I hesitated to pair the phrases “survive IVF” (in vitro fertilization) with “without feeling sorry for yourself” because I know how painful and difficult fertility treatments are. I struggled with self-pity during my infertility roller coaster, and found that feeling sorry for myself made everything worse.
These tips for surviving IVF — and fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination — are inspired by a book called Get a Life: His and Hers Survival Guide to IVF by Richard Mackney and Rosie Bray.
My husband I went through six months of fertility treatments, and I struggled to stop feeling sorry for myself. I’m not fond of the phrase “pity party”, but I think I had one too many. It’s hard not to feel sorry for yourself when you’re trying so hard to get pregnant — and you’re dealing with IVF. Struggling with infertility is painful, and I didn’t realize how much grieving is involved every month. And with every $1,500 invoice the fertility clinic hands over! So, I do understand how to survive infertility…but I wasn’t always good at learning how to stop feeling sorry for myself.
“When it comes to your fertility you can’t take anything for granted,” writes Rosie in His and Hers Survival Guide to IVF. “Yes, you may get pregnant on your first attempt, but it also may not be like they warned about at school. It could take several months to conceive a baby, or even years. By then your small fertility window will have closed, and you’ll kick yourself for counting on it.”
You are not alone. And, you can’t take anything for granted when you’re facing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments – not even your own ability to withstand bouts of depression, hopelessness, and self-pity.
Take heart, and don’t give up your hope for a happy, fulfilling, meaningful life. Your struggle to get pregnant may simply be a journey you have to endure. And if you can go through the infertility roller coaster without feeling sorry for yourself, then you’ll arrive at your final destination much happier, healthier, and well-rested.
How to Survive In Vitro Fertilization Without Feeling Sorry for Yourself
If you read 5 Reasons In Vitro Fertilization Fails to Result in Pregnancy, you’ll learn that there often isn’t a conclusive reason IVF doesn’t work every time. So, the first survival tip for in vitro fertilization is getting comfortable with the unknown.
1. Learn to live with uncertainty
When it comes to fertility treatments such as IVF, nothing happens exactly the way it’s “supposed” to. The medications have unexpected side effects, the cost is more expensive, the outcome (pregnancy!) unpredictable. These can all lead to feelings of helplessness and self-pity during IVF treatments. You can’t rely on anything…except your faith. If you have a relationship with Jesus, you can count on Him to walk with you through every step. Other than that, you can’t rely on the certainty of anything in the world of fertility treatments.
2. Be patient
“The biggest lesson to learn when fertility doesn’t go your way is how to take a deep breath and wait,” writes Rosie in His and Hers Survival Guide to IVF. You have to wait to start fertility treatments, perhaps even for medical or health insurance to approve your in vitro fertilization plans. “You have to wait while you take the drugs and slowly build up your follicles, wait while you see if the process has worked and then a final wait even if it has worked, to see if the egg is viable.”
3. Know that this, too, will pass
When you’re in the midst of IVF treatments, you feel like it’ll never end! The medications, doctor appointments, temperature tests, fertility clinics — surviving IVF really is a marathon. Not a race. But, know that your fertility treatments will end. You WILL get through this, you will survive IVF and you won’t drown in feelings of self-pity. If you feel sorry for yourself now, allow the feelings to pass through you. Don’t fight how you feel, but don’t let it consume you. Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel compassion for yourself…and tell yourself that these in vitro fertilization treatments are simply part of your life right now. And yes, you will survive IVF.
4. Learn the best way to stop feeling sorry for yourself
“One of the ways I stopped spiraling into depression during the dark times after the failed in vitro fertilization cycle and the miscarriage was to write a gratitude diary,” writes Rosie in His and Hers Survival Guide to IVF. “The idea is to write down five things that you are grateful for….Then, miraculously, what happens is you start looking out for good, happy things as you go about your day so you can write them in your book. This means you are now primed to notice good things and be grateful for them immediately.” And this helps you fight feelings of self-pity and depression during in vitro fertilization treatments.
5. Avoid comparing yourself to your friends
I’m writing a book called Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back. In it, I share the story of our Biblical sister Sarah — she struggled with infertility for 12 years. And she was old (like, 90!). She didn’t feel sorry for herself, but she didn’t trust God either. Sarah chose her own path, more of a “home grown” variety of fertility treatment. Surrogate motherhood is what we call it today. She didn’t have to survive a fertility treatment such as IVF, but she knew the feelings of infertility and childlessness. She compared herself to her friends, family, and community…and that led her to making an impulsive family decision that backfired. Don’t compare yourself to other women, couples, or families, because you’ll only feel sorry for yourself. Accept your life for what it is right now, and keep moving forward.
6. Learn how to adapt to new seasons of life
This is easier for me, because I grew up moving in and out of foster homes. My childhood was unstable and unpredictable, which means I learned how to adapt to new places and lifestyles quickly. I did struggle with self-pity until I was about 25 years old — and I learned how to stop feeling sorry for myself. So, when my husband and I were faced with infertility and fertility treatments, I learned how to adapt. I even flowed into a childless life. If you’re surviving IVF and you want to stop feeling sorry for yourself, learn the concept of adaptability or resilience.
7. Learn to let go of your IVF expectations
“Everyone will tell you the IVF myths: ‘so-and-so did five IVF attempts then finally gave up and they got pregnant naturally, at 42!’ Yes, we’ve heard all the in vitro fertilization stories before and they are unhelpful when you’ve just had another unsuccessful IVF cycle,” writes Rosie in His and Hers Survival Guide to IVF. “But, the more you tense up and will yourself through gritted teeth to grow those follicles and implant that embryo, the less likely it seems to work. God knows why.” If you allow your expectations and hopes of getting pregnant through in vitro fertilization to control you, then you’ll start feeling sorry for yourself when IVF doesn’t work the first time. So, let go of your expectations. Trust God that your life really is unfolding according to His plan. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, get to know Him. See what develops.
8. Have compassion for women who feel sorry for themselves
I’ve met women who wanted to be mothers so badly…and they’re struggling with a childless life. They’re lost in self-pity, bitterness, and hopelessness. They’ve lost their purpose in life. They survived fertility treatments and IVF, but they continue to pay the price of infertility. They’re choosing to feel sorry for themselves because they can’t have kids.
My heart breaks for women who can’t grieve and replace their old dreams of having children naturally with new dreams of living in fresh new ways. I’m not unsympathetic or heartless…I’m just not able to feel sorry for women who refuse to move forward. I know how much it hurts to be so disappointed, and I do have compassion for couples coping with infertility. But I can’t stay in the pit of despair, because life has too much to offer!
Are you struggling to stop feeling sorry for yourself because of infertility? Your big and little comments on surviving fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) are welcome here.
If you don’t know why you can’t get pregnant, you may find these 4 Fertility Checklists helpful.
May you find healing, hope, and help as you move forward in your journey toward a family. Maybe God lift your spirits, and Jesus breathe new life into your body. And may you find joy and peace that surpasses all understanding.