Infertility Ideas That Drive Me Crazy!
And The Healthier Ones I Like So Much Better
A few months back I saw an article that was written for acupuncturists who work with women undergoing IVF. To put it simply, it really stuck in my craw. Although it was clear that the author was trying to help both practitioners and their patients, I thoroughly disagreed with two of the main ideas the author presented. But she wasn't alone, as these are ideas I've heard many others discuss too, from patients to other practitioners. And so I thought I'd lay out my thoughts on the matter. I hope they will help you on your journey!
- 1 -
The author suggests asking women who are suffering infertility struggles "emotionally charged questions."
For examples, she lists these:
"Do you want to be a mother?"
"What are your fears surrounding being a mother?"
"Have you made space in your life for a child?"
"Is your partner ready to be a parent?"
Ugh! Honestly, I don't know exactly where to begin! First off, how many of us know with every fiber of our being that we are "ready" to be a mother? No one does! That's just one of the layers of not-fair that go with the process of IVF. You have to be willing to do something in absolute terms even though it is something that no one is ever completely certain about. Even as I was in labor a part of me was wondering what I'd gotten myself into. And even if you want a child more than anything else in the world, you don't know if doing so will completely turn your world upside down, for better or for worse. Add to this the implied suggestion that if you have not been able to fully embrace the idea of being a mom, let go of your fears, or made certain your partner is ready to be a parent then that might explain your inability to get pregnant. REALLY!? Yes, I believe that cumulative stress and a woman's emotions play a role in her fertility, but I would never suggest asking these questions.
One more minor rant (on this particular topic)... "Is your partner ready to be a parent," might be the suckiest question of the lot. Especially if your partner is a male, the research and every shred of my 10 years of experience suggests that in 90% of cases your partner is not as "ready" for the next stage as you are. This is NORMAL. There is a saying, women become moms the second they become pregnant, dad's become dads after the baby is born (my husband would say... or a couple months in)! So, yes, partners might be fully on board for trying IVF or moving forward in the adoption process but it is okay and normal if they are dragging their feet and less than enthusiastic about it all. That doesn't mean they don't want to be parents and that this is the wrong step for you. This just means they are being honest and realistic and completely normal. Giving you one more thing to feel strained in your relationship about or mad at your partner about isn't helpful.
- 2 -
The author adds, "I also always encourage my fertility patients to visualize themselves pregnant. I think it is extremely important that the patient tune into their bodies and get a sense of what it will feel like and even look like to be pregnant."
Really! So after anywhere from 12 to oh, say 60 months of failure just visualize yourself pregnant!? I honestly have such a problem with this suggestion. Not to mention if you have been pregnant and it has resulted in loss and grief and heartache. I've been pregnant. I've had two children. Guess what. If I attempted to do it right now, I'd have a hard time visualizing myself pregnant. Because actually being pregnant is something no one can fathom, even when you are in the middle of a pregnancy. I think if you actually could wrap your head around it it would pretty much break your brain!
" If you add to a woman's stress on the day of embryo transfer - it isn't good. "
What kills me is that not only is the author telling acupuncturists to ask these questions, but that she seems to be suggesting they are okay to ask on the day of embryo transfer. As if I wasn't already in a tizzy! I'm guessing roughly 99 - 100% of women would feel stressed, emotionally caught off guard and upset if asked these questions on the day of an embryo transfer. At the very least, I'm guessing it'd make them feel like they haven't been doing something right. And the evidence on this is pretty clear. If you add to a woman's stress on the day of embryo transfer - it isn't good. There is a study I love about acupuncture treatments on the day of embryo transfer. The way they designed the study involved couples having to go to an off-site clinic they had never been to and be treated by an acupuncturist they had never met before. Guess what? The success rates went down. Guess what the conclusion was? Because every other study on acupuncture and embryo transfer seems to show either no change or positive change, but they are typically done on-site, the conclusion was that the decreased pregnancy rate was about the stress these women felt running around and meeting a stranger. Now imagine that stranger making them feel bad because they aren't able to visualize themselves pregnant. I'm trying to breathe here. :)
Now all this seems pretty harsh, but I feel so passionately about this I couldn't resist. Like I said, it's been stewing for a few months and I just had to purge.
Here's what I do believe is helpful.
I do feel like pent-up emotions that are excessive, prolonged or overly constrained will contribute to imbalance. So I do feel like emotional expression and exploring anger, grief, anxiety, fears, hopes, sadness, and more are very helpful. I believe 100% in the power of a good cathartic cry or a belly laugh, but it doesn't have to be brought on through guilt or "emotional questions." It should be from honest and realistic emotional expression, a good romantic comedy, a sappy commercial or whatever floats your boat.
If you can't picture yourself pregnant, that's okay. If you are spending upwards of $10K to become pregnant and part of you is terrified to become pregnant, you are normal. If you feel like your partner isn't quite as enthusiastic as you wish he or she would be about all this, they are normal too. Be kind to yourself. Don't worry, you are doing great. You aren't doing anything wrong. Just keep shifting towards balance any way you can. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, take a nap, go on a movie date, light a candle, breathe some more. You won't ever be free of stress, but you can be less stressed and anxious. And that is a powerful thing.
I like to suggest people visualize a set of old fashioned scales. On one side is all the stuff that you have 100% reason to freak out over - this is expensive, all the appointments, what if it doesn't work, these shots hurt, what does it mean if my boobs hurt, why is everyone and their aunt pregnant around me, etc. Instead of worrying about that side of the scale having too much on it and trying to take anything off that side, think about adding things to the other side what makes you feel less stressed, whatever that may be (see above!). That is where you have power and control and can make the most difference. Breathe ... when in doubt, breathe.
You never, ever have to visualize yourself pregnant for this to work, and isn't focusing on the things that might keep you a little more sane so much more appealing?
On a final note, this wasn't exactly in the article, but it's a variation on this theme and I can't resist throwing it in.
" YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE POSITIVE FOR THIS TO WORK. "
Why would you be positive?! See the above list of reasons why this sucks! Now, don't take this and run too far. I am not giving you permission to think you have it worse off than anyone in the history of mankind either. What I am saying is that healthy, expressed and realistic emotions are what really lead to a person being as in-balance as they can be. It may not be perfect - actually, it never is perfect. But it's the very best thing you can aim for. So realistic emotions are usually very paradoxical. You will in one moment be sure that this is the final thing that will work because it is new or you have honed in on what you are doing with your doctor and feel super excited and hopeful. The next moment you will be convinced you will fail and start googling what your next step will be. This too is normal! So if you are putting the pressure on yourself to be completely positive all the time, let it go. Let yourself be realistic. A mix of hope and fear, excitement and anger. Don't escalate and go over the top, just acknowledge your reality without judging or wishing it any other way, and then move forward in your day. Moment to moment.
Okay, thanks for reading, I hope this helps you. And at the very least it helped me to vent!