Finding the (virtual) support you need to deal with infertility during COVID

by Jennifer (Jay) Palumbo

To say that infertility is not just a medical diagnosis, but an emotional experience is an understatement

To then sprinkle on top of this crap sundae the COVID pandemic and the postponement of fertility treatment can make it twenty times worse. If only we got paid a dollar for each tear we’ve shed… you could not only pay for one full IVF cycle out of pocket but you could even treat your friends.

We’ve heard it millions of times: infertility is a hormonally hellish rollercoaster. It has highs at the beginning of a treatment cycle when there’s promise and hope. Then, there are profound lows when you get a negative beta (not to mention your period).

When the basic assumption that you can have a family whenever you want has been shattered (or simply put on pause during the coronavirus), it can be devastating

Especially when you don’t have the insurance coverage or the finances to give you access to the treatment you need or when you see no end in sight.

Anyone who has gone through the infertility journey knows the wide range of emotions you feel. Some, you can’t even articulate them as they can be so visceral. You may feel anger towards those who get pregnant easily or at those who don’t understand what you are going through or just plain ol’ jealousy of those who never have to deal with hormone injections or progesterone suppositories. You may feel incredible sadness or left behind as your friends or even cycle buddies start to have children. And don’t get me started on the amount of “Baby Boom” jokes that have been made since so many are stuck at home with nothing to do. While fertile people have sex and conceive while in self-quarantine, infertile people are obsessing over when they will even be given the chance to TRY to conceive.

There may be resentment, blame or lack of communication between you and your partner as you deal with current events . . . you may also simply have different coping strategies

If you’re experiencing signs of depression, such as problems sleeping, eating, or concentrating, it may be time to explore seeking the tele-health insight of a mental health professional. Even if you’re NOT experiencing these signs but just feel like you need help or a neutral sounding board to improve your well-being, finding a mental health professional who is knowledgeable about the family building journey to help you handle the stress and anxiety during this uncertain time could be a huge asset.

In general, infertility can feel very lonely and isolating. Making matters worse is we are now in a situation where many of us are LITERALLY isolated to “flatten the curve”. Still, we must try to be creative and find new ways right now to seek support out and fight the good fight. In addition to finding a counselor, you can get support from online resources like IVF Babble, Resolve: The National Infertility Association, private Facebook Groups dedicated to this topic, and The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination (INCIID) to name a few.

It’s also essential to note that support from your partner, family and friends is as critical

In terms of your spouse or partner, the hardest part of the infertility experience for one may not be the same for another. This is why checking in often can help. Ask your partner how you can support him or her and tell them what kind of emotional support you need as you work together on getting through this unprecedented time in history.

With respect to your family and friends, they may not know what to or not say, so you shouldn’t feel shy or awkward letting them know what they can do to help. If a family member is pregnant, tell them you’d prefer to be emailed with the news (as opposed to an uncomfortable phone call). If you want them to check in with you every week, let them know. If you want them to NEVER ask right now what’s going on with your trying to conceive efforts, be clear in expressing that. Decide what would be helpful and communicate that to them while making sure they know it’s nothing personal. Feeling understood, and having others validate your feelings alone can make a huge difference and sometimes, the instruction on how to accomplish that comes from you.

Learning techniques from all these sources of support, whether it’s handling family and friends, coping with loss, others’ pregnancies, etc., and/or NOT making baby boom jokes can be invaluable. Ask others in the community how they have dealt with various aspects. Ask your therapist ways to deal with the pain. Ask your partner to have “infertility free nights” when you focus on something way more fun. Seek that support and insight to help get you through it.

And finally, don’t ever forget to be gentle with yourself. Infertility is considered a life crisis and COVID is a global crisis so everything you’re feeling is valid. It’s cliché to say, but it doesn’t make it any less true: YOU ARE NOT ALONE so making sure to connect with others who understand and can help

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