We Don’t See Things As They Are, We See Them As We Are.” Anais Nin
Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of pregnant bellies. I think they are absolutely beautiful. I didn’t always feel this way.
Seven years ago, when I was struggling with secondary infertility, the sight of a pregnant belly, would make me want to run and hide.
I called the phenomena the “fertility inferiority complex.”
Anytime I heard news of a pregnancy or anything related to pregnant women, it made me question my own capability. It made me feel less than, and not good enough. It was as if “their” pregnancy news showcased “my” failure.
Today, seven years later, on the other side of infertility, a pregnant belly no longer makes me feel inferior. My perception has shifted. In fact, I am a fertility counsellor and now help other women and couples create their beautiful families. (Pregnant bellies now showcase my success! Imagine that!)
As a fertility counsellor, I compiled a list of helpful tips to consider as you move through your fertility journey.
There are “various techniques”, “ways of thinking”, and “things you can do” to ease the experience, to make it feel not so all consuming.
- Acknowledge the difficulty.
Acknowledging that this is a difficult experience will provide you with a framework to help you cope. It is completely normal to feel a sense of loss, to feel anxiety, sadness, and a general overwhelm. Acknowledging that this is how you feel can help you move beyond. Simply saying this is difficult, this is hard, validates your feelings as you move through this fertility journey.
There is no need to pretend this experience is easy. Acknowledging the difficulties, just to yourself, softens feelings associated with shame and not being good enough.
- Let go of self-blame.
1 in 6 couples struggle with infertility. It is very common. Although it may be hard to resist the temptation of self-blame, guilt and negative thinking, staying in this negative place for too long is unproductive. Guilt will try to tell you that you shouldn’t have waited this long to start a family. Fear will cause you to look at yourself with questions like, why me? Will fertility treatment ever work? Doubt, will make you question, yourself and your own self-worth.
- Let go of self-blame. Imagine life without it.
Shifting the negative self-talk from self-blame, back to the present moment, creates an instant recalibrate of the what’s happening.
- Create a dream team.
If you are going through fertility treatment with a partner, this could be your partnership. If you are seeking fertility treatment alone, creating a supportive network with close family and friends can be helpful. It’s up to you, who gets to be on your dream team.
Men and women will often experience infertility differently. Working aligned, as a team, to uncover practical ways to ride the waves of the journey together.
- A bigger fertility plan.
Some couples make the decision from the start as to how many fertility treatments they are prepared to do. Others will spend many years and a lot of money to get to the end goal of “baby”.
Creating a fertility plan can help in relieving the stress from one treatment to the next. For example, going into a transfer knowing that you will have more attempts, should it not be successful, can provide some comfort.
For most, the financial aspect of fertility treatment can be a huge stress. Creating a comprehensive fertility plan takes into account how much you are willing to pay for each treatment and the associated cost. Putting the details on a big chart and adding on what insurance covers vs. what you need to pay can help you feel more organized and in control of the process.
- Seek support.
Finding people who are also struggling with infertility is an excellent way to deal with infertility’s isolating impact. Participating in a fertility support group can help lessen feelings of self-blame, negative thinking and hopelessness.
When you have the support of others who are going through a similar journey, your experience gets validated and you don’t feel quite so alone.
Research has demonstrated that women who participated in a Mind-body stress reduction group while going through fertility treatment had more fertility success.
- Check in.
Checking in with yourself on an ongoing basis will make you feel like you are supporting yourself in a positive way. Checking in with yourself means asking how you are doing and what you need in the moment.
If certain celebrations are too painful for you, allow yourself to be okay with not attending. You don’t need to be anyone’s hero now by going to baby showers, or other family events that trigger you. If you aren’t up for it, don’t go. But, also try not to feel the secondary emotions of guilt for staying home and avoiding certain functions. Be loving towards yourself.
- Maintain a balanced perspective.
Instead of being “in the depths of despair” or “incredibly hopeful”, put your energies into creating a balanced perspective.
A balanced perspective creates a more equal dynamic so that you don’t feel sad and not too optimistic. You are positive, but without attaching to a positive result…. Easier said than done!
Assisted reproductive technology leads many couples to keep trying month after month, year after year. A balanced perspective, can help create a resiliency and perseverance, as you work your way through fertility treatment. Mindfulness and relaxation exercises are excellent ways to cultivate a balanced perspective.
- Actively self-care.
Seeking fertility treatment can sometimes feel like a part time job. It is important that you still try to do things in your life that you enjoy. This may feel like a huge effort and you may need to motivate yourself.
Actively self-caring is a huge aspect of creating a balanced perspective. Often, in times, when we are dealing with uncertainty, our internal system is on a fight/flight default. Giving to ourselves, in a loving way, shifts the way we relate to ourselves. Whether it is a long walk, writing in a journal or getting a massage, the intention for me-time and self-care is what is important.
- Play with your perspective.
If we could break down each month into moments, we would see the impermanence of this experience. Nothing lasts forever. Everything has a beginning, a middle and an end. It is difficult to grasp this concept while we are going through it. It’s hard to imagine not struggling with this problem. We may not remember what life was like before the struggle. Slowing down and reminding ourselves that one day down the road, it will be something else is humbling and comforting.
- Stay informed but not too informed.
It is crucial to have information about your fertility health and treatment, but also crucial to know where this information is coming from. Spending hours a day, on the internet looking for information, is not helpful and can precipitate negative thinking. The IVF forums can be destructive and harmful too, in the sense that they feed into monthly “highs” and “lows”, detracting from creating a balanced perspective. The anecdotal stories do not play a significant role in your fertility success.
Amira Posner is a fertility counsellor in Toronto, Ontario. She works with individuals and couples who are struggling with infertility. Amira facilitates the Mind-Body Fertility Group at Mt.Sinai Hospital. She is also a mother of three miracles. For more information, visit www.healinginfertility.ca