Emotional impact and coping strategies

Fertility treatment
Fertility and infertility

Dinah and Ben talk about how IVF impacts your relationship and emotional and physical wellbeing.

Dinah and Ben's IVF treatment lasted four years until Dinah finally gave birth to their daughter Tallulah in 2010. In listening to this podcast series please bear in mind that Dinah and Ben's experience is not universal, it is their story. This podcast series is not intended to replace or replicate medical advice.


IVF treatment -  emotional impact and coping strategies

I actually think and I think Ben would say the same thing, that the whole process has made us closer and has made us realise that we are in this together and that we function quite well most of the time as a team and has really reinforced that fact that you know whatever life throws at us we can get through it because of what we’ve been through together to conceive our daughter.  There is no doubt that it was trying at some points and particularly when I was taking hormones and Ben obviously wasn’t, the way that we would react to different scenarios was quite different.  I found that I was much more likely – and I willingly admit this, I was much more likely to fly off the handle at small things that happened.  I mean I found it to be a very depressing process and I found the fact that I couldn’t conceive, personally I took that as a failure on my part and the way that I reacted to that was to sort of spiral downwards in terms of feeling depressed and I remember one day we were hanging out the washing, Ben and I were hanging out the washing together and I had accidentally put something red in the washing and all my white socks and underwear were pink and I absolutely lost the plot.  I completely lost it and screamed and yelled and cried and Ben was just sitting there starting at me going “okay, you realise that this is a complete overreaction to pink underwear don’t you” and it all came out. 

I just remember that day so clearly because it all came out that day at how upset I was feeling and how difficult I was finding the process and that was when I actually went to see my psychologist and said to her I don’t think I’m coping with this whole process and she suggested that I think about antidepressants which I did and as much as when you are trying to conceive a baby you are trying to you know, do all the right things that they talk about naturally as well as throughout the medical process that you are going through, you know I mean I found I was avoiding caffeine and I was you know, trying to eat well and make sure that you know I had a balanced diet and I ate regularly and did exercise and all those kind of things because you know, that may have an impact or there is literature out there that says that you know, that may have an impact.  So I was reading all that thinking okay, I’ve got to do the right thing.  So the concept of taking a medication on top of what I was already taking was just not an option for me until that point and it was the washing day that you know Ben and I sort of really had a big discussion/argument about how I was coping and that made me realise that I actually wasn’t coping as well as I perhaps thought I was and that it was much more important to look after myself so that I was able to look after any future possible child than to worry about a child that wasn’t even conceived yet. 

I did end up taking antidepressants and luckily for me they worked like a charm.  So I suddenly felt like a veil had been lifted off me and I could cope and I could get out there because I shut down from socialising with people, anyone with children I wouldn’t see.  I cut myself off from my friends.  I cut myself off from my extended family.  I just wouldn’t engage in any sort of interaction where I felt like there were going to be parents and children there which is everywhere.  You know, my favourite thing to do is to shop and just to wander around the shops.  I love to window shop and I wouldn’t even go to shopping centres anymore because I was so upset when I’d see a pregnant woman or I’d see a mother with a baby in a pram.  You know I’d end up in tears at shopping centres so I just pulled away from that and the only thing I was really doing was working and just maintaining that.  So it was quite a – I mean it’s difficult to talk about because it’s hard to reflect on that and to sort of acknowledge that that’s how bad it was.  You know, in reality for me I just found the whole process so elongated and so different to what my expectations were for my life. 

I’ve always wanted children.  I’m a teacher.  I love children and I’m passionate about their development and I felt like I was put on this earth to have my own children and the fact that I couldn’t do that was like – for me it was an overwhelming sense of failure.  It was very challenging because I guess riding the rollercoaster of it, every time I had a transfer I would look at the children and families that I’m working with and think that’s going to be me soon.  Soon that’s going to be me and you know I would do that and I would do that as a parent and that kind of thing and then as soon as I had a failure it would be the complete opposite and I’d look at them so longingly and just thinking they must be so happy and you know, look they’ve got children and their children are beautiful and look at the exciting way they greet each other at the end of the day and you know I want that so badly and I feel so underprivileged because I don’t have access to that and the fact that it seemed so easy, I think that’s one of the things that really killed me about the whole process was when you think about conception you think that it should be easy.  It should be an easy process for women to conceive because that’s what we’ve been doing for centuries.  That’s what we are born to do essentially and you know, your Mum has been telling you since you were 12 years old you know not to have unprotected sex with boys because you’ll get pregnant you know and the people that conceive the first time and things like that, it’s just such a frustrating thing to hear and a frustrating position of lack of control to be in as a woman to not be able to conceive when you want to conceive so badly. 

I used a lot of techniques, I talked about it with friends and family a lot.  I talked about it with my husband a lot and we put strategies in place that would help our sort of daily life be more exciting and particularly during what they call the two week wait which is the time between when they transfer the embryo and when you get your pregnancy test done and I also utilised a lot of forums on the internet and did, you know, a hundred thousand Google searches for you know, something that would reassure me that there were other women out there like me and experiencing the same anxiety and the same you know fluctuation of emotions and the same sadness.  So I found that to be beneficial.  I never really got involved in the forums in terms of posting anything myself but I definitely loved to trawl through them and you know, my husband would come in at 10 o’clock at night and say “what are you doing”, it’s like “nothing, just trawling through the information, you know, what people are saying on the internet about this cycle and you know Jess had her cycle last week and she said you know” – and I don’t even know these people, you know, they were going through the same thing and therefore I felt connected.  The other thing that I did was I utilised the counsellors that were provided at the centre that I was at getting my treatment and I definitely made good use of them.  You know, I would see them you know once a month or even sometimes once a week when I was going through a particularly traumatic experience like a miscarriage.

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