After years of trying to build their family, Rita and Brandon, have zeroed in on an IVF treatment to help them. They have painstakingly picked the right clinic, the right doctor and the right time. Its all coming together for them as they put all their ducks in a row and are in the right physical, financial, emotional, career space. Their cycle went well and now they have frozen embryos they are waiting to transfer back. But… in the current scenario, due to the novel coronavirus for many people treatments are on hold.
If you are like Rita and Brandon, read on to learn how to manage this time of waiting and uncertainty.
Most of us have never experienced the dreadful and challenging repercussions of a pandemic. We are in an unprecedented time, unlike ever before. As a Infertility Counsellor, I work with providing psycho-socio-emotional support to couples and women trying to complete their family, and I am aware of the numerous fertility patients who have had their fertility treatments disrupted, postponed or cancelled for now. If that has happened for you, whether you were at the beginning your treatment or if it was halted mid way, it is very possible that you are feeling heightened anxiety, vulnerable and helpless, as you are impacted by this decision. It is likely that it has taken a long, painful and gruelling journey, with many challenges along the way, to finally reach a point of beginning or about to begin treatment to build your family.
The decision however, for now, has been taken out of your hands, which, may have left you helpless, fearful, and uncertain about your future. Loss of treatment options might have left with you a sense of disbelief and grief and may even feel like everything has changed whilst at the same time nothing has changed for the better. All the emotions arising at the time are normal, including, sadness, frustration, anger, guilt, fear and, perhaps for some, even relief.
In my work with people going through infertility, feeling ‘alone’, is something I hear quite often. Trying to conceive can be a rather isolating time, and at this time when you are being asked to isolate and the clinics are also closed, it is understandable that this emotion is further exacerbated.
Whilst gratitude and looking at what you have is an important coping tool, it’s important to not bypass or minimise your own feelings, as this might leave you with residual feelings of shame. Fearing what may go wrong or how negative things will turn out is natural and understandable right now. The future is uncertain and we have lost some control during these times.
To manage this time, here are some potential coping strategies you can use *
Every single emotion is valid – sadness, fear, anger, isolation, even maybe relief. Its okay to feel this situations isn’t fair, please know, you are not overreacting.
As you allow your mind to wander on how things will not work out and how you worry about the future, its important to limit that time as you may find yourself spiralling downwards, losing optimism and only focusing on the negative. It is essential that you learn how to replace negative thoughts with more balanced, rational and healthy ones. Whilst it is common and completely natural to have negative thoughts interweaved with positive surges, the primary goal is to find balance. If you need help with this, do reach out to me.
Spend part of your day doing something that adds value to your sense of achievement. This creates a sense of control at a time when there is control lost in other areas. Maybe learning a new skill or language, cooking or painting.
Continue to look after yourself even when you are not in active fertility treatment. Focus on becoming healthier and eating well.
You moving your body impacts your mental health. Create a routine that includes physical exercise.
As you try to be become aware of and process your feelings, writing or maintaining a journal can be useful therapeutic outlet.
Joining an online community for something that you enjoy can be very useful. Possibly a book club, meditation group, dance group etc. Fertility podcasts are increasingly popular and there are also thousands of non-fertility related ones.
You can use this time to get to the 'to-do list' of sundry jobs that you always wanted to and never got around to doing at home. This will create a sense of agency and will keep you busy.
Practise gratitude. Every single day, remind yourself of one thing you are grateful for.
Communicate! Allowing time in your day to talk about your feelings can make a significant difference to the sense of isolation you may be feeling. Think about your support network – your family, friends and colleagues, and if you haven't shared your journey yet perhaps now is the time to identify at least one person you can talk to.
If you find yourself overwhelmed and struggling in discomfort, it is often helpful to focus on the present time, use a grounding technique for a sense of calm, bringing you back to the here and now. Focus on your breathing, your sensations of breathing, the ground beneath you, five things you can see around you, four things you can hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. Breathe and acknowledge that in the present moment none of your negative scenarios have happened.
It is normal to need support at a time when you may be feeling stuck and distressed. Counselling can help to aid mental health, support wellbeing and build resilience with the ongoing uncertainty during this pandemic. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you need additional help. The help of a specialist fertility counsellor can help empower you to name and feel your feelings, resulting in the ability to process and find meaning in your pain and grief.
Priyanka Bhatia-Mahendru is an experienced Counsellor and Certified Life coach trained in Infertility, Grief and Couples work. She can be contacted at Priyankambhatia@gmail.com