When my husband and I decided to try to have children, I kept that quiet. Because of my age, I heard a lot of “So, when are you going to have children?” anyway and I’d always wave them away with “Not for some time!” Then, I finally dropped the act and admitted to a friend that we had been trying for a while. She instantly said “If it’s not working, go to your GP. IVF is a lengthy process and you’re not getting any younger.”
I booked a GP appointment the next day and after waiting for a referral, waiting for appointments to take our medical history, waiting for the right day of the month to have a blood test, waiting for examination to be scheduled, waiting for a date to have a minor procedure, it was established a year later, that I would never be able to naturally get pregnant.
All this waiting can drive you nuts. After opening up to my first friend, I decided to screw social convention of seeing a stigma around infertility and IVF and I started to tell people whom I felt I could trust with this information. The reactions I got were all positive and 90% of confidants could relate because they had gone through IVF themselves or knew someone who had.
“I’m so glad that you’re telling me this. I suspect that one of my friends is going through IVF, but because she hasn’t said anything I don’t feel comfortable to ask her and offer my support.”
“I don’t usually tell people this… but for our second child we had to use IVF.”
“My sister went through IVF, and now she has two children!”
“We are currently going through our second cycle of IVF. Call me if you have any questions!”
After another year of waiting for referrals, redoing some examinations, and waiting for our turn to come around, we were finally handed a huge shopping bag of medication and I was told to call with the onset of my next period.
I found the whole IVF process challenging and I was so glad, that I had people who could empathise when I was hit with an oestrogen-induced cry-rage crisis. I was also glad, that I didn’t have to hide my discomfort of carrying around ovaries the size of mandarines. In general, I was just happy that I didn’t have to make up stories about why I wasn’t drinking or why I was trying to take it very easy, not doing any sports, not going dancing. I continued to be open with people and I felt really connected to my friends.
Egg collection date came around and then a couple of days later the embryo transfer. I was still popping pills and shooting injections like a drug addict who won the lottery, but the IVF process per se was done. We had passed all the check points! Now, we’d have to wait two and a half weeks before I could do a pregnancy test! And suddenly I became reticent. I didn’t want to talk about the fact that we had successfully implanted an embryo, I didn’t want to share anything about my physical or mental state - and especially nothing about my hopeful state! I withdrew from the world and I felt extremely lonely.
I trudged along in this state of isolation for two weeks while my husband was on a business trip, then I received some coaching from a Co-Active coach colleague. We unearthed two nasty voices who had imposed on me the reluctance to further talk about my IVF experience. One was warning me in a screechy voice: “You don’t want to jinx it!” The other one was shaking it’s head reproachfully: “You don’t want to come across as self-indulgent and annoy people by your oversharing!” These voices had made me put a muzzle on myself and had thus built a wall between me and my friends.
Whether my friends could perceive this freshly built wall, I don't know. But I could surely feel that wall, and I was suffering. I felt disconnected and helpless, like I wasn’t allowed to reach out to anyone to bridge this gap of disconnection. Superstition (the “Jinx! Jinx!” voice) and the need to exhibit proper behaviour (Mr. Tsk Tsk) were keeping me on a deserted island. It was me who had imposed this isolation! I didn’t allow myself to do the things I wanted to do! (By the way, this is always a good reason to procrastinate instead…)
After the coaching session, I gave myself conscious permission to be open and to connect with my friends. I was not going to jinx it! And if the pregnancy didn’t happen, I would have people by my side to share my disappointment and worries with.
I had made this resolve just a few days before the pregnancy test and started reaching out to people straight away and giving them updates on where we were at. On the day itself, I happily gave a first thumbs up to friends who were really brave to ask me in the afternoon and gradually reported the positive result to everyone else who knew of our endeavour. It was great to share the joy.
The following weeks, I had to keep “Jinx! Jinx” in check quite a bit. So far, I haven’t regretted putting it on a leash and shushing it regularly. I’ve had more positive news and some small scares. When I shared those, my friends with kids could calm me that they had gone through similar scares. It feels good to share! What comes will come, and I have a number of friends with whom the relationship has deepened over the last few months by my side to help me to celebrate and to mourn, should the need arise.
What's keeping you from connecting with people? What would be the worst that could happen if you reached out anyway? What could you gain by reaching out?
More things that I wish I had known before or while going through IVF in "What I wish I had known before and during IVF treatment".
More on where Mr. Jinx may have come from in "Self-imposed rules --- the rules we make up".