IVF Failure

Coping with IVF Failure: What to do when IVF Doesn’t Work

Four IVF failures later, here is my #1 secret to coping during this stressful time.

We’ve heard it a thousand times: IVF is a number’s game. You have to keep rolling the dice until you land on the winning combination. But how long can your heart and head take the emotional toll that each “roll of the dice” demands? How long can you sustain the high-levels of stress and raw emotion that goes into every single chance? With one year, three egg retrievals and four unsuccessful transfers behind us, my tried and true IVF coping strategies just aren’t cutting it anymore. I needed to know: how else does one cope in the face of continuous IVF failure?

How to Cope After IVF Failure

Fertilty Road magazine offers these top ten tips to cope with IVF failure:

  • Avoid the blame game
  • Focus on the follow-up appointment
  • Understand why the IVF treatment failed
  • Don’t rush into anything
  • Try to focus on what did go well
  • Take time out
  • Find a new distraction
  • Consider all your options
  • Counseling
  • Look after your relationship

Although all of these tips are valid and helpful, I have spent an entire year “considering my options” and “trying to understand why it failed” to absolutely no avail. It was time for me to bring out the big guns of IVF coping strategies. And for me, that meant starting the conversation about the one thing that many IVF couples fear the most: adoption.

It was time to start the conversation about the one thing that many IVF couples fear the most: adoption.

While adopting a baby isn’t yet on the table for us…adopting a “furbaby” is suddenly all we can think about.🙂 I’d been toying with the idea of getting a dog for a few months and I knew that we were both so ready to start pouring our love and energy into something other than the tedious and thankless process of IVF. My job affords me flexibility to care for a dog during the day and our apartment and neighborhood are both extremely dog friendly. I’ve owned dogs in the past and I’m familiar with the responsibility – and the amazing payoff and returns – that come with owning one.

After several visits to our local animal shelter, we brought home our “newest addition” from BARC Shelter in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: a one-year-old, long-haired terrier mix whom we named “Rivington” after the first street that my husband and I lived on in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Weighing just ten pounds, Rivington is a hurricane Harvey survivor from Texas and is extremely sweet and low-key, despite his past trauma. Unlike the IVF journey, the process of getting him happened extremely fast and I still can’t believe he’s ours. I truly believe he came into our lives at the moment we needed him – and the moment he needed us – the most and he has completely changed everything for us overnight.

coping with IVF Failure
Coping with IVF Failure. Illustration by New Yorker magazine.


The #1 IVF Coping Strategy

To be clear: dog adoption is certainly not the secret coping strategy for dealing with multiple IVF failures. However, inviting new positive experiences into your life during this difficult time is the number one coping strategy that works. IVF is a complex undertaking that involves your undivided attention, focus, and energy. When it fails, it inevitably feels like your entire life is “failing”- and that’s not true. You need to remind yourself of this by shifting your focus and energy into something that satisfies the below:

1) Gives new purpose. No one can sustain the exhausting goal of “getting pregnant through medical technology” 24/7. Give yourself another objective that has nothing to do with fertility and family planning.
2) Yields immediate results. The IVF waiting game is excruciating – especially when it yields nothing but painful results. Do something for yourself that gives back immediate pleasure and gratification – consider it the award you deserve (but aren’t getting) for all your hard work!
3) Focuses on what you do have, not what you don’t. This process forces us to focus on one problem in our lives, and suddenly it’s all we can see. Step back and count the other blessings in your life that make it so special. (At the top of your list should be having the courage and the gumption to embark on this IVF journey in the first place!). Need help getting started? I purchased the 52 Lists for Happiness book by Moorea Seal (Amazon link here). This beautiful book encourages readers to define what daily happiness looks like to them by providing fun lists and inspirational questions.

Pro Tip: Follow the Instagram hashtags #52Lists or #52HappyLists to discover other people’s “happy list” journeys!


Coping with IVF Failure
Coping with IVF Failure. From the book’s description: “This beautiful, open-dated hardcover journal with 52 list prompts encourages the reader to reflect, acknowledge, and invest in themselves, and ultimately transform their lives by figuring out exactly what makes them happy.”

Staying Positive After Failed IVF

Adopting our puppy has done all of the above for me. It has given me a new sense of direction and purpose; it has provided immediate joy and positive feedback; and it has made me feel worthy of good things again by forcing me to focus on all that I’ve accomplished this year (which includes getting him!).

Before adopting Rivington, I kept looking at this period of my life as a period of being extremely “stalled” — despite our efforts, we could not move forward with the one thing we so desperately wanted. But I’ve now realized that this time in my life has been one of the most eventful periods yet. In just the past year alone, I have done 3 rounds of egg retrievals, 4 embryo transfers of 6 embryos, and have been clinically pregnant twice! I’ve also started and maintained a blog about the process, done countless diagnostic testing, undergone (and faced my fears) of daunting medical procedures, and decided to grow our family in another way by getting our new puppy.

It took channeling my energy and focus into something else for me to realize how far we’ve come, and I couldn’t be more proud. Do something for yourself today that ignites these same feelings of purpose, immediate results, and positive introspection. You deserve it!

Learn more about BARC Shelter in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and ways to donate or adopt!

Coping with IVF Failure: Dog Adoption. Rivington playing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo by Shark & Palm


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