When is enough, enough?
Deciding when to move on from fertility treatment.
This can be the most diﬃcult decision you make about your treatment. How many times have you said to yourself, just one more cycle only to undertake two, three or more cycles? Perhaps you and your partner agree that you have reached the end of the road, but the thought of moving on is just too hard.
So how do you know when it’s time to move on?
Only you will know. It is a very personal and individual decision and the timing will be diﬀerent for everyone. How do you:
- Know that you won’t regret this decision later?
- Deal with feelings of grief that follow?
- Cope with feelings of failure and disappointment?
- Create a new dream for a future which may not include children?
The answers will depend on your individual values and personality, your available emotional and ﬁnancial resources and your relationship.
Common signs which may indicate it’s time.
You have become a stranger to yourself. Experiencing repeated cycles of loss can erode one’s self esteem. You might feel a sense of having lost yourself; that your identity has been chipped away by repeated failures. Things that used to make you feel good about yourself and your life no longer exist and have been replaced by disappointment and negativity. You might feel you have lost your energy, compassion for others, sense of humour, commitment to work or relationships, eﬃciency, strength, courage or a sense of joy in your life.
Desire turns to desperation, when:
- The thought of giving up is intolerable
- The probability of success is extremely unlikely
- You plead with your doctor for one more cycle
- You seek out other clinics that might oﬀer something slightly diﬀerent
- You consider treatment options your partner is opposed to.
Your relationship is suﬀering, when you:
- Feel alone or disconnected
- Experience loss of sexual pleasure or spontaneity
- Feel misunderstood or unsupported
- Disagree over treatment options or your partner feels abandoned and that the relationship is far less important than having a child
- No longer experience a sense of fun in the relationship
- Communicate with anger and bitterness
Seek help to guide you on this decision. It will take strength to move on, and you need to be sure you have weighed up your options. You may require assistance to gain some balance and perspective, either through counselling, spiritual guidance, support of friends or simply stepping back from treatment to gain some objectivity.
- Am I conﬁdent that I have received the best medical advice?
- Did I give each treatment option my best eﬀort?
- Where possible, did I follow the recommendations of the specialist?
All these considerations need to be within the limits of what is reasonable. If you can say you have done all that you can, or more importantly, all that you are prepared to do, then this will make it easier to focus on the future. Your future direction may be diﬀerent to the one that you had planned, but it can be very fulﬁlling nevertheless.
Mourning your losses
This is usually necessary for you to begin to let go and move on. Although you have experienced a constant sense of loss throughout the failed treatment cycles, the ﬁnality in choosing to stop and move on brings with it feelings of a greater intensity. You may feel relief, anger or physical and emotional exhaustion. There is likely to be a heavy sense of grief, failure, hurt and loss. This is a very real sense of grief - loss of the child you dreamed of having. Give yourself permission to mourn your losses.
Acknowledge how important this child was to you. You may choose to express this in some way that has signiﬁcance for you. Write a letter to your ‘child’, hold a ceremony or ritual or purchase a painting, or plant a memorial garden or tree.
The Rotunda IVF Patient Support Team is available to support you through this time.
Refocus on your relationship
By surviving this roller coaster together, you will be better able to deal with almost any diﬃculty life brings your way. You have shared repeated losses and disappointments, learned to make mutual decisions, attempted to support each other at a time when your needs might be diﬀerent and journeyed through highs and lows. All of these experiences can have a positive, strengthening impact on your relationship, by creating a greater depth of understanding and a greater bond between you.
Resolve to take back your life
Stopping treatment allows you to regain a sense of joy and fulfillment even though there may remain a feeling of lost opportunity. Your experiences of infertility may form a part of your identity. However, a new and diﬀerent you is developing. You may experience a new sense of control over certain aspects of your life and a new resilience in coping with things you can’t change.
You have come a long way - take time to reﬂect on the positive changes you have made as a result of your IVF journey. You have grown personally, are more able to set boundaries and assert yourself, you may feel more empowered and clear about what you now want out of life. You may have learned which relationships are important and who you can rely on.
Acknowledge the strengths you have gained - you earned them. Take pride in having the courage and tenacity to survive the IVF journey.