Infertility treatment is expensive, time consuming, and often times physically uncomfortable. So, it comes as no surprise that we all go into a treatment cycle with the expectation that, at the end, we'll end up pregnant. Unfortunately, treatments don't always work, and sometimes you end up with a negative beta result or the unwelcome arrival of your period. How do you go on in the face of such disappointment? How can you get up tomorrow morning when your spirit is crushed? You can, and you will.
As an aside, this article is intended for people who end up not pregnant after a treatment cycle, which I would define as: the use of medication with timed intercourse; an IUI (with or without medication); or IVF and its related procedures (such as GIFT or ZIFT). What I am not addressing, because I'm not qualified, is a treatment cycle that results in a pregnancy loss, whether that be a chemical pregnancy, an ectopic, or some other form of miscarriage. If you are that person, I am so sorry for your loss. I would suggest that you visit StorkNet's PAILS of Hope cubby, so that you can learn and share with people who truly understand what you are experiencing.
So, how do you pick up the pieces and go on? First, let yourself grieve. The failure of a cycle represents a whole host of losses: lost dreams of your future; lost time and money; and even lost hope. It's OK to cry, to sit on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry's, to recruit a friend to drive you around to every bar in town so that you can drown your sorrows. At the same time, it's also OK to push on through to your next challenge. There is no rule that says you have to be sad. In short, feel how you want to feel.
It can also be important to get any explanations or answers from your doctor that are available. Does your doctor know why things didn't work? Is there another test that needs to be run before you give another cycle a go? Do you need to discuss a change in your medication or treatment protocol? Would you benefit from a second opinion? The unfortunate reality is that most times, a cycle fails for reasons that are beyond both your control and the control of your health care provider. As good as the technology is, it can't guarantee success every time, and it's likely that all you need is another shot at putting yourself on the right side of the odds. Still, it may be that your failure can actually be a learning experience that serves you well in a future cycle. Try to capitalize on that experience, since the infertility learning curve is very steep.
Work on setting up Plan B (or Plan C, or Plan D). Sometimes, the thing you need to get you out of bed is the unrelenting knowledge that someday, you'll be a mother. So figure out what you need to do to make that happen. Start researching the next step in your medical treatment; for example, the use of injectable medications if you've been using Clomid. Work with your insurance company on pre-certifying more treatment, or juggle the finances and credit card balances so that you can give it another try. Schedule a consultation with another doctor. Research adoption, and start gathering documents that you'll need for your home study. All of these things help you feel like you're doing something, anything, to keep moving towards your goal. Keep your eye on the prize.
Or, take a break and let yourself rest. Have you been living and breathing infertility for months? Has it been a long time since you thought of yourself as you, instead of as an infertility patient? Take a month, or the summer, or six months to recoup some of your identity. Take back your body and your sex life. Enjoy your partner and your hobbies. Give yourself permission to just be, without worrying about "what next?". It may be that you decide that you're done with treatment. Everybody knows when the time comes for them to hop off the infertility circus.
Don't be afraid to talk to your doctor if you feel like you need some assistance with your depression. Infertility is an enormous burden on your soul, and sometimes we might need some help carrying the load. If you're having symptoms of depression - fatigue or insomnia, not eating or eating too much, or daily tasks seem too daunting - talk to your doctor. Find a therapist who specializes in infertility issues. Talk with your RE about whether a course of anti-depressants would jeopardize your infertility treatment. Help is there if you need it, and there's no shame in taking advantage of the resources that are available.
Look, none of these tips are rocket science, and it's stuff you could figure out by yourself. But sometimes we get so mired in the awfulness of the situation that we need someone to point out the obvious - that you will survive, and some day, you'll feel happy again. Be gentle with yourself.
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