Lessons to My Pre-IVF Self

By Sue McCarron

I’m a proud mother of an IVF-created 18-month old who’s considering jumping back into the fertility treatment game to go for number two. Over these past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time mentally revisiting the land of needles and endless blood tests, hormonal swings and emotional ups and downs. Even knowing that it’s worked once, it’s still daunting, sad and frustrating that my husband and I can’t just enjoy the baby-making process like everyone else. But it’s also made me discover some things I wish I could go back and tell my pre-IVF self:

  • Get comfortable in the gray area. Undergoing fertility treatment is an emotional and scary process. And most of the time, nothing is black and white. Living in the “gray area” and the unknown can be what’s most painful and heart-wrenching – especially for those type-Aers who are used to checking to-dos off a list, getting things done quickly and moving on to the next step. The gray area and patience can be tough. But it gets easier as you go. I promise.
  • The complexity involved at times is downright laughable. Everything is lengthy and layered and complicated. But it’s oddly like anything else in life. You just get good at it. You learn about syringes and medicines and estradiol levels. I once told my friend that IVF is like a new, weird hobby with how much you have to learn and know. You adapt to the lingo and the tools needed and gear involved. It adds a lot to your already full plate of life. But it is worth every second you spend looking at needles and meds and talking to the pharmacy or your nurse or doctor and trying to understand what goes where.
  • Lean on whoever you need to, whenever you are ready. Everyone who loves you is cheering you on, silently or out loud. They are thinking it, whether or not they’ve said it. For the first several months I was in treatment, I was VERY quiet about it and didn’t want to tell anyone anything. I wanted to go through it and tough it out alone. But it didn’t work well. I struggled. I missed baby showers, I skipped outings where I knew lots of moms would be gathering. I think I leaned on my husband almost too much at times. And the process became somewhat lonely and isolating. When I was ready, which took some time, I found what worked for me was writing emails to a select group of close friends, when I needed it most, almost as diary entries. They didn’t ever need to respond. But it helped me to get my thoughts out of my cloudy, swirly and emotional head, and to receive encouragement when I was ready to quit. I also found RESOLVE New England and read other women’s diary entries like mine and felt so much less alone.
  • You will find champions and new soul mates in the most unlikely places. Once I started opening up more, some women who were previously on the outskirts of my friend circle shared their stories and became extremely valuable to me. They “got it” and were there every step of the way. That friend in my book club who I never knew struggled with fertility. The niece of my mom’s friend who shared my same doctor. Some of my and my husband’s co-workers became our biggest advocates and confidants. If and when you are able to open up to people, they will surprise you with their own stories and their generous ability to support you.
  • It may take time, but you will get to a more comfortable place of acceptance. Eventually, I made my fertility challenges a part of my identity. I talked about it openly where appropriate. I proudly promoted RESOLVE New England on Facebook and LinkedIn. I started to wear my challenge as a badge of honor – because the women who go through this are on another level of toughness. We turn our bodies over to science to have a baby and become mothers. It’s both selfish and selfless at the same time. Its hopeful one day and then crushing the next. But the mental and physical power you have will amaze yourself and inspire others.

Yes, I am reproductively challenged. I was lucky enough to eke one out. While I’m contemplating a second run, I know in my heart that it might not work again, and I might never have another. But I’m not going to let the challenge stop me from trying. It’s easy for me to share this advice in retrospect, but I hope it might help someone else out there who’s traveling this same road.

Sue McCarron, 35, works in healthcare communications and lives in Natick, Mass., with her husband Terry and her 18-month old daughter Nora. She is a patient of Dr. Raymond Anchan at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She welcomes comments, questions and requests for cheerleading at smccarron1101@gmail.com

Comments

  1. I am in exactly the same position as you, with a 16-month old and looking to return to IVF over the summer. It’s a hard thing to consider that it might not work for us ever again, that our one will be our only. I absolutely agree with your comment about being open and talking about the process with people; I’ve met and connected with some amazing and surprising people by talking about my struggles with infertility. Good luck in your journey.

    • Thanks for sharing and glad this was helpful! It’s a strange thing, revisiting the process after having some distance from it. I’m hoping it’s like riding a bike – it might feel a little uncomfortable and awkward at first, but then will be cruising through shots and blood tests again in no time. At least that’s what I’m telling myself 🙂 Best of luck to you too!

  2. Julia Hernandez says:

    Sue,

    Thank you for writing. I can relate as I have a 4 year old daughter through IVF. I love the term: “reproductively challenged” and I think I will put it on a shirt!

    I wish we could have gone through a second try because I have sibling envy for my daughter. We had her at 39 and I am of “advanced maternal age” (another awesome term) so we opted out plus we didn’t have the money. But I always wish, of course.

    I wish you the best of luck and will be cheering you on silently 😉
    Julia

    Julia

    • Hi Julia,
      Thank you so much for reading and for the cheering! “Sibling envy” may be the title of my next blog post should our next round not work out. I already feel it and am sure it’s something many moms/dads must experience. And, I’d definitely buy one of those t-shirts when you make them 🙂
      Thanks again, and congrats on the journey that led you to your daughter!
      Sue

  3. I am so proud to have the privilege of calling you a friend.

  4. Wendy duback says:

    I am having a pretty rough first round of IVF. Everything that could have gone wrong did. I Ended up in a freeze all after ER. I now have two embryos just below the perfect level in cryo. I have an appointment with RE on Monday in their boston location. I would love to talk with a veteran so I can explains cycle and hopefully be able to ask right questions. I’m not new to infertility, but, I am self educated in the field thru many resources. I know in my gut that monitoring was done wrong. Not saying we could have prevented what happened to me, but, I have yet to get clear answers. If you know anyone willing to consult with me it would be a huge help. Let alone all the $$ we have spent and are near broke, literally, I am so confused. Regardless, I wish you the best of the best with next cycle. I’m 39 and DH is 44. We are MIF and I’m working with FCNE. Live in rhode island. Please do reach out to me if you know of such of woman I can chat with. Email is wduback@yahoo.com. I would be happy to exchange my phone number, if that’s easier. You can also find me on Facebook. Wendy Duback. Pic of my baby girl Nala Marie(she has four legs :-)). Look forward to any help u can offer. Thanx again.

    • RESOLVENewEngland says:

      Hi Wendy,
      Thank you so much for commenting here and asking for a connection. I have passed your message on to my colleagues at RESOLVE New England to see if there is anyone in our network we can connect you with. We do not currently have a support group in Rhode Island, but you could look at our MA and CT support groups here to see if any of them are close enough for you to attend.
      Best wishes,
      Joanna Scaparotti
      Assistant Director

  5. This is beautiful Sue. I am proud to know you. Still cheering for you.

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