• Ashley

When IVF Fails: Survival Tips

Infertility is not one-size fits all. There is no solution that fits for everyone and what works for me very well might not work for you. That being said, after our recent failed IVF, I floundered trying to figure out how in the world I would make it through.

What I have for you is a result of some trial and error. Six-ish weeks post transfer, no frozen embabies, back to start. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Here's a list of things I tried:

~ alcohol

~ crying

~ wailing

~ Netflixing

~ eating

~ vacation planning

~ talking

~ not talking

~ therapy

~ writing

~ praying

~ meditation

~ yoga

Let's break down the results of my clumsy experiment:

Alcohol - jury is out on this one. The day we found out we weren't pregnant, my husband and I played hooky and got day drunk at a great local Italian place. Might sound weird, but I'd add this to your arsenal of tools: if your IVF fails, go get day drunk with your partner. It was one of the best/worst days we've had together. But it solidified that I'm with the right person (not that I had any doubts). We had SO much fun making inappropriate jokes about our situation. Past that, I've probably gone a little to hard on my 1-2 glass of wine/night. It's a work in progress.

Crying - Hell yes! Let yourself cry for goodness sakes. Throw out anything advice that resembles "staying strong" and let yourself go there. Alone. With someone. In your shower. Who cares. Tears are your body's expression of grief. They are proof of how much you loved your little one. Whether your little one was an egg, an embryo, a positive pregnancy test, or the hope of one - you are experiencing a loss. The rest of the world might not understand. They don't have to. Your grief is real.

Wailing - see above. Crank it up. Maybe let yourself be held while wailing (gasp). It's therapeutic.

Netflixing - YUP! Don't feel like getting off the couch? Trouble adulting? Netflix is there for you. Travel shows (specifically anything involving Anthony Bourdain - RIP - and his dry wit), I'm Sorry, true crime documentaries, cheesy romantic comedies, whatever work for you. And when Netflix asks "are you still watching", feel no shame when you answer YES.

Eating - Absolutely! Fertility diets suck. It's nice to feel like you're having some impact on your chances. And maybe it does matter. But after eating as healthy as possible to support the possibility of life, let yourself eat what tastes good to support your current quality of life! I immediately ate an entire pizza (the gluten...the dairy...the lack of veggies...oh my!) and I haven't looked back. I'm working on balance between nourishing my body because it feels good and eating "junk" because it also feels good. A cookie will not prevent you from being a parent.

Vacation planning - DO IT. Even if you never take the trip. Research has shown that planning a vacation, even if you don't plan on taking it, has the same impact on depression symptoms as meditation and talk therapy. It sparks off serotonin receptors, lighting up those feel good chemicals in your brain. Light 'em up, girlfriend!

Talking - you do you, boo. Sometimes I felt like talking and sometimes I did not. I became very intentional in how much I talked about it with my husband. There's a fine line between processing the situation and becoming consumed. I realized that line is different for everyone, not excluding my husband and I.

Not Talking - this one is tricky. For me, not talking meant not being asked. Not being checked in on. Because I would talk about it to anyone and everyone. No discrimination here. After the first few days, it felt like radio silence. I wanted my friends to check in on me. I became bitter that my grief wasn't acknowledged the way I wanted it to be. As if it wasn't that serious because I was never "actually" pregnant. I worked through this in therapy (we'll get to that). What I learned is that I can't go around in this world expecting others to know what I need. I have to ASK. I have to be OK with having the courage to say "can we talk? I'm having a hard day".

Therapy - it works, ya'll. I understand I may be biased - because I am a therapist - but damn does it help. And it REALLY helps when you have a therapist who can empathize, give you space and witness your grief, while also bringing awareness to how YOU are contributing to your own pain. Unconsciously, of course...most of us don't walk around the world looking for pain. Using the "no talking example" above - I was on a runaway train barreling toward the assumption that my friends weren't good friends. They didn't seem to care the way I wanted them to. With the most gentle, sincere question, my therapist helped me find the error in my approach. And a lesson I'll hopefully keep long after this infertility season is over. I need to flex my dag-gone voice, the world can't read my mind!

Writing - for me, it's just another way to flex that voice I'm finding. This page you're reading started as an old school journal - my eyes only. Then it morphed into a totally anonymous blog. Then it evolved into a semi-anonymous blog. Now, anonymity doesn't matter. Read it, or don't. Like it, or don't. Understand it, or don't. That's not what this is for. I've connected with hundreds of people who get it while also being able to chronicle my experience and hope that MAYBE it'll help someone else. That's where the magic lies.

Praying - infertility can lead you to a very complicated relationship with spirituality. I wrote about it in another post. I can say, with certainty, the prayers I've said and the prayers from others have WORKED. Throughout this whole process, my prayer has been for a peaceful heart and strength for the journey. And I know that's the prayer others have offered as well. Then something crazy happened. In the face of the unimaginable, I have found a peaceful heart. Go figure. Not to say I haven't been angry, bitter, destroyed, jealous, self-pitying, or hopeless since our IVF failed. I have absolutely gone to all of those places. But where I've landed is a place of strength and gratitude. Gotta believe those prayers paid off.

Meditation/Yoga - I just combined these two. Partly because they're one in the same for me. Partly because this post is getting long and I'm probably starting to lose you. Your body and mind will likely NOT want to do either of these tips. But your body and mind might be lying to you right now. If you can squeeze in some deep breathing/watch a yoga video on Youtube/notice your belly rise and fall/sweep your arms up tall and stretch/whatever feels tolerable at first - your body and mind will THANK you. Your body and mind are you. It's what you have. It's your sanctuary. Give yourself a little love and that love will change things.

That's it! My survival tips and tricks when infertility treatments fail. It's not exhaustive and while I can't give specific advice on your exact situation (this is not counseling or medical advice in any way), I can share what has and hasn't worked from my own experience. Maybe you are similar. My hope is that, someday, this won't be any of our experience.

Until that time comes - treat yourself with kindness, eat what you want, ask for help when you need it, move your body, and don't give up hope that one day you will feel OK again. Take it from someone who has been there and stumbled her way back to OK.