We don't need your sympathy. We need your support.
I never fully understood the roller coasters of an IVF woman until I became one. From what the movies tell us, a woman in the middle of the IVF process is a crazy, hormonal sex monger who is unstable and unpredictable. And as the audience, we're expected to watch and laugh and make light of a situation that suddenly turns surreal when it's happening to you.
My husband and I initially needed a fertility doctor for surrogacy, not so much for our infertility issues. So during our initial consultation, we were quickly pushed from doctor to coordinator, to the finance people like tumbleweeds.
The experience was somewhat like the first day of a freshman class when the teacher explains the summary of the course and future expectations, and then you leave not knowing much more than what you did when you first took a seat. We were asked if we had questions, but we never raised our hands to ask any because we didn't know what to ask.
One failed cycle and approximately eight-thousand dollars an injections later, we had a lot of questions. But the only answer the doctor provided was, "Maybe it was a fluke. You're in the upper-age bracket, after all. Let's take a cycle off and try again in March."
My husband and I sat there jaw-agape and in a puddle of raw emotions. More devastating than spending that much money with having nothing to show for it was that there was now an entire other reality to digest: it was possible we couldn't have children.
How would we tell our family this news? What does this mean for the surrogate? How many more cycles could we do? How many more cycles could we afford? Will there ever be a day when we don't feel like a human ATM machine? How come no one told us the statistics that most woman need three cycles before success, or the equivalent of $70,000?
The IVF process is brutal. And when it doesn't work the way you want it to, it's soul-crushing. While I still don't know some of the answers to the above questions, I do know that there are certain things a woman doesn't want to hear when she's invested herself emotionally and financially into a process with no promise of a delivery. They go something like this:
1. "What about using an egg donor?"
When I was discussing the upcoming finances of cycles with my doctor, he suggested a donor. "Sure it might be more of an investment up front, but your odds would be higher," he explained. Even though I know my doctor is in the baby-making business and thus maybe a little desensitized, I was infuriated when he suggested this.
Egg donors are a wonderful gift; they're just not something we're interested in using (and I've had to make this clear many times). Like most couples, we simply want to try making children ourselves first. If it doesn't work, we've agreed to pursue adoption.
We personally don't feel the urge to create another life with just half of our DNA when there are so many children out there who need homes. We also don't want to face another $40,000 option that still may not guarantee any success.
2. "Have you thought of adoption?"
Of course we've thought of adoption and are still thinking it's a possibility whether or not we're successful with IVF. When I'm grieving the loss of an opportunity to create children, suggesting I take someone else's isn't the right time. Hug me and be angry with me instead. I'm grieving.
3. "Everything happens for a reason."
There's always good intention behind this statement but it's something that should be saved for the positive moment that comes LONG AFTER the sad, tragic moment that's provoking your mouth to spit these words. The thought of not procreating after spending years trying is hard to swallow. So don't try to make me feel better. Instead, make me feel supported. Be sad with me and provide a shoulder to cry on.
4. "It's all in God's plan. Don't worry."
It's too late, because I'm already worried. And I'm also not religious. Yet, I'd love for you to pray for me. Send well wishes. Channel your fertility powers, or what have you. I really want your love and thoughts; I just don't want to be told how to feel. It belittles the effort I'm putting into trying to make the IVF process work.
5. "Are you sure you want kids? Mine are driving me insane."
It's probably meant to be a funny quip, but after weeks of hormones the statement comes across as a humblebrag. It also doesn't feel good to be slapped with someone else's problems when trying to cope with your own. Perspective is everything.
6. "It will work next time."
Please don't feed into the delusion. I'm standing on a very fragile line, somewhere in between having hope and being realistic. It doesn't feel fair for you to tell me things will be fine when I'm trying to process the reality of things not being fine.
Also, at the end of the day, I know I will be fine; I just need to prepare myself for the possibility of a different future than I imagined. So grab my hand and join me on this journey. I will need you, especially if it turns out that I'm not fine.
7. "What if it doesn't work next time?"
Trust me, I've been thinking about this a lot lately. In fact, my husband and I have discussed it many times. We probably will not try another cycle, and this feels overwhelming and gut-wrenching to say out loud.
To not be able to give my husband the gift of a child seems unfair, even though he's been super-supportive ever since the first-round failure. With all the inquisitions, it's a lot of pressure to put on my ovaries, and also an idea I don't think I can fully wrap my head around until it happens.
If you don't know what to say, say nothing at all. What I could use from you is your love in the form of a hug, a note, a piece of chocolate, a shared meal, a night out, or anything to put me in good spirits. After all, stress isn't good for the process and by now I'm the most stressed I've ever been.