Advice on letting some light in
My precious daughter turned 5 the other day. All the expected clichés: she is going to school, I am going to get some time back finally, she is such a big girl! But the surprising intruder into my thoughts was “Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since we dragged ourselves out of the abyss”.
Our infertility battle was a long haul one. When I look back at my 30s, the whole decade feels lost to infertility treatment. We had a reasonable struggle to deliver our firstborn, and an epic, lengthy interminable slog to deliver our 2nd.When I think back to how I felt during that decade a few things stand out. There are many memories; the scans, blood tests, high-as-a-kite egg retrievals, the peeing on a stick, the failure, the miscarriages, the grief, the getting up and trying again. And again. And again.
I remember feeling so damn determined. It was a complicated puzzle to solve, if I just had the best doctor, and the right drugs, the expensive hideous tasting herbs to swallow, the optimal nutrition, the genius acupuncturist, the right magical combination, this will work, right?
I remember feeling very isolated. Left out, not belonging.
I remember feeling brittle. Small things would hurt. I kind of knew that this could break me.
I remember feeling like a different, less compassionate person. I cringe now as I remember my thoughts when I talked to other couples. “You have been trying for what, 6 months? I wish it were that simple for us”.
I was so angry. Why was this happening? Why couldn’t I solve it? Why was my body doing this to me?
Dignity was parked at the door as you walked in. Every time I saw a different doctor I had to take my pants off. A lab scientist could peer through a microscope at a collection of cells that might become my baby and would tell me it’s not growing like it should.
They were all so caring and concerned. But it was killing me that they were all feeling sorry for me. What was I becoming? The crazy infertile lady who didn’t know when to stop?
However, life was well compartmentalised. We had great holidays, I ran a half marathon, we got fit and healthy. We did great work, and had lovely friends. There were parties and weekends away, hikes and fun. New houses and moving up in the world. But all while this dark undercurrent of infertility was running under the surface, sucking the joy out of everything.
So now we out of the abyss. I am 46, our family is complete. And I am grateful every single day for that. But what did I learn? What would I tell my 30-year-old self if I could go back and start again?
Advice for the mother in waiting
You might be in this for a long while too. So get your head in the game. Doing stacks of things to prime your body, while ignoring your mind, is short sighted.
You will be the CEO of your own fertility journey.
- Take charge and make all the decisions. Don’t let anybody else drive this for you
- Get in the driver’s seat. It’s the only way. Stop waiting for someone else to tell you what to do.
- Do your homework, lots of it. Find out everything you could possibly need to know. Choose the best team. Of naturopaths, doctors, counsellors, palm readers, whatever you need.
- Like any good CEO, create a plan, then follow it. Know when to change the plan if needed.
- Decide what resources you are willing to commit. Time, money, energy. Dedicate some time to it, but then stop. Don’t let it completely take over. Decide if you are going to spend an hour a week on this project, or 8 hours a week. Either way, decide how much ‘work’ you are going to put into it, and keep to it. Go and do something else when you are done. Don’t let it be the thing you are constantly scrolling online, every night. Ask yourself “what am I willing to give up for this, an hour a week? Or 3 days a week?” because it will start to consume you if you let it.
Start to nurture yourself as you would this possible baby
- Neglecting yourself while you work hard for this imaginary baby is a bit of a vicious cycle.
- Stop. Get out of ‘doing’ mode and find your way to ‘being’ a bit more often
- Sleep more. Eat more (just better really)
- Find your inner calm. Reduce physical and mental stress, get yourself into a state where your body is welcoming. If you are someone who does yoga, meditation or candle lit baths and still feels stressed, then you MUST find a way to calm your mind.
- Love your body. Feed it. Stretch it. Move it. Nourish it. Don’t talk badly about your body, don’t punish it.
- Be kind to yourself. Start to extend the compassion and love you have for your future baby to her mother instead. Show the universe you are ready
Lose all the emotional baggage
- Do some work to unpack all the emotional baggage that you are lugging around
- There are so many techniques that are effective at lightening your thoughts. Get some help with them if you suspect you might need it.
- Learn to spot ‘if this…then that’ thinking. ‘if this attempt fails then I will always be childless’. ‘If this egg retrieval isn’t perfect then the whole cycle is doomed’. ‘If we don’t get at least 6 eggs then this has been a complete waste of my time’. These thoughts are not logical, not helpful, and bring a whole weight of negative energy with them.
- Learn to recognise when you are catastrophising. ‘if this doesn’t work, then life will never be good’, ‘my body isn’t working, nothings working in my life’
- Stop fighting reality. Wailing ‘why me’ feels mildly self-indulgent and invites a good comfy wallow in despair. But it also sucks all your energy, and creates unnecessary pain and emotional suffering. Don’t waste your precious life ruing reality.
- Don’t play the blame game. Its nobody’s fault. It is what it is.
- There are so many brilliant thought catching techniques to help you keep control of your racing mind. Get some help, and learn them.
Lean in to the emotions, and get ready to feel some big stuff
- If you are in for a long ride, lean in and make it a worthy one
- Don’t let it be a 3-year exercise of putting your life on hold, feeling nothing, pushing emotions away, not letting anything in.
- When the sadness comes, let it in, stop fighting it. Grieve your losses when they happen. Grieve them like you would anything else terribly sad. Get under the duvet, into the bath, wherever and cry. Properly. Then watch and wait and that awful feeling will pass.
- If you keep fighting it, ‘I’m going to stay positive!’ then that dreadful feeling just clings on, lingers in the background and taints everything you touch.
- If you lean in, you will feel some sadness. It will be deep and real, but fleeting. But you will also feel more hope, more joy, more optimism, more light, more life.
Listen to your body. Really listen
- Close your eyes and ask your body what it needs. Really listen. The answer will always come.
- Befriend your body – it is your partner in this, don’t treat it like your enemy
- Does the thought of lying in a dark room, pinned all over with acupuncture needles make your body relax and filled with joy? Or does it feel like another damn chore to do, to get pregnant? If it is what your body craves, do it. And frequently. But if it’s just something you think you should do, then don’t do it. Ask your body what else would make it relax instead.
- Learn what makes your body feel calm, and full and serene and satisfied. And do it more. Stop making your body jump through hoops, doing things you most likely don’t need
Don’t lose hope.
- Where there is hope, there is faith. Where there is faith, miracles can happen
- Losing hope often comes from believing that what happened in the past will continue to happen in the future. It doesn’t have to be that way.
- Babies who come to infertile mothers are always a result of hard work, unbelievably high tech science and some true old fashioned magic
- Don’t lose hope that the magic can happen.
Was it worth the hard work? Heck, yes!
Would I do it differently? yes, absolutely.
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