I used to believe ivf was the ultimate solution for all the infertile couple to have kids. I believed that once I agreed to invest the money and time, kids would be on their way to our happy lives. I never prepared for multiple cycles. Needless to say, I had not done my own research on the subject prior to our pursue. While ONE ivf cycle probably is all that some small fraction of lucky women need, multiple and seemingly countless ones are for the majority of the others to bring a life to the world. Plus, the outcome of ivf is so unpredictable, very often, I felt like playing futile lottery until my transformation from a ivf seeker to a philosopher. It was not until one day I found myself was at peace with the loss of money, time, and energy in the end of ivf. The bottom line is that we ivfers are often so focused on the outcome at each ivf cycle that we forget the bigger picture! We need to surrender, to give up the eagerness, longing, and hope for kids! We need to accept and understand any outcome is a good outcome: when it does not work, we decide what the next step is. That is all we can do. These words are very simple, but it is a state of mind that we need to reach, which takes time. For me, it took three failed cycles and a lot of reading. Specifically, here are some of things that worked for me:
1. Join ivf message boards.
Go online, look for your age group, look for friends who share similar experience with you. Look for those ivfers. No matter how miserable you feel, I bet you can find someone who feel worse. Message boards open your eyes to the whole world. You suddenly can make countless friends who can help you feel better. In the mean time, you also can comfort them back. You can provide a shoulder for them to cry on.
What do they say again? Misery loves company?
I used and contributed to many ivf message boards and made many friends that I know only their screen names, Tammy, Bev, Rhonda, Anna, Sonia, Naula, Lisa, Catharine, Caroline, Kat, LuAnne, Chriss, Kim, Jen, Tracy, Gracie, ... We became a big ivf family, we were all over 40 years old! And I am happy to tell you that more than 60% of us in that group brought home babies and several of us became pregnant in the same time. Others even got pregnant naturally in between their ivf cycles. Together, we can beat the odds!
If you want to read some of my posts, here is the link to them. Read the ones that I wrote between years 2007 to 2009, they are quite "insightful".
2. Understand ivf protocols.
Knowledge is power! What did knowledge help me, exactly? It allowed me to ask the RE and embryologist concise, specific, and relevant questions. Consultation time is limited, and we have to pay for that. We can only afford asking good questions. Understand ivf protocols helped me to handle my own reproductive organs and their responses to various drugs that I was taking. Most importantly, it empowered me to truly, fully, 100% trust and understand my RE, embryologist, nurses, and ultrasound technicians. Yes, knowledge made me surrender to ivf, completely.
Try to understand the use of every single hormone that you are taking. Try to understand your own body: communicate with your ovaries, follicles, endometrium, where do all those hormones come from, and which hormone makes you feel happy and hopeful, which makes you feel miserable. It's shame, shame, and shame for me to admit that I, as someone who does ivf in my job to my experimental subjects myself with my own hands, had not understood half of what I had been doing during the first few ivf cycles. In my defense, I thought as long as I paid the money, the rest should not be my job anymore. It had not occurred to me that I should know what I was doing to my body. Well, after having failed three times, in a row, I began to realize almost everyone had down some research on ivf cycles. What changed me was the post cycle consultations. In order to speak with my RE and embryologist, I needed to prepare myself. I'd visited every possible websites to understand different protocols to try to understand what are the differences between them, why the one that I used was the best for my age group, why different people uses slightly different protocols, why the drug doses need to be adjusted in the middle of the cycles, and why the nurse told me it was okay when I missed a dose of drugs...
In addition to reading online, I also purchased tons of books, such as this, this, and that to get myself inspired also.
3. Practice yoga.
There is nothing better than yoga that helped me to calm my nerves during my battle with ivf cycles. In one of my posts to my thread friends, I wrote: yoga helped me to get over my depression. I did not even practice that frequently, only once a week, 1 hour each time. It relaxed me, brought back my energy and hope. This DVD helped me as much as the ivf facility! Speaking of which, I need to really resume yoga in my current stressful life now.
4. Clear blockages (Qi, in Chinese) with massage.
I would have gone for this one if I had not had a day job to attend. I created my own massage techniques based on reading websites and then I asked local deep tissue massage therapists to focus on my lower part of my belly. I did not tell them why and they were confused by my strange request since none of their patients had lower belly adjustment to do. After testing two of them out, I stayed with one masseuse who was a retired Russian Olympic champion. I was visualizing that his hands moving on the top of my belly transmitted the signals to inside, which cleared the "Qi" that had blocked my reproductive passages. In scientific terms, massage probably increased blood circulation in ovaries, stimulated endometrial growth, and permitted the competence of uterus to accept embryos. Who knows. But at least, it helped one way or the other.
5. Read ivf blog sites.
Stumbling into Julie's website was one of the best thing happened in my ivf life. If you are going through ivf process, you must attend her blog site, at least read the ones that she wrote earlier when she was going through ivf cycles. Read her posts chronically, starting from the one she wrote in 2003. From her site, I also found two other wonderful writers, Julia and Tertia. These three women have remained to be my favorite blog writers to this date.
Yes, coping mechanisms are needed. Not only for ivfers, for every pursue in life. What did these coping techniques do specifically to me, eventually? They help me to surrender to my infertility and true acceptance to the adoption route. They helped me to understand that it would be fine if we did not have any babies in the end of our ivf journey. Life goes on. We would have found alternatives. We would have had our new style of living.
Once I got everything figured out, I posted this to my ivf friends:
"Hi, I want to share with the over 40 ladies here who are feeling old each day. You in fact can almost predict which cycle will work for you. If you feel calm, confident, accepting, understanding ivf isn't the only way to becoming a mother, you will have your chances even you are getting older... when the moment comes, you can feel it, because it comes when the outcome of THAT PARTICULAR cycle won't put you in desperation, because you are already ready for the next step mentally, whatever the next step would be, such as another cycle, using donor eggs, or adoption... then this is the bfp one!
I mean everything in life works the same way, getting a job, getting a boyfriend, getting a husband, keeping a friendship..."
The truth is at that time, I was struggling with getting my first big research grant funded. This felt a lot like ivf. One can write a perfect grant but it is not at all predictable whether the reviewers will like to and agree to fund it! Part of me was willing to drop it since the chance of getting it funded was so slim - much like going through ivf cycles. Another part of me came to a state of acceptance and started to tell myself, "as long as I did my best, the rest would not be anymore of my concern." - just so you know, that million dollar grant was funded!