5 Tips for Getting Through IVF With Your Sanity Intact

5 Tips for Getting Through IVF With Your Sanity Intact
Photo by Jef Rouner

Sometimes for a joke my wife and I refer to our daughter as “science baby” after a line from the show Orphan Black. That’s her at the top of the article, just shortly after she was assembled in a lab for in vitro fertilization. Ours was a three year journey of tests and heartbreak that I’m still paying for financially and probably always will pay for emotionally. It’s expensive and very, very hard on the soul.

Friends and acquaintances aware of my situation who are also thinking about going through IVF often ask for my advice, and today I’m laying out five ways to make it a little less of an ordeal. There are little things, but they can make a big difference. Stuff like…

5. Find a Faith to Regularly Practice
This sounds really trite, I know. "Seek God" is far too often the advice of folks with very few problems waving away yours. However, something that really helped us on our journey was that my wife and I started attending Diamondway Buddhist meetings. We wanted to try a new path in life, and to start seeking some sort of spiritual meaning after years of being untethered agnostics.

We did eventually drift away from that, but I still have very fond memories of the sense of community and connectedness that came from meditating with a group every Wednesday night. It just made personal things feel smaller than the larger universe, and that’s a helpful way to make your demons faceable. IVF is a pretty faith-based endeavor as it is, being made up of so many long odds, so consider maybe strengthening that part of yourself.

4. Make Little Projects for Each Other
If you’re not completely together on IVF, it’s going to be very hard. Infertility puts enormous strain on couples, and can hit them at deep levels involving sex and money, which can fracture relationships.

Invest in bettering your home and your relationship with each other. I remember one Christmas – held in the nearly empty room we were saving for a baby – my wife and I made a game of gift-giving. Only presents that could fit in each other's stocking, and no gift cards. It made buying for each other cheaper and more thoughtful, and it gave us the opportunity to just focus on each other rather than the ongoing treatments. She got into cake-decorating around then, anticipating future birthdays, and I started trying to get the books in our life under control and onto shelves. Sometimes when things fail, it makes them easier to take looking around and seeing that at least you’ve accomplished something.

3. Find Cheap, Personal Luxuries
Odds are your insurance company is not going to pay for the majority of IVF treatments, a fact my bank reminds me of in my monthly credit card bill. Even pretty-well-off people often find themselves having to cut back on non-necessities, and we weren’t well-off.

If you don’t have some fun, though, you will lose your mind. We got into LUSH bath products, which are not cheap but which can be stretched quite a bit if you’re prudent with them. Nothing says luxury like a decadent bubble bath, even when you’re reheating hot dogs three days a week. There’s an empowerment in personal luxury, and you’re going to need all the power you can get. Find something you can drop $10 a week on to really look forward to, and you’ll do yourself a lot of good.

2. Talk to Each Other
Like I said, this is a team effort, and you need to know exactly how the other person is doing. It’s easy to let resentments simmer until they become arguments in the emotional bruising that comes after continued failure to get pregnant.

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Make it a point to talk to each other as much as possible. Tell the other person how it’s affecting you and what might make it easier for you to deal with. This will serve you double-well when the kid is finally born, making you a more cohesive parenting unit. Even if it doesn’t, though…

1. Prepare for a Life of Just Each Other
Science is wonderful, but IVF is still something that can and does end in failure. Even if you do catch pregnant, there’s a fair chance you won’t stay that way full-term. I hear a lot of stories from people. I’ve seen a lot of hopes dashed even after all the effort and cost.

Some go on to adopt, of course, but from the very beginning of the IVF journey, it would be a good idea to look each other in the eye and say, “If it’s just you and I together for the rest of our lives, that would be okay.” Remind each other of that fact occasionally. Lots of couples put their entire lives on hold as they wait for result after result. Everything turns into a waiting game. Try not to let that happen. Hold hands and walk into both the challenge and the rest of your life at the same time. Make a baby one of your dreams, but not the only one, and keep on working to achieve them all.

Jef’s collection of short stories about vampires and drive-thru churches, The Rook Circle, is out now. You can also find him on Patreon, Facebook and Twitter

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