Infertility can make even the strongest person feel like giving up at times. Exhaustion and uncertainty can creep in, making you question everything you’ve been working towards. Usually these feelings pass. But what happens when they don’t? How do you decide to stop fighting for something that you’ve wanted more than anything? Something you’ve spent days, months, years even, waiting and wishing for?
What do you do when infertility is breaking you and there’s no hope left.
I can’t count the number of times over the years I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and finally give up (usually right in the middle of a cycle, after a ‘BFN’, or a loss). Unfortunately, doing a treatment cycle isn’t the same as trying naturally — it’s not as simple as using protection that month or taking a spontaneous break. If you decide to stop an active treatment, it literally feels like you’re throwing away money and a lot of time. Obviously, an ideal time to take a step back would be pre or post cycle when you haven’t already pumped yourself full of hormones, but sometimes your breaking point is reached at an unexpected time, and that’s okay!
The realization it’s time to stop trying doesn’t usually happen overnight.
It’s often something that starts sneaking into your mind overtime. You start questioning if it’s all worth it — if risking your sanity, marriage and career are worth it? And ultimately, if you can survive continuing to live this way, or does something need to change? When you take on a million things at once, eventually something must give, and when you forget about the most important thing (YOU), a downward spiral can occur more easily. But how do you decide that infertility has become too much?
How do you decide a break isn’t an option, but a necessity?
It may become necessary when you’re no longer working towards a goal and dream but instead working towards something that is internally destroying you and completely wearing you down. There’s generally many warning signs that build up overtime that lead to a complete breaking point in infertility. I find a lot of us ignore the early signs that something’s off (mostly because you want that baby so damn bad), and eventually everything just feels like it’s crashing down on you – making you shut down, lose touch, and have a hard time coping with everyday life.
Studies have shown that those who are going through infertility have stress, depression, and anxiety levels that are comparable or worse than those going through cancer treatments.
This alone, is a red flag that at some point in time, experiencing infertility will cause some type of mental health issue. What contributes to this high rate? I believe there’s many layers to it and it begins as early as the first infertility diagnosis. From there, each different circumstance and experience adds to one’s overall stress, anxiety, and depression. A lot of the general issues people will feel include the constant feeling of having no control, low self-esteem (because why won’t my body work properly?!) and being overwhelmed with juggling treatments and other life roles (work, relationships, expenses). All these factors combined can lead to a very dark place.
When you realize you’ve lost touch, don’t recognize who you are, feel completely broken or feel constantly on edge – that is the moment for change to start happening.
Take a step back and focus on you. Whatever you need to do to feel more like a person again, do it! Go on a trip even. It’s amazing how refreshed individuals and couples feel after taking a little breather. Try to embrace the things you used to enjoy and reflect on how far you’ve come — how much you’ve been through and how much stronger you are now. There must be a few positive things that have come from all this chaos, and a lot of lessons learned along the way.
The importance of self-care is often forgotten.
A lot of us forget to practice self-care during treatments because we become so wrapped up in meds, appointments, transfers, the 2ww, and ‘BFP’. It can become a vicious cycle, especially when you start doing cycles back-to-back. This is when self-care starts getting neglected and a lot of us stop communicating our needs or emotions because we feel no one truly understands or knows what we’re going through. Infertility has a way of taking over your life. It works its way into every little aspect. You can eventually feel like pieces of you are missing. This is why you should always make self-care a priority. Even a few minutes a day can yield significant positive results. Self-care can look different to everyone – it could mean anything from watching tv, going for a walk, chatting with a friend, or journaling. It really can be anything that makes you feel more at peace and whole.
It’s easy for infertility to feel like a race – like taking a step back isn’t an option.
Taking a break can do quite the opposite. It can give you the strength to move forward and the chance to regain focus. There’s nothing wrong with pushing down on the brake and putting things on hold. By doing this, you’ll be doing yourself a big favour! If you start feeling really overwhelmed, and that your heart just isn’t in it right now – take a step back, take a break.
You’d be surprised what taking even a month off can do. It can provide you with much needed self-care, clarity, and give you time to reconnect with you partner, family, and friends. Another option is joining a support group, seeking counselling, or talking to your family doctor about your mental health. Whatever decision you make at the end of the day, will be the right decision for you.
This journey doesn’t provide one path to take, has no right or wrong way to turn, and has no rules on how long you must keep trying. So, whether it’s a convenient time or not, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with stopping treatments – temporarily (to gain clarity and control) or permanently (because sometimes enough is enough).
By Cheryl Dowling