Last Wednesday I attended my first therapy session since my senior year in college. It was a much more pleasant experience than the sessions I had in college. I had to go back then because I went crazy. It was the first semester of my last year in college. I got a B on one of my tests. This incident caused a lot of anxiety and fear in me because I translated the grade of the test to a bad grade for the class. This would in turn translate into having a bad g.p.a. and difficulty finding a job after graduation. I know. Irrational. I started crying daily mid-semester. Then insomnia came. Everyday I could not fall asleep until 7am and I had to get up at 9am to go to class. I was completely lonely and miserable because many friends didn’t know what to do with me and avoided me. Finally, I had to go see a therapist to discuss the possible reason(s) behind all the crying and insomnia. It was such a long time ago that I don’t remember details. But I remember feeling like it wasn’t helpful. I was still having a hard time sleeping and was still crying every single day. I wonder if it had to do with her being a student intern.
With that experience in mind, I didn’t know what to expect this time. I used a door code to get into the building. When I got in, I saw a bench and a few chairs with a round glass table in the corner. There were business cards of all the independent therapists who practice there. I chose the chair closest to the glass table and read over every single card. There were two ladies who sat next to me on each side and they were quietly waiting for their appointments. Down the hallway there were quite a few rooms without any signs or markings. Down on the floor in front of each room was a white noise machine that was turned on.
My therapist came to greet me. She looked exactly how I envisioned her since I had seen her online profile picture on her website. On our phone intake she told me that she just turned 40 last year, so she said she kind of understands how I feel to have reached this milestone. Somehow I feel better that she is around my age. I got to say that she looks very good for being 41. I signed a few consent forms and filled out an infertility questionnaire on which I had to answer yes, no, or maybe for each statement. Something like… “Infertility is affecting my sex life” or “I feel that I will never be able to get pregnant”. I went with my first instinct when I answered each question. Many of them I had “maybe”. The therapist looked it over and said, “You seem to be doing quite well emotionally.”
We went on to talk about how I have been coping with infertility. I honestly feel that I am doing better than the first year of trying to conceive. That was the toughest because we were struggling with not having a clear answer as to why we weren’t getting pregnant, the possible loss of natural conception, and the fear of investing our time, effort, and money in IVF, something that was so foreign to us. Plus I hadn’t accepted that I was indeed infertile and the best technology may not be able to help us. I was jealous of others. I was feeling fearful, lonely, crazy, uncertain, mournful, and sad. Fast forward to the present time. I am feeling and doing so much better with my emotions. So I talked about my daily prayers for peace, calm, wisdom, patience, and submission to God. It felt a little funny to talk about that to my therapist (assuming that she does not share my belief) but I needed to share about it because God and my prayers to Him really help with my coping.
I had talked to the therapist about the confusion in my head about the next step. She asked me how I was doing with the decision making. This is what I told her. I find myself working on all the pre-cycle prep work for UCSF. I have not even contacted L.ife IVF to schedule for a financial consultation. Instead, I have been working to get my lab work done, signing all the necessary forms, scanning and emailing previous blood test and exams to the coordinator, and trying to order this antibiotics that UCSF recommends for the both of us before we cycle there. But I still haven’t made my final decision yet. I don’t want to make a decision that I will regret, so I am stalling and trying to make sure that our decision will be the best one for us. I am stumbling on what IS the best for us.
I think what I get hung up on is whether or not UCSF is the best for my situation. I still get stressed out when I think about all the logistics I have to deal with if we go the L.ife route. All the outside monitoring appointments, making sure that the scan and blood work results are faxed over to Irvine before 11am. Chasing down someone at L.ife to answer any questions I may have. Getting the doctor’s order a day AFTER the scan because I will be an out-of-town patient. Buying a plane ticket last minute. Booking a rental car and hotel last minute. Canceling clients last minute. Worrying about premature ovulation prior to egg retrieval. If we do this once, I think I can handle it. But we’re talking about banking every month. I am just not so sure if I really want to do it. But L.ife does have its perks. It seems to have a great lab for growing embryos to the blastocyst stage. Not saying that UCSF does not have a great lab. Given the conflicting information from Dr. No Nonsense and Dr. Y at L.ife about day 3 embryos vs. blastocysts for women with diminished ovarian reserve, I just don’t know who to believe.
My biggest questions:
1) Am I putting my cycles in jeopardy if I don’t grow my embryo(s) to blastocyst? On the flip side, am I putting my cycles in jeopardy by growing my embryo(s) to blastocyst?
2) Am I not trying the best that I can if I stay locally for my cycles? On the flip side, am I doing myself the best service if I put myself through the stress of cycling out of town for months?
3) Will I regret staying locally if the end result is no pregnancy with my own eggs?
My therapist made a few points that became my Ah Ha moments.
She said that it seems like I am someone who is pretty much in my head. I gather a lot of information in my head. Sometimes too much information and thinking a lot about it may not be the best.
I said that I see all these people on forums flying to Li.fe and banking embryos one cycle after another. I feel weak if I don’t go the same route.
She said that after talking to me for an hour, she would not associate me with the word “weak”. If anything, she thinks that I am strong. Since I have been taking the more difficult route of cycling with an RE one hour away, maybe this is the time for me to just take it a little bit easy and walk down the street from work. She said that although it has been proven that stress does not affect pregnancy rate, having a choice to cycle close by definitely will keep my psychological wellbeing in check. Other women fly to L.ife to bank because they don’t have other choices. But I do.
She said that human beings are very prone to be hard on themselves. From what I have told her, she sees that I am being hard on myself.
She also said that it seemed like I might have made a decision already. I just hadn’t acknowledged it or hadn’t realized it yet.
She asked me if I think about the next step and worry about it throughout the day. I do, but not when I am very busy at work. She discussed a technique with me to contain these thoughts to a scheduled time. She wants me to schedule a time in the evening to think or worry about things related to the next steps. Throughout the day, if I have thoughts, feelings, or questions about it, I am to do the following acronym STOP:
Stop (Take a step back from what’s happening)
Take a breath (Slow down)
Observe (Observe thoughts and feelings, physical sensations, what’s happening)
Proceed (Let it go, laugh, do something different)
Whatever questions, feelings, or thoughts I have filed away, I bring them back up to surface at my scheduled time at night.
This is to help me to react to a stressful event by having a calm and conscious response rather than an automatic reaction (such as anger, frustration, panic, worry, negative thoughts). If I worry too much about the past (I should have) or the future (What if…), then I am not living in the present. She asked if I had any regrets. I said… Yes. If I didn’t proceed with my last cycle, then I would have enough money to do two more mini cycles at UCSF.
She also gave me a self-care plan to cope with this. It’s a list of ten things. One thing that stands out is having a calming mantra that works for me. I am still trying to find one that fits me. One of them is “I am doing everything I can to become pregnant”. I may just use this one.
I enjoyed the hour that I spent with her. The things I told her were things that I had been telling my husband and my friends. But having her insight was actually more helpful. I have to remember not to be too hard on myself, that I am doing everything I can do get pregnant, that I may be thinking too much, and that not going to SoCal to cycle does not equate being weak.
I am going back to see her at the same time on the same day next week. I think it’ll help me solidify our plan for the next steps.