I know there are a lot of people grieving right now - cancelled vacations, parties, conferences, book clubs, date nights, concerts, the list goes on. But there is a unique group of people who have already been grieving for years, month after month as each period arrives, after a diagnosis. A committed and tired group of women with infertility soldier on, making new plans, accepting that maybe they'll have to make a family differently than their friends did. Trying to figure out medications, timed cycles, intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), egg donor, sperm donor, embryo donation, or a gestational carrier.
Enter the coronavirus or CORVID-19. You've finally made a plan, and it's CANCELLED. I've heard of many embryo transfers being frozen when they were going to be fresh. Maybe you've started your drug protocol to have the process stalled out in front of you. You've had to stop treatment because your doctor with a specialty in endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome is in a clinic hours from home. You recently had an egg retrieval fail and you have to wait indefinitely to start the process again. So much to grieve.
For all that you've been through, being halted in your tracks is devastating. So how are you going to deal now? Let's take stock.
If there is anyone who can deal with bad news it's a woman who's been dealing with infertility. You've had nothing but bad news for the last many months. Think about it, look around at your friends who are bummed about not getting to go out for their birthday or can't go to that concert they've been waiting for. They are bent out of shape! But you, you've got this. You've been dealing with failed expectations for so long you had to work to get yourself into a hopeful place again when you started the path to IUI or IVF. You know how to rebound during a crisis. You've been doing it for years.
Who's good at waiting? You are! Well, you've had a lot of practice. Think about all of those two week waits you've accrued. It's the longest amount of time, and torturous because you've cycled in and out of two week waits for months or years. It's a juggling act, keeping your awareness of your cycle at the forefront of your mind, never really being able to put it down. This time, your waiting will look a little different because there won't be the rise and fall of hope and despair so quickly within a 4 week period. The coronavirus situation is requesting you to be much more patient, in fact, it allows you to put down trying to conceive altogether.
I know putting this lifelong dream to the side isn't actually possible, but if you find some creative ways to get distracted, the next few months may be a tiny bit less difficult. This is not what you wanted, none of this is what you wanted. But in order to stay sane, you must grieve, which can make space for good things in the future. Here are some ideas:
1. Talk to someone about your pain, sorrow, and disappointment. A spouse, a friend, an infertility therapist. Depending on your job you may have recently become more comfortable with video calls, try it out with someone who can hear you.
2. Make a plan for what is in your control. There are many other parts of your life that don't involve infertility right now. Come back to yourself, get lost in a good book or learn something new. In self-quarantining and social distancing there is more time to attune to what you really need. Get out a notebook, and start listing what is in your control.
3. Become aware of and reduce negative thinking. If you're a member of any infertility facebook pages, grieve there with others for a few days, then get some distance. We frequently become what we see and hear. Find ways to surround yourself with hope. Schedule news updates for yourself, two times a day. Do not overwhelm your mind.
You will get on the other side of this. There is nothing in this that you cannot handle. You've been armoring up for years. Grab hold of your mind and show yourself kindness, extra sleep, long walks outside, and meditations telling yourself you are here for you, you've got this. It's an exquisite truth.
Allison Ramsey is a licensed clinical mental health counselor and fertility counseling specialist in the Asheville area. She’s a member of Resolve, The Infertility Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.Contact her to start feeling better.
Here is ASRM's stance on COVID-19 and fertility treatment as of March 12, 2020.