Waiting is hard.

I do best when it’s showtime.

From my early elementary school years through some of my college years, I took dance.

Each year culminated in a studio wide recital. We had studio rehearsals, dress rehearsals, and technical rehearsals. Although the preparation was necessary, the anticipation was challenging and nerve wracking.

Yeah, waiting feels hard.

As a psychotherapist, I have supported people struggling with addiction, eating and body issues for over a decade. More recently, after my own experience with assisted reproduction at SCRC, I’ve started supporting individuals and families who have chosen to embark on their journey into parenthood and fertility, whether single or partnered.

Something surprised me in this clinic waiting room. I felt clear and I felt connected.

I was reminded of my intention and of my dreams, and I felt connected to a room filled with other folks sharing similar dreams and traversing similar hurdles.

The Emotional Terrain of the Waiting Room

Some people in that waiting room are there because their first or second plans didn’t work out. Some learn along the way that there is an issue with either their or their partners’ body(ies). Not all, but for many same sex couples and hopeful solo parents, the emotional experience in the waiting room is more about going against the grain than about “infertility.” The waiting room is full of people, complex histories and emotions: people who don’t feel good enough or feel unnaturally “different,” and some who are driven by inextinguishable urgency and agency to make life happen. It’s a room of unnamable hope and dreams, as well as a place of great sadness and disappointment. It’s a starting line for some, and the end of the road for others.

What often makes waiting bearable is some sense of assurance. Waiting becomes more doable when we know that no matter how agonizing the moments of waiting for something might feel, in the end, there’s a certainty that you’ll be rewarded with that which you desire. This isn’t the case with individuals, couples and families undergoing fertility treatment and assisted reproduction.

The Relationship Between Assisted Reproduction and Our Bodies

Many people going through fertility treatment experience their bodies as fundamentally broken. After all, as humans we are designed to reproduce—it’s only “natural”, right? So when an infertility diagnosis arises, it is easy to feel a sense of betrayal and shame. Most people, prior to starting IVF, already have contentious relationships with their bodies in some way. Fertility and IVF only exacerbate those tensions.

I hear so often in my own practice, how individuals undergoing fertility treatment and assisted reproduction feel like something’s wrong with them.

It’s a crazy zone to be in—there’s so much energy there. Levels of determination and a bit of desperation are mixed up in this one experience. The fertility journey can be a rollercoaster for patients, giving rise to great feelings of taking charge of their life and future, while also handing their bodies over to the clinical teams for treatment. It’s such an intimate experience for any aspiring parent trying to conceive or build a family, yet it’s also a process that’s down to the numbers and hard science. Typical conception is an incredibly private experience, yet fertility treatment and assisted reproduction takes a village—the sense of community and teamwork is palpable as people go through milestone after milestone.

Lack of Authentic Communication and Emotional Support

Another layer that comes up for many of my clients is the relative secrecy surrounding IVF and fertility treatment. Many people don’t feel comfortable discussing it, especially with their colleagues or managers—and when they do share, are met with awkward reactions. Counseling would be a valuable part of the package for any fertility patient, because of the complexity of the situation and challenges they face. Other factors, such as increased risk of depression and anxiety from a turbulent attempt at pregnancy create a real need for emotional support as early intervention.

Empowering Fertility Patients along their Journey

The reproductive journey can be daunting and painful. It can also be joyful.

Clients try to navigate the relationships between science and the individual, between community and loneliness, and between agency and powerlessness. For this reason, I stress the importance of advocating for support and surrounding themselves and loved ones with a community that cares, nurtures, and listens to their personal stories from the beginning of the process.
One of my big hopes is that one day IVF patients and their loved ones have the option to receive more holistic and professional support on their journeys. My dream is to rethink the entire system of reproductive care, and therefore, the way it’s experienced. I see a peer-to-peer buddy system, individual counselors paired with patients and loved ones beginning this journey; a wider and richer network of support that acknowledges the sensitivities related to different reasons to start a family in this special way, and the community it requires.
I also daydream about transforming the waiting room itself. I imagine it being a place filled with the sounds of patients warmly introducing themselves, and courageously exchanging their worries and curiosities about what lies ahead. Maybe then, people can at least feel that they are waiting together.

If you want to reach out to Gali to share your story, or for more support, go to:
Gali Barak, LMFT 87279 www.galibarak.com

For more information and resources on reproductive medicine, visit:


Select photography by Heather Marie Collins.

DISCLAIMER: This blog article is not intended to serve as psychotherapy and is offered for informational purposes only. The information provided should not be used as a substitute for independent psychotherapy or counseling


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