Navigating Infertility + Caring For Your Mental Health

DISCLAIMER: The following post outlines the writer’s personal advice for navigating infertility. It is not intended to act as medical advice. As always, please consult your doctor with any questions about your mental health and/or infertility.

National Infertility Awareness Week is here. For those of us who are in (or have walked through) infertility, it is our banner week where we honor the strength and resiliency in you, as you navigate what can often feel like the fight of a lifetime. It is a time when what is often held in the quiet of our hearts and minds can bubble up and sharpen its voice and be heard. The worry you have felt, the loss, the fear, the sense of inadequacy . . . we can look around and collectively see how many are truly actually navigating this alongside of us. How we are truly not alone.

As a counselor, the most fulfilling part of my work has been walking alongside fertility warriors, whether running a support group or personal sessions, and being a very present support for them in the day-to-day nuances of their fertility efforts. I’m not sure what your support has looked like as you’ve walked through your fertility journey. Maybe you have felt the love and strength of your family and friends behind you fervently. Or maybe you have felt the isolation. You’ve seen friend after friend achieve a pregnancy, and they have slowly stopped asking for updates.

Maybe you have experienced the barrage of hallmark sentiments that diminish the reality of this experience, and it has quieted you from opening up and sharing your journey . . . you know, the, “Just relax and it will happen!”, or “Everything happens for a reason” moments that miss the mark of support, even when they are coming from our dearest loved ones.  

The people who feel most supportive are often not who we think they will be.

It can feel incredibly lonely. But I am here to remind you of something. Your village is out there, just continue to be brave enough to keep putting yourself out there until you have found them. It might not be your best friend who doesn’t have to think in terms of Cycle Days. Or has never carried a stim-shot on ice through an airport. It might be the co-worker who you never had too much in common with until you realized she was also late from her morning monitoring appointment. Or the strangers who become friends in your support group as you all approach a cycle together.  

There are wonderful, unexpected forms of support–many that will be with elevated visibility this week. Stay open & stay brave. Maybe it’s making the plunge to join that virtual support group, or check out some fertility-based guided meditations. Connecting with your local Resolve organization and participating in their awareness and advocacy events. Signing up for yoga class that is specific to those who are still in the “waiting.” It might be telling someone who loves you that things have actually been harder than you have let on. That you are treading so hard, but this process can feel so exhausting.

Your vulnerability is your superpower. And in the infertility community, we know that you don’t need false promises. Or sentiments of, “It will happen when you stop trying.” We know what it means to get in the hole together. To just let the feelings wash over us, knowing that just as they come, they will always go.

You see, we need each other so very much in this walk.

For hope, for connection, and for the ever-needed reminders that you have more strength inside of you than you ever thought humanly possible. When things start feeling tough, I want you to remember a few thoughts.

First, there are so many “lanes” ahead of you.

I use this analogy often, because I think the idea of a highway with lanes really resonates with us in the fertility world. We’re all heading in the same direction. We all hope we can get off at the exit ramp as soon as possible . . . we just have to figure out which lane is going to get us there. Whether a medicated cycle, IUI and all of it’s variations, IVF, Donor egg, Donor specimen, Adoption, Embryo Donation, gestational carrier or surrogacy options . . . knowing that you are not stuck in one lane, and that at any point, you can put your blinker on and move into another lane of treatment, can feel empowering. And if you need more time to feel if something is right for you, it’s okay to keep that blinker on a little longer and talk it through. Hearing others’ experiences can expand our education, widen our viewpoint, and give us hope.  

Another important thought: You often get to decide when to pivot, when to go around a perceived stop sign, when to get off the highway.

Yes, there may be some orbiting factors that may impact your Plan A. But with all of these lanes in front of you, it also means that you still hold the wheel in many respects. As your heart opens up to all of your options and possibilities, resonate that in a process that can feel very out of our control, you still have some choices. Something I often told myself in my fertility journey that kept me afloat was, “We don’t stop until I say so.” A bold thought, I know, but a reminder that until I had my baby in my arms, I was strong enough to keep going. Even if it meant switching lanes, even if it was different from what I expected. I just had to figure out which key was going to open the lock. 

Don’t forget to trust yourself.

It’s easy to forget you have a 10/10 record for handling the tough news, the tricky diagnosis, the heart ache . . . Your record is pristine, no matter how raw and fragile you have felt throughout this. Hold on to that. There is nothing ahead of you that we won’t be able to handle, or make a “What’s next?” decision about. You can hold hope and plow through the scary “what-ifs.” Because you are fierce, and strong, and have more than enough fight in you. You can do this. You can do this!

So during this week, take an inventory of your fellow warriors alongside you. We are here, and we are up for the fight. We hold each other up until we get to where we are going, we cry with one another, we celebrate the wins, and we remind one another of the incredible strength and resiliency that you have. Find your support, and share your story, and remember there is nothing ahead of you that you can’t handle. Never lose hope.

-Guest post submitted by Claire Hogan, MA, LPC


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