This post may be the most difficult to write and be brutally honest throughout, because the topic I find myself needing to express about is hormones and the resulting emotional difficulties that one goes through during IVF and other infertility treatments. It’s a vulnerable thing to talk about the worst parts of all of this, but I know that I am not the only one that is, has, or will go through it. And if it can help someone else feel like they are not alone, or help a loved one of someone going through a similar situation understand, then I suppose it is worth it.
As an ICU nurse who has seen a lot of the worst parts of living and dying, I have had to learn through my career how to hide emotions so I can perform my job effectively. I also have had to learn how to find ways to release those emotions once I have left work to be a part of the real world. On a normal basis, I think that I have, after years of figuring it out, become pretty good at these two things. I have learned that it is ok to feel things, but sometimes there has to be the right time and place for it, and that there are better and more healthy ways to process through situations than others.
In a sense, I feel like because of my job I have done more than an average person needs to do to train myself to process difficult emotions, and to do it in a healthy manner.
IVF in general, and particularly this current cycle has tested my abilities in this in every way. I will mostly talk about this cycle because it is current, fresh, and has been by far the most difficult. But if you have read through our story, you know that each cycle has seen its fair share of difficulties with each its own highs and lows.
I honestly went into this one with some confidence. We have done this before, we know what to expect, and I have a pretty solid support system of people I can talk to candidly about treatment by this point. It started just like every other one has, a month of birth control and waiting. Easy, I can handle that. I’ve waited for over two years, that has become second nature by now.
Then, we started the estrogen patches.
In our previous two cycles, I have only had to wear one, and we would start those around the time of our embryo transfer. This time, they upped the dosage to three patches at a time, starting at the beginning of the month. The first couple of days were easy. I actually was pretty happy with how things were going and excited that I was not going to have to do injections for the greater part of the cycle, unlike the last two.
Then, I think when the estrogen had built up enough in my system, it felt like everything just kind of started falling apart around me.
At home, I have not gone a day without breaking down and crying. Sometime for little to no reason. Other times it’s small things that would not usually bother me at all. And then there are the usual birth announcments, seeing kids playing, driving by mothers walking their babies in a stroller. These things have always nagged at me throughout this. The occasional reminders that I am less than, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t have that. At least not right now.
Those have crippled me this time. When I started by telling you that I have learned to bury emotions, its because this time around, I have no idea how to. I feel like I have trained for this, and I have no idea how to do it all of sudden. Like training your whole life for the big game, then stepping up to the plate and forgetting how to hold your bat. Everything I feel is just on a scale that I have not had to deal with before.
“Well you’re on three times the amount of estrogen you have ever been on”.
Yep. And then I had my one appointment to check my labs and lining to make sure we are a go for our transfer on Friday.
First of all, after everything we have been through at our fertility clinic, I have anxiety even driving in to the parking lot there. I don’t throw the word anxiety around lightly, because that’s a real medical issue, not just something you have when you don’t feel right. But at this point, I can’t sleep the night before an appointment, I pace before I leave the house, and driving in I can feel my heart rate rising, and the sinking in the pit of my stomach. My body has a literal physical aversion to the place.
Then I find out (alone, because Aaron is still not allowed in) that my lining is not good enough. Our transfer is now pushed back a week. And the worst part, is I have now also added another estrogen dose that I take morning and night. Three estrogen patches, and two extra doses a day.
I thought I was losing it before. Now I’m pumping estrogen into my body five different ways a day. And we haven’t even added in the progesterone shots leading up to the transfer.
We can deal with the week delay. But I left that appointment in tears because I now have to take more meds that make me feel like I have lost all control of myself and my emotions. It is terrifying, and I’m just searching for the end…the light at the end of the tunnel. But there isn’t one. There’s no guarantee that this will ever end.
I don’t write this as a woe is me story. But someone you know, if it’s not yourself is going through infertility. It is a scary, emotional, lonely place to be sometimes. And then you add in hormonal treatments that make your mind and your emotions not your own. Have grace.
If you know someone, tell them you love them. Give them some time, and let them talk. Don’t offer advice, just listen. Ask how they are doing, and allow them to be honest with you.
If you’re in the thick of things, give YOURSELF some grace. Be crazy, but reserve it for your support system and those that can handle it. The ones who will try to understand at the end of the day and love you anyways, even if you are not yourself.
And just in general, the world is a scary emotional place anyways these days. Be understanding and do your best to love one another. We never know what’s really happening to those around us and what they might be up against.