Coping with feelings that arise
There is no right or wrong way to feel when faced with the devastating prospect or news of infertility and the journey through IVF. However there are some steps that you can take to help you cope with these emotions, and reduce their potentially negative impact on you, your relationship and your life.
Allow the feelings, try not to fight them
Whatever you may be experiencing, it is helpful to acknowledge the feelings. Be open to all of the feelings that arise for you, no matter how confusing or unfamiliar they are. While this can be challenging to do, particularly when emotions are intense and feel destabilising, learning to allow your feelings rather than fighting or suppressing them, helps you tolerate them better.
Try and view your emotions as temporary states that will come and go
Mindfulness strategies that encourage you to be ‘in the moment’ rather than jumping forward into an imagined future can be particularly helpful when undergoing IVF treatment. Practicing the idea “this is how I’m feeling right now”, and “today I’m feeling fearful it hasn’t worked” emphasise that your feelings fluctuate.
Talk about how you are feeling
Finding the right people you can open up to is essential. Who do you feel safe sharing your fears, your sadness with? For many people it’s their partner, for others, family and friends also make up their support team. For some people, immense support and comfort is found by connecting with online communities and support groups. Sharing experiences, information and advice with people who share your struggles and have relatable stories can help the journey feel less isolating.
Create a plan that focuses on what you can control
So much about infertility and IVF emphasises loss of control. Creating a plan that focuses on aspects you can control can feel immensely empowering and confidence building, and provide some welcome structure.
Your plan could include your preferred timeframe for starting a treatment cycle, the length of break between cycles, when to seek a second opinion, what will help you get through the two-week-wait, whether to explore complementary practices like acupuncture and meditation, who is part of your support network, changes you need to make to work and social commitments, and decisions about embryos. Developing a plan of action that is practical, flexible and focussed on the short-term is the key.
Another important step in feeling empowered and managing expectations is having the right information about your treatment. Gather information about treatment costs, including costs for non-standard options; insurance waiting periods and treatment limits; Medicare requirements and processes; Clarify success rates based on your specific circumstances; Explore all your treatment options.
Assertive communication comes naturally for some people, for others it can be daunting to ask questions, especially in medical settings. Some people are concerned that asking questions might create tension with their doctor or other clinic staff. For other people, simply being a patient feels disempowering. It can be helpful to frame your relationship with your doctor as a collaborative one – your medical specialist contributes their knowledge and expertise on infertility and its treatments, you contribute your knowledge about your needs, your medical history, and your expectations.