Fertility treatments are extremely intense. Dealing with pain, fear, hope, anger, confusion, heartache, frustration, crying, grief, disappointment, misunderstanding, anxiety, envy, sadness, and isolation all at once. Today I’d like to share 7 habits to feeling empowered while going through fertility treatments.
Habit 1: Be proactive
When you first start with fertility treatments, everything feels very overwhelming. A whole new world of (unplanned!) possibilities opens up to you, but also a whole new language: TTC, 2WW, FET, ICSI, PIO, rainbow baby, etc.
Depending on the clinic and your medical situation, the fertility doctor makes a plan for how to proceed. I don’t know about you, but as a recovering control freak I listened carefully and then went home to do my own research. I’ve read the most terrifying things and many sad stories of other women and it didn’t make me feel good at all.
I felt so much better the moment I decided to focus my time and energy on all the things I could control (which procedure, mental and physical prepping, etc), instead of all the things I had no control over (low AMH, how many retrieved eggs, the stage of my embryo).
That gave me the confidence to stand my ground, for example when my doctor tried to convince me to do ICSI instead of IVF (which I for personal reasons didn’t want to), while I still was recovering from the anesthesia! So a question for you…
Question: What are the things you can control while dealing with fertility treatments?
Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind
Fertility treatments are like a crazy rollercoaster ride. You got in, not knowing what to expect. The highs are high and the lows are low, very low. But before you can grief and recover, the next upwards loop is on its way. And the worst? You don’t know when you can step out!
I have this firm belief that I much rather regret what I’ve done, than what I’ve not done. And things are so much easier if you know what the bigger vision is, the ultimate dream. I want to leave you with this thought..
Question: What do you ultimately want to achieve?
Habit 3: Put first things first
Fertility treatments are affecting your whole life. They affect your relationships, your work, your body – in fact, all of you. The most important thing I could do was take good care of myself. Eat healthily, drink plenty of water, move my body and look for joy.
Trust me, that wasn’t always easy. I’m blessed with a loving husband who took over on the days that I couldn’t put myself back together. If you’re not that lucky go look around and find that person who is there for you, your best friend, your mom. Most people want to help, they just don’t know how – tell them!
Especially during fertility treatments, it’s so important to put that oxygen mask on yourself first!
Question: What’s the most important thing you can do right now, for yourself?
Habit 4: Think win-win
A pregnancy announcement can be a painful reminder when you’re struggling with infertility. I’ve felt jealous and envious towards others, then right after felt sad and guilty for these thoughts. I couldn’t stand seeing any more pregnant women!
Until one day a pregnant woman (one of the moms of the school where I was working) opened up, started crying, and told me she was so scared to lose her baby, which she was able to carry after 9 IVF’S.
That moment I realized that all these pregnant women in the parks, on the streets, at school, all have a story. Some have been luckier than others, but they all have had their hardships and from that day on I look at pregnant women and think for myself ‘bless you!’. Even though I so badly want it for myself, I now can be happy for the good thing that happened to them…
Question: Do you believe that there are enough good things for everyone?
Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood
All the warnings I’ve read about on multiple forums, couldn’t have prepared me for the amount of unsolicited advice (just relax, just adopt, take mine) or platitudes (everything happens for a reason) I’ve received.
Even though the intentions might be good and those people just tried to help, what it signaled to me is that ‘I think you have no idea what you’re doing, I’ll tell you what to do.’ What I really needed was someone to just listen and hold my hand.
It took me a lot of courage to tell my parents about our infertility struggles. Not because they are bad people, absolutely the opposite, I just didn’t want them to worry about me. But when I started opening up to more and more people, to make this topic more addressable, I didn’t want them to hear it from somebody else except me.
The best thing I could have done (and did!) was setting an intention of how I wanted to feel at the end of this conversation and setting clear boundaries of how I wanted this conversation to go. The result? I’ve never felt so listened to in my life!
You can mute people in real life too. It’s called boundaries!
What I learned along the way is that you don’t need to do anything with all the advice you’ll receive. I’ve learned to say ‘thank you, but I have a whole team of experts working on it’ or ‘I’m not interested right now, but I’ll ask you about it if I need your opinion in the future’.
Question: How can you communicate your needs and desires in such a way that you feel empowered going through fertility treatments?
Habit 6: Synergize
Fertility treatments are putting a lot of pressure on your relationship. I’ve seen many relationships shatter while dealing with infertility and, to be honest, we’ve had our ups and downs as well.
While I was still processing the negative result, he was already back in the phase of hope for our next round. While he wanted to talk about it to his friends and family, I didn’t understand why everybody needed to know about our situation. I’m grateful our relationship was already very strong before starting fertility treatments, and with lots of talking, we were able to communicate our needs to each other.
Question: What are your partner’s needs and desires to feel empowered going through fertility treatments?
Habit 7: Sharpen the saw
I’m now in my 5th year, and it took me 4 years of having my life on hold before I realized that this wasn’t healthy anymore. If I wanted to be that mom which I fantasized about, with tons of energy to play and goof around, a job that gives her flexibility to be there for her child, a stable financial income to pay for incredible adventures and experiences and showcase what a healthy empowering relationship looks like – I had some things to work on. I needed to sharpen the saw.
I moved to Mexico because I knew that the sun would do me good. I went on several trips, made a bunch of new friends, and I even had my first glass of alcohol since years! And you know what, last week I heard myself say out loud: “I feel so alive!” – and I honestly cried tears of joy.
It’s tough, confronting, and hasn’t been easy every day, but I’ve decided to let the doctors work on it, while I’m living my life to the fullest (between the freaking appointments). I want to be happy, healthy, and ready for that one day I’m holding our little one in my arms…
** This article is based on the book ‘7 habits of highly effective people’ by Stephen Covey.
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