Author: Taylor Ortiz Hershman from @infertileandimpatient
Anyone undergoing fertility treatments knows how incredibly stressful it can be. Not only are you struggling to grow your family, but you are faced with an exorbitant amount of stress, both internally and externally.
As someone who has been experiencing infertility and loss for the last several years, I have found that the loss of control is one of the hardest parts. The most obvious is not being able to decide how and when to grow our family. But it’s so much more than that. It takes a toll on your mental health, relationships, finances, career, and social life….just to name a few!
But I have also learned that there are things you can do to gain back a little bit of that control. Self-advocacy has truly gotten me through the last few years. And although I would NEVER wish infertility on anyone, it has made me so much more resilient.
So...what does self-advocacy mean? (Bonus...these are applicable in other stages of life, not just infertility!)
- Ask ALL (!!) your questions. This is the single best piece of advice I can give. Fertility treatments are incredibly complicated, and it’s so overwhelming at times. It’s so easy to leave an appointment and think, “UGH why didn’t I remember to ask about XYZ?!” Or...maybe you have been mid-appointment and thought of something to ask, but it was too intimidating at the time. I promise you...the more questions you ask, the easier it will get. You’re not being nosy or annoying...you are being an informed patient (and paying customer!)
- Find a doctor you trust. Reproductive Endocrinologists are brilliant, but at the end of the day, it’s your life. You deserve to have a medical team who will listen to you, answer your questions, and treat you like a partner. Getting a second opinion or “interviewing,” a few clinics is never a bad idea. You might be surprised with how it works out!
- Save money where you can. Fertility treatment is EXPENSIVE. Look for grants that are available. Some are available nationally, others are for specific regions. They might not cover all of your treatment, but it can make a difference. Price shop clinics and ask for anticipated costs in writing. Ask about sliding scales and payment plans. Some clinics offer free second opinion consults. Although most insurance plans don’t cover infertility treatments, there are certain tests and procedures that might actually be covered. It doesn’t hurt to ask! And medications can be the most costly part...so use SaveIVF! Save IVF aims to be the most affordable fertility medication provider. By leveraging European regulations (that have proposed price limits) and streamlined distribution, they are able to provide you with medications that are significantly more affordable! They offer guaranteed delivery, and understand that sometimes you need your medications fast...the average shipping time is 4-5 days.
- Prioritize your mental health. When you’re in the thick of infertility treatment or TTC, this can seem backwards, because sometimes prioritizing your mental health means taking a break or moving on from treatment. There is SO much pressure to “go, go, go,” and “never give up.” But too often, our mental health takes a backseat and that isn’t fair. Sometimes a few months off from treatments can make a huge difference in your mental health. Don’t let infertility dictate your entire life.
- Set boundaries. I have always been very open with our fertility struggles and losses. It’s helped me cope and opened up support I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. But the downside...if you choose to share with others (even a close circle), that might open up some comments that aren’t helpful. And just because you are open about it, doesn’t mean you’re obligated to tell every detail. After all, sometimes we just want to forget about it for a while. So don’t feel obligated to answer questions that make you uncomfortable or tell someone you’re not in the mood to talk about it!
Advocating for yourself doesn’t have to be some extravagant act. You don’t have to petition your elected officials (although you can do that, too!) Something as simple as asking questions or taking control of your mental health is self-advocacy. Some of these things will come easy to you, and others will take practice. Infertility and family-building challenges will always be tough. But I promise you, that by implementing self-advocacy, it will be just a little bit easier.