. Missing one yoga class doesn’t mean you’re not “committed to the process”.
I’m still dealing with feelings of shame and inadequacy because of my infertility. There’s still guilt. But it’s getting better. The unwavering love and support of my husband, my parents, my sister and my friends is going a long way towards healing those wounds. And I finally recognize that no perfect supplement cocktail, no magic pineapple, no perfect down dog could have cured me. My infertility isn’t a result of anything that I did, and nothing that I can do will fixed it. And it’s a relief to let go of the responsibility.
I feel exactly the same, I did so much in preparation for my first cycle…. everything and anything I could. I had a grade 5AA blasto transfered. And out just didn’t work. This time in the run up for our FET I’m a lot more relaxed xx
I think this is a great analysis of how people try to gain control over infertility, which is essentially uncontrollable. I sometimes berate myself for not giving up coffee/booze, and not taking every supplement under the sun while doing acupuncture, but the truth is that those things would make me miserable (even acupuncture, as I’m needle-phobic) and aren’t proven in any way to help. Sure, people do them and get pregnant, but maybe they would have gotten pregnant anyway. With DOR, the problem is crappy eggs, not a cup of coffee now and then. It’s hard not to feel like if I really wanted it, I should have tried everything. But then I remember one of the nurses at my clinic, who said the most important thing was to try to stay relaxed and happy during the whole IVF process, and if a glass of wine helps with that then dammit, I’m gonna drink it!
My survival technique was always setting goals that had nothing to do with fertility but where I could influence the outcome. I think this helped me from going all crazy about fertility diets and such. (Although the few things I could control – such as having a full bladder for ultrasounds I definitely overacheived on.) But, I still haven’f figured out how to deal with the shame I feel about being 37 and moments from menopause. I am so deep in the closet on this.
Great quote. Thanks for this post. I’m trying to find a balance and not drive myself crazy, but I totally relate to your three points, especially the last one. I didn’t even notice that is what is going on for me until I read your post. Its so hard to accept there is no deal to be had.
Benenden Fertility Centre said:
A lovely and inspiring post.
It is brilliant that you are able to share your experiences with others, it is so important that people preparing to go through this journey are able to understand as much as they can and have the support of others.