Apart from being out in the (social) wilderness there are some remarkable similarities between conquering fertility and conquering Mt Everest
Mountaineers often look at the following steps to conquering a mountain; these are not unlike undergoing fertility treatment.
1. Climbing a mountain is an extreme sport.
Climbing a mountain is only for the brave at heart, you never know what you could be in front of you. The same could be said about infertility.
Women experiencing infertility are often on guard for any situation that could turn to either focus on starting a family or having babies. These situations and conversations can happen at home, at work, or with friends. You can sometimes feel under siege wherever you go.
2. It takes just as much mental effort, sometimes more, than physical effort.
Staying positive, and understanding the emotional rollercoaster takes every bit of grit and determination needed to reach the fertility summit. Emotions are like pinballs being knocked around from pillar to post. Not only do you lose control over what happens to your body, it takes every bit of energy you have to navigate the wave of different thoughts and emotions. You need to respond to other people’s comments, judgments, lack of understanding, and sometimes-plain insensitivity.
3. Be prepared - know the terrain
Couples start off needing to know their fertility window. However the fertility industry has grown so much over the past 10 years that they also need to develop a whole new language and knowledge base. Couples need to negotiate, causes of their infertility, and what options are ahead for either of them. Treatments impact greatly on a woman’s body as hormones and procedures manipulate her cycles. You come to understand ovulation cycle tracking, ovulation induction, artificial insemination (IUI), in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICIS treatment), genetic testing, and egg freezing and more!
4. Get fit
Every mountaineer knows the importance of taking a healthy body into this great challenge. Infertility equally can be influenced by lifestyle factors such as weight, alcohol, smoking, caffeine, exercise, stress and wellbeing of both partners.
5. Find a good guide
Starting with your GP you may then need a good gynaecologist or endocrinologist, fertility preservation expert, laparoscopic surgeon, anthologist, geneticist, or obstetrician. Fertility nurses, counsellors, scientists, and donor specialists ably support all of these.
It is vital to understand the role of complimentary therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, osteopathy, naturopathy, Chinese medicine, yoga and the Mind Body Program for Fertility to name a few.
6. Don’t make rash decisions
Once you are on the mountain (of infertility), you can’t make rash decisions. You need to assess things clearly, use open communication with those you care about and enlist their support. When things get tough and stress levels are high, which is part of the infertility terrain, couples can struggle. Women often get to the point of wanting action sooner than their male partner and so there can be tension. Tension can also develop under the pressure of sexual performance and self-doubts about if you are ‘worthy’ or ‘good enough’ to conceive. This is when you may need someone to talk to, hear your fears and support you.
7. Learn about mountaineering ethics – what impact will your climb have on the local environment?
Realising the impact of infertility is difficult until you are in the middle of it. Infertility can affect every aspect of life as you know it. Relationships with intimate partners, family members, friends and colleagues can suffer. Attending work can be affected by feeling ill and/or being overwhelmed, or through attending the countless appointments. Stress, conflict and doubts often spill over into your sex life and what you used to do for intimacy and fun, can become merely a means to an end.
8. Always stay safe – know about avalanches and falling rocks.
This is where you need to have good self-care, looking after yourself when things don’t go to plan such as the two-week wait (2WW) doesn’t deliver. This can feel like an avalanche, as the world comes crashing down. During this time it is good to continue routines such as going to work, attending social functions or doing the things you normally love to do. These things send a message to our brain that we are in control and we can cope. They nurture us when we need it most.
9. Focus on the steps not how steep it is.
When we look at the mammoth task in front of us we can become overwhelmed and disheartened. It all looks impossible. It is important to keep focused on getting through small, mini goals, day by day, and celebrating the positives along the way. This can be supported by relaxation techniques and strategies that are designed to keep thinking and expectations in proportion. The road ahead may be bumpy, but it is good to use strategies so that you don’t ‘experience’ those bumps until you get to them.
10. Focus on possibilities not limitations
Keeping positive is not always easy, however there is good research that suggests there is a strong link between our levels of hope and optimism, and the health and wellbeing of our hearts, minds and bodies. Stay open to opportunities, not limiting yourself to only one outcome. There are many pathways to becoming a parent and many different sources of support to help you get there.