IVF will teach you many things, including an entirely new vocabulary that seems to download into your brain over the first few weeks of IVF before permanently becoming a part of your operating system. It’s not to say that you never in your adult life heard these words before. In fact, odds are in favor that a science teacher once stood in front of you babbling some of these facts off (blastocyst… zygote…) but your brain didn’t absorb them because you were too focused on if Kathy Bobinski really was into the same boy you were into, which watermelon pink gel pen you would choose to write the note to your best friend in (because what was texting?!), or counting down the seconds until you could skip gym and hang out under the bleachers with your friends because WHEN WOULD YOU USE THIS CRAP IN REAL LIFE?! I mean who the heck cared what a blastocyst was at 17?! Your poor science teacher probably tried many methods of getting your brain to absorb these words, including threats of repeating the 7th grade, and to some extent, it probably worked, right up until you took the big test where the knowledge was dumped from your brain into those tiny little circles on the scantron, and then never seen again! Until BOOM, 10+ years later you find yourself faced with word after word flying at your face from you IVF nurse and you can’t google them fast enough. You find yourself scrawling notes down as FAST as you can and not giving a flying frittata what color ink it’s in! It’s the IVF newbie scramble! That first week, those first few appointments… it’s rough! But this time, you learn it; and you don’t bat an eye during the process. There is no choice! You have to! I would compare it to the theory of language immersion. You took roughly 4-5 years of Spanish in middle school & high school combined and it stuck like a sticker that is barely holding on to a toddler’s sweater after she has pulled it off and on a thousand times to stare at it! Knowledge… barely holding on by a thread! But then you go on that trip to Mexico City your first time out in the world on your own and you quickly discover that your ability to get back to your hostel, the grocery store, ANYWHERE depends on your ability to communicate and your survival skills kick in and you quickly learn the language and NEVER forget it. That’s what it’s like for IVF patients. It might be rusty at first, but when things start flying around you from every direction (and trust me, they will) you quickly acquire a deep knowledge for things you never thought you would and earn an honorary medical degree in all things ovary related! In fact, if Alex Trebek were ever to host an ovary-themed episode of Jeopardy you would CRUSH that shit and walk away a millionaire (and finally able to afford IVF, haha)! You learn things. But let’s test that newfound trivia knowledge out right now, shall we? Who can tell me the most important word you will learn during the IVF process/your fertility journey? Hysterosalpingogram? Cryopreservation? Hydrosalpinx? Azoospermia? Sonohysterogram? Menopur? Oligozoospermia? (Yeah, that’s a real word)! Blastocyst? Zygote? Incorrect. While all of those are VERY important words. The one you will need to memorize by heart, say often and strongly, without guilt is…. “NO!”
Two letters. One clear meaning. And not the word you thought I was going to say, is it?
Whether you are just starting out on your IVF/Fertility journey, or you are years into this baby-seeking expedition… in order for things to go smoothly for YOU, you have to keep this word at the very tippy top of your newfound vocabulary list. Maybe this word has been used for less important things in the past, like “Do you want extra whip on your Chestnut Praline Latte” “No!” “Do you want to apply for the Target Red Circle Card” “NO!” But now… this word, it has to be your best friend, your quick draw card; and it isn’t going to be as easy as it sounds. But it’s one of the most important IVF vocabulary terms you will learn, and here is why.
For four years, my infertility has been topic #1 in many situations, from awkward family dinners to impromptu stand-up comedy! But after officially deciding it was time to take the next step, to toss Femara out the window and officially pursue the next route; aka. the first day we sat down to map out our IVF plan of action with our officially appointed IVF nurse, I cried. I cried a lot. I cried through all of the appointments and meetings that day. I cried for no apparent reason other than my brain was shutting down. In my mind I kept thinking, “what the hell is going on with you?! Where are the jokes?! What is wrong with your face?!” Because again, it wasn’t as if someone JUST told me I was infertile myrtle. No, I Nancy Drewed the shit out of that 1 year into trying to make a baby before ever going to a doctor to talk about it! But there we were, day 1 of our “official” IVF journey, and I was already mentally exhausted and the mascara I had carefully applied during our two-hour car ride earlier that morning was everywhere but my eyelashes! I had been to my fertility clinic and to my doctor’s office many, many times prior to this appointment. I had frequent flyer miles at my GYNO’s office. I had been googling the heck out of IVF and reading others’ stories for quite some time, preparing myself for the possibility of it being one of our next steps. But I don’t think anything can actually prepare you for that first appointment. For that moment when reality sinks in. And, as much of a wiener I felt that day, looking back, I realize, that is was
ok. IT’S OK TO CRY! It’s ok to be overwhelmed beyond belief. It’s ok to NOT be okay. You’re going to find so many posts and blogs and people who tell you to try to find the bright side, to remember your goals, your someday baby, and to shift your mindset to a more “positive one.” There are going to be relatives who REALLY truly love you and ARE on your team, who say things from their heart like “but it’s exciting” and “this just means you’ll get your baby soon!” Things that are quite possibly true! However, even if those things they say are true, they are things that they can see clearly from their viewpoint because they have NO idea what lies ahead of you. All that your mind and your body will have to go through before those “positive things” happen. This society is going to set you up to feel guilty. You’re going to set yourself up to feel guilty. It’s how we were raised. But I’m going to use my own experience to save you some time and some unnecessary feelings (because this is all going to be hard enough already without extra guilt and shame). Sometimes, its ok to just be sad and overwhelmed. Those feelings are valid. Which is where your most important vocabulary word is going to come into play. There are going to be days during this process, where you want to give up. Where you are completely and totally exhausted, mentally and physically. There are going to be days where you are burnt out, and you don’t have a positive mindset. It’s going to happen. Trust me. So, don’t waste precious energy Pollyanna-ing the crap out of this and swimming in denial. IVF is STORKED UP and HARD. Don’t give up, don’t you dare give up! But do be patient with yourself and your body and your mind, and acknowledge and accept that bad days are going to happen. And then, realize that this is when you have to learn to take care of you. Y-O-U! The most important tool you can keep in your IVF toolbox, is learning to keep your teacup full, and to do so, learn how to say no.
That very first day of IVF consultations, I was spending so much of my energy trying to shut off the water works because I was embarrassed and simultaneously still trying to pay attention to the VERY important knowledge our baby wizard (aka our IVF Nurse) was dropping. I already knew I liked my nurse, because straight out of the gate it became apparent we shared the same humor. But on this day, I permanently became endeared with this human because she taught me two very important lessons. First, when I apologized for crying, she said “No. No sorries. You can be a lot of things, but not sorry. This is a lot, and it is OKAY to cry and to be completely overwhelmed. I’m throwing a lot at you. Like… A LOT!” She let me be me, and feel what I felt. No guilt. No shame. And then, she proceeded to set aside the calendars, the charts, the EVERYTHING… and teach me about teacups and the power of the word no.
Odds are in favor, that at some point in your life you have probably heard the saying that you cannot fill the cups of others if yours is empty. And what my nurse told me was similar to this, but with its own IVF tea blend!
Close your eyes. Imagine you are holding a teacup (your fertili-tea cup)! If we were comparing your mental health & emotional stability to the level of tea in that cup, where would we stand? Would the cup be empty with nothing but a sad little bag wilting at the bottom of the cup? Or half-way full? Where should it be? Any good, solid mental health professional is going to tell you it needs to be full or darn close. But when it comes to IVF, things are a bit different in our world. That cup, at ALL times, needs to be spilling over the edges. And unless it is, you don’t give anything from yourself to ANYONE else for any reason. In England tea time is around 4 p.m. In America, it’s whenever you have enough time or money to swing through Starbucks or at night when you remember to heat up the water before passing out. In IVF land, tea time is ALL THE DAMN TIME! You have made the choice to fire that stork and head out on your own to find your someday baby, and you’ve gathered the most expert team of baby making wizards with a vast knowledge of all things
science by your side to make this happen! You've poured your heart, soul and savings account into this mission. But none of this is possible without you… as you are the sacred vessel that WILL one day carry your sweet baby into this world. So, the very best thing you can do for your someday baby, for you, for your family… is to love yourself. Take care of you and put yourself first. To say NO to extra work, favors or chaos, at work and at home. Say NO to drama. Say NO to anything that takes tea away from your fertili-tea cup. It’ll take practice and it might feel uncomfortable at first, because if you are like me, you like to help others and like to be there for your friends, as do most people in good solid relationships. But for a little while, you can’t be that person for anyone else. Unless your cup is overfilling so completely… and you can give a little, with limits and boundaries (and you will need to set limits and boundaries with family and friends). But the second that cup even begins to look as if its level is less than the brim, you have to immediately step back, and brew more tea for YOU! Need a friendly reminder? When I start to fall into old habits (like saying yes to way too much at work) I start singing “Tea for two, for me… for you!” Because for me… it helps to imagine that my cup of tea is the one I am keeping full for me AND someday baby. Tea, for TWO! Meaning it is just that much more important to keep it full! Tea for two goes fast!
The hardest thing for me has been accepting taking a step back… I am a busy bee and like it that way. Keeping busy has always distracted me from my own brain and helped channel nervous energy! I’m the girl that when life goes wrong, you will find frantically cleaning her house or baking up a storm for others “just because.” Like I said, I don’t sit still very well at all! And while keeping your cup of tea full is ALWAYS an important lesson, it’s more important than ever with all that lies ahead. Your first thought may be that it is selfish, that your friends and family won’t understand or will be hurt by the use of your new favorite word, NO! But the truth is… the ones that matter most, that know what you are facing, whether they fully understand the immensity of it or not, will be there, by your side, and understand… that for a little while, all tea goes in your cup. Some will respect that and keep their distance for now, and that is okay. It’s their way of respecting your boundaries knowing that if they come around they would automatically start to drink your tea. Don’t worry, they’ll be back when the time comes. Some friends may fall by the wayside, and that is heartbreaking, but try to remember, it is their choice, and you have done nothing wrong but set healthy boundaries while you face this massive challenge that lies ahead. You don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for that. Perhaps those relationships were only meant to be temporary. Perhaps this is the part of your story with them where you are apart, and you will pick things up again someday, when your stories collide once again. But for now, they’ve chosen to not be a part of this journey, and while that is sad, you keep on moving and you don’t let them dim your light. Because here is the best part. When you start saying no, as hard as some parts of this are, something equally magical will happen. You will quickly learn who is a part of your core support team. Those are the people who not only respect your boundaries at this time, but show up with pots of warm water and fresh tea bags ready to help YOU fill your
cup. The people who step up, when you least expect it, ready to help you make this happen, cheering you on from the sidelines. Some may have little to no concept of IVF, others may read ALL of google and every fertility book they can get their hands on and surprise you with their knowledge! But regardless of what they know, these rare individuals will step up and help you and your spouse on your uphill battle towards parenthood (the scenic science route)! You cherish those individuals, and you LET them help you. I will be the first to tell you, I am incredibly uncomfortable with others helping me, especially after the last year of my life. I have a hard time letting others in, letting others see what I deem as my “weak” sides, and accepting help from them. I’m very independent, and stubborn… and often won’t even let my husband help me with silly things when I get determined enough! But I quickly learned that, while making a baby is a very private process, making a baby with science… is not. I need help. My husband and I, need help. We learned this very quickly, and we are just starting down the “rough part” of our path. But I will tell you this… when we started out on this fertility journey, my mind was blown at the people who I always thought would be the first by my side when the time came, who have disappeared. People who my heart absolutely aches for, who are nowhere to be found. People I cannot imagine doing this without. But then… that magical thing I told you about a few lines up began to happen. It started with the pharmacist who noticed the number of meds I began picking up after a lifetime of only picking up meds for Bruce, our 11-pound fur baby! One morning, a few weeks after starting pills for my pituitary tumor, thyroid meds, a few other items and then Femara (aka going from pill free to a regular pill popping Nancy haha) … I got a call one morning, and it was my pharmacist calling to simply check on me and ask how things were going. That same pharmacist has continued to do that, to make sure I am doing ok with meds and regularly ask me if I have any questions and remind me that she is on my team and there to help in any way she can on this fertility journey and pill-popping tour of 2020! It might seem simple, but it’s someone who genuinely cared about my well-being, who wanted to make sure my cup of tea was staying full. As time has gone on, others have stepped up too! My sister has a planner that is front to back covered in notes about my ovaries and doctors’ appointments, and she has stepped up to help drive me to and from appointments (because Josh can’t take off for every single appointment so saves his time off for the ones he absolutely cannot miss). She’s held my hand through awkward appointments, distracted me from needles, made us dinner, cleaned my house and got me laughing on the worst of days. She’s stepped up and became this kick-ass amazing IVF
Sidekick Warrior that my husband and I are so thankful for (and somedays all I can think about is how dang lucky someday baby is going to be to have her as their aunt)! We’ve had other relatives step up and bring dinners or make them for us on-site, host game nights as distractions, grocery shop for us and send goofy and endearing care packages. They’ve mowed our lawn, helped take out trash, and conquered things that might have seemed little before IVF life, but they add up when you spend most days at the clinic and are undergoing so many tests and taking even more meds. My point is, there are going to be people who step up when the water gets hot and help you brew the most beautiful blend of tea, and people who come into your life unexpectedly through this process and add sugar to it or bring you a spoon. And to those people, you say yes. Pro tip: If it helps, before things get crazy, make a list of things that would be helpful if others do. Tasks that could easily be taken off your plate so you can focus on keeping your cup full and finding someday baby. Then, use that list as a sign-up sheet for those magnificent humans who have stepped up and want to help, so that the help they give can be constructive and really help you tackle your stress levels. Do you have an aunt who rocks at cooking and wants to help out? Ask her to be on meal prep. Have a nephew who mows lawns? Have a bestie who is always on the go and likes running errands? Ask her to drop off bills at the post office, or combine your grocery shopping list with hers so all you have to do is give her the money. Don’t have a bestie who adores shopping? Look into grocery delivery services! Yes, they cost a little extra to have items dropped off at your doorstep, BUT, the plus side is that most online platforms (like the one we discovered with Fry’s) lists all their coupons online right along with the produce so while you may spend a little extra having items delivered, odds are in favor you save just as much if not more utilizing coupons you normally wouldn’t have found! Bonus?! You avoid wasting precious energy walking around the giant food maze that is the grocery store AND you avoid germs (and we all know, while getting sick always sucks, it is a timely and EXPENSIVE curve ball if you get sick during IVF). Get creative, lean on those who step up to the challenge, and take each day as it comes. This is all one giant learning curve, and while we don’t always get to take it “day by day,” we can find healthy ways of coping with all that is thrown our way. But it all comes back down to you, your body, and your sanity. Take care of
you, keep your cup brimming, and the rest you will tackle like the bad ass IVF Warrior you
are! Just as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” So, let’s show the world just how strong the Fertili-tea blend can be! And if they tell you otherwise, you just simply say, “No,” and then keep on moving forward... because someday is waiting for you.