The day before my procedure was the toughest for me. I was so emotionally drained from all of the back and forth (travelling downtown, medication changes, waiting to find out when the procedure day would be).
Maren Morris’ “Bones” played in the waiting room as I was texting my friends sharing how emotional and exhausted was feeling. I really felt like I was in the home stretch and with supportive texts and knowing that it would be over soon I pushed through. I cried throughout that 3 hour appointment.
I’d been so used to concealing my emotions over the years when there had been intense events unfolding, as I had learned to from adjusting to normal school/work life while experiencing grief as a teen. I felt safe in this clinic space and knew I had support and I was open and accepting of my experience which made it easier for me to just let go and cry publicly in this waiting room. This was a first for me. I thought to myself, “had it been that easy all along?” The feeling of worry - giving a shit at all about what others around me felt and thought had completely gone away. This was big for me as I look back on that day a few weeks ago. For someone who has PTSD and has experienced various losses, if you don’t work through those feelings and process in a healthy way in my experience, you just learn to adjust to what makes other people feel comfortable and safe because your experience has been so different from there’s. You hold back a lot to prevent others from being uncomfortable or prying too much and making you feel worse.
This fertility preservation was an intense process, while mostly not painful or unbearable in contrast to other things I have experienced it was still emotionally taxing – this was planning for my future. While this was the toughest day out of the process, I reflected on my overall healing journey including how I coped during my first losses and acknowledging what was helpful and challenging for me during the weeks prepping my body for egg retrieval.
The things that impacted my mental health throughout this process:
COVID - I wasn’t allowed to have anyone at my appointments or waiting for me at my procedure.
FINANCES - This is a costly investment even for those with compassionate care – I kept reframing this for myself when I found myself in a negative headspace – “you are your best investment”.
UNCERTAINTY - Although you are not certain on how many eggs they will retrieve – they give you some idea but they do not know the quality of the eggs until they are out of your body.
SOCIETAL PRESSURES GETTING TO MY HEAD - The pressure to perform as a female and for my body to produce was something like I hadn't experienced before.
Here are some of the things that were absolutely instrumental in the success of my fertility preservation process:
SUPPORT - This included my family, friends, co-workers, staff at the clinic, fertility specialist, family doctor, naturopath.
EATING HEALTHY AND ADJUSTING MY SUPPLEMENTS . Filling my body with healthy foods and supplements to support this process made me feel good and more energized – reduced sugar, dairy, gluten and had a lot of proteins and greens.
REDUCING STRESS - I gave myself these 2/3 weeks to really focus in on this “one job” which meant putting my actual job on hold (I battled with myself on this for days but had a lot of positive support from co-workers and my leads).
MENTAL HEALTH - This is a physical and emotionally taxing experience making sure you’re mental health is supported is key – therapy appointments, acupuncture, sleep hygiene, support, mindfulness, exercise/movement.
CHUNKING - A term I use in my full time job supporting students: in this context it meant separating parts of the process to support me in processing the gravity of the experience and making it feel more manageable (ex. First 5 days were taking pills before bed and 3 injections then going into the clinic to ‘reset’ – for the next part of new medication).
REFRAMING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS - Showing myself compassion and allowing these thoughts to flow through but disrupting them with reframed positive thoughts.
TAILORED EXPERIENCE - I always felt alone with my reproductive health issues and losing my ovary so young but the specialist and staff really factored in all of my medical history and monitored my body throughout the process- it was reassuring.
PROCEDURE PREP: POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS - The night before my procedure I spent time writing in my notes on my phone positive messages to myself for when I would feel anxious the following morning for my procedure. “Carm, you are healthy. Your body has done so much for you and will continue to. You will be a mom one day and you are doing everything you can to get there. Your body is healthy, you are healthy.” As expected, when I was in pre-op I felt so anxious my body was profusely sweating and my brain was scattered – I pulled out my phone and focused on the little note of affirmations I wrote myself. I had planned to have my own back and it was exactly what I needed. I messaged friends and family, FaceTimed some and used short guided audio meditations to help get my mind settled. I told myself repeatedly from the night before that my only job was to be calm and I'd let the professionals worry about getting my eggs out. I did that exactly.