The TTC Rollercoaster: 4 Tips For Coping
“Infertility, sadly, does not care about timing or schedules,” my therapist said to me as I cried through another session with her. I was still reeling after our investigative cycle review earlier that week. I was angry that after a year of trying to conceive, four pregnancy losses, and endless poking and prodding, we were now faced with additional tests.
Do you know that feeling of being in the front row of a rollercoaster, where you see and feel the ups and downs quicker and harder than everyone else on the ride? That was me during this time. I was at the point where you’re coming down with the weight of the rest of the ride behind you and your body whips forward as you close your eyes waiting for it to be over.
It was only after my fourth pregnancy loss that I finally sought out therapy. During my first session, my therapist asked me, “why now?” It had everything to do with me not being able to process the ups and downs of my TTC rollercoaster. I write “my,” because I recognize that every single ride is different. There isn’t one with the same twists, turns, jolts, ups, or downs. Although every rollercoaster is different, there are four coping tools my therapist shared that have resonated with me the most:
1. Don’t judge yourself for feeling what you’re feeling.
There is no wrong way to feel about what you’re going through. Some of the expected feelings might be frustration, anger, or sadness. Trying to conceive can bring you to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows emotionally. The feelings that come with it are sometimes not as expected, and it’s important to not judge yourself for feeling them.
When I was pregnant for the fourth time, my HCG levels were rising but not at the rate of a healthy pregnancy. My previous pregnancy was ectopic, so I knew that this could mean I was experiencing another. After a couple of weeks of tests, I began to miscarry at 6 weeks without intervention. When the miscarriage started, I felt an immediate sense of relief that it was “just a miscarriage,” versus an ectopic where I would need medication, potential surgery, and the threat to my life if things went south. I remember an immense sense of guilt for feeling relieved. As I explained this to my therapist, she reminded me of what I had already gone through, the weight that this kind of trauma carried, and that my feelings were absolutely okay.
2. Give yourself space to feel.
Distraction is one of the most popular defense mechanisms. And while sometimes needed and effective in the short term, it doesn’t work in the long term. Until I started seeing my therapist, I would push down the emotions and soldier forward with life commitments and responsibilities thinking that was what was best to get back on track to TTC again. I knew it wasn’t working, but at that point, there was too much to process to even know where to begin. My therapist helped me realize that giving myself space to feel doesn’t take a whole lot of time or effort. Sometimes it’s just needing five extra minutes in the shower to think, crying when you hear a song that speaks to you, or simply acknowledging your feelings when they come.
3. Speak to yourself like you would a friend.
This is something my therapist reminds me to do if I’m going down the rabbit hole of negativity, what-ifs, and catastrophizing. It’s no secret that we’re way harder on ourselves than we should be, and this tip is a simple way to gut-check our thoughts. If we wouldn’t say it to a friend, we shouldn’t be saying it to ourselves.
4. Set boundaries.
For me, the hardest yet most important coping mechanism is setting boundaries. As someone who hasn’t set a boundary in their life, it came down to “where do I even start?” The guilt that I would feel trying to implement a boundary wasn’t worth putting it up. Was I just supposed to start saying “no” to people suddenly? I didn’t want people to think I didn’t care, was struggling, or was mad at them (all irrational things, I know.)
The way I have been able to successfully put up boundaries when I need them is by being open about where I’m at emotionally. For example, I was recently invited to a virtual baby shower. The invite came the same week we did our investigative testing review, so the timing wasn’t great (remember, I was on the downhill portion of the rollercoaster at this point). I took a breath, didn’t judge myself for feeling what I was feeling, gave myself the space to process everything, tried to speak to myself as I would to a friend, and decided it was best for me to decline. I explained to the host that while I appreciated the invite and would love to be there, I would need to pass. And to no surprise, they were understanding.
There is an unwritten sequence of events in life: go to university, find a partner, buy a house, move in together, get a dog, get engaged, get married, and start a family. The frustrating reality is that the “start a family” part doesn’t always come with hard work in the same way that studying for a final exam or saving money can help you achieve a goal.
As someone who is still trying to conceive, I keep reminding myself that although everyone on this ride hates it and just wants it to be over, there will be a time when we’ll step off, windblown and exhausted, but more thankful than ever to have made it.
Meghan Greaves and her husband Dan have been TTC for almost a year and a half. In that time they have experienced four losses: two first trimester miscarriages, one missed miscarriage, and one ectopic pregnancy. They are now at a fertility clinic and in the midst of narrowing down reasons why she hasn’t been able to carry a pregnancy to term. Meghan truly believes that no one should go through the TTC journey alone.