Thursday, July 21, 2011

Advice on dealing with infertility

I enjoy reading Carolyn Hax's column in the Washington Post every day, but I really disagree with her advice to a letter writer today and wanted to share it here because I think it's a letter we can all relate to.

Dear Carolyn:

My husband and I have been trying to conceive for over two years. I feel like my life is in a holding pattern. We’ll be starting IVF soon. Already tried some other high-tech procedures. I can’t plan a vacation or commit to anything long-term outside of work because “soon I might be pregnant.”

After living my life like this for two years, I am getting really tired of it. We really want a child. I’m 35, so I don’t feel like we can take a break. Any advice? This stinks. Oh — also, almost all of my friends are currently expecting their second children. And my brother and sister-in-law gave their child the name we’d always wanted to name ours. How to move past this? Or through it? Or something?

Infertile Myrtle

Live your life, plan your vacations (refundably), set your priorities, make commitments. This is what people do when they’re not going through IVF, right? And women do get pregnant unexpectedly all the time — or, they suddenly become the parents of an orphaned relative, or they have other unforeseeables happen, like needing surgery. Trajectories change, and people adjust their calendars accordingly.

So please chuck your holding pattern, along with the defeatist, underdog thinking, and live fully as someone who doesn’t have a child. Like absolutely everyone else, you don’t until you do.

I feel that Carolyn's response to Infertile Myrtle completely ignores the financial and logistical realities of her situation.  Maybe Carolyn is unaware of the multiple daily injections and frequent doctors' visits required for IVF, not to mention the cost.  I think that, knowing that you are going to be facing several weeks of shooting up hormones (with various unpleasant side effects) and going to the doctor's office for monitoring multiple times per week, would be antithetical to planning vacations and making other commitments.

I think I get the gist of what she's trying to say--don't put life on hold, because you can't know what the future will bring--but I still think her advice fails to take into account what the letter writer actually has to deal with on a daily basis when she's going through an IVF cycle.

Your thoughts?


  1. I think both ladies make great points. I have felt what Infertile Myrtle is feeling for 2.5 years and I hate that I feel like my "life" hasn't started. I wish I could just book trips and plan but I did that once (our big europe trip) and it bit me in the but for timing of our IVF, then we had to go out of town for a wedding and it did the same. The advice is great but not realistic. Now I just plan my trips for IVF!

  2. Obviously Carolyn has never experienced infertility. I understand what she is trying to say but she has no concept of the emotional aspects of infertility and can't provide infertile myrtle with a valuable response.

  3. I agree 110% with you. I think this advice columnist (clearly fertile or not even thinking about kids) is totally off base and completely minimizes the emotional, physical, and financial strains of IVF and IF. I also worry that this is what the rest of the world thinks and then just assumes I am a negative person who likes to complain a lot when they see the way in which I am managing my IF and my life in general,
    to sum it up, it all sucks, perhaps the rest of the fertile world should have to walk a day in our IF shoes just to see what it feels like
    Ok, getting off my soapbox now.

  4. @cgd, for what it's worth, I believe Carolyn Hax has children, as she's made reference to them in past columns. Based on her answer here, though, I'll bet she didn't have much/any trouble conceiving.

    I was disappointed by this answer because she has addressed infertility-related problems in other contexts and has seemed much more understanding.

  5. This is what I affectionately call "assvice". Advice from a fertile that means well. Why didn't she tell her to just relax while she was at it?!

  6. I agree with you S. I lived like Carolyn for 5 years. And every time we managed to get away or have some spare time we always felt guilty that we should be saving the $ for IVF or that this would be our last vacation without children. It sucks and in the end, it is devastating and you begin to resent taking those trips. There are only so many nights you can go out and enjoy life because you don't have kids. Life without kids when you DESPERATELY want them just sucks. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Ass-vice from a fertile is what I think...

  8. Hmmm, it is insensitive, for sure but I'm not sure what good advice is, in this instance... I don't think there is any. I think that the best advice is simply to make priorities and then live by them, and for sure that often sucks, but infertility is not the only situation in which that sucks.

  9. Easier said than done... I have been thinking about switching jobs for the past 2 years but when it comes to actually doing it I keep telling myself, what if I get pregnant next week... And I know it is not the best way to go about it but new job=stress and I don't need stress right now.. Anyways I think a person who has not been through similar issue is not qualified to give an "ass-vice"..

  10. The letter writer said she puts things on hold because "soon she might be pregnant" not because she was undergoing treatment. Those are two different mindsets. If you don't schedule your vacation for May/June because you are undergoing IVF, that is one thing. If you are not planning a vaca in September because you are undergoing treatment in May and you think you MIGHT be pregnant in September and unable to fly, that is another. In one case, you obviously have a life adjustment, in the other, you are choosing a life adjustment on a future that isn't there yet. I have found that the response to the letter is accurate. Yes, you have to make adjustments for the few weeks you are undergoing treatment, but the rest of the time we shouldn't put our lives on hold. It took my husband and I almost 6 years to finally bring home living babies, if we spent all of that time in a holding pattern because we might get pregnant, or because we might need to go to the RE that week or whatever we would have had no life. But we had a life, we went on vacations, made plans, enjoyed ourselves. And as one infertile to another, I don't think that is assvice at all.


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