The good, the bad and the ugly: Receiving news from the fertility clinic
March 25, 2011:
“I’m at work. I stand in a hallway, away from my desk for privacy, processing the sincere apology from the nurse on the phone that no, I’m not pregnant this time either.
I am calm, circumspect and almost OK with it, but then I crumble realising I have yet to call my husband and break the news.
That’s the tough bit.
I’m ok with failing if it’s just me that stands to be disappointed.
But Dave so badly wants to be a father. And he’d be such a great dad.
The frustration I feel at this wasted chance is so futile. It must be so hard for him to be standing on the sidelines waiting for things he can’t influence to happen.
Fighting back tears, I grab my sunnies and wallet and head for the door to go for a drive to clear my head, only to realise I won’t get far without the keys. Sniffling and avoiding eye contact I return to my desk and dig through my handbag until I find them.
I announce to my nearest colleague that I’m going out for a bit. She is aware something is wrong, but in too harsh a tone I bark, “Everything’s great” as I march out the door to my car.
Inside the car, it’s hot and the air-conditioner struggles to soothe me. I wipe away tears and sniffle some more before gripping the wheel. I back the car out and leave the car park, not really sure of my destination. I drive for a bit and eventually I pull over on a stretch of uninhabited road in the industrial park near the office and kill the engine. After a few deep breaths so I can calm down, I ring Dave.
It’s not fair to give this kind of news over the phone, but he had sent me a text message earlier in the day asking me to call when I knew the result of that morning’s blood test.
So then, alone in the car with no witnesses to see me sob, I call his mobile expecting him to answer and walk out of the room for a private conversation. It doesn’t ring but goes straight to voicemail. I’m not going to leave a message I think to myself, and dial his office line instead.
He answers quietly. I guess he’s been expecting this private call for a few hours now.”
By this point in my fertility struggle, I’d learned a lot about being frustrated with our lack of progress.
I’d learned that positive thinking is great and all, but hoping wasn’t helping us get there.
More importantly though, hoping isn’t the same thing as coping. Being upbeat and perky despite the dashing disappointment is exhausting and a damned near impossible task to pull off.
After this experience with life altering news sideswiping my day, I set a boundary around my emotional energy for things like results phone calls.
I asked the clinic to let me know when the results of future testing were likely to be available so that I could call them instead. Handling the calls this way around allowed me to create some mental space to focus better on what I had to do at work instead of being distracted and operating in a holding pattern waiting for the call.
So,on the days we were expecting to know something (like after blood tests, or on development days for embryo fertilisation) the clinic staff were to give me a time after which I could call them, if I could create some privacy for the outcome.
Adjusting things like that to suit the way I knew my mind worked helped me take back some control. Because no one likes living in a constant state of “what if?” or panic. And when we finally did get our positive news I was able to go straight home to hubby to celebrate!
If you want to feel calmer, more confident, and have more control over your quest to add to our family, then please get in touch for a chat with me about how easily that can be possible for you.
Am I the right person to help you while you add to your family? Make a time to video chat on zoom with a BYO beverage here.
What is the Freedom Fertility Formula and how does it work to support IVF and mental health?
The Freedom Fertility Formula is a life-changing blend of coaching, counselling and mind-body techniques aimed at helping couples welcome their longed-for baby sooner.
Freedom Fertility Specialists Claire Caldow and Mandy Worsley join Reproductive Health Group’s clinical director Professor Luciano Nardo to discuss how the Freedom Fertility Formula could help you.
This amazing video explains what I do and how I can help – even when you can’t get in to see your clinic soon enough for you.
The ladies in the video are fellow specialists in my community, based in the UK, and we are working toward the same goal of helping women and couples welcome their babies sooner. #communityovercompetition.
They are speaking with a doctor from the UK based fertility clinic Reproductive Health Group, who are in partnership with our community of Freedom Fertility Formula specialists to support their assisted reproductive technology (IVF) clients towards better success rates. Mandy and Claire are both patient support partners there.
It’s a succinct discussion that anyone struggling with fertility frustrations would find informative.
It explains what is involved, how it helps, and why this type of mind-body connection work is an important part of the treatment of fertility concerns.
So, if you’re struggling and would like some help, please get in touch or book in with me using the buttons below.
Christmas is coming! And you know what that means:
Countless social events with workmates or colleagues, family functions and everybody else’s kids everywhere.
I found Christmas really tough during our IVF years, especially after a November miscarriage. So I thought I’d share with you some of my tips for navigating your social calendar with grace and good humour in the coming silly season.
I call it: Aunty Sandi’sIVF Silly Season Survival Guidefor Grown-ass Women who don’t want to talk about when or whether they’re having babies.
Here’s how it works:
Step 1: RSVP ‘No’ to the events you simply don’t want to attend
Be unapologeticabout it, or lie if you need to – but it’s is incredibly important that you stand up for your needs.
And if it’s going to be altogether too much to handle and you feel you can’t stand up for yourself, thenthink about planning some time awayorhang out at home, not because you’re hiding,it’s just where you’d prefer to be right now.
Step 2: If you do attend a function, then plan ahead.
Will you be drinking alcohol? If you would normally enjoy a drink, then the lack of it is a flashing emergency light to gossip hounds and curious friends or family.
One simple, sure-fire trick to throw them off the scent:Fake your alcohol intake!
Make your own drinks, or have your partner bring you your drinks. The key is tomake them look like they are alcoholic– a glass of soda water with cordial and garnish, like a lime wedge, could easily be a vodka, lime and soda, or a glass of tonic with ice and slice could be a G&T…you’re the only one who’ll know for sure.
Nurse the one glass for a whileas though you were savouring the cocktail, because smashing through them and not appearing tipsy could be a red flag too.Slur your words if you have to, daahling.
Drive yourself: Volunteer to be the skipperand moan about it being an imposition; roll your eyes and sound put out… but not too much to attract offers of lifts and questions about why you didn’t take a taxi.After all, designated drivers can drink as much soft drink as they like without issue.
The skipper routine works best when teamed up withan excuse to leave the party earlylike: “I’m so busy at work/uni right now, so no I can’t drink, I have a report/thesis to write when I get home…” OR “I have an early start tomorrow, but I wish I could stay…” Do the rounds and excuse yourself, be polite but brief. Ask a question of them and then excuse yourself to the bathroom, or to the bar.
Step 3: Dodging insensitive questions
Small talk at parties and functions is a real minef…ield. People who barely know you, or have only just met you, can easily ask questions that sting without them realising how deeply they’ve cut you.
Let’s put up a bit of a barrier to your most sensitive nerves right here, right now, with these little conversation tricks:
Talk first– when you run into someone you think may ask an insensitive question, you can save them from putting their foot in their mouth by offering up your latest news first.
Or better yet:
Ask them questions about them and their intereststo get them talking and guide the conversation away from opportunities to talk about you. You’ll have them talking at length and they’ll love you for showing an interest.
“So Derek, Tell me more about your XYZ project/trip to ABC/renovating your house…”
A final thought:
The best gift you can give yourself this Christmas is a beautiful pair of big girl panties and a big gift box of healthy boundaries.
I lovingly encourage you to care foryourself first.
So go ahead, print off and sign the permission slip I’ve put together for you below, and keep it somewhere you can read it whenever you need a reminder thatit’s perfectly OK to put your needs ahead of others.
My gift to you for yourself:
Your permission slip
If you’d like to your own customisedIVF Silly Season Survival Guidewhere we discuss how to set and honour healthy boundaries around your fertility struggles, then please book a chat with me here:https://sandifriedlos.as.me/coffeechat.
Find a time that suits you, mix yourself your BYO beverage of choice andlet’s get some strategies in place to help you feel like partying again soon, whatever your future holds.
Wishing you a wonderful silly season without awkwardness and insensitivity.
The mind of a wannabe pregnant woman is a busy, busy place. It's filled with questions, fears unspoken and countless other unhelpful thoughts that keep her overthinking everything.
It's busy calculating timings and dosages, counting days of their cycles and how many coffees she's had, and running a constant commentary on her life. As if hyper-analysing will make that second line on the pee test turn up faster.
She knows it won’t help, but she does it anyway because an anxious mind hates silence. The unhelpful thoughts fill the uncomfortable void created by waiting for something to go right. And she's waiting for her big fat positive pregnancy test result.
But that constant chatter does damage to her self-esteem, her confidence in her body to do things for itself. It keeps her running in flight/fight mode, on edge and on high alert.
Sound familiar? Yep, I did it too.
So how can you quiet the noise and rein-in your overthinking, so the unhelpful thoughts no longer dominate your internal monologue?
Simple: Don't think those unhelpful thoughts right now
Sounds basic, but hear me out.
I use a little trick with my clients that we call Worry Time. It’s not a new concept, and I learned it from someone else, but it is a simple and powerful tool. It will help you to contain your worries and those unhelpful thoughts for a time that you can focus on them, rather than having them interrupt your day whenever they please.
The way it works is when you notice something is starting to worry you or cause you to be anxious, simply tell it to come back later. Literally say out loud:
“Not now, come back at 7pm and I’ll deal with you then.”
And then at 7 pm (or whenever you told it to come back), you need to set aside 15 minutes for you to focus and think these things through. It's so much better than have your day hijacked by negative thoughts and feelings. It gives you the space to handle it better because you can look it in the eye and see it for what they really is, when you are calmer and feeling more in control.
How it works in practice
I was asked by a client recently:
“But what if I have nothing to worry about when worry time comes around?”
And I looked at her saying nothing.
Then the penny dropped for her and we both smiled. She got it. And I was so proud of her.
You see, that is the entire point.
Most of the time we worry about things because they are urgent, in our face demanding our attention right now! But when those worries are told to come back later the ones that aren't also important go away or resolve themselves somehow.
It’s so liberating!
It put her in the driving seat. She can now control when she puts her emotional energy into worrying, which gives her the chance to consider solutions for her concerns. And even better, she's no longer at the mercy of random thoughts sweeping her up in the moment and tossing her around in the raging torrent of an anxious mind.
And you can easily do this too
The basic rule of thumb is that if a worry comes up for you check in with how you’re feeling right then and there. If it's something you can handle easily now, go ahead. But if not, then set your boundary, say it in your head or out loud if you’re somewhere safe.
If it bubbles up again try once more to put it off to later, at your set time.
We’re talking about things that aren’t life-threatening – like whether a pregnancy now would ruin your travel plans, or mean you’d not be able to host Christmas lunch at your place this year… y'know, logistics and the general fluff of life that in the grand scheme of things won't matter later.
It's all 'workoutable' from the right state of mind, even if you need some time or support.
And don't worry, if what you're worrying about is truly important, then it will show up for your appointment. Anything else will fade away and leave you to wonder what all the fuss was about.
I'd love to hear how this helps you out, so please comment below.
And if you'd like some support or to see if working with me will help you smooth out your bumpy path to parenthood, then please book a chat on zoom at a time that suits you and we can get to know each other over BYO beverages soon. https://sandifriedlos.as.me/coffeechat
Maintaining relationships when you’re struggling to conceive can be fraught with those awful "I'm-so-happy-for-you" through tears of frustration moments. Especially when you find yourself with a newly pregnant friend.
It can be tempting to just throw your social life out the window when your focus is on adding to your family. But you are going to need a close network of people in your life to help you get through it all.
So thankfully, there are some practical things you can do to maintain your relationships, – even with your pregnant friend – when you’re in #struggletown.
Even though it will be tough, I urge you to be that friend that shows up to other friends' baby showers. At times it will hurt like hell and you'll have to reapply your make up after an ugly cry in the car two streets away from the party. #beenthere
I know it's hard to push all that aside and have things not be about you for a couple of hours. It hurts to hear how happy your friend is, or how they weren't even really trying, or gee I just want this to be over… but that is a strength you have to find when things aren't happening to schedule. I've felt it.
Sometimes though, people are just plain thoughtless. Other times, they just don’t get what you’re going through.
Timing can be rough too.
It took IVF help for us to have kids, after years with no 'accidents', and a couple of failed inseminations (IUIs).
We lost our first IVF baby at 7 weeks, after being incredibly ill for much of the pregnancy. Then some of our dearest friends announced they were pregnant.
I was in bits.
We had been friends forever, and I knew she had struggled to conceive too, but I was devastated. And I knew my attitude sucked. Who was I to be upset at this beautiful news?
Happy but hurting
So I wrote her an email that was never meant to be sent. In it, I told her that I was proud of her, and truly glad for her. But I also needed to express that I was at the same time heartbroken that I couldn’t say that I was pregnant too.
It was a way of getting all of the hurt and the 'poor me' thoughts out of my head, things that I never would have wanted to say to her in person. That way, I could focus on the next step and keep going and no longer feel the need to clap my hand over my mouth to prevent mis-speaking in front of them.
I was never going to send the email, but I found the process of getting it out of my head truly healing, like lifting a weight off my shoulders.
We have spoken about this letter since, our friends and I, so reading it here shouldn't be a surprise to them.
The email I drafted to my pregnant friend:
I just wanted to address the elephant in the room and discuss something with you so I don't give you the wrong impression or act weird and make you wonder whether you did something to upset me.
I love you both so very much and I can't possibly express how very happy I am for you to be pregnant – thrilled, relieved and proud for you don't begin to cover it.
But I am also ever so slightly envious… If things had gone differently we would have had a "Me too!" moment at Christmas as the timing of your good news could so easily have meant that we were pregnant at the same time.
So your announcement was a reminder of what could have been and in my head I will be doing stupid 'What if?' scenarios and calculations. It's something I'm working through and it's totally not your problem;)
I just need you to know that from time to time I may get a bit teary and appear to be upset, but it's not at you.
So, now that that is said, I can prepare to be the world's greatest Aunty;)
So this is how it felt for me, to have a pregnant friend and wish nothing but happiness for them – smiling for them on the outside but be crying for myself on the inside. I wasn't a green-eyed monster, just a broken woman struggling with feeling left behind, and like I was failing to meet a basic expectation of me as a woman and partner.
If you haven't experienced this situation yourself, I hope my sharing of this letter gives you some insight into why some people might not seem as happy about your baby news as you'd hoped. There are complicated emotions at play. Please be understanding of the people in your life struggling with having to be patient about when, or if, they'll have kids.
If you've felt this situation yourself, I'm sorry that happened to you. It sucks. I'm hugging you through the screen. I want you to know that however you choose to deal with your grief is up to you, and everyone will find a personal way of healing in their own time. Perhaps writing letters you'll never send is something you might like to try out to order your thoughts and process conflicted feelings. If someone hurts you with a question or an announcement, write it out. Tell them everything you wish you could say out loud and save it for later. It will lift some of the weight off your chest.
And here are four of my other favourite strategies I would recommend to help you handle life in limbo with a general sense of grace and poise:
Have your responses ready
There will be questions, especially around Christmas time, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Even if no-one knows what is going on for you, it’s a common thing to discuss family plans once you’re at ‘that age’ or ‘that stage’. So have your answers ready.
If someone asks you when you’re going to have kids – you can say you’re not ready yet. You can say that it’s on the cards for the future, but right now you have other things to focus on. And you can say you’re not sure and leave it at that.
Be assertive with your answers, and flip it back to ask them if you need to. Ask them about how their holiday to Thailand went, or if they got the promotion they went for. A little misdirection never hurts!
Remember that social media presents a myth of a perfect life
Everyone seemingly lives the dream life on social media. But it is only a projection of everyone’s best life. It doesn’t show the murky underbelly that makes up a real life.
We feel like we have to be perfect, and put pressure on ourselves. When you add on someone’s Instagram engagement or Facebook pregnancy announcement, you can feel like a failure. It’s like everyone else has their shit together except you.
Social media is not accurate. People still have bad days, fights, failures. They just don’t announce it. So if your feed is getting you down, hide people from your feed. Uninstall the app if you have to. It will always be there later when you’re feeling stable.
Don’t burn your bridges
It might seem like your whole life is focused around starting a family. But it cannot be about that forever. Whether you’re successful or not, one day you will need a social life. And it’s much easier to have one of those if you still have friends left.
If you need space, pull back and take a breather. But don’t burn your bridges. One day, you will regret lashing out at your friend because she didn’t know how you were feeling or what you were going through.
Maintaining relationships when you’re struggling can be a real mind game. People will ask questions, share about their successes, and generally do things that can make you feel shitty. But if you take some steps to keep perspective, you can keep your friendships ticking over.
And then if you get to announce your news you'll be the friend you needed when others announced theirs.
Preparing for the worst while hoping for the best is my biggest recommendation above all else.
It can be tricky to guard your heart without building up walls that are too tall to let in the good stuff too, but if it were me doing this IVF thing from scratch I would want to know what could be waiting around the corner to throw me off balance.
So there you have it, my five favourite strategies for getting through this thing called 'infertility treatment'.
I'd love it if you would think of me as your friend in fertility, cluing you in on all the stuff (good, meh and downright terrible) about the process and how it will turn your life upside down and inside out along the way.
Let me be the steady hand to help you keep your balance, the safe harbour for when the storms approach and a kind ear to listen when you need to be heard. Book in a chat with me at a time that suits you here: https://sandifriedlos.as.me/coffeechat.
How to cope with the barrage of unsolicited advice about your fertility
For some reason, there are people out there (at work, on the bus, online) that want to offer their unsolicited advice to the unsuspecting would-be parent trying for a baby.
Everyone wants to get in on the action, even complete strangers!
No matter what people say, there is no silver bullet when it comes to falling pregnant.
But people like to be ‘helpful’
My own dad gave me the tip to ‘put your legs up afterwards’. AWKS!
Equally, your nanna might give you advice at the family lunch, or your work colleague might mention what a friend of hers tried to help her fall pregnant.
People like to help. They abhor silence and when they think you might be sad or might have overlooked a solution, then they will say things without thinking about how they might be received.
But for you it feels invasive and personal and ever so slightly judgy. As if you and your partner are not 'doing it' right, and if you only listened to them you'd be up the duff in record time.
Thanks Susan, you're right, I should just relax/go on holiday/put my feet up after sex. I'd have never thought of that without you mentioning it. *eyeroll*
So why are they trying to be helpful?
The thing is though, if they are commenting on it because you brought it up, you may have forgotten to set your boundaries around the topic. Talking to people about your fertility troubles with too many people is asking for trouble.
My advice – unsolicited as it may be (or is it since you've read this far?) – is to avoid sharing too much about your situation early on, except with a select group of trusted inidivduals you can rely on to not offer stupid but well-meaning advice.
This may or may not include your own parents, and that can be tricky. They can't fix this, but in most cases they will want to 'help' and often they have no idea how to help without sticking their foot in their mouths. The tricky bit is that you can't untell someone, and if that someone would take a bullet for you then it can be hard for them to let it go and not mention it.
The problem is that when someone gives out unsolicited advice – it impacts on your life, but not theirs. To them, it’s often just a passing comment to contribute to the conversation, but for the fertility challenged it is yet another painful reminder that our bodies are letting us down.
And that difference of impact can be so hard to keep that in mind before you blow up at your family gathering.
When you want to punch someone
Gotta tell ya, punching someone out won’t help, even if it feels REALLY appropriate at the time. Cliched as it may sound, I found that breathing exercises helped (though they were hard to remember in the moment), and removing myself from the situation by walking away or finding a distraction saved me from an assault charge on more than one occasion.
Whatever you choose to do to diffuse the situation, try to take a moment to notice the feelings that come up for you, and why it’s there. Are you angry? Sad? Frustrated? And what in particular is bringing that out for you?
Later, when you get a moment to yourself, write it down. Just word-vomit out exactly why their advice was so ridiculous and unwarranted. By doing this you’ve dealt with the raw feelings, but you also haven’t burned a bridge by snapping back at someone.
From HuffPost's article 27 Things People Struggling With Infertility Want You To Know: #22. "Never tell a person to relax and let it happen, or that it will happen when they stop trying — like when your friend's cousin's niece's wife's aunt's boss tried to get pregnant for a year. It doesn't work that way, and it just implies that it is somehow their fault they are infertile because they are stressing too much. The best thing you can say is, 'I'm sorry you are going through this.'" — Trina Alexa
How to respond to questions
Sometimes it’s the reverse, and people are asking you about your plans. When you’re struggling, there is no more dreaded question than ‘When are you having kids?’
You can answer this with a partial truth if you want to. You can say ‘maybe one day’ or ‘we don’t feel ready yet’ – which can be a sort-of truth if it's important to you to remain honest.
Or you might feel comfortable or confident enough to say that it’s a personal decision between yourself and your partner.
Sometimes, it is simply a friendly question in small talk. So, before you throw your drink at them, try to remember that and then you can deftly redirect the conversation back to them by asking about their life or opinion on a topic of news or personal interest. Anything other than babies, and whether you'll get around to using that uterus. I've heard it called beandipping before, but really it's a deflection technique akin to "Look! Shiny!"
Set boundaries for yourself
You cannot always be focused on this fertility thing though, because let's be real here, there is more to you than your fertility struggle, and I urge you to find and make a list of those roles you play aside from ‘future parent’.
If you focus too sharply on the one thing, your other relationships will suffer and you'll be stuck with everyone's pity questions about your progress with the doctors.
Remember, your feelings when someone gives unsolicited advice are still valid. You don’t want to swallow them down. But telling someone they’re a fuckhead is often not the best course of action.
Dealing with your feelings and working through them and more importantly what those feelings are trying to tell you can help you to cope better next time someone wants to pass on their 'knowledge' or ask you how you are.
How I can help you
Do you need a non-judgemental friend who can realte to how to feel trying to fall pregnant? Someone who will not give you unsolicited advice?
If you want:
To have your story and journey heard and validated, without judgment;
The reassurance that you are not alone;
A plan for the next steps towards helping you enjoy your life now, without living 'on-hold'; and bonus thing (because I love to give value)
Some self-care strategies and tools to help you be less reactive to the triggering things that can crop up without warning to knock you off balance. And lots more support and resources besides, then please get in touch.
If you want to talk more, then click the link below to find a time that suits you for us to talk on zoom and get to know each other better to help you decide if I'm the friend in fertility you need. https://sandifriedlos.as.me/coffeechat