For You, Before Your First Fertility Appointment
You're sitting in the parking lot of a fertility specialist's office, and your chest feels a little tight. You know that this is what you have to do to create the family you and your spouse or partner want to have; you know that this is for the best. You know that it's okay to be getting help. You've told yourself over and over again that you're not broken, that this is not some karmic punishment for something that you've done. You know that this isn't a sign from the universe that you are not meant to be a parent.
You have, in some small part, accepted that this is now a part of your story. After all, you are sitting in the parking lot of a fertility specialist's office.
But even with the acceptance, even with the first step of getting to that parking lot, you're scared. You're scared, and you're sad, and you're not sure how to process the millions of feelings that are coursing through you all at once.
This is an emotional process.
It's an emotional process even though you know it's the best thing for you to do. You have been told that you cannot have children without science; and somewhere, in the deep parts of your soul and the corners of your heart that you only show to a select few, that hurts. It hurts, and it stings, and it makes you question every decision you have ever made up until this point.
Feelings of shame might arise, and feelings of anger might be there, too. Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and isolation will probably join your party, as well. There might be feelings that come up that you're able to put into words, and then there might be feelings that arise that you feel so profoundly but are unable to name adequately.
I get it; I've been there.
So there you are, sitting in your car in the parking lot of your fertility specialist's office, with one too many feelings swirling around in your head. You thought you were ready for this, but at this moment, it all feels daunting. At this moment, you start to question if you're making the right move.
At this moment, you contemplate driving away from that office building.
I hope you resist the urge to do that.
I hope you know that even though you might feel like you're alone on a desert island, you're not. There are physicians who want to help you and loved ones who want to support you. And there are countless stories of the women who came before you who walked this road that you can learn from, too.
So, when you're waiting in the parking lot of your fertility office, anxious to meet your doctor, wondering where you go from here and what tomorrow will look like, I hope you hold onto these reminders:
1. Ask as many questions as you need to.
Your physicians will inevitably come up with a plan of action for you and your spouse or partner. Don't be afraid of asking questions as to why they're recommending what they do until you feel completely comfortable with your protocol. Don't shy away from asking for clarification about tests and medications, either. They are there to help you and make sure you understand what is going on with your body and future baby.
2. It's okay to feel overwhelmed.
That is not an abnormal reaction to this whole process, so don't panic when it all feels too much. You are going to be visiting your fertility office more than you will see your girlfriends. You will become quite familiar with the ultrasound technicians and their instruments. You will learn the names of the secretaries at the front desk, the nurses, the medical assistants, and your doctors. You will be getting more blood taken than you ever have before, and at one point, you'll start to feel like a human pincushion. You're not alone in that, and it's a lot to take all at once. So when the overwhelm starts to set in, I hope you take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you are capable of doing this and that you can draw strength from the women who have walked this road before you.
3. You can be sad and grateful at the same time.
You can be grateful for the advances in science and still be sad that you have to walk through this. It's not an either/or situation, nor does it make you ungrateful. Undergoing fertility treatments is a complicated part of your story, and you're allowed to feel it all. You're a multifaceted human who is more than one thing: no single definition can encapsulate all that is you, and no feeling can do that, either. It is possible to hold gratitude and frustration in both hands, so please resist the urge to listen to the ones who tell you that you must choose one or the other; you don't.
4. You're allowed to take a break.
When you need a month or two or three without shots and appointments and wondering whether or not a baby is growing in your belly, it will seem like you might have to keep going to make your dreams come true. But you're allowed to give your body and your heart a break. This process is the greatest marathon of your life, and it's okay to treat it as such.
5. It might not work the first time.
But that doesn't mean that you should stop going. Fertility medicine is not an exact science; it's trial and error and years of experience, and there is most certainly a little bit of luck thrown in the mix. So please keep swimming when the negative tests try to pull you underneath the waves.
You're going to be okay. It might not feel like that at this moment, but the light will find its way to pierce through this overwhelming darkness.
Megan Minutillo is a writer, theatre producer, and educator. She and her husband started undergoing infertility treatment two years ago after a diagnosis of unexplained infertility. After one too many IUI's, and two egg retrievals, she is currently pregnant with their first child. They live on Long Island, New York. You can find more of Megan's writing on Medium, Collective World, and Thought Catalog. Connect with her on Instagram @MeganMinutillo or meganminutillo.com.