Q&A on the journey to family

How did you prepare for fertility treatments/IVF?

Find a doctor that you’re comfortable with that you can ask questions to and feel like your perspective and concerns are being heard. I got a lot of recommendations and did some online research but it came down to meeting the doctor in person. My husband and I live near Boston so we benefit by having a lot of options in the area. If you don’t live in such an area, I’d say, do your research online and even find a group on Facebook that can give you a trusted referral to start with.

Do your research on costs. I was somewhat naive going in. I knew we had some insurance coverage but I took for granted how much we had (or shall I say, didn’t have). There were a bunch of “surprise” bills because of this. I didn’t realize we had a coverage cap on fertility medications separate from the lifetime max on our insurance for the fertility treatments/procedures (which includes blood work, surgeries, egg retrieval etc.). I found the whole insurance process confusing and super frustrating. I think this is where your partner can step in to help. Encourage him/her to do the research and help with the paperwork. Then you can plan from the outset if you need to set aside or save up money for the cost of fertility treatments/IVF.

To prepare for an actual IVF round, some people suggest cutting out certain foods or “getting in better shape.” Honestly, I didn’t make any drastic changes. There will be enough going on – I didn’t need to start a new “diet” or work out routine. I did however prioritize self care. Which could mean a lot of things – more yoga, less alcohol (I didn’t say NO alcohol), more sleep, mani/pedi, time alone, reading etc. Don’t feel one bit bad putting yourself first during this time. If you can’t make certain events or swing an after-work outing, just don’t go, and don’t beat yourself up about it.

What helped during IVF?

As mentioned above, self care. A bit of pampering helped – which included heading to bed early most week nights after shots. Oh, and red wine if I wanted it. And giving myself permission to lay low if that’s how I felt. Additionally, comfy leggings because you’ll likely feel bloated!

The other piece of advice which I realize is easier said than done – try to stay off the internet and googling things. Try your best to take it one step at a time and not compare to other people’s experiences. When we did our egg retrieval we got 5 eggs – I was SO upset. I had read about some women getting 15+. I remember crying to the doctor and feeling like the whole process was a waste. She said to me “I have my daughter from a 5 egg retreival.” It still didn’t make me feel better though. I knew 5 eggs didn’t mean 5 embryos. We ended up with 2 embryos. The first one didn’t take and the second one…well, that’s Ellie! So my point is, please please, if you can, avoid the internet and allowing yourself to snowball around what ifs. You are on your own path and often times these online forums are not that helpful and just cause more anxiety.

How do you support a friend going through IVF?

I wrote a little about this in my first post…but I think this is a good questions because I know it’s tough on both ends. As a friend of someone going through IVF, don’t feel like you always have to bring it up or do any grand gestures per se. A text saying hello and asking how your friend is feeling can go a long way. Like any other tough situation in life, it helps to just reach out, say hello, and stay connected. The worst thing is feeling alienated or that people are avoiding you because of the situation. Again, a card or a simple text can be enough. No one expects you to have the perfect thing to say. We’re all human!

Do I tell my family? close friends? boss?

This is truly personal preference. I’ve gotten to the point where I am very comfortable sharing with people how we got to this pregnancy. But some people aren’t as comfortable sharing such details. Also, I think “your circle” becomes clear over time. Those people who you feel more comfortable giving more information to vs. those people who you might keep moderately or mildly informed. I don’t think you should pressure yourself to share more than you want to regardless of who.

As for work, again, I think it comes down to how comfortable you are sharing and if you think the support system is there for you. You’re going to have a lot of appointments and might have “off” days with all the hormones charging through you – so it could help to let your boss and/or immediate team know what’s happening outside of work that could impact what’s happening at work. Again, we’re all human. Life happens. And it’s hard to always keep things separate. And honestly, if people aren’t supportive at work, I’d eventually re-look at your place of employment because if there is one thing I’ve learned, sh*t happens. Illness, accidents, loss…something is bound to come up for everyone, so showing empathy in the work place is critical to fostering a strong team and healthy work/life balance.

What general advice do you have for couples going through IVF?

It’s a journey and can be an emotional one. If you can swing it, I think couples or individual therapy can be helpful when you’re going through the process. Additionally, I think it’s important to make time as a couple outside of the whole “journey to family” process. It’s very easy to let it take over and it can zap the romance. Try your best to set aside time to go on a date and be with each other not under the terms of baby-making.

The other thing I found helpful was (as mentioned above) – having Nick take on some of the insurance stuff – as I was too overwhelmed with starting the medication and the “idea” of it all. This way, it felt like we were dividing up some of the work. Nick also mixed and prepped the meds for me which was helpful and was the one who got the supplies (e.g. band-aids). I know it’s tough to see your significant other taking medications and going through pain…so it helped to have him involved/accountable in some way in the process.

As the woman, it’s inevitably more stress on your body – so hopefully your partner will be open to giving out extra TLC. Such as, going out and grabbing you an ice cream or giving you a back rub. I also always reminded Nick that neither of us are experts in the topic and it was uncharted territory for us both. It can be tough when you’re in the thick of it – but try to cut each other slack. We always reminded each other that at the end of the day, we’re a team and we’re in it together. I also sometimes just needed him to listen to my concerns and anxieties even if he didn’t totally “get it.”

Were you nervous about the medication?

I’ve had people say to me “I’d never be able to go through that!” and believe me, there was a time when the idea of putting hormones into my body was a “ya f’in right.” But then you’re faced with something as your only or best option for a biological child. I totally understand and respect the people who opt not to do fertility treatments as it’s a lot of stress on the body (and mind). However, like anything else, until you’re faced with the decision and/or option, it’s hard to know how you’ll feel.

I definitely feared what the meds could do in the long term. I worried about them increasing my risk of cancer. But I tried to look at it with more perspective, I knew in a lot of ways Nick and I are lucky because we even had the option of IVF. I always knew that like any medical procedure there is risk. So, we decided together that it was the path we wanted to take. However, I also wanted to discuss the possibility of adoption because to me it was about having a family even if it wasn’t exactly how I pictured it all coming together in my mind’s eye. It was also acknowledging the unknown in the process and what options we did have if things didn’t go the way we wanted them to initially.

So yea, overall, I hate the idea of the meds and I didn’t like taking them. But here I am pregnant with Ellie…and without those meds, I don’t think we’d be here. Rather than dwell on what could be all the bad in the experience – I’m more focused on being grateful for getting this far and holding our baby girl one day soon.

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