Sunday, 27 August 2017

How to deal with IVF 101: Why "stay strong and positive" is bullshit.

I have had my LH surge, and I will be going to have my $6600 lump installed on Thursday.

I know everyone is thinking happy thoughts for me. I am glad to have people thinking of me, as being thought about positively, and people wanting the best for you, is a good thing and it makes me feel good. The idea of the thoughts changing the cosmic energy around my endometrium such that it is rendered more sticky and receptive to the lump is somewhat more questionable.

In the last few days, I have had a couple of people say some things to me that have made me feel a bit "WTF?" I take them in the spirit in which they are given, but I have the WTFs nevertheless.

I was in my fertility doctor's office. I mentioned something along the lines of wanting to limit the number of IVF cycles I have if this one were not to work, and she cut me off saying "you need to stay positive".

Somebody else, recently pregnant with IVF, said "stay strong and positive". I can much more happily deal with news of pregnancies that have been assisted rather than those that have occurred naturally. So sue me.

First of all, what does staying positive even mean?

Does it mean that I am not allowed to express fear, or doubt, or sadness? Perfectly reasonable and expected feelings? Do I have to constantly envisage a happy future with a fat little baby, rather than allowing the thoughts of "ok, what will I do if it does not happen, how will I live my life the best?"

Moreover, do I blame myself if I don't get pregnant, because I failed to think positively enough? Perhaps some ACUPUNCTURE or HERBS or CRYSTALS will help next time (although I fail to see how they will make my 38 year old eggs 28 years old again).

No, no and fuck no.

What about strong? In crossfit this morning, I did sumo deadlift, 3 sets of 5 at 80kg. That's pretty fuckin' strong.

Does strong mean "stay silent and do not ever betray your underlying mental state?" Does it mean "don't cry"? Does it mean "I am not comfortable to hear about your fears and doubts so don't show them to me"?

There is a 10 day wait in between the download and the pregnancy test. I am not looking forward to it. By all accounts, it varies between uncomfortable and excruciating. I need to get through this 10 days as best I can. Without wine!

It's good to have goals. Goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Limited)

Specific: "Stay strong and positive" is very nebulous

Using that framework, I have come up with the following
  • Try not to fall down the rabbit hole of thinking too much into the future, thinking about how I will react, either way. I need to think of a thing that will break that cycle.
  • Aim only to get to work and crossfit. (If feeling tired, can lay off crossfit). Pat self on back when each of these things achieved.
  • Arrange catch ups with friends that are positive for my mental state (note: need to start arranging). 
  • If I am feeling sad, I will give myself some space to feel that way. Desist with anything non-urgent that is stressful. It can be put off till after.
  • Find some good books to read. Have them available. 
  • Make or plan 2 meals for next week - I might not feel up to cooking

Anyone else had any specific tricks to feeling better? 


  1. meditation/ yoga / bath and breathing if you don't like forced calmness?

  2. Sounds like a good plan. Also Naomi's suggestions.

    People so often give advice to "stay positive". They probably mean well and lots of people don't know what to say in difficult circumstances. So they come up with this. But it's not helpful I think. It's like saying "Cheer up" if a person is feeling depressed. Have friends receiving chemo. Apparently they're often told by people to stay positive or think positive. They really don't like it as they know can't be positive all the time. Also they say, what if the cancer comes back? Does this mean it's my fault because I wasn't positive enough? When I sit with my friend having chemo - she just says whatever she feels like saying. It's important to have an outlet - someone you can talk honestly to - or even just to vent to occasionally. But if you can, try to keep it to just occasionally - otherwise if you allow yourself to dwell on it, anxiety can overwhelm you. Best wishes, and fingers crossed. Pammie

  3. Fuck. I read this and realise Thursday is tomorrow. Thinking of you. And I won't tell you to stay positive. Feel whatever you are feeling. "Stay positive" is denial; if only wishful thinking had any say in the outcome.

    And you know what? Sometimes a big ugly cry might help you feel better, like purging demons and fear.

  4. Shit! Tomorrow is Thursday. I hope you get some sleep tonight. I loathe the "stay positive" crew. And it has absolutely no place in the doctor-patient relationship. "Stay positive" is denial. It invalidates your feelings, shuts you down. I think it's necessary and sane to talk about what are your limits, what are your fears. Be kind and true to yourself, and you know what? Sometimes a big, ugly cry is what you need to help you feel better.
    Good luck for tomorrow.