What to expect when you’re not expecting: the emotional side of IVF


The hardest part of infertility for me wasn’t the physical demands of IVF (in vitro fertilization), the testing, injections and procedures.  It was the stress and emotional turmoil I felt while going through it.

At first, there was the general stress about the IVF schedule; remembering to take different medications at different times, organizing countless appointments for blood work and ultrasounds; and worrying about all the unknowns.

Once I got through the first month of IVF, most of my practical questions about the process had been answered, but my stress level stayed the same. What if this doesn’t work? Will I be able to feel fulfilled and happy without kids? Will not having kids effect my marriage? How long can I keep trying to make this happen?

From our first egg retrieval, we got six good quality embryos. We were lucky; many people do not get that many. I did not feel lucky though since so many people around me appeared to get pregnant at the drop of a hat. I kept telling myself that there were people who had it worse, and on some days that made me feel stronger. On other days, I felt defeated. It was heart wrenching and depressing not being able to do something that comes easily to so many others. On those days, I felt like a failure as a woman.

I did not get pregnant from our first embryo transfer, and with each failed attempt that followed it became more and more difficult to stay strong and not spiral into despair. I didn’t know how long I would be dealing with this and I realized I needed a plan; I had to make a concerted effort to keep my chin up. Here’s what I did:

I tried to keep things in perspective. I work at a school with students from low-income families and struggling immigrant families. I also teach students with various physical and intellectual disabilities. Thinking of them gave me strength. Watching their smiling faces every morning and knowing what they’ve had to face improved my outlook when times were especially tough. It made me feel lucky and grateful for the life I have.

I recognized that sometimes I just needed to be upset. I told friends and family what I was going through so that they could support me. On more difficult days, I allowed myself to feel sad, to cry and be angry, without guilt.

I boycotted baby-related events. This became a necessary decision. At first I felt guilty, but then I realized it was too difficult to be around babies and I hoped people would understand.

I adopted a theme song (‘Inner Ninja’ by Classified). This may sound silly but it made me feel stronger. I would play it when I needed an emotional boost. My favourite lyric from the song is:


“never dwell in the dark ‘cause the sun always rises but gotta make it to the next day”.


Every time I heard that song I would take a deep breath and keep going.

Everybody handles challenging situations differently. For me, having a plan of action gave me something to focus on and allowed me to keep seeing all the good in my life.



  • Lisa
    Posted at 22:39h, 03 October Reply

    Great article Debbie! My IVF theme song was “Say my Name” by Destiny’s Child!

  • Debbie Sheppard
    Posted at 06:41h, 22 October Reply

    Thanks Lisa! Good to know other people had theme songs too, makes me feel less silly about it 🙂

  • Alessandra
    Posted at 14:09h, 28 October Reply

    I arrived in Canada 5 years ago with lots of dream: start a new life with my Canadian husband, learn English, have a big family. All dreams have begun to be realized, except to write a prefect English and that of becoming a mother. I’m leaving in Montreal now, so I’m no worried so much about my English, but I’m really disappointed, frustrate and sad about the dream of a big family. I started to undergo to different fertility treatments few years ago, at the McGill reproductive center. After a really dangerous HOSS I finally got pregnant with a beautiful healthy boy (Leonardo is almost 4 now). I’m almost 42 years old, and I been trying to conceiving since my first marriage, 12 years ago. I was 30 when I started to realize that the dream of becoming a mother would be no easy for me, impossible in the opinion of my first doctor in Switzerland (polycystic ovaries me, low sperm counts my current husband). I tried and after pain, sufferance and fear, I finally got pregnant. I really dream to have another baby. I know that I’m lucky to have one healthy baby boy. But I’m trying with all my energy still. I tried another IVF. I had 15 eggs, but not enough sperm to fertilize them. Cycle lost. I tried with a young donor eggs, 2 times without any success. I tried again at the clinic of Dr. Tan with my own eggs. Yet miraculously extracted 30 eggs. 6 embryos. I got pregnant but I lost my twins in nearly 7 weeks of gestation last past week. I know that maybe it was my last chance and I’m devastated, but I can’t give up. I realized that I have to share my story; I need support in order to believe again on myself, in order to find again myself.
    Good Luck to all of you!

    • Debbie Sheppard
      Posted at 06:42h, 30 October Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am sorry for your recent loss, that must be very difficult. Like you, I also realized that sharing my struggles with fertility helped me to get through the hardest times. I wish you all the best 🙂

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