Author Karissa Stelma shares her tips and advice for how to get through the in vitro fertilization (IVF) journey without losing your sense of self. Read along to learn more about how she got through her own IVF journey.
When You Start Talking about IVF
When I first learned that IVF (in vitro fertilization) was our only way forward, I panicked. I knew nothing about IVF and had a life-long fear of needles. Not a stellar combination. The few people I know who had gone through IVF spoke only of the arduous nature of its winding path. But life is full of surprises! Little did I know that my IVF journey would yield a perfect, gorgeous, long-awaited son, but even more, it would put my mind and body on a path to wholeness. It would produce a better version of myself, as a woman and as a mother.
IVF is the Wild West
You need to sit down, shut out the “noise,” and do some solid reading and research to get started. The internet is a rabbit hole of information, but there are some fantastic blogs and books that remain staples in the infertility arena. Use them as your starting point.
When you are searching for doctors, stay open-minded and plan to schedule a handful of consultations. Not every doctor will be the right one for you. Some will specialize in different ART (assisted reproduction techniques) procedures or age groups. Ask not only about success rates but also what categories those success rates lie within.
Arm yourself with questions. Remember when your teacher told you that no question is stupid? Apply that sage wisdom here. Ask, ask, ask away! You will have to make countless decisions during IVF. Don’t be afraid to ask and push back when something doesn’t feel right. Find your voice and don’t let it go!
Get to know your body intimately. Embrace a little science. Don’t ignore the necessary tests to ensure you are tackling the right issues. IVF can often feel like a treasure hunt, one clue leading to the next, mapping out the next issue to target. Approach it with the gusto of Indiana Jones.
Learn from Your Mistakes
No cycle is the same. Be empowered to try new things when one thing doesn’t work. Failed cycles are painful. They steal your time. Miscarriages are gut-wrenching. They devour your hope and destroy a small piece of your soul. But you can choose to pick up and move on, taking with you a pearl of wisdom for the next round.
When a cycle fails, ask why. Don’t rush to change doctors or medications before looking at the fundamentals—diet and lifestyle choices. Sometimes the answer is right in front of you and you simply don’t want to or can’t see it. Many of the lifestyle changes IVF requires are hard. Don’t procrastinate.
Stay abreast of the latest research and keep a journal of your thoughts. There will be good days and bad days. Rely on established sources, published articles, and medical journals for up-to-date innovations in this ever-evolving field. Don’t spend hours obsessing over year-old chat groups; it’s a brain cell killer!
Enjoy Your Path to Pregnancy
Sometimes the hardest part of success is enjoying it. I spent my entire pregnancy petrified it would end in disaster. Give yourself a break. Find an outlet that provides a little peace. Journal, cook, hike, take yourself away for the day—whatever it may be, practice a little self-love.
The changes you make along the path to IVF will teach you a certain resiliency. You will become intimately acquainted with your range of capabilities. Your sense of hearing your own thoughts will become fine-tuned. You will learn to be vulnerable yet courageous. You will understand what it is to look inward but also lean outward. If you let yourself, you come to a more holistic understanding of your mind and body, how intertwined they are, and their tremendous capabilities.