Talking About Infertility

Infertility (1)

Episode Description

Going through infertility tests and treatments can be an extremely difficult and lonely time for couples. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Lucas Mitzel talks about his own experience. He also shares tips for couples struggling with infertility, and for friends and family members who want to be supportive but don’t know what to say or do.

What to Expect

  • Lucas' own infertility experience
  • The grueling treatments
  • The emotional toll of infertility


Things to Think About

  • How can you be present for a friend going through infertility treatment?
  • Can you be a good listener and refrain from giving advice or platitudes?
  • If you are struggling with infertility, have you reached out to your support system?

About the Guest

Lucas Mitzel provides therapy for children, adolescents, and adults, ages 5 - 30. He believes building relationships with clients is the most important piece of successful therapy. He loves what he does, because it allows him to walk next to people he would never have met had he chosen a different profession, as they work to make amazing life changes. He has the honor of meeting people at their worst, all while watching them grow into the people they’ve always wanted to be.

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Transcript
Talking About Infertility

Featuring Lucas Mitzel, Therapist, Dakota Family Services

Tim Unsinn (00:00):

Welcome to Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services, an outpatient behavioral health clinic located in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, North Dakota. In this podcast, I will talk with our experts about understanding and nurturing our mental health and wellness. I'm your host, Tim Unsinn. Join me each episode as we explore the intricacies of our minds, decrease the stigma of mental illness, learn practical tips for managing our mental health and well-being, and recognize when it's time to ask for help. Join me now to mind your mind.

TU (00:31):

Welcome to this episode of Mind Your Mind. Our guest is Lucas Mitzel. Lucas is a therapist on the Fargo campus and provides outpatient therapy for children, adolescents, and young adults. Lucas, it's great to have you on Mind Your Mind. Our topic is caring for someone who is struggling with infertility. However, before we get to the topic, let's talk about why you do what you do. Why is this work important to you?

Lucas Mitzel (00:56):

My goal is to be able to help as many people as possible. And so by doing therapy, by assisting people in feeling better and being the best versions of themselves, I feel like I am making a difference, and that just makes everything worth it.

TU (01:10):

Today's topic, again, is caring for someone who is struggling with infertility. So I know Lucas, you have a story behind this, so I really am curious, talking a little bit about the process, talking about your story, and what made you want to talk about infertility?

LM (01:27):

Myself and my wife, we started trying to have kids about four or five years ago. After the first year of trying to conceive naturally, we sought out medical explanations to try and rule out anything medical that might be going on. After some tests, ultrasounds, it's like a million tests it felt like, we found out that Heather has something called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, PCOS. And it's a condition that affects the hormone levels in women. It can cause difficulty getting pregnant. And as we went through this whole journey, we realized how important it was for other people to know that they're not alone. This is a very lonely time for people. And we found that as we shared it, that other people started coming forward and telling us how much that meant to them and how much hope that that gave them, just to know that they are not alone, that this isn't something that they have to go through alone.

LM (02:23):

And so that's what motivates me to be here today. So, after the diagnosis was given, we were referred to the fertility clinic in Fargo. And we started doing treatments and this, I mean, infinite number of ultrasounds, shots, pills, all of these for Heather. First step was to do what's called an intrauterine insemination or an IUI. And that's essentially where they take the sperm and they just inject it directly into the uterus, around the time of ovulation, putting everything where it's supposed to go, increasing the chances of pregnancy by eliminating the distance that needs to be traveled, etc. Now, we did this about six different times, and every IUI is a process that takes multiple weeks. And so, after a couple of years of going through some of this stuff, we felt like it was kind of torture.

LM (03:16):

I mean, we started dreading every single time we did a pregnancy test. And with PCOS, one of the hard things is that you're not on a regular cycle and so you have to wait for that to occur. And so we would be waiting months for the next cycle to come around in order to get ready for the next IUI. And a lot of people with PCOS, they struggle with that. So after a lot of different tries, we were approached about IVF, which is invitro fertilization. This is a more delicate and lengthy process, and it takes place over the course of several months instead of several weeks. The first few months are a strict regimen of medications and shots. Medications include oral medication, estrogen patches every single day, and then a shot or two every single day. These medications are there in order to get the a woman's body to do what's called "hyper-ovulate" to create as many eggs as possible, which is very uncomfortable. And then we do, what's called an egg retrieval. And we were able to retrieve nine eggs, which is a lot; some people are lucky if they get two. So we were very, very lucky, very blessed to have nine. On the day of retrieval, they then fertilize the eggs and then they let them grow for about 10 days. And then after that, we see how many lived. We had seven live and then they get frozen until it's time to be implanted later on. One thing that happened to Heather, we were told this was very rare, but it can happen, and it's called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. And because she was pumped full of so many hormones, her body needed to get rid of it, to regulate her body again.

LM (05:02):

And essentially she had fluid buildup in her abdomen, and we drained about four pounds of fluid out of her abdomen because of this. So she has gone through the ringer. She has been through a lot and watching her go through that was very difficult as well. So moving forward, we had seven embryos survive, which is also a lot. We were very blessed. And then once you have an embryo, you can have them tested for different genetic diseases, if you want. We went with a different option where we just tested the chromosomes to see if there's, I forget what chromosome it was, but they test it to see if they are likely to live in the womb. So that's extra, they don't do that for free, but then because they're checking the chromosomes, they're able to tell us what genders our embryos were, which is really cool.

LM (05:48):

So we had three girls and four boys, and we just picked whichever one they thought was the strongest. Let's do that. And we'll just go down the list. And they put in one of the girls. And we wait a little while. Before this, I should mention that it does take a couple of months in order for the body to calm down after the retrieval. So they used to do like almost right away, they would do the retrieval and then put the embryo in. And they found that the uterus was considered hostile. And so it makes it less likely for the embryos to survive. So they make you wait a couple of months in order for everything to regulate again. And during that time, when you get close to it, you start doing more progesterone shots. These are done in like the lower back and are typically very painful. So once the embryo is implanted, you do more progesterone shots. You're scheduled to do them until the first trimester is done. Progesterone, for those of you that don't know, is the hormone that causes people to feel like they're pregnant. So while you are not sure if you're pregnant, you feel pregnant. All of the early signs that you're pregnant are coming on.

LM (07:00):

And so you're trying not to be too hopeful, but it's really hard not to be, because you know that there's an embryo inside of you, that you know, that you have a girl who's inside right now. That didn't work. The first implantation failed; that was incredibly painful. For those of you listening, if you've ever experienced something like this, it's similar to that. They say as a miscarriage, the amount of pain that you feel. And so I hope that you feel validated in that. Cause it is horrible.

LM (07:27):

But what we were hoping for right away was that we would be able to start again the next month or after the next cycle or whatever. And that's just not the case. So we lost the embryo in November and they had us wait until February of 2020, which is right before quarantine hit. So thankfully we were able to do a second one and that one worked. So, now we have our beautiful baby boy, Oliver. And if it had not been successful though, a lot of the people who were scheduled during that March time, they were put off for many more months. So if you had been waiting months, doing shots, then quarantine hit, I just, I can't even imagine what that must have been like. And I'm not sure when they started doing them again, but there was a large amount of time where people had to wait. And that was really hard on a lot of people.

TU (08:13):

Well, you're talking about wow, the process. And I can't even imagine what that struggle looks like. So as you're someone that has gone through it, experienced it, what can I say to someone who is struggling with infertility?

LM (08:26):

Yeah. And I think the best thing you can do is just to be present for those who are going through the treatments. If somebody trusts you enough to share that sort of intimate detail about their life with you, it's your job to listen. There's nothing that you can say or do that's going to make it better, but asking how they're doing, checking in on them, and then make sure you listen. Try to not give advice. Don't "silver line it," because it's likely not going to make them feel better. A lot of people say this and this was said to my wife and I, and I can't speak for everybody. But when people would say that "lots of people stopped doing treatments and then they just get pregnant." That was never helpful. But lots and lots of people said that to us which made us feel like we needed to give up in order to get pregnant, which like I keep saying, not helpful.

LM (09:19):

I would encourage people to not only check in on mom, but a lot of people forget to check in on the other partner. Stuff is not happening to their bodies and stuff, but they're watching their partner go through this and they're trying to be supportive and trying to be strong and they get kind of missed out on. And so, if checking in on the other spouse, or just the partner going through this as the person who's providing the care for the other who's actually going through the procedures, that's really important. So just making sure that you're checking in on them. If you're an employer of somebody who is going through this, please be flexible because they don't get to choose when this stuff happens, it's really up to their body. And they just have to go into the doctor that morning because something happened or it's time. And they don't get a choice in that. And so they're not trying to miss work. That's just what, in order to make a family, this is what they have to do.

TU (10:13):

So now you've talked about some of the things that what to say or not to say, more importantly, how about some tips that you experienced that you can share as you were going through the treatments? What are some of the things that you can say that, you know, just because you lived it, what are tips for those that are going through it, help them survive if you will.

LM (10:32):

Yeah. The best thing we ever did was reach out to people. For most of the time we did not. It was just between us and our family and not even all of our family. So it was like our moms who knew. But the day we reached out and we told friends and we told other people what was going on, I have never felt more loved and cared for. And there was just this weight, this burden that was lifted off. And so if you haven't reached out to your support system, I strongly encourage you to do that. I would encourage you to be kind to yourself. This is not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong. This just happens and you're doing everything you can to make it better.

LM (11:18):

Be kind to your partner. This is a really stressful time. And please, both of you, be kind to one another and just love each other through this. Be honest with yourself. If you need to stop or take a break, that is okay, you are not a bad person. You're not a bad parent. It's not that you don't want this child any less, you just need to be honest with yourself and do what's best for you. And if you need to, I would encourage you to talk to professional. These are really big emotions. These are really big feelings and thoughts that come into your head. And that's really hard to take on by yourself. Or even just sharing that with your friends. It can be helpful to have an objective party look at this and be able to help kind of sort that out with you.

TU (11:58):

Lucas Mitzel is our guest. He is a therapist on the Fargo campus. Today he's sharing about experiences of infertility and caring for someone who is struggling with that. So Lucas, we appreciate you being transparent and open. And for those of you listening right now, if you even are not going through what Lucas was talking about, but you know, someone who is, please share this podcast with them because that is our goal is always to help other people around us, even for those of you that we don't know. So we appreciate Lucas, you coming in and helping us in this area. Before you go, though, I do have one last question. And that question is this, what do you do personally, to mind your mind?

LM (12:38):

I think it's really important to schedule time to take care of yourself. And so doing things that you enjoy and making sure that you have time for them, or just scheduling time for them to do that. With a newborn that is more difficult. But it just makes those times more valuable. So please continue to do that even if you have kids.

TU (12:56):

Yeah, with a newborn, I was going to say good luck with that. Lucas, thank you so much for coming in and being with us on Mind Your Mind.

TU (13:02):

Thank you for joining us for Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services. You can't have health without behavioral health. Remember to mind your mind. For more information, links to additional resources, contact information, and much more go to dakotafamilyservices.org.

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