How to Mindfully Support Yourself Through Your First IVF
Learning that your conception story is going to be completely different than the way that you had always imagined it can be a complete shock to your system. Undergoing In Vitro Fertilization specifically, is a rarely welcomed but necessary decision for one out of every eight couples. It’s no small feat to familiarize yourself with the new language and concepts associated with this involved process, let alone managing all of the constant variables like family, friends and work. Know that just like everything else in life, with a little bit of patience, a willingness to learn and an openness to new possibilities, you will master everything you need to know about the IVF process. Having undergone several cycles myself, I am all-too-familiar with the feelings of confusion and overwhelm that come along with this phase of your life. The silver lining for me is that this un-welcomed adventure has shaped the person I am today and is responsible for so many blessings that have since shown up in my life. Please remember these words as you navigate your way through this new journey – You are a whole person, complete and perfect in every way and fully equipped to move through this phase of your life with grace and with ease, regardless of the ultimate outcome.
Acknowledge That You May Undergo Multiple Cycles
Unfortunately Reproductive Endocrinology is an imperfect science and does not always deliver the results that we ache for immediately, if at all. Every woman’s body responds differently to the various protocols and the medication pairings, so results can vary greatly. The good news is that with each cycle, you will learn more about your body and how it responds to various internal and external stimuli and use that information to change up subsequent cycles for improved results. There are many instances where in vitro does work on the first try, however going into this new and unchartered territory with the awareness that a successful outcome may take some time and require an evolving understanding of which protocols are best for you, can be very reassuring. My husband and I threw ourselves into our first IVF, certain that it would be successful. To our complete shock, a positive cycle took a lot longer than we anticipated. Managing our expectations became key so that we could move forward mindfully and cautiously.
Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Spouse
More often than not, undergoing any form of assisted reproductive technology puts a great deal of pressure on the relationships in your life, particularly the relationship with your spouse. Stay mindful of the reasons that you and your partner are together and why you have mutually decided to expand your family. Understand that you would not be yearning for a child so deeply with anyone more than your chosen life partner. Based on pure biology, the woman is the one who has to bear the burden of most infertility treatments, doctors appointments and procedures, irrelevant to the cause of the infertility. This does not mean that her partner is not enduring his own personal battles with this all-consuming process. It is imperative for both parties in the relationship to try to empathize with the others perspective. Understand that this process is not easy on either of you and will often bring on feelings of shame, guilt or blame for one or both of you. Acknowledge the feelings that come up, but refrain from aiming your heartache at each other. More than ever, this is a time when you need to energetically and emotionally align. Although there was definitely a learning curve for us, the more my husband and I united and focused on our love rather than our fear in this situation, the sooner we were able to heal and move closer to our resolution.
Nourish Your Mind
Creating a mindfulness practice can be a life line in order to maintain balance and peace throughout your cycle. There will be ups and downs and moments of despair and confusion; moments when you will absolutely need to access your own intuitive voice to to console and comfort you. Mindfulness practices are very individual and can essentially be practiced in any form that brings you peace, comfort and release. For some, this practice involves meditation, affirmations and positive self talk. For others, it’s about indulging in an activity that brings you pure joy. Find your flow and move with it. For me, it was all about surrounding myself with new people, indulging in a favorite meal and getting lost in a good book.
Do Not Substitute the Internet for Medical Advice
Given the age of technology that we all live in, it seems only natural to get online and look for immediate answers to all of your critical IVF questions. Please refrain from doing this. It will only cause you more confusion in the face of an already uncertain time. Choose your Reproductive Endocrinologist wisely and put your faith in their knowledge, expertise and commitment in doing their best to give you your desired outcome. Become friendly with your nurses and don’t hesitate to contact them for any questions regarding your protocol. It took me a very long time, some unnecessary tears and an abundance of suffering to learn this very valuable lesson.
Be Mindful of Where You Seek Support
Never underestimate the power of a meaningful support system. When undergoing infertility treatment, it is imperative that you have an army of angels by your side. Seek support from the sources that feel most natural to you. When sharing with friends and family however, know that they will be waiting on you for results and updates so be sure to set parameters and let them know what to expect from you throughout the process – the last thing you need is to bear any extra pressure now. There are a myriad of online groups where women unite to mutually support each other through their cycles and beyond. Free local support groups are also always welcoming new members. A therapist or a coach is another great resource to keep you aligned, balanced and grounded. I chose to start my own support group which provided me with a great deal of purpose and connection and so much comfort in knowing that I was able to support others on this journey as well as myself.
Your fertility journey is only a piece of your story, it is not your whole life. Remember to be gentle with yourself, seek the support that is right for you and use this experience as an opportunity to evolve, grow and access your own unwavering inner strength.