With Valentine’s Day upon us, now is a great time to think about your romantic relationships and it’s not a surprise that the stress and busyness of IVF can often see the connection with our partner suffer. It doesn’t have to be that way though and I reckon this is a great time to think about how you can keep the spark and love alive despite all the hormones, appointments and emotions!
Be understanding of what your partner is going through – this applies to both partners of course. Everyone approaches the challenges of IVF differently and one of the easiest ways of keeping your loving connection is by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. They may feel like they want to surround themselves with lots of people or no one at all (not even you). They may breeze through each cycle, find every single one challenging or be somewhere in between. Remember that however they react is about how they are coping right now, it’s not a reflection of you and how you are reacting.
Put blame to one side – even if you feel like a failed cycle or the whole reason you have to do IVF is your partner’s fault, there is nothing to be gained from holding a grudge. After all, we can’t control what our bodies do most of the time so fertility issues are no one’s fault. Reassuring your partner that you are in this together and it’s not the fault of just one of you will make this ride a lot smoother for both of you.
Tap into the resources around you – both formal and informal. Infertility counsellors are a good start if you are looking for a professional and your clinic can probably point you in the right direction for one. There are also a lot of support groups both in person and online that you may find helpful. On the informal end of the spectrum you tend to feel out quite quickly which of your family and friends are going to be your best supports. Don’t expect that your partner is going to be your biggest support, there will be times when they are also feeling fragile and in need of support themselves.
Spend time together and keep the normalcy – just because you are going through this massive life journey doesn’t mean everything else needs to fall by the wayside. Making time to go on dates and enjoy the experiences you have always enjoyed is so important and can give yourself a break from focusing solely on IVF. You don’t need to always stick to things you are comfortable with as well, find a new, fun activity that you have never done and give that a go for a change.
Have sex that isn’t about conceiving – chances are that it may have been a while since you have done this and that is completely normal. When you are trying to conceive it can be the only focus you have, but changing your mind and intention here is a great way to reconnect and take your mind off the challenging time you may be having in the fertility department.
Care for yourself and your partner’s health holistically – think about your emotional and mental health as well as your physical. IVF can be emotionally draining (as well as financially) so it’s a good idea to keep yourself in check and check in on your partner too in order to see how you are both doing. There are many mental health resources available that can be helpful during this time if you are struggling (see the end of the blog for some common ones).
Take a break – whilst you will have to work around your cycle schedule, getting away for a few days might be the breath of fresh air you both need to ease some of the stress. Pick somewhere that you will both enjoy and plan the activities that suit you best. Maybe you like a good sightseeing tour or just a cabin away from the hustle and bustle.
Keep the lines of communication open – especially in a way that is non-judgmental and positive. This is a time of a lot of emotions and it’s important that both you and your partner feel like you can talk to each other openly. If you find this difficult, it might be a good time to tap into some couples counselling or other resources that you find useful.
Whilst IVF can be a challenging time, it’s also hopefully leading you to one of the most rewarding journeys of your life. Try to keep everything in perspective and remember how important your relationship is in this journey.
Useful Mental Health Services
Blue Knot Foundation Helpline is the National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma. It provides support, education and resources for the families and communities of adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse. Call 1300 657 380, Monday – Sunday between 9am – 5pm AEST or via email email@example.com.
FriendLine supports anyone who’s feeling lonely, needs to reconnect or just wants a chat. You can call them 7 days a week on 1800 424 287, or chat online with one of their trained volunteers. All conversations with FriendLine are anonymous.
Lifeline provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14, text on 0477 13 11 14 (12pm to midnight AEST) or chat online.
QLife provides nationwide telephone and web-based services for lesbian peer support and referral for people wanting to talk about a range of issues including sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships. Call 1800 184 527, 3pm – 12am (midnight) AEST/7 days a week.
PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) supports women, men and families across Australia affected by anxiety and depression during pregnancy and in the first year of parenthood. Call 1300 726 306, 9am – 7:30pm AEST (Mon-Fri).
SANE Australia provides support to anyone in Australia affected by complex mental health issues, as well as their friends, family members and health professionals. Call 1800 18 7263, 10am – 10pm AEST (Mon – Fri), or chat online.
Suicide Call Back Service provides 24/7 support if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal. Call 1300 659 467.