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How I Feel at this Point in the IVF Cycle

I’m now at the point of the IVF cycle where I wake up wanting to punch something. It’s like my PMS has PMS only it isn’t PMS it’s a shitload of injectable hormones coursing through my system making me super irritable. I can sense people fidgeting in other rooms and I WOULD LIKE THEM TO STOP RIGHT NOW.

You, with your leg bouncing up and down making that squeaky sound. JUST STOP.

And the clock in my bathroom, ticking. Is it always this loud? It’s all very Edgar Allan Poe.

Someone just honked. I hate that person.

And my dog with her breathing. Actually, she gets a pass.

My stomach just growled or gurgled and it was deafening.

OH THAT INFERNAL TICKING. I have half a mind to march in there and yank out that double AA.

The real kick in the pantaloons is I’m trying to stay calm and relaxed because I think everything works better if you’re calm and relaxed however yesterday my anxiety and frustration began ratcheting up and today it is off the charts.

And the thing with hormones is you can’t be SURE that’s why you’re feeling so easily agitated. Maybe everyone really is being a fucknut and clocks are ticking loudly and nothing’s going right and no one cares and everyone’s ignoring you and THINGS ARE SUPER FUCKED. Probably not, but maybe.

Yesterday I began crying at the fertility clinic and I’m kind of surprised it’s taken me this long to lose my composure there considering the nature of infertility and all the hormones and the clinic’s insistence on early morning appointments and my not being a morning person.

So I trudged in there with my very little buffer yesterday and found out that even though everything looked really promising this month (it varies monthly and if things don’t look promising they will make you come back the following month instead of trying to do a cycle of IVF on a month where it won’t be effective. This has happened to me repeatedly and sometimes it’s a relief because I feel like I need a break and sometimes I just feel disheartened and as if I’m losing time), and even though my labs were excellent, like better than they’ve ever been, and even though I’m now on day 7 of jamming needles full of drugs into my stomach, and even though I’ve been feeling so positive about this cycle and so in tune with my body in a way I never have before to the extent that I thought I’d turned a corner and worked through whatever was holding me back prior to now and here we go, now my body will respond to the medication like most women respond and I can be like everyone else who does IVF and finally I’ll produce a bunch of eggs, enough that they can sort through them and find the good ones and we can create a real family with more than one kid instead of me being this weird outlier who for whatever undetermined reason isn’t pushing out many eggs (one in five eggs are good however I’m producing fewer than 5 eggs a cycle which means the road ahead is long and hard) and isn’t really responding to the drugs, um, this sentence has turned into a word labyrinth and I can’t find my way out.

Or maybe it’s turned into a corn maze of words? I could go either way.

Anyway, I guess it’s kind of silly to think just modifying my lifestyle a bit (working out more, changing my diet, meditating, getting massages which is as close to acupuncture as I can get presently because it scares me) would change something so fundamental inside me. And yet I kind of got into a magical thinking trap.

I’ve seen people close to me do this: blame themselves when their physical ailments or illnesses don’t abate despite a lot of mental work. And it always breaks my heart because it’s like, life is already piling on and now you’re kicking yourself too?

But for the short time when I thought that somehow I’d righted this ship by trying to take control of my mood and thoughts and “energy” and all that, I felt so empowered. And to fall back into what is probably the truth: that it’s capricious and random and out of my control, feels more scary than liberating.

Aaaand I’m realizing I never finished my thought above which is that I found out yesterday that my right ovary is “sleeping,” meaning it isn’t responding to the medications. My left is producing a few eggs which is good and which means all hope for this cycle isn’t lost, I just thought I was clearing the finish line and instead I’m in the dugout. (That’s the correct sports metaphor, right? I AM JOKING.)

And I know I said my goal was to be not tethered to the outcome. To live my life and do everything I can to get pregnant but not to be so hung up on if it’s working because it’s out of my control and etc. But things were looking so good that I allowed myself to really get my hopes up even though I wasn’t aware at the time that’s what I was doing.

But really, if I’m being honest which I am, this is partly about having a baby and partly about feeling like a weirdo outlier like I suggested earlier. It’s about feeling like I’m running in a race with all these swift, able bodied people but I’m lame and misshapen and my body just isn’t working like it’s supposed to. And I realize there are a thousand judgments and distortions in that sentence but it’s kicking around my brain and probably napping on my sleeping ovary.

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  • Gregory Eschbacher

    Just remember there are thousands of people listening each week who are all cheering you on in this awesome fun process.

  • Vanessa

    We love you Alison thank you for writing this you have no idea how this might be helping someone else who can't eloquently put how they are feeling into words and also realize they aren't alone and neither are you.

  • badabingo

    I know you know all of this, but I'm going to say it all anyways because I love you!

    What is happening right now with being irritated, feeling like a weirdo, getting hopes up, ALL OF IT is very, very normal. And you are correct in that you are unfairly judging yourself and experiencing distortions in your thinking. That is normal, too (but not fun or helpful)! IVF is literally one of the most stressful things a couple can go through. It is some majorly intense emotional and physical stuff. You are allowed to react to it.

    It is NOT silly or magical thinking to think changing your lifestyle for the better would help your chances of getting pregnant. It's a super smart thing to do for yourself and your current and future family. You are doing a GOOD JOB of taking care of yourself and your family and need to give yourself credit for that RIGHT NOW, MISSY!! 🙂

    The results of lifestyle changes are sometimes hard to see and don't necessarily happen fast or in the exact way we want them – but that is why we keep going. And that last sentence is something you can use to respond to yourself when your brain says, “It was silly to think all this would help”. Serious – try it. I have arguments with myself all day (and sometimes I win!).

    And, honey, cry. Cry as much as you want. You know how good crying is for you? It has been studied and crying is an excellent physical and emotional workout and release. If you feel the need to cry – I say make it a real wailer. Go all out.

    Some parts of life are capricious, random and out of our control. But being kind to ourselves and taking excellent physical / emotional / spiritual care of ourselves is ALWAYS a good idea. Always. When we change something, even if it is a “positive” change, it is still a change, a disruption big or small. Allowing yourself space to get used to change is important (and an example of being kind to yourself).

    I think everyone has that feeling that everyone else around them is “normal” in some way they are not (bald guy has tons of friends who have thick hair, fat person's entire family is thin and they struggle to lose even 5lbs, etc). It's a natural reaction – primates like “fairness”. The only way I know to successfully move through that feeling is to challenge all or nothing thinking when it happens (i.e. tons of people have trouble conceiving – so many that there is an entire industry focused on helping them). I also allow myself to feel frustrated (or whatever) about the situation as long as I stay in the present moment with it (i.e. “yes, having to go through IVF isn't what I had in mind and right now I wish things were different”). Lastly, I attempt to radically accept objective facts as they are (i.e. “I'm doing IVF right now. It may work now, or later, or not at all. I accept those facts without judging them”). Ok, the last example is not my best work, but you get the idea. 🙂

    In summary, if you do nothing else, be kind to yourself. This covers multitudes and can help get you through just about anything. The way I do it is think to myself how I would treat my beloved little nephew and then I treat myself that same way (from cocoa and a snuggly blanket to praising effort to buying a gumball from the machine at the grocery store to going for a walk to playing a video game and everything between).

  • Katie Thorpe Blaha

    I'm sorry this is so hard. I can't imagine what it feels like to have to go through this process. That being said, as someone who tries to help people through shitastic emotions every day (psychologist, yayyy!) I hear you torturing yourself a little bit with trying to determine what's making you feel shitty (is it the hormones or is the clock actually loud, etc.). For whatever it's worth and knowing that it's hard to do, it might make things even just a little easier if you can just let yourself feel shitty, who cares why. It makes sense that you feel all of the feelings! The emotions you're going through are hard enough without interrogating them and yourself. Once you just say to yourself, “I feel awful, frustrated, sad, irritable, scared, and generally shitty” and just end the sentence there, that self-validation might make it easier to get through the ugly feelings. <3

  • Rebecca

    My heart just aches for you Alison. You've done an incredible job conveying what you're feeling in such a relatable way. Whatever your struggles are today, please know there are legions of people who absolutely adore you and are sending you good thoughts.

    Also, go punch those fidgeters in the face. They have it coming.

  • TS

    There is definitely a “magical thinking trap” that a lot of people fall into, especially as it relates to health- placebo is older than medicine, after all.

    However, don't kick yourself too hard for doing things that make you feel good. If exercising more and getting a massage every few weeks makes you feel better, why not keep it up, you know? It is not going to be a panacea that will specifically fix your right ovary, but that doesn't mean it isn't helping you in a making-life-a-little-easier kind of way.

  • Claire Brockelman

    I wish I had something profound or helpful to say, but I don't. I just wanted to comment so that you know you have a fan in Boston who is rooting for you. Hugs and good wishes.

  • Kirk Farnsworth

    Alison, I have followed your story for a long time. It is similar to my mother's story. She tried for years. They had stillborn children, miscarriages, and at one point they adopted a child and he died. But they never gave up.
    Just for clarification when I say mother, I mean adopted mother. I was adopted at four days old. I am now fifty. I am forever grateful for their efforts. I can not imagine how my life would have turned out if they had not adopted me. They were great parents.
    My mother didn't live long enough to see the end result of her efforts. She died when I was twelve. My dad is still here. And as long as he is, I will not be digging into any records. He is my dad. I have his name to carry on and I do it with great pride.
    I wish my mother were alive to talk to as an adult. I feel it was never their destiny to have children. It was their destiny to save me. Save me from whatever foster care looked like in the sixties. I have always felt that I owe them a huge debt.
    So…… There's that. That whole destiny thing.
    Whatever the path is that you are on is the right one. In some fashion this will all work out. And whatever decisions are made are the correct ones. Trust the universe. I'm not a religious, or even a spiritual person. But I've always thought that things seek their balance. And I think yours will too.
    I hope you are genuinely well.
    Kirk

  • Darkheart

    Pantaloons.

  • Viri

    First of all, you are so amazing for sharing this process with us in such a raw way. You are beloved even more because of your ability to be so vulnerable. Since you are my new best friend, I feel like it's my place to say that even though your body isn't “normal”, your feelings are. And you are being so hard on yourself because this is something that's beyond your ability to control. You've done all of these things — exercising, meditating, et cetera — to exert some measure of control. And they're all good things for you, no matter what. They just can't force your body to work the way it's supposed to. That's something you can't control, and I know that's the worst part. So please try to love yourself anyway, even though you feel broken. Because you are worthy of it. I know all of your loyal listeners think so.

  • Leeann Ward

    I commented on Facebook, but I also wanted to comment here to say how wonderful this article is. You capture so much angst, honesty and heartbreak with warmth and humor, which is one of your many, many gifts as a writer and host. There are so many people pulling for you and when you can't love yourself, please know that we love you and know that you're more than enough. Feel what you need to feel, because it's good to own your feelings and not shove them away, but also be kind to yourself. Treat yourself as you'd treat others who are going through similar things. You wouldn't judge and criticize them, so think of yourself as one of them and yourself the compassion that you would feel for/extend to them.

  • AndrewviaMR

    Hope you get knocked up. Thank goodness women want to have the babies. If we had to rely on dudes to be uncomfortable and pass a pork loin only to have something that poops and cries (that can't help your game!) it wouldn't have happened the first time.

  • Jamtastic

    I know there are plenty of women out there that would benefit from hearing your whole story. I have a dear friend who has been going through the various stages of this process for about 4 years now. As a fan who sometimes misses an episode here or there, I'd love to have some of the gaps filled in. Thank you for sharing your experience and being so open and honest about this difficult journey.

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