IVF: What You Should Know if a Friend Is Going Through Fertility

Infertility is one of those taboo topics that so many people just don't want to talk about. And those of us that do talk about it get lots of mixed feedback on our openness. Many think that we should keep personal things to ourselves. Others think we are doing it for attention. But for each person who judges my decision to talk about my infertility, there are three others that benefit from it. The most important person me.

Talking about my infertility is therapeutic and helps keep me out of my own head. Talking about it allows me to connect with others who know what I am going through.

Even more, talking about my fertility in such a public way allows me to talk to the people in my own life who are not comfortable asking questions, or talking to me in a more personal way.

The first time we did IVF we were lucky. We only had to do one round and got pregnant on the first try. None of our extra embryos made it though the freezing process though, so for baby #2 we would have to start all over. This time is a whole different story. We are now 10 months in and still not pregnant. Everything that could go wrong...has, and, there are more questions than answers. For the first time, I hit that incredibly hard wall of despair and was ready to call it quits. It was a wall I needed to hit in order to keep going though. I needed to let myself feel it all, and now I am back in the saddle and ready to push through. I will conquer my infertility. I already did once....I can do it again.

Know someone going through this madness? Here are some things you should know:

Some people need help getting pregnant. Some people are really battling infertility.

I don't say this one lightly and I don't mean to offend anyone here. Anyone who needs any type of fertility treatment deserves tons of credit for talking to their doctor and getting the help they need. They deserve credit for putting their body through anything "unnatural" in order to get pregnant. They, too, go through all of the emotions of wondering what is wrong with them, wondering if they will ever become a mother, and fear of the unknown. BUT for those of us that can't get pregnant no matter what we is different. We aren't "having trouble". We are having a major f-ing crisis in our lives that consumes every breath we take. So, be sensitive to who you are talking to and follow our cues as to where we are in this process and what we want to talk about.

There are many steps to the process.

Testing, more testing, shots to stimulate your eggs, surgery to retrieve your eggs, making an embryo (done in a lab), shots to get your body ready for an embryo, a procedure to implant your embryo, lots of waiting, lots of testing, lots of sonograms and blood work......lots of tears (happy and sad). Anyone who undergoes IVF has a long road and a lot of bruises. Our emotions are so big and so jumbled. We are putting our minds and bodies through a lot. We will lash out, we will cry, we will retreat for a while. But, we will be back. Be there for us while we go through this crazy time, and even more importantly, be there when we get back to ourselves. We'll need you.

Guilt and hope happen at the same time.

Fertility treatment really puts you on an emotional roller coaster. Getting pregnant doesn't just mean becoming a mother. It means your husband becomes a father, your mom becomes a grandma, your sister becomes an aunt, or even your child becomes a big brother or big sister. Everyone wants it so badly...but you can't give it to them. The guilt hits you in strong waves and usually out of nowhere...and it is heavy. And then, while all of this is happening you still think it can happen. You still think that this time...this round of treatment is going to be the one that works. You have to have that hope in order to keep going. So, we hold on to it very tightly...

We can't make plans.

As an IVF-er, I literally live in limbo and at the mercy of my uterus. Everything is dependent on my cycle and certain tests and procedures have to happen on an exact day within the cycle. At any time I may need to go to the doctor for a sonogram or bloodwork to check my levels. In the middle of a cycle this may be every 2-3 days or it may be daily. When in between IVF cycles, I live in limbo waiting for my next cycle to start. So, I can make plans right now or not at all. I just don't know where we will be next week.

We gain weight, and yes, we are aware of it (wouldn't you be?!).

Remember when you first started birth control and you gained a few pounds? Yeah, IVF-ers are pumping those hormones (and plenty more) through our system on the regular. And for many of us the first round doesn't work, so we are stopping, starting, and then stopping again. It's a lot for our bodies to handle and our weight fluctuates with the cycles. We also get put on exercise restrictions frequently during fertility treatments. So, on top of the hormones and craziness, it can be hard to stay motivated. Lesson here: just because we gained weight doesn't mean we are pregnant. Don't ask and when we do tell you we're pregnant, PLEASE don't say, "I thought so! I saw your belly!" UGH.

Yes, we have thought about surrogacy and adoption.

Yes, of course we've thought about it. But we wouldn't be putting ourselves through this madness if we wanted to think about it. We want this to work. We want to be positive. We want to be hopeful. We want to carry our own baby. We know there are other options out there, but we don't want to worry about them unless we have to. We still have hope that we can carry our own baby. Let us cross that bridge if/when we get to it...

We aren't living the kid-free life, yet we don't fit in with the moms.

I remember when we first moved to Indianapolis and I was doing IVF. I tried to join the local mom group on FB, because I wanted to ask questions and seek info. The admin wrote to me and said "I see you don't have any kids, please try again when you're a mom". I screamed at the computer "I'M TRYING!!!" and just sat there crying.

We are treating our body as if we are pregnant, but living as though we aren't. All we can do is think about having a baby and becoming a mother. We are preparing our body, our mind, and even a home for a baby we don't have yet. And yet, we can't go to play dates and meet other moms. Moms that might know what we are going through. Moms that we could relate to. Moms that could help us. in limbo.

Just because we talk about it, doesn't mean we want to talk about it with you.

This one might sound harsh, but bear with me. First of all, it's still personal. I know I talk about it on social media, but that's easy- because even though I am talking to A LOT of people, I'm not talking to anyone specific. I don't really share all the details of my fertility journey, just that I'm on one. And...there are lots of people who just don't say the right thing. So, I don't want to talk to them about my fertility...because honestly, they stress me out.

We don't care how you got pregnant.

I know, another harsh one. But it's true. We know there are lots of superstitions, cultural beliefs, and plain old urban legends about how to get pregnant. We are now in a medical situation. It's medical and it's serious. I don't care what you ate the day before you ovulated or how high you held your ass up in the air after you had sex. It doesn't matter. I'm not going to call my doctor and say "ya know what, my friend's sister's mother's neighbor told me I just need to do XYZ, so I don't need you anymore."

Listen to us without giving advice. It's OK if you did something different, even if it was a different IVF protocol. We HAVE to give up control here in order to stay sane. We HAVE to trust our doctors. We HAVE to trust the process. If we start second guessing it, we will go crazy. Every fertility journey is different, and that's ok.

We can handle it if you get pregnant first.

Remember when you really wanted your boyfriend to propose? You dreamt about the ring and your perfect wedding...and then, your best friend got engaged first? It hurt for a second. But, just for a second. You were still happy for your friend. You still went to her engagement party. It's human and natural to have a moment of jealousy, but we aren't going to hate you for following your own dreams and we certainly aren't going to give up on our own.

We can talk about the process without telling you when we are pregnant.

Again, just because we talk about the journey, doesn't mean that we want to talk about every detail, or even the outcome...yet. We can talk about going through fertility treatment without giving every single detail. I talk about my process all the time, but I don't want to tell you if I know the sex of my embryos, if I'm going to choose the sex of my baby, or even when that transfer is scheduled. Again, it's all personal. Some people tell every detail, others don't. There are no rules, but you certainly shouldn't ask. If I do tell you when my transfer is, then I don't have to tell you if it worked. As soon as we become pregnant, we start thinking like a non-fertility momma. We also fear the uncertainty of the first trimester and dream of a pregnancy reveal once we reach that 12-week mark. Follow our cues, and let us tell you what we want.

We can tell when you are uncomfortable, and it pisses us off.

Yup, another harsh one. But the truth is, it's annoying to worry about someone else's feelings about what WE are going through. We can tell if you think we shouldn't talk about it or if the topic makes you uncomfortable, and then we back-pedal the conversation or say things to make YOU feel better. Don't start a conversation that you don't want to have.

Men need support too.

It seems to be a woman's problem- since we are the ones going through the pain. BUT fertility issues affect men too. Not just their sperm count and ability to get their wife pregnant....but the process affects them too. Once they give their "donation" they are pretty much just there to hold your hand and can feel helpless in the rest of the process. And, it's not really a conversation that is brought up at work or over beers, so they don't talk about it with their friends. They are the ones holding us up and often holding down the fort at home while we are recovering from procedures or going crazy on our hormone-driven warpaths. Gotta give the men some love here!

We don't forget what it was like.

Once a fertility mama, always a fertility mama. It's like moms who experienced the NICU or miscarriages- you move on, but you never forget. And we can always be there for other moms who need us. I've helped my friends with their shots and helped others prepare for their first consult with a fertility clinic. Once you are a TTC (trying to conceive) sister, always a TTC sister.

As always, if you have questions or need someone to talk to -- I am here for you!