More and more I hear the term ‘self care’, but what does it actually mean? Being stuck running the gauntlet of infertility puts a spotlight on every aspect of life, including relationships with those around us. One thing I have learned is that I really can’t rely on anyone around me to take care of me. That doesn’t mean that people around me can’t walk with me, hold me for a while and help me through the tough times, but in terms of looking after the essence of me, that’s up to me.
I decided that I wasn’t going to blog through our frozen embryo cycle. I suppose this is part of my idea of self care. I wanted to protect myself and hubby from the outside world when it came to finding out the result of our next cycle. We both agreed that I would keep the cycle off the blog until we knew the outcome. We are now mid-way through our cycle, I am pumped full of drugs and the embryo will hopefully be transferred in the coming days; yet I am wondering if I made the right decision about closing down the outlet for my thoughts and feelings as we go through this process yet again. Writing has been part of my self care for the last few months and yet here at a time when I probably need that outlet more than ever, I cut it off. It feels good to be writing but I’ve realised I don’t need to blog the in’s and out’s of our cycle at this point. That can come later. What’s important is that I write what I am able to write and what I feel able to share with you all. Being honest, if my blog was anonymous I would probably write about the intricate details of this current cycle, the tears, the doubt, the anger and the anxiety. I would also probably give a day by day account of the two week wait that I head into within the coming days. I don’t feel able to do that on this cycle…but that’s about me rather than anyone that knows me who may be reading. I suppose it’s part of my self care strategy, I don’t want to expose myself by giving a blow by blow account as this cycle is happening. I don’t want to be vulnerable, I don’t want to show my lack of positivity, I don’t want everyone knowing that I’m struggling to get from day to day and I don’t want to feel pressure to let everyone know the outcome as soon as we know. But that’s what infertility is doing to me right now. I haven’t had an embryo transferred, yet I cannot get to a positive place thinking about the outcome. All I can see is negativity. I do not want to hear the words “just stay positive”. I’ve done that 6 times before, I’ve thought positively about 12 embryos. It made not one bit of difference. So, I know I’m struggling and I’m trying to take care of myself. Which leads me to one self care strategy that I’ve not had in my previous transfer cycles…counselling.
I sometimes wonder whether those that read my blog regularly get a little bored of reading about how vital counselling has become to help get me through each stage of our infertility journey. I see it as looking after my emotional health. Given how anti-counselling I was until I had a breakdown, I’m as amazed as anyone at my complete shift in how important it has become to getting through these times. I have been to the depths of depression because of hope, positivity and IVF cycles that did not work. I am not going back there. I will not stand in the shower after a cycle hasn’t worked and question my reason for being on this planet, it is not happening. I have spent the last few weeks swinging through all sorts of emotions, I have felt numb, I have felt angry, I have been in floods of tears and I have been full of hope too. The feelings can change in an instant and I had no idea where they were coming from. So this week, I spent time with my counsellor talking through some of the feelings. I reached the point of realising that most of them were being driven by deep rooted anxiety. I just thought I was becoming an out of control emotional wreck, but I’m not, I need some self care to help me manage my anxiety. We then talked about how I could manage my anxiety through the coming days. Not weeks, not into the future, not thinking about all possible outcomes, but the coming day or two. That’s where I needed to start. It is hard but all I can do is try.
I have found so much support through Twitter, but I realised in the same counselling session that by being on it so much I was surrounding myself with the journeys of others and that was causing me to worry about our own cycle. I have been through this so many times and I have only ever had a negative outcome that I don’t think I believe it will ever actually be positive. Seeing others also have negative outcomes is heartbreaking and I just couldn’t cope. It was starting to fuel my anxiety. I try to support others as much as possible, but I had to admit that I was struggling and unfortunately I had to take a step back. I know I have to put myself first, care for myself. I also know that my infertility sisters on Twitter will understand and they know I will be back with them as soon as I feel able. I also know that they will be rooting for us and supporting us every step of the way. So to my Twitter buddies, a huge thank you for being you!
Talking of support, I facilitate a support group for Fertility Network UK. Through this group I have connected with some amazing people. I offered to start the group so that I could help others. It has also helped me more than I ever thought possible. Our support group is relatively small but I love that I have been able to meet with people who ‘get it’. We speak the same language of IVF. It makes a huge difference & for their support I will always be grateful.
I am struggling to keep my weight to the normal levels. I put too much pressure on myself when going through IVF. I have hormone patches stuck on my belly, my body is being pumped full of drugs and not fitting in my jeans has led to tears. I have to be honest and say that I have skipped the odd meal here and there over the last few weeks to try and keep the weight off, it hasn’t worked. I won’t be doing that moving forward. I need to take care of my body and nourish it the best I can. If I put on some weight I will go and buy a new pair of jeans. If the cycle works, I will be putting even more weight on and if it doesn’t I will loose the weight. It isn’t important right now and worrying about weight will only fuel my anxiety further. So for now, it is parked. I am not thinking about it any more.
I haven’t put my life on hold this time, like I have done for the previous 10 years and 9 cycles. I haven’t started to think about the ‘what if it works’ scenario. I can’t because I know it will start to creep into other things. I applied to go back to university for a part time course, I had an interview this week and I nearly didn’t go because, well if the treatment works how can I possibly study and the whole process was worrying me, should I be doing it right now because I’m going through treatment? I decided to go for it, I need to know I have a future even if I’m never going to be a mum. I figure it is also part of my self care, putting me first. What I thought was going to be a 20 minute interview turned into a 2.5 hour group discussion and interview. They said I would have to wait 2 weeks to hear if I got a place. I got an email the next day to offer me a place. And so, putting myself first, feeling the fear and doing it anyway, not thinking or stressing about the ‘what if’s’ now means I have a place on a course that could see a whole new and different future for me. It isn’t my plan B, its my life, my future. There is no ‘plan’, I feel like I have accepted that my life will just be what it will be.
Self care means that I need to take things day by day. I need to try not to think about whether the embryo will thaw, whether I will bleed early or whether I make it to test date and its negative. I need to get through each day and see what happens. I need to look after my emotional and physical health. I hope I reach a place of positivity and I hope that our little embryo decides to stick around this time. I know I will be heartbroken if it doesn’t work, but I also know that with lots of self care I can get through just about anything. Self care isn’t about the big gestures, its about the little aspects of everyday life. In the words of my counsellor…
“…if it feels like no-one else is around to hug you, then you have to learn to hug yourself”
Wise words indeed. Self care is about loving and looking out for yourself, that is what I need to do right now.
I know it’s hard for those around us to really understand what this feels like, and so this cycle I have no expectation of you. All I ask is that you walk with us if and when you feel able, that you ask how we are both doing from time to time and that you understand that we are going through something pretty huge right now and we may need to put ourselves first, it is self care all the way for the next few weeks. To those of you that have reached out to us in the last few weeks, whether through social media or in our ‘real’ world, from me to you a heartfelt thank you. It means more than you will ever know.