Hello again Internet! Eric here this week with what may seem like a hard statement to fathom, but I’m going to throw it out there anyway. I’ve been talking to a number of friends and associates who have been through infertility treatment, and I kept hearing something that Cathy and I tried to do, but in all our years and posts and podcasts, I’m not sure we ever actually talked about, something that only really went “DING!” in my head when it came up with several of our friends and interviewees and guests.
So I thought maybe I should pass it along to those who are going through treatment now. So what was this little golden nugget, this sage advice from “them who’s been there?”
You should enjoy your time during infertility treatment.
Isn’t this the blog where we talk about, and try to help people work through, all the awkward and uncomfortable, the oozy and ouchy, the pokey-proddey indignities of treatment? Where both Cathy and I have shared the social stresses, financial pain, the discomforts and disappointments of IVF?
The very same.
“So, what’s with the suddenly-chipper outlook?” I hear you ask. Well, as I said, I’ve been talking to several friends of late, and some came to this realization only after the fact but one or two, like our dear friend Marianne that you heard on our podcast, had the clarity and foresight to see infertility treatment not just as a challenge (and it is that, to be sure) but also as an opportunity. How’s that? Let me see if I can summarize this wisdom I’ve gleaned from these recent conversations. If you think about it logically, it actually makes perfect sense. Just bear with me and follow along for a second:
- IVF can take a while. A looooong while – You may recall from our podcast that from start to finish, Marianne’s treatment course ran several years. Several of our other guests detail treatment courses that ran from at least 12 months, and I spoke to one friend this morning who was in various levels of treatment/trying for more than five
- You should not, indeed must not, put your whole life on hold – I know, believe me I know, that infertility can feel like it’s taking over your life, your schedule, your thoughts and your emotions. Do your best to push back. Given the potentially long road, try to treat it like the school dances and soccer practice and dentist appointments you’re hoping will soon consume your calendar when the kids do come (or you already juggle if you have other children). It’s something to be dealt with, scheduled and worked into your life, but it is not all there is.
- There are things you can do now you won’t be able to do once treatment works – As Marianne mentioned in her interview, she and her husband had the clear-headedness to realize many of the things that they love to do together would basically be pushed aside when baby came. Travel, weekday happy hours, long lazy weekends, bike rides and sport classes. Oh and sleep. Right, sleep. Whatever you love doing in the time you have now, remember that much of that time, and for the first few years, nearly all of it, will disappear, consumed by the needs and demands and oh-my-goodness-don’t-put-that-in-your-mouth-ness of parenting an infant and then a toddler.
These are things many of us, too many of us, take for granted in our focus on getting pregnant, but BOY OH BOY will you miss them when they’re gone. (Don’t believe me? Ask any parent. You can practically play bingo with phrases like “I miss my friends” and “I just wish I had ONE darn day/hour/minute for myself” and “I haven’t had a good night sleep in two years.”)
- List those things, and make a point of doing them – I know it seems kind of silly, but make a list, on paper, and then make a point to schedule and do them. Lots of them. Do more than usual. Do extra. Make special efforts. Had a trip you’ve wanted to take? Try to knock it out before you start treatment or your next round. Love to run? Train for a race and complete it. Dig your Friday night salsa lessons? Dance up a storm, you’ll miss your dancing shoes when Friday’s are all about warm bottles and poopy diapers and watching the same Peppa Pig video for the nine MILLIONTH time.
- Funds need not be a factor – Now, Cathy and I have talked about the fact that for some folks in some places, treatment can be very expensive, and may take away the budget for a big trip or expensive outings. Don’t let that stop you! The year we started treatment, Cathy and I had a range of other financial mishaps right at the same time. We were barely getting from one paycheck to the next, but we still found ways to not just have fun, we actually made a point of finding ways to do it despite having no money to spare.
Like most cities, ours has all kinds of low- and no-cost activities going on. Movies in the park, live bands at outdoor festivals, free concerts and theater at high schools and colleges, even open mic nights and poetry slams. Public parks and bike rides cost nothing, so go walk through a forest, or hike up a mountain. We actually made a game out of seeing how many cool things we could jam into our calendars without spending a dime.
So here’s the crazy result. If you take the time to really consider the things that pregnancy and a new infant will inherently limit or take away from your life, at least for a while, and then explicitly and with clear intent, you ramp up those activities you love, what’s the net result?
Even while you’re in that oozy, ouchy, pokey-proddey process, you can be having a whale of a good time. So even as you focus on all your hopes for the future and wonderful things a new baby will bring, don’t lose sight of the things you have and love now that will move to the background when baby comes. List and schedule and do those things, and you may just find that even during some of the toughest times, you can still actually enjoy being together and doing the things you love. Carpe Diem!