I'm Carole

Hello! I’m Dr. Carole Swiecicki, a licensed clinical psychologist with a 15 year career in helping people overcome trauma. I am also an infertility survivor, an IVF warrior, and a mom.

For most women growing up, we get the notion that we control our reproductive and family-building destiny. Have sex = have baby. Even after that doesn’t work the first month, we maybe learn a bit about tracking ovulation and believe, have sex at the right time = have baby. When THAT isn’t working after many months, it seems as those we’ve lost control of one of the most basic facets of humanity: procreation. That in and of itself is really, really hard to manage. The grief, sadness, anger and other feelings associated with an infertility diagnosis are be the topic of another post. Today, I want to focus on the loss of control.

Beyond the initial 6-12 months of failed “natural” (unmedicated or assisted) cycles, once you are at the point of Assisted Reproductive Technologies, the loss of control is rather mind boggling. You no longer even control your menstrual cycle – that can be pushed up or back by taking birth control pills. You are told when to have intercourse (or not). When to take medications. When to come for blood work.

I am a bit of a “Type A” personality. I like predictability, planning, and setting a course (i.e., control). Okay, *some* may say I’m a bit of a control-freak and more than a bit Type A (whoever would say that would be right). Usually my efforts pay off! Which has reinforced my desire to control and plan throughout my life. I have found in talking with others who have experienced that, often, infertility shakes the lives of people, and that losing control is a big part of the challenge.

From a psychological standpoint, taking control can be framed as “action-oriented coping.” When people who thrive with control see a problem, they jump into action. Toilet is clogged? I can do something! Front yard getting weedy? I’ll grab my gloves. These actions both help to solve the problem and help the person to feel a sense of accomplishment and “agency,” that our actions can have a positive impact on our future and outcomes.

friendly female doctor holding female patients hand

It is important that you feel heard by your physician and ART team.  If you don’t, consider seeking a second opinion.

Infertility really throws a wrench in this pattern. If you are a person who looks to take action, this post is for you. Here are some things you can control:


Your physician/ART team

It is incredibly important that you feel confident that the professional(s) who are guiding your treatments are competent, listening to you, and giving you instructions you can follow. If you are not able to get ahold of the nursing or support team, or ask questions of your doctor and get answers explained in a way you understand, I suggest seeking a second opinion. Check out this website to find qualified reproductive endocrinologists in the US, and this site for those in Europe.


Your attitude

I know, just writing this sounds cliché… but it is true. You can take some control over your own emotions. Feeling angry, sad, anxious, confused – all of these are normal. While giving yourself space to feel upset is healthy, sitting in these feelings for too long is not helpful. And if you are struggling to find moments to feel happiness, that is a good indicator that you can take control and talk with a professional to help. (Speaking of which, there are excellent professionals out there for assessment and therapy trained in the field!)


Little details

Some of these are small, but when you are looking to take some control back, even a little bit helps! With subcutaneous injections, you typically can control where these go. You might choose to rotate stomach injections, or do them in your arm or leg some days. Or you may only want to impact one part of your body. Talk with your provider to get an instruction sheet on these – they often show locations where you can choose to put these. If you have a lot of medications to take during the day, you might want to get a pill box in a color you like to bring a bit of yourself into the process. Get crazy and perhaps have an intimate night with your partner completely unrelated to the cycle that month! 😉


Your lifestyle

Research shows that certain lifestyle changes can support healthy fertility. Of course, moderation is key but making choices to support fertility can help you gain some control and have a positive impact on your odds for success. These things include limiting alcohol and caffeine, eating a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, exercising in moderation, working to get your weight in a healthy range, and limiting exposure to toxins like BPA (from plastics and receipts). Reproductive Endocrinologist, Dr. Lora Shahine, shares great info on limiting toxins on her IG account!


Your thoughts

This is related to #3 but distinct. Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all related. But they are separate. How we feel impacts what we think and how we act, and vice versa (you will hear this theme from me a lot – it’s the foundation of cognitive behavioral theory). If you are continually reminding yourself how frustrating the lack of control is, you will feel more and more frustrated. If you are hyper-focused on the negative, take a minute to “reset.” Even just by distracting – take 10 seconds and find every green object in the room you are int. Green isn’t the most popular decorating color and yet there’s pretty much always *something*! I imagine for that 10 seconds you weren’t focused on your infertility cycle.

Are there little details you can control that will make you smile along this journey?

As a bonus and summary tip, consider reframing the whole ART experience. No one would choose to do this without a history or reason. But here you are. It can help to remember that that medical technologies are not the only option for building families.

In fact, building families are not the only option for a fulfilling and happy life. ART is one excellent option to help individuals and/or couples build a family. At this point in your journey, you are choosing ART.

You can own that. Remind yourself why you want to do this. YOU deserve to have what you want and you have a team of professionals that want to help you get to your goal. Even the “game managing” quarterback has a team. He doesn’t control the outcome singlehandedly.

The reproductive field exists to help people just like you with the family building goals you have. Let go a little bit and let the experts help you get there.

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Guide to navigating infertility

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