Infertility: The Emotional Roller Coaster

The journey to parenthood looks different for everyone. For some it is an unexpected surprise for others it is the culmination of years of struggle.  No matter which side of the spectrum you’re on there are a lot of unexpected emotions. For those dealing with infertility, it’s up and down, positive and negative. Infertility steals joy, sparks fear, and stokes feelings of failure and resentment. It crushes self-esteem and makes you question yourself, it pushes you down. It also teaches you to fight, and compassion and empathy, and gratitude. You feel so isolated. You feel like you’re the only one when really you’re 1 in 8. This is how I felt.

Hope to Hopeless

If you look at birth control statistics or believe high school biology teachers, pregnancy comes easily. That was my naive hope. That’s the feeling I started out with hope and then excitement. We were taking that next step. Eventually, after months and months, I had lost most of that hope and my overwhelming feeling was a failure. It was my fault, my body had failed, had betrayed me. It was simple, people get pregnant unintentionally all of the time. What was wrong with me? My husband was amazing support, he held on to hope; he carried it for both of us when I couldn’t bear it. He is not someone that I would describe as optimistic, but that was what he could do for me, so he did. 

I kept a notebook with me at all times when this infertility journey started, I’m glad I did. It was how I coped. A few things I wrote early on “I just have this fear that nothing will work, trying to manage expectations/not get too hopeful.” Another line from a month later: “ugh anxiety, worry, loss of control.” I analyzed my dreams, I commented on mundane things. A month later I finally got to the day of my first IUI  and I wrote this: “I keep reminding myself that it may not work and that is a reality I’m actually aware of, so I rationalize why it would be okay if it doesn’t. In the end, I’m just excited and I feel like this is a real chance.” I tried so hard to manage my hope. The IUI didn’t work and the next two didn’t either. I wrote, “It amazes me how I can go from hopeful to hopeless in just a few hours.”

Sadness to Anger 

With yet another failed cycle my hope was gone and so was some of my sadness. I was angry. Angry at the specialty pharmacy for making me jump through hoops for medications, angry at my one friend who knew for asking me how I was feeling, angry at myself. Angry at every social media post or family member or coworker who was lucky enough to be pregnant. My notebook shows my emotions. I can tell just by looking at my handwriting how I was feeling. I was rage writing. 

As time moved on and appointment after appointment took place I felt defeated. I was going through the motions. I even wrote that I didn’t think the last IUI would work, but “I’m going to do it because it’s the treatment plan.”  I told myself to just get through it. I wrote, “it worked or it didn’t you deal, you grieve, you move forward.” Giving myself some tough love I guess, or just masking my insecurity and resignation. 

Infertility treatments play a role in the emotional roller coaster. You’re taking pills, getting injections, it wreaks havoc on your emotions. I remember lying on my bed just sobbing. I don’t know what triggered it, I don’t know why I was crying. I just remember I couldn’t stop. 

Anxiety to Reality

Oftentimes you’ll hear that anxiety is worrying about the future and depression is ruminating on the past. Throughout my infertility journey, I wrote about my worries about IVF. IVF does not equal a baby. IVF is expensive (I was lucky enough to work for a company that provided fertility coverage), IVF is exhausting mentally and physically, and logistically. By the time I started the IVF journey I had a therapist and I had joined a support group, I had told my friends and a few family members. I was tired of feeling like we were alone in this journey. I needed people to help carry me through. I need those that could take this ride with us. 

I was anxious. Day after day, multiple shots (a minimum of three every day), monitoring appointments every other day, and the waiting, the waiting, and the thinking. I described it as the anxiety of excitement and the anxiety of fear. My hope had also returned. Hope, fear, excitement, expectation, joy, disappointment. It can all coexist. 

The day arrived, the retrieval was done. A wave of relief was short-lived as we waited for the lab report in the end we had one embryo. We weren’t getting off of the roller coaster yet. We were preparing for the next ride. Off we went again. 

In the end…

After the second cycle was done and the lab report was in, I was exhausted. I wrote “I had a complete meltdown. I think it stemmed from my anxiety and my disappointment.” I couldn’t do it again. It was time to move forward. I don’t know if I can put into words the fear that came with the transfer. I allowed hope to return and with hope came the fear of failure and disappointment. It was a struggle to stay positive after so many setbacks. Free time was filled with worry. I wrote then: “I try to stay realistic…I want this to work so badly.”  It worked. I sobbed in relief. 

Hope. Sadness. Joy. Rage. Love. Resentment. Blame. Disappointment. Compassion. Insecurity. Fear. Relief. Anxiety and Anger. Serenity and Frustration with infertility you can experience it all. 

Melanie grew up in the New Orleans area. She has lived in Baton Rouge since starting her bachelors degree at LSU. Melanie has a BA in Mass Communication and a master’s degree in Social Work both from LSU. In her professional life Melanie focuses on women’s mental health. She also has a passion for group therapy. Melanie and her husband Adam have been married for nine years. They have a one year old son. In her personal life Melanie can be found trying out a new hobby, trying to “get organized” and avoiding the laundry. She loves sitcoms, traveling, iced coffee and carbs.

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