Updated: Sep 20, 2020
(As featured in The Natural Parent Magazine)
A journey is the act of travelling somewhere, but the fertility journey is a trip you'd rather not have to take.
Infertility is different for everyone and can be caused by a number of factors including age, genetic issues, sperm abnormalities, hormonal imbalances and fallopian tube blockages to name a few.
What isn’t different for most women, is the unshakeable feeling of going through this alone.
Of course, the partners are on this journey too, but they aren’t the ones injecting themselves with harsh IVF drugs, living life in two week intervals, symptom checking every ache and twinge or peeing on sticks praying for that double line every month.
As a fertility acupuncturist, I hear harsh realities from patients every week:
Women being congratulated by strangers on their 'pregnancy,’ because of the severe visible bloating caused by a failed IVF cycle.
Women who have been trying for over four years, attending yet another baby shower and dodging questions like, “So when are you going to have a baby?”
Sometimes, these women give in to their vulnerability and are honest, only to be faced with a myriad of advice or blanket statements like, “Have mine for a week and then see if you still want kids” or, “It will happen when it happens, don’t stress.”
This ignorance only deepens the isolation these women feel, and unfortunately, these are not one-off events.
These women sit in front of me, often in tears, exhausted and broken. Their words and their stories may be different, but they all have the same message - no one understands how they feel, those close to them don't tend to ask how they're doing, and they don't have anyone to really talk to. They are alone.
I often wish I could introduce them to one another as they pass each other in the waiting room and say, "Hey - she knows what you're going through, you should exchange numbers." I know they would appreciate it, but I don't because of, well - patient confidentiality.
So instead, I have written this blog to arm you with practical things you can do to survive this journey and hopefully find some comfort in knowing you are not alone.
#1. Feel your emotions
You're a human being going through a really crappy time - you're allowed to be sad, angry and feel ripped off by the world. Feel those emotions and take the day off when you need to, from people, work, your socials! Take the time to check out, but make sure you get back up and not let the grief consume you.
#2. Build a support network
This may be just one or two people that you can call on when you are having a crappy day and need to vent, cry or scream. They may not completely understand how you feel but you trust them and they listen. Consider counselling if you need to, infertility is one of the most stressful things you will ever go through - so be gentle with yourself and take the help when you need it.
Find support online - one AMAZING resource I recommend to all of my fertility patients is the Fertileground podcast by Spenser Brassard. She provides practical advice on how to adjust your mindset and how to cope with the emotional aspects of the journey. She also has a private facebook group chat called Fertile Ground: Fertility Mindset & Magic where you can connect with other women going through the same thing.
#3 Keep Living
When you are on this journey, it is easy to put your career, education and any other life plans on hold to make room for the new baby. This will not magically make your baby appear. Book a holiday, pick up a new hobby, learn Spanish, keep enjoying life and doing things for you - your sanity will thankyou for it.
#4 Invest in a fertility acupuncturist
They can help to release stuck or repressed emotions, ease your stress, be a professional addition to your support network all whilst working directly on your fertility at the same time. Win-Win!
#5 Healthy body equals healthy mind
I'm not going to lecture you, just gently remind you that sleep, wholefoods and exercise are beneficial not only to your fertility, but your mental state as well (which actually affects your fertility.) Sleep balances hormones, exercise releases endorphins that make you happy, and crappy food choices affect your moods. (All of this is more complex but we don't have time for that today.)
Find the motivation to live healthy the majority of the time, but don't go overboard - allow yourself that glass of wine or three when you need it.
Sara Laharnar (BHSc TCM) is the owner of Tree of Vida Acupuncture, a womens health clinic on the Mid North Coast close to Forster & Taree. She is a passionate acupuncturist/herbalist dedicated to womens health, fertility and pregnancy support.