When I was undergoing fertility treatments and professionals would talk about the importance of self-care and positive thinking, I always felt a certain level of guilt.
As a freelance writer, I’ve even composed articles on how to care for yourself during infertility, yet I wasn’t able to follow my own advice. I was angry, bitter, and jealous and I didn’t like the person I had become.
But I also didn’t see any way out of the hole I had dug for myself.
The first three years of trying to conceive were kept between my husband and me. We were both in school, trying to buy a house, and working full time, so we didn’t tell anyone we were having trouble getting pregnant. It wasn’t until we officially started at a fertility clinic that things got more serious and the stress started to slowly pile on. I used to work out consistently, and thought running was keeping me in pretty good shape, but all that flew out the window when the fertility injections and monitoring appointments started.
My doctor put me on strict exercise restrictions while we were trying to grow follicles within my ovaries. I was told walking was the safest for me and would probably feel the most comfortable. And as my abdomen started bloating, causing numerous strangers to question if I was indeed pregnant or not, I realized I needed to take a bit of a lazy approach when it came to my physical health.
The cycle failed, like the numerous ones before. And so did the next one. And the next. Approaching the planning stages for in vitro fertilization was daunting. Some nights it was easier to order a pizza or take-out than make a balanced meal. A stress-eater by nature, chips and dip became an evening ritual as I fervently blogged about the doctor’s appointment I had that day. My body wasn’t responding as well as he would have hoped and I was stressed that the entire thing would be cancelled.
Eating salty snacks and lounging on the couch after work soon became normal. The thought of IVF, injections, appointment calendars, and financing the whole thing consumed me. Every time my husband and I would have sex, I’d wonder if maybe this time we’d get pregnant on our own and wouldn’t have to go forward with more treatments. When we were told to stop having sex before our egg retrieval, I ate more chips to accommodate the stress of losing yet another stress-reliever in my life.
It seemed like an endless vicious cycle.
In the span of a year, we tried and failed three IVF cycles. I told myself I didn’t need therapy because I had my blog, where I was developing my very own virtual support system. I had friends now to talk to about it all, friends who truly understood what it was like, but I knew I wasn’t managing my stress well. I wasn’t managing it at all.
Failed cycles meant getting drunk and eating cheeseburgers and fries at our favourite restaurant. I couldn’t lose the ten pounds that had accumulated around my middle because we were already gearing up for another cycle and I was sick of waiting endlessly for a baby. During the six years it took to have our daughter, I put on over fifty pounds.
Could I have pushed myself more? Could I have actually started using those relaxation techniques I learned or started that yoga? Probably.
But sometimes, when going through a crisis, it’s hard to see the light.
It’s hard to sometimes know how to take care of yourself because you’re so focused on the end goal.
All those self-help articles I had written in the past virtually meant nothing for me. I discovered through all this that I’m terrible at giving my own advice. And there’s a certain level of guilt within me when I go back and tell people that I wasn’t sure how to cope. After all, I had no way of really coping with something that was the worst thing I went through in my life. The term “survival mode” has deep meaning for me.
But I’ve come to realize it’s OK. I went through this thing and it really sucked and I didn’t handle it well. I do wish I would have thought of myself more during those years, but I’m learning to let it go and focus on the future. To learn from that stress and try to do better going forward. That started with getting a good therapist and taking more time for myself.
I didn’t do a good job before, but I’m working on it now, little by little.