To the Women Fighting for Their Fertility,
I have been a fertility nurse for over 20 years and, during that time, I’ve appreciatively witnessed infertility progress from being a taboo topic to one that people feel that they can discuss openly. Lately, an increasing number of celebrities and influencers have started to share and document their fertility journey. For that, I am grateful on behalf of the 1 out of 8 couples who have the same struggles but lack the platform with which to publish them. As I scroll, I see the pain, the loneliness, and the struggle. But I also feel a community rising, education spreading, and energy pulsing across hashtags, likes, and shares.
If I could speak to all women, famous or not, experiencing infertility, here is what I’d say:
I’ve worked in the infertility field for a long time. I obtained a master’s degree in women’s health as a nurse practitioner. In my business, as a nurse educator, I read and research the physical and psychological implications of infertility on a person’s psyche on a regular basis.
So, as a ‘nurse expert,’ here is my professional opinion when someone asks me if it’s normal to feel ‘bad’ during fertility treatments. Yes! It is completely normal to feel run down, stressed, and emotional because undergoing infertility treatments, well, sucks. I don’t want to falsely reassure you, but I do have a few things that I want you to know.
The first is that I’m so sorry.
I’m sorry that something that many of us take for granted, having a baby, is not easy for you. It feels inconsiderate for people like me to say that growth is a product of discomfort or some such platitude, but the fact is that we, as women, are told that if we try hard to accomplish something that we are able to achieve it. You have probably experienced this in other areas of your life, such as in school or in your career path. Although your journey may not have been linear, potentially fraught with setbacks or littered with ups and downs, you got there eventually through hard work, talent and perseverance.
Well, you can be an expert injector and detail-oriented and really, really good at getting ultrasounds and blood draws and still feel like a failure or somehow ‘less than’ during an IVF cycle.
Please know that you are inherently worthy. We inhabit a world where we, particularly women, are so conditioned to equate our value with some external measurement, such as our weight, our age, or the number of eggs we have. This is such a slippery slope for these, as we know, can be fleeting and unreliable metrics and relying on them for a sense of self-worth is a losing battle. Realizing that the beautiful, complete woman that you are is not reflective of how you respond physically or mentally to fertility treatments is incredibly important.
You are allowed to be frustrated, angry, and resentful or any combination of these. There is no playbook or manual for How to Live and Thrive during Fertility Treatments. I do know that suppressing these difficult or ‘negative’ emotions doesn’t help. Take the space that you need and unleash them. Let them ride. This might take the form of crying, or not wanting to see what other, seemingly-always-pregnant friends’ posts on social media, or even yelling at your nurse. As your nurse, I encourage you to cry, block on social media, and unload on us. We can take it. Not only that, but we are grateful that you trust us with your feelings. Let us be there for you.
I’m not sure if you feel that you are brave right now, but you should. Being vulnerable, as we all know from the amazing research by Dr. Brene Brown, is not only difficult but it can be life-altering. The fact that you allowed us into your heart and your psyche during a vulnerable time takes tremendous courage. As a health provider, I want to help you; I want to fix this for you; I want to tell you all will be ok. But I can’t do these things.
So, on the advice of Dr. Brown, I just encourage you to lean into your discomfort, and I will hold an empathetic space for you.
Finally, I want to end on a simple word: Sawubona. It is the traditional greeting of the Zulu people of South Africa, and it means I see you, you are important to me, and I value you. So, even if you feel a little lost or damaged during this process, you are valued and accepted for who you are. You are seen and applauded for traveling along a journey in which we don’t know its duration nor outcome. You are perfect, as is, amidst all the imperfections that you encounter.
One of your biggest cheerleaders,
As a nurse practitioner, Monica received advanced nursing education in addition to being a registered nurse. She is a fully licensed registered nurse and Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner in the state of Connecticut and is certified by the board of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Monica’s nursing work experience spans nearly two decades in the field of fertility treatment. Monica’s passion lies in taking care of the whole patient. Monica works with patients and stresses the importance of integrating comprehensive care – including yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy and nutrition – with fertility treatment.