Infertility and COVID - the similarities between a COVID lock-down and our fertility strugglesAug 23, 2021
As I’m writing this blog, we’re at day two of a 3-day lock-down. And I’ve just heard on the news that this lock-down is going to be extended for another 5 days. I’m not happy.
On my run this morning (in my allocated exercise and fresh air allowance time), it occurred to me that the emotions I was feeling were a lot like my 7-year battle with infertility. Much less extreme, but still very similar. So, I thought I’d share them, because I’m sure you’ll appreciate the irony of this situation too.
First and foremost is the isolation and loneliness. As humans, one of the things we crave the most, is connection. And here we are, being told that we can’t see each other – our friends and family, who we get the most support from, and we must stay at home. Alone.
On our fertility journey, we tend to self-isolate, so we can avoid the pregnant bellies, the pregnancy announcements and the constant reminders. We lock ourselves away to shut out the insensitive comments, advice and constant questions asking when we’re going to have a baby. There are few people who truly understand what we’re going through. So we travel this path……alone.
Secondly, our freedom has been taken away. We aren’t allowed to go out in public, and when we do, there are rules. SO many rules. We are being told what to do. And now there is a huge debate about vaccination passports. If we want to go to cinemas, gyms, restaurants or travel overseas, we must be vaccinated. Our choice is being stripped from us. And if we don’t do what we’re told, if we rock the boat and push back, we feel guilty too.
On our fertility journey, we also live our lives based on what we’re told we SHOULD do. We limit our alcohol, change our diet, cut down on exercise when we’re in a cycle, we take a million supplements, and do acupuncture even if we hate it. Because if we don’t do it, we feel guilty that we’re not doing everything we can. Our lives change, our habits change, and it feels like we lose our freedom to live as we once were. We feel like we don’t have a choice. Because we’re told that if we truly want a baby, this is what we have to do.
Then there is that constant dance with hope. When the number of COVID cases are down, they start loosening the rules. We can come out of our homes. We can go outside with masks on. Then when that looks promising, we can take our masks off. Then life starts to get back to normal. And you start once again dreaming of that overseas holiday you’ve been planning to take. Then all of a sudden it’s ripped out from under you again. There is an outbreak, and you head back in doors, with your dreams of freedom in tatters…….again. It happens over and over and over again, and you stop dreaming, and hoping and become completely cynical.
Which is very similar to the fertility rollercoaster. If you’re going down the path of IVF, on your first cycle, you’re filled with hopes and dreams. This could be the finish line. The solution you’ve been waiting for. It could all be over and you can go back to living again. So you go through the whole process, and when you get a negative result, everything comes crashing down. And the longer you’re on this path, the harder it is to have hope, because you’ve opened your heart up so many times that you’re wary. You don’t want to get too excited, because it hurts way too much. You become jaded, and bitter and negative.
There is also the uncertainty. We have a holiday planned for next month and have no idea whether we’ll be able to go. Our time is currently being spent organizing and then re-organizing things. Parties, appointments, work arrangements, at home schooling. All with zero certainty. And as a planner, and someone who thrives on being productive, it’s bloody annoying.
Which is exactly what infertility is all about. The uncertainty. You have no idea how long this is going to take, and you’re forced to plan your life (and your holidays) around your cycle. And then you have to reorganize it all when a cycle is cancelled or when you have to wait longer because your period didn’t show up. You don’t know whether to stay in the crappy job you hate because it has good maternity leave benefits. You don’t know whether to buy the bigger house or stay in your 2-bedroom apartment. It’s like living inside a big black hole, with zero direction.
Then there is that thought in the back of your mind……this is NEVER going to end. COVID has been around for 16 months. I remember when it first hit, thinking, it will all be over soon. Surely they can’t make us live like this forever. And here we are, still on this never-ending cycle of outbreaks, lockdowns, and masks.
I remember when we first started trying to conceive and found ourselves struggling. Every single month, I would think, this will all be over soon. And over time, that narrative would sometimes change. There were times I would panic and think…..this is never going to end.
AND there is the comparison that creeps in. Australia (which is where I live) has been fairly “lucky” when it comes to COVID. Actually, the more I think about that statement, the more ridiculous it sounds. Businesses have been forced to shut down, my husband is only working 2 days per week, people are scared, and our spirits are a little broken. That doesn’t sound lucky to me at all. But in the grand scheme of things – when you compare it to the U.S. or the U.K. we’ve only had short bursts of lock-downs. But that thought came to me this morning on my run – things could always be worse. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so ungrateful or so affected by this?
Which is exactly what we say to ourselves when we’re in the midst of infertility. We try to convince ourselves that we’re ok, because things could always be worse. We berate ourselves for feeling sad, or angry, or frustrated, because there are others who would kill to be in our position. And while that is true, it does NOT mean that we can’t feel the way we do.
There is a distrust of those in authority. We question whether the people who are leading us are really doing what is in our best interests, or is this a political move? Do they really know what they’re doing, or is this part of a strategic plan to take away our freedom? Is the vaccination really safe, or is this going to harm us later?
We can feel the same way with our doctors and fertility specialists. Sometimes it can feel like you are doing all the hard work and advocating for yourself. Like you’re just a number and are having to tell them what works and what doesn’t. And no matter what you do, they still can’t give you certainty (which they can’t).
And there you have it. So many emotions and so many similarities.
If you’re in the middle of lock-down, or are riding the fertility rollercoaster, I’m here for you.
I hear you. I see you. I know how this feels. And I’m sending you all a big hug. The only way we’ll get through this is if we stick together, and show ourselves and each other a little bit of grace, compassion, and love.
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