These are unprecedented and extremely challenging times for everyone. The decisions being made by the government are obviously important to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible, and to free up medical resources vital for COVID-19 patients.
However, many fertility patients are confused – are IVF procedures considered ‘elective’ surgery? The answer, sadly, is yes. The situation has left many in the fertility community feeling dismissed and disempowered.
On hearing the news, Genea’s Fertility Counsellors immediately wanted to reach out to the community, because they understood how they would be feeling.
Genea Fertility Counselling Services Manager Evelyn Zwahlen shared her advice with The Grace Tales.
How are people having or needing fertility treatment feeling in the wake of the government’s announcement about elective surgery?
We are especially mindful of how uniquely difficult this situation is for anyone trying to conceive through assisted reproductive technology, and who has now been told to put their dreams on hold, not knowing for how long that will be. You have already endured life in limbo, lack of control and anxiety over the future, and this has now increased exponentially. To be told you can’t cycle on, because your treatment is elective, may feel like insult on top of injury.
What can people who are having or need to have fertility treatment do to cope with these feelings?
We recommend trying to hold this wording in perspective. Because of the constantly changing nature of the situation, rules are being made quickly and sometimes without the capacity to consider all of the implications. They are being made with the best of intentions: that is, to keep all of us safe.
While they wait for the COVID-19 situation to resolve and for fertility treatment to get the green light again, what can people do?
Perhaps you have more skills than many to deal with this new reality, having become quite practiced at it. We know these are uncertain and scary times, but we would like to give you some ideas as to how you can nurture your resilience, to stay this distance as best you can, while we all wait for the better times that are definitely coming, sometime.
Firstly though, it is important to acknowledge that it is normal to feel all the things you might be feeling right now: fear; anxiety; sadness; loneliness, frustration; disbelief etc. You cannot push all these away, we need to acknowledge them as normal and appropriate, we are all feeling them. Perhaps this can all be explained as grief. We have lost and are losing so much – our freedom, our livelihood, our way of life.
Here are some practical measures you can take:
Never has it been more important to take good care of yourself and those you live with. The message of social distancing and hand washing are all out there. But you also need to make sure you are eating well, drinking water and getting some exercise, and outside time. Walking at least 30 minutes a day, if allowed, is perfect. It is also important that you create a schedule for your day if in isolation and try to keep it as normal as possible. Go to bed and get up at a reasonable time, brush your teeth and hair and get dressed in your outside clothes. Avoid unhealthy coping strategies like smoking, drinking and unhealthy eating, while practicing healthy ones like mindfulness, exercise and connection.
It is well known that social support is crucial to our emotional and physical well-being. Being physically isolated does not mean being socially isolated. We live in a time of such amazing technology that we have so many different ways of staying connected. Make use of all the opportunities you have and create connection. Besides the usual calls, there are video chats and virtual social arrangements that can be organized – be creative. Many may be used to avoiding friends and social gatherings during their infertility journey, but now you may need social connection more than ever.
If you are in isolation with others, having time and space on your own may be difficult, but just as important as support. Try to create that time and space for yourself.
Having information is important to managing any difficult situation, but we are in information overload, both from the normal media and social media. Social media can be very valuable in supporting connection but too much can be unhelpful. Some people may need to set limits on how much, how often and what kinds of exposure they have, and be selective in your sources – go for the trusted ones. Genea will strive to update you as changes at the clinic or to your treatment unfold. We appreciate how important this information is to you.
There is so much right now that is out of our control, out of everyone’s control, and this we have to accept. We follow the advice and stick to the rules and hope that everyone else is too. But in the same way that the outcome of a cycle is out of your control, and you make the decision to control how you manage it, so too do we need to do that now. Things we can control include: how much media we expose ourselves to and how selective we are about the source of that information. You can choose to focus on all that is difficult and frightening, or you can look for and focus on all the good stories that are out there. Perspective is important – we don’t know how long this will last but we do know it’s temporary.
Everything we take for granted is now different, but there are also new opportunities to be explored – books you wanted to read, movies you wanted to watch, crafts you wanted to try or skills you wanted to learn. Be active, creative, resourceful and inquisitive. This is the time to expand and explore the world in ways you haven’t before.
But also be patient, with yourself, those in your immediate living space, and those further afield. These are incredibly difficult times, and we are all being tested. Practice radical acceptance of that which you cannot change and seek to be grateful for as much as you can. Adopting an attitude of gratitude can work wonders for your state of mind, but we make space too for the hurt and the fear, the anxiety and the grief.
Together we will build and walk the bridge to the other side.