If you’re in any online infertility support groups, someone will eventually ask the question, “What did you do differently when you got your BPF?” That’s a big fat positive (BFP) – AKA positive pregnancy test. Actually, you will come across this question repeatedly. Because everyone is desperately searching for that magic combo that will get them pregnant, or at least up the chances. For a long time I diligently read every response to these questions, scouring for the one thing that I could do differently – the key I had somehow been missing – that would finally make all my dreams come true.
And then I realized something.
It’s a slippery slope. Sure we all want to maximize our chances and try all the things, but at some point we start sliding into a very dangerous place. A place where we begin to second guess every single decision we make. A place where we beat ourselves up and ask, “if I only hadn’t eaten that cupcake…”, “if I only had started this sooner…”, “if I had only done x, y, and z…” then it might have worked.
And therein lies the problem.
We don’t know if it would have worked. But we sure do layer on the self-blame and guilt. Or we stress ourselves out searching for the elusive magical step that we’ve somehow missed in all our previous attempts, but if we could just find it, then the next time it will work. But then it doesn’t, and the mad search continues. And the guilt, frustration, hopelessness, and anger thickens.
I see well meaning women responding to these posts, listing all the things they did differently to get their BFP, and I bite my tongue. I get it. Really I do. I myself have done a ridiculous amount of things over the course of the years I’ve struggled with infertility. Do you really want to see my list? Honestly, it makes me feel a wee bit insane. But I’ll share. I do want to preface this by saying I did not do all of these things at once. Each cycle was some combination of various strategies. Some I did for years, while others I tried and moved on from. They range from the medically directed to significantly more unconventional. But hey, I was willing to try ANYTHING. So here you go…
List of things I’ve done in my pursuit of a BFP (brace yourself):
- Fertility-specific yoga
- Castor oil packs
- Fertility self massage
- Emotional freedom technique (AKA “Tapping”)
- Meditation, including fertility-specific meditation
- Craniosacral therapy
- Crystal healing bed
- Fertility spells/rituals
- Identifying, working through, releasing blockages related to fertility, parenting, family history, sexual abuse
- All the standard fertility tests and procedures
- ERA (4 times)
- Laparoscopy – removal of endometriosis, removal of scar tissue on Fallopian tubes
- Surgery to remove fibroid
- All the supplements as directed by my RE – DHEA, DHA, melatonin, Vit D, E, C, folate, ubiquinol, prenatal, myo-inositol, l-arginine
- Western herbal treatments
- Chinese herbs
- Changed all personal care, make-up, home cleaning, and kitchen supplies to non-toxic version with special emphasis on removing endocrine disruptors and carcinogens (including giving up some of my personal favorites like hair dye, gel nails, and most nail polish, *sigh*)
- ICSI and no ICSI
- Special medium/culture for older eggs (my RE said this gives older eggs/embryos more of the antioxidants and other nutrients they need to support cell division)
- Protocol changes (though the vast majority of my cycles utilized the same protocol because despite my low AMH and DOR, I responded relatively well to a high dose protocol
- Neupogen wash
- PGS and no PGS testing
- 3-day transfer, 5-day transfers, frozen embryo transfers
- Caffeine free, no sugar, no alcohol
- Occasional glass of wine (oh and that one time I got tanked – I needed that night!)
- All organic
- Gluten free
- Resting after transfer (my RE assigned 3 “Princess days” reserved for resting and pampering)
- Not resting after transfer (whatever, I’m still a princess everyday)
- Positive thoughts that the transfer worked
- Lowered expectations/Negative thoughts that the transfer didn’t work
I’m freaking exhausted just looking at this list. It was a full time job. And I already have a full time job.
And after countless cycles, do you want to know what I think really worked the 2 times I got a BFP? Here it is ladies…luck. Yep, that’s right. Random luck.
Now this isn’t to say that nothing matters in this process. I’m a firm believer that the skill of the RE (both in selecting and managing protocols, and in performing the egg retrievals and transfers) as well as the quality of the lab do make a significant difference in overall outcomes. However, all of my IVF cycles were with one RE and one lab. I think I had good chances because of my RE and lab, but clearly they were not able to miraculously make it work every time. Many times it failed and twice it succeeded. So I’m back to saying that luck was the deciding factor. Luck that the “right egg” was recruited and harvested in a given cycle, luck that my body didn’t go rogue and ovulate before the trigger, luck that Miss Egg was combined with the right Mr. Sperm that she seemed fond of, luck that the embryo hit a receptor site after transfer and implanted, luck, luck, and more luck.
I’m also not saying that nothing from my list mattered at all. Anything that supports good health – including physical, emotional, and spiritual health – are going to help you though infertility hell. Depression, anxiety, low self-worth, divorce – these are all more common among people going through infertility. Anything that can help you avoid or come out of those dark places is invaluable.
For me there were certain things from my list that helped more with my good health – things like regular acupuncture, yoga, meditation, psychotherapy, as well as others. Then there were things that ended up stressing me out thereby probably doing more harm than good for my overall health. Sometimes it was simply doing too many things from my list at once that stressed me out. I felt overwhelmed and spread too thin. That led to feelings of guilt that I “should be” doing more. That wasn’t helpful at all.
So my advice to anyone that is interested is this: cut yourself some slack. Find what supports your peace of mind and overall good health. Do what feels good for your body, mind, and spirit. And if or when it stops feeling good, reevaluate. Maybe it’s just not working for you anymore. And that’s okay. Because these things we do probably aren’t going to make or break our cycle. They may make or break you though. The cycle, well, that’s mainly luck.
And may luck be on your side.