It’s tough. Some days I wonder how on earth I got through almost 10 years of infertility, IVF and loss. It has been a huge learning process and very very difficult to navigate my way through. I managed to get by and cope by doing various calming activities, some of those being occasional yoga and meditation, talking to someone at length about my feelings, writing everything down in a book style journal, which later became this blog, and giving myself a pep talk when I felt my head slipping into negativity. It won’t work for everyone, but it worked for me and my hope is that by sharing it with you all, it may help at least one person. If it does, I’ll be so glad.
So, for all of you struggling today, remember that it always feels impossible until it’s not. There is light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can’t see it yet. But for those darker days, here are some of the key coping strategies that I used to help get me though IVF and baby loss. Hope you find it useful…
1. Writing – Whether you buy a journal, join the Instagram IVF community or start a blog like I did, writing your feelings down is a great way of navigating your way through them. Writing was, still is, one of the main coping strategies that got me through IVF and loss.
2. Meditation and Yoga – I didn’t practice yoga daily and I’m certainly not great at it, but I did it regularly and it honestly gave me an incredible sense of calm. I also attended various guided meditation classes and did a lot of deep breathing exercises at home too, sometimes with the help of an app, sometimes not. I also loved the bedtime stories on the app ‘calm’. I was suffereing from extreme insomnia and would often be asleep by the end of the story. All of this I found to be great for the days when I felt like I was losing control of the situation.
3. Exercise – I’m not a waif and never will be but running and walking became a huge de-stressor for me. I struggled to run, it’s not something that comes naturally to me, but I would plug in my earphones and just lose myself in it. I’m lucky to live on the Brecon Beacons, so had a wealth of quiet cycle paths and mountains to take advantage of. Brisk walking is also super great for increasing blood flow to the uterus. Double win!!
4. Talking – It took me a long time to finally open up about our situation and it was eventually thanks to a few glasses of wine and a what’s app link to the Gary Barlow song ‘Dying Inside’ that helped me to tell my closest friends how I was feeling. I didn’t have the words to explain it myself at the time, so the song did it for me. My friends were amazing and so supportive and since that day, I haven’t looked back. I’m now so open about it, I even shared my story with The Daily Mail. From one extreme to the other, haa. I honestly found that being open about it all though, was phenomenal in helping me to navigate my way through the emotional impact of IVF and loss. Now I’m not suggesting that you to go share your story with a national newspaper, but even if you have one person who you can talk to and support you through this, it would be helpful. I have attached the links to the Daily Mail article and the Gary Barlow song below, if you are interested in taking a look/having a listen.
5. Music – My husband and most of his family and friends are musicians, so having people over for dinner and drinks and getting the guitars and box drum out was an important part of my ability to cope with our situation. It provided me with an opportunity to switch off, enjoy and forget about everything for a few hours. That mental break would give me a huge boost!! Similarly, listening to music at home or in the car took me away to another planet and allowed me to switch off a little. Think about something that you used to enjoy before you jumped on the IVF rollercoaster and maybe try doing a bit of it again. It could be anything from reading a good book, having a box set marathon or competing in a sport. It’s worth a try!!
6. CBT therapy – I had 2 counsellors over a period of a few years, one via Zita West Clinic and one through Occupational Health in work. I am very lucky that I have an incredibly supportive employer who was sensitive to my situation and receiving that level of support in work made such a huge difference. My counsellor gave me one of the best tools I’ve heard to help with my anxiety. One particular day when I was at a peak of anxiety and worrying about literally everything, he told me to imagine my entire life on a ship, but that ship was sinking and I had a tiny lifeboat to save the things that were most precious to me. I chose to save my unborn children, my husband, my family and friends and my home. The things that I was worrying about didn’t make it onto the lifeboat and it really gave me some perspective. Ever since, and every time I have started to feel the panic and anxiety rise within me, I just repeat ‘it’s not on my lifeboat’ over and over again, and I can honestly say that it works a treat!!!
7. Making friends with fellow IVF’ers – This one was massive for me. The feeling that you are alone on this journey is overwhelming. I joined Instagram and began talking to fellow women who were going through the same thing as me. I also got to meet, learn and take inspiration from women who have been through it and ‘survived’. To realise that you are not alone is an unbelievable relief and as a result from a simple sign up to a social media site, I developed life-long friendships with a group of true warriors, who really helped me through the process. They cheered me on when everything was going well, lifted me up when things were not so good and celebrated with me when I was blessed with O&S. I’ll be eternally grateful to each and every one of these inspirational women and continue to root for those still battling for their dreams.
8. Eating a healthy diet – Having to go through IVF is completely out of your control and if, like me, you are a self-confessed control freak, I really needed to take back a bit of control and feel like I was doing something positive towards reaching our goal. I threw every ounce of willpower into changing my diet and I honestly believe that it had a huge impact on our IVF outcome. It certainly helped me to feel happier and more energised anyway. I have written a little bit about the diet in a past blog post, but in brief, it mainly consisted of a low carb, anti-inflammatory Mediterranean style diet. In other words, healthy eating. No fads, just healthy. It was gorgeous!!!
9. Practicing self-love and taking time for myself and my marriage – We went on lots of holidays and breaks. I was so worried about the potential impact of IVF and loss on our marriage, so I pretty much forced my husband to talk to me and ensured we had plenty of nice and exciting things to look forward to. It certainly helped us. I understand that ivf is all consuming and super expensive, so if holidays are out of the question, try doing cheap outdoor activities instead. We would regularly walk the Swansea coastal path together and we really loved it. The coast is our happy place.
10. Trying to stay positive and practice daily gratitude – This is hard, especially when you are struggling with stress, anxiety or depression, or simply when you just feel like life is against you. I have always been a positive person and choosing how I react in negative situations certainly helps me to get through them. I firmly believe that life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it. I honestly know that this is easier said than done though, so just try focusing on reacting positively to small and easy situations first, then build up to the bigger stuff. I also found that regularly making a note of what I felt grateful for that day helped me to see the positives in a truly horrible situation.
Big love to each and every one of you reading this and remember, I am just an email away if you need to chat.