a conversation that they should have with you before fertility treatments:
they don’t sit you down and tell you what will change during this process. you are on their time – no control – and you do as they say when they say it. they manipulate your body to work on their time – lowering your success if your body’s needs to happen to fall on a weekend – and they spend ten to fifteen minutes examining you, a probe inside your vagina and a cold glove on your thigh.
it’s a process. it’s protocol.
and it’s standardize for their convenience.
you trust this process.
you have to.
you’re also in a whirlwind of changes and possibilities and failures and they don’t take another five minutes to tell you this, they don’t warn you or stop and just listen.
so, lets have this conversation together. without them and their time tables and standardization and numbers game (are we just a number, in the end?).
your body is going to change.
it’s going to change and change and keep on changing during this process and after. it’s probably going to become a bit softer and a bit bigger and a bit gentler. your tummy will probably end up with needle marks or have sticky residue from the estrogen patches. you’ll end up with more curves and folds on your abdomen. your tummy will be more rounded and it will probably become a little bit harder to see the hair between your legs. that’s okay – no one tells you that it’s preparing itself to become a home.
your breasts/chest will become fuller – grow more than a few sizes and nothing will fit. it’s hard, you’ll cry some more because your confidence starts to drown. your breasts/chest will become heavy and your back may hurt and as each month changes, your medications increases, they might become so tender that you cringe when they touch things like your shirt or sheets or hands when you try to move them into place. your doctor will remind you that its a side effect but they won’t remind you that they are also preparing themselves to possibly nourish a tiny human – if that’s what you want to do.
your doctors probably won’t notice the increase in anxiety and depression from the constant failure. they’ll tell you statistics and that it can take months (or years) and they seem to not realize that there is a ticking bomb inside your chest. it ticks away time – tick, tick, tick – and this isn’t a game to you. each tick is a reminder of the money you have spent and the time you haven’t had with this tiny human and that you aren’t a science experiment.
your clothes won’t fit. you’ll buy new ones but those won’t fit either. this will increase your social anxiety. your body becomes fuller in places that you don’t realize until you try to put on leggings or a shirt or, even, your underwear. clothes may rip, even after you resew them. it’s hard and you’ll cry because our culture’s standard of beauty is so ingrained in your head and its hard to see how beautiful you’ve become. your body now carries marks of how much you love this potential human. your body is a story of lines that are becoming maps of the path that you have walked. they don’t tell you how fuller your body has become so that it can become a house and a home and something that sustains life.
[ you might try to change how you eat – try a new fad diet like Whole 30 or a detox – but you must first take care of your mental health. if you have had issues with food and eating in the past, this might not be healthy. this might make it worse, all of this worse. be gentle on yourself, sustain yourself first. ]
your ass will become thicker and fuller to be able to handle the twelve weeks of progesterone shots – the long, thick needle carrying a hormone that will keep the baby inside you, nestled in and safe and healthy.
they’ll mention your hormones and, with smiles and chuckles, make small jokes about how they might make you feel insane but no one actually stops, without a smile, and looks you in the eye and said that finding healthy ways to cope with the mood swings and exhaustion is important and gives you a list of resources to help take care of yourself.
no one even tells you it’s okay to take that extra nap or self care day or that its okay that you’re having these mood swings and your family will understand and love you.
no one tells you of the friends you’ll lose or grow apart from because you’re too tired or depressed to text or call or to leave your house. these conversations take too much of your doctors time, remember?
you’ll feel smothered in this process, maybe. if you didn’t have any signs of mental illness – you might now with the influx of hormones. that’s okay, you’re normal and you will find ways to handle it. if you do have mental illness, it will most likely be intensified. that’s okay, it’s normal and you have survived much worse. you’ll be anxious and your depression may be worse and you’ll have to figure out ways to keep yourself safe. books, music, imagination, therapist – self-care will be your new favorite word. people might not understand. you’ll figure out ways to say “help”, hopefully. it’s okay not to know how to ask for it, too.
your confidence in yourself will likely fall into a sunken place. you will probably feel like you’re drowning or numb or caught in some kind of riptide. you’ll have to remind yourself everyday of how strong you are, how strong your body is, and how it is working and working and working with you.
the failed cycles will be the hardest. even when they tell you that you have an 8% chance of it working or a 60% chance – it’s hard not to think “this is my fault” its not working. it’s hard not to feel alone in these moments of holding one lined tests as you sit in the bathroom. it’s hard not to look at your body, at its changes, and feel out of control. self-hatred grows like a weed, especially now.
there is going to be a storm inside you, probably, from all the medicine and the failed cycles and from all your friends getting pregnant and giving birth while you are still, still, still trying.
[we were forced to go through a therapy session with a psychologist that our doctor recommended since we are going through reciprocal ivf. it’s a very heteronormative thing to make us do – like signing paperwork titled “egg donor” and “known gestational carriers” – but even more so, the therapist was a shit show.
now once was i asked, “and how does it feel trying for this past year and failing? how does it feel not to use your eggs?”
instead this person discussed other patients stories, their personal history, and it ended up being my wife and I educating them about how to discuss race with their biracial child. the only time our doctor encouraged us to talk with a therapist and it was because it was the “protocol” and it ended up making my wife and i more stressed and upset that this person was not qualified to discuss these things with us – that they didn’t discuss it with us.
the only time and it wasn’t about our mental health.]
there is no denying that your mental health will be affected in this process. recent studies have shown that going through infertility has a very similar impact on the brain and mental health as going through cancer treatments. it’s heavy, this process is so heavy, and it is hard. there are really no words to express just how much.
what helps, though, is support. finding support network is key. this could look like family and friends or a qualified therapist you connect with or online groups – but knowing that you aren’t alone is helpful. talking through this is helpful. and realizing your thought patterns during these changes in your body is helpful to – changing them to be positive, encouraging of your body, can really help your self esteem.
and being gentle on yourself – taking extra naps, watching tv shows, diving into a hobby.
and self care.
in the end of everything- our doctors should ask – how are you taking care of yourself? how are you honoring yourself and this process? what story are you writing to tell this human you already love so much?
we’re still human in this process – let’s not forget that we deserve grace and honor and hope. we have to cling to hope – let it wrap itself around our changing, beautiful bodies like a life vest.
[i’ve included this photo because it is me, right now. its my body in the midst of change – estrogen patches attached to my skin and, hopefully, thickening my uterine lining so its cushy for an embryo. this is my body, in the midst of change, ready to be home, to sustain. i have to honor that – remember that it is strong – so strong – resilient, and beautiful. it’s a home, it’s a home, it’s a home. not only to our future little human but to me, to a future mama. it’s hard to fall in love with yourself during a storm – but i am trying and i am sharing and i am giving myself grace.]