Support for the journey during IVF

Fertility treatment
Fertility and infertility

IVF treatment can impose heightened sensitivities. Friends who achieve a pregnancy and want to share their news may be unaware that IVF recipients can be distressed to hear about other pregnancies.

The journey through IVF treatment brings many emotions to the surface. Couples who undertake the journey are often taken by surprise by the demands that IVF can make. Success and failure are always possibilities. In this program we hear about Anne & Alister's disappointment that is not often talked about but can be a very real part of the IVF journey. In listening to this podcast series please bear in mind that Anne and Alister's experience is not universal, it is their story. This podcast series is not intended to replace or replicate medical advice.


Stopping IVF treatment - support for the Journey

Having some extra support during IVF treatment from family, friends or even professionals can help in dealing with the difficulties.  So who might you tell about your treatment and how can family and friends support their loved ones? Part 5 - Support for the journey through family and friends.

When we started IVF we told our parents and families that we were trying to have children.  I mean we were so excited I mean we were sort of like, Yeah, the time’s finally arrived we haven’t forgotten about this after all, because I think people were wondering.  So they all knew anyway that that was what we were trying to do.  And then after a couple of years it must have been obvious to all of them that something wasn’t quite right. So I think we were open with them from the start. We thought this was degrees of support.  Alistair’s mother was really supportive, particularly to me.  That probably changed. His sister had a child while we were still doing IVF and I suspect she found herself pulled in two directions and she wanted to support her.  And I think gradually she felt it was no longer possible to talk with her quite as openly.  But she certainly was amazingly supportive especially considering the split loyalties, for quite a long time.

Also we told a lot of people here, people we hadn’t known for very long, many of whom were younger than us and weren’t at the children stage at all.  So some of them didn’t “get” why it was hard.  I think a lot of people tried to understand and tried to be supportive.  So we told people and got varying degrees of appropriate kind of supportive response.                                                           

I think over time I gradually realised that I didn’t have to be a crusader for this issue all the time.  And actually, sometimes it was OK to protect myself a little bit. But I don’t really regret telling people, it’s just my nature I think.  I have to talk it out, and I try to be accepting of the level of support they could give although actually certainly one of the big things I think that IVF and infertility is that sense of isolation.  I think you feel very misunderstood and very wounded by other people’s responses because so often it’s not helpful. 

One of my friends back in the UK emailed me and said “well...” it was just after I told her we were going to start IVF. And she emailed me and said “have you thought about adoption?”  And I was like, no I’ve never heard of it actually. How ridiculous a question! Don’t sort of assume this isn’t going to work for me before I’ve even tried.  It felt so wrong and incongruent to have that response.  So I think over time I realised that people weren’t always going to be able to respond well.

And I think I became a little more careful about telling absolutely everybody and just about being aware and what actually I could expect back from them.  I think we support each other a lot. And I think over time as we were actually involved with the IVF process we had a lot of support within that peer group of others who were going through the same thing.  Having said that quite a lot them became pregnant so that always felt like a bit an unreliable group in a way - sort of shifting population.Basically I think it’s just a really hard, lonely journey and it’s hard to get the support you need from people.

I think often people, when they have a loved one going through IVF, I think often people want, they want to fix it.  They want to fix it quickly. And often they do care.  But the person who’s experiencing infertility can sometimes feel as if that person doesn’t care because those responses don’t quite hit the mark.  And I think it’s because people feel, I suspect that it’s because people feel very, actually feel very deeply for the person who is going through infertility but don’t.

I think in our society people aren’t comfortable with grief at all.  So actually I think there’s a tendency to rush to a quick fix and a quick solution so hence when I express my pain about not being able to have a child often people would come back at me with a “why don’t you just adopt...?” “Why don’t you do this...?” Or the story about someone they once knew who miraculously got pregnant at the age of 50.  That sort of thing.  And it was intended to reassure but what it didn’t do was sit with the actual pain and feeling that I had.  I think that’s very hard for people to do.

But I think what people want, what I wanted and what I most appreciated when it did happen was for people just to listen and not judge and not offer solutions.  But just to listen.

I was always surprised by the degree to which people couldn’t quite acknowledge that this is a real grief.  I guess like some forms of grief it doesn’t involve a person who is already there.  It’s something that hasn’t happened.  But it’s such a fundamental threat to your identity and who you are and a sense of who you are going to become as well, or who you might become

But I think it just turns you upside down. It turns everything upside down. And changes all your relationships.

It’s such a deep pain and to have people sort of skip over it or turn away from it, it compounded that pain really.

I guess I’m just aware that there seems to be a mismatch between the sense that people like me have or had about the people’s willingness and care.  I felt that nobody cared sometimes. Actually I think they did care.  I want to acknowledge that. I think people do care, they just don’t know how to express it in the right way.

I think the memories I have as well as people was most helpful was when they really just tried to listen and support without rushing to solutions because I think we knew we were doing everything possible we could as far as we were concerned that was the issue.  It wasn’t the technique, the mechanics that we needed.


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