I have seen many discussions in the last days on the importance of counselling during IVF. These followed the publication of the results of a survey on UK clinics showing that many patients were not offered counselling. I couldn’t agree more on the huge role that the availability of counselling can play and I’d like to share my experience to show that making counselling available at the clinics would make a difference.
I did my first IVF is a complete rush. I wasn’t even told about the standard information meeting. I had no warning about the pain, the obstacles, statistics or anything else, so I was simply expecting IVF to work. Instead, I ended up with no embryos, in pain, quite traumatised by the experience and seriously depressed. I talked to friends but they pretty much managed to cover the whole list of “things not to say to an infertile friend”. I could see I was pissing them off with my sadness so I stopped talking to them about IVF.
After a long internet research I found a support group on infertility. I was really excited to meet other people like me! It was helpful to talk to girls who were going through similar experience and there was a psychologist leading the group. It was good but it wasn’t great: many girls kept distance as if they were afraid I would succeed before them. I can understand that now but it was hard back then.
Not knowing where else to look I went to the work counselling lady. She listened, was very understanding and gave me a few addresses of psychologists. One was retired, one unavailable, one said she had no idea about infertility, one said “sure, come meet me”. I went but it was a disastrous experience. The psychologist suggested that I was not sure I wanted a child since I couldn’t clearly explain why I wanted one. I was like I was being examined and failing the exam!
I went back to the gynecologist and asked her whom I could talk to. She sent me to see this weird old lady whom I met in a messy flat, full of old dusty things. She clearly knew about infertility as she could often anticipate my thoughts. But she was retired and didn’t really want patients so she sent me off telling me I was ok and didn’t need help. I was happy I hadn’t been classified as a nut-case but that was also a waste of time!
I ended up doing IVF 2 without any psychological support. It didn’t work and left us in a very bad state. I was exhausted, sad and had serious issues relating to people. My husband had sleeping problems and was really stressed. So we took a long break. I started blogging, which was (and still is) very therapeutic. There is just so much support that we can get from each other on this online community. But I still felt the need to talk to a professional. After more internet searching, I found a psychologist expert in infertility and this time was great!! I went once a week for months and in those months I slowly went back to being myself. My(infertile)self but still myself… IVF 3 didn’t work but psychologically it was a lot easier.
Recently I changed clinic and in the information package there was a list of possible support activities, including counselling. I immediately asked myself if things would have worked differently had I had these possibilities from the start. I doubt it would have made IVF work but I think it could have helped me better face this journey.
I am not trying to recommend counselling. It helped me a lot but it may not work for other people. But I really think that every IVF clinic should give the option and let patients know of the possibility. I spent so much time and energy in trying to find someone to talk to and talking to the wrong people was counterproductive. Infertility is exhausting and we shouldn’t have to waste time and energy on looking for help. It is hard enough to admit and realise that we need help.
If you got to the end of the post (congrats!), do you know know what Waldo is called in other languages?