In some ways, COVID-19 is bringing us all together. Rarely in human history has everyone faced the same crisis. Given our common ground, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could cultivate empathy for the experiences of others in this moment? That’s the question we’ve been pondering as we hear about the women who have had their fertility treatments halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the minute we all began social distancing, the memes began: Get ready for a baby boom! We’re going to see kids named “Corona” in nine months! One day we’ll call these kids “Coronials.” And so on. Many of us chuckled and cringed. Some nodded in recognition.
But the jokes weren’t funny in the least to one group of people: those who had just found out that due to the pandemic, doctors, hospitals, and clinics would be canceling their fertility treatment procedures for the foreseeable future.
“It just felt like a slap in the face,” one woman named Victoria told SheKnows. “It just felt like another reminder of what my body can’t do. And people are laughing about it in a time where it’s being taken away from me.”
Victoria, who blogs about her fertility struggles, had posted about that feeling to her Instagram. Unfortunately, when another IVF account picked it up, she received so many hateful comments, she took down her original post. (That’s why we won’t link to her post or account here.) Many of the commenters criticized her for taking these jokes personally.
“If you haven’t been through this you aren’t going to think the way that we do,” she said.
“I just came off a failed IVF transfer, which really does feel like a pregnancy loss. It feels like I lost a baby. … A lot of people think you just show up and they put the baby in. But it’s weeks and weeks of injections and pills and doctors’ appointments and acupuncture. It’s trying to keep your feet warm and eating the right things. Your life is consumed by this process for three to four weeks leading up to it. … When that gets taken away from you, it’s a loss. People don’t understand grief when it’s invisible.”
Kristyn Hodgdon, creator of the Fertility Tribe blog, wasn’t undergoing any treatments this spring, but she knew the collective pain of other members of her “tribe.” Even if procedures are put off for just a couple of months, those don’t feel like regular months when you’re waiting to have a baby, she told SheKnows.
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“Infertility can be all-consuming. That’s why when others say, ‘just relax and it will happen,’ for 1 in 8 couples that isn’t very helpful advice. Waiting ‘just a few more months’ can feel like a lifetime to someone who has already been waiting too long. So, to all of those who were about to start an IUI or IVF cycle after years of trying to conceive only to have it be postponed, I see you. To all those who were awaiting surgery in hopes of getting to the bottom of their infertility diagnosis, I see you. You have every right to be frustrated that your plans have been put on hold yet again. You have every right to be upset, and even angry, that you can’t use this extra time at home to ‘just have sex and get pregnant’ like everybody else. You’re allowed to feel all of the feelings during this time.” -@thefertilitytribe . . Kristyn here! 👋🏻 If your IUI or IVF cycle has been canceled due to COVID-19, you are not alone. Today on The Fertility Tribe, I am sharing my thoughts on all of the Coronavirus baby boom memes circulating the internet right now & the new ASRM guidance regarding fertility treatments during the pandemic. Head to the link in our bio to read the full piece! 📸 credit: @nutritionbytara . . Has your fertility journey been impacted by COVID-19? Comment below & find your tribe! 👇🏻
“Every month is agonizing,” she said. “You go through the waiting for your period to start, and if you’re going through active fertility treatments, you have to go to your clinic and get blood work done, and ultrasounds, and then you start your meds. And then when you finally have a procedure done, you have to go through that two-week waiting period. Then, at the end of it, for it to all result in a negative test, and then to have to start it all over again — it’s just devastating. The whole process of infertility is so out of your control, but this adds another lack-of-control element into the mix.”
None of this means that the women going through the disappointment of not having a baby in 2020 don’t also understand that there is so much suffering in the world as a result of COVID-19. They are fully aware of what hospital workers are going through, and of why this moratorium has been put in place.
“The feelings don’t have to be mutually exclusive,” Hodgdon said. “You can be upset about a canceled cycle and also still know that other people have it worse.”
So, yes, it is awful out there for many people. But we want to acknowledge the extra pain some women are going through that not everyone else understands. Here, a few others share their experiences:
“Our transfer was to take place on our surrogate at 10 am, March 16. At 7 am the doctors called to cancel the transfer. If it wasn’t so sad, it’d be almost laughable. Eight years of infertility, eight IUIs (intrauterine insemination), five IVFs, one miscarriage — and a global pandemic stops us on the day we were supposed to have our gestational carrier get pregnant. Yeah, we’ve been through a lot.” — Kim
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"Today it hit me, once again, we will not be bringing a baby home this year. Some might say, but it’s only a couple of months that you’ll have to wait before you can start trying again. But you see, every day is a day too long without our baby. Every second without that baby in our arms is a second too long. When you long for a baby, every moment without them, is a moment too long.⠀ ⠀ I try to be hopeful. I try to be strong. But today, it sank in. Every year I have these dreams that this will be the year we are carrying our baby and taking photos with a little one in our arms. And reality is. It’s not going to happen. We won’t be delivering our babies in August. We won’t be taking our first family of 6 photos in front of that Christmas tree. Again. 4 years of the same reality.⠀ ⠀ At this point, I have no idea when we will be meeting with our doctor because now our follow up for our 2nd failed transfer is postponed until further notice. Which means, we haven’t even been able to fully process and discuss our 2nd loss from December so we can’t even talk about moving forward. For the first time in 4 years, we are completely at a stand still. No plans at all.⠀ ⠀ I’m trying to use this time positively. But it’s still hard. Right now, really hard. I know so many are in a similar position and I just want to say, I feel you. I See you. I’m here for you." @ittakesavillage_ttc
“We were talking about starting IVF after 13 failed rounds of Clomid (a drug that can help with ovulation) and three failed IUIs, but hadn’t started the process, thankfully. … It’s crazy to me how even my friends are sharing memes about funny names for kids in nine months or funny things about all the baby showers they will have to attend in nine months, knowing deep in my gut that I won’t be one of those baby showers. It’s still really sad. As if the mental isolation of infertility isn’t enough, add to it the physical isolation, and it can be very detrimental to one’s mental health.” — Carmen, creator of Living Letter Home
“After 26 months of trying, six rounds of Clomid and six rounds of Letrozole (another drug that can stimulate ovulation) and one miscarriage, we were ready for IVF. My husband and I had our IVF registration appointment at Northwestern on Monday, March 16, and we were told upon arrival that all treatments were being halted for at least the next four weeks. … This was the day before the American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued guidance to halt all nonessential treatments. This has been heavy news to deal with, to say the least.” — Jenny
“[This week] I received the notice that our cycle was being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and would be postponed until further notice. Devastation, anger, sadness, frustration … it all hit me at once. I had been waiting for two years, for this chance, and time and time again it felt like things kept delaying, postponing or changing my ability to have it. The whole world is going through an extremely uncertain, tough and scary time right now, but there are a lot of women in this community whose hearts are breaking for other reasons as well.” — Ashley Wilson
“In the world of infertility, you get used to being disappointed, and then you pick yourself up from the bathroom floor and you try again. You desperately try to focus on what you can control because, there is so little in your control. Two months ago, COVID-19 was this obscure thing happening across the world. It had no impact on my life. In a blink of an eye, a virus has now impacted my ability to create life. Every day the situation gets worse. We are all bracing ourselves for the unknown. What we do know is that is looks bad, really, really bad. In the days since my cancellation was announced, I feel more at peace with it. This is a scary time to try to conceive, this is a scary time period. People’s dreams are being dashed worldwide. I am not alone. People are losing their lives at alarming rates, I am lucky to be alive. I feel a collective sense of grief. It’s intensifying daily.” — Joelle Gutman Dodson
“My husband and I found ourselves at IVF’s doorstep after our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage in December of 2018, followed by a second miscarriage in September of 2019 and the whole gamut of fertility tests that never did answer any of our dire questions. So here we are now with no other option but to accept that the timing isn’t ours. Despite how much we feel this completely sucks and how gut wrenching it truly all can be, we are still grateful for so much and are choosing to put our minds and hearts in that direction. For others out there walking similar paths, I have let myself feel all the emotions, including guilt for all the heartache going on in the world and for those in worse situations than mine. I’ve embraced them all as I’ve discovered over the past nearly two years that infertility will take a lot from you and from your partner, but it will also give — whether that’s new friendships and an expanding support system of amazing badass women or a totally new perspective and take on life. I want to share so that others going through it feel less alone as so many women have helped me without ever knowing, and I will forever be grateful as I continue to lean on this incredible band of women.” — Birdy
If you’re going through this too, you’re not alone, and we hope the words of others can help you as they have Birdy.