Are you 1 in 7?
Do you feel mentally and physically exhausted from dealing with infertility? Are you stuck on an emotional rollercoaster, unable to get off?
Despite infertility being a common problem, impacting around 1 in 7 couples of reproductive age, it’s surrounded by silence and relentless shame. Raw and exposed, some days you feel as though you’ve been stripped bare.
The desperation to have a baby and the pain that’s endured along the way are difficult to understand unless experienced. Endless appointments, tests, miscarriages, grief and isolation. Treatment costs weigh heavily on your mind. Constantly stuck in your head, trying to make sense of everything, frustration and guilt quickly turn to perpetual feelings of failure. Happy for pregnant friends, you’re also secretly dying inside. As hard as you try not to beat yourself up, you get caught on the slippery slope to becoming your biggest fan in your own hate club.
Yearning for compassion and someone who’ll listen without judgement, you’re often greeted with others grappling to find the right words or ignoring the subject altogether. Pregnant friends complain about their increasing weight or lack of sleep, how much you long to be in their shoes. Being told to “relax” just tenses your body.
Hearing “Your miscarriage was for the best” is hard to swallow.
These words bring no comfort after years of yo-yoing between hope and disappointment. “You’ll have another baby” is met by your silent screaming, “I wanted that one”. Once the grief subsides and you’re brave enough to try again, you feel as though you’re stood on the edge of a cliff unsure whether to jump off.
For many years this was my reality. Some days I coped well, others I didn’t know how I’d keep going. Now firmly on the other side of infertility and blessed to have completed my family, my three beautiful children have become my greatest teachers. With love and gratitude, I share with you five steps to help you navigate through infertility.
Breathe and Get Still
When you’re emotional or overwhelmed you forget to breathe properly. Closing your eyes and noticing your breath, even just for just two minutes a day, helps to reduce stress and prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy. Reducing the incessant monkey chatter, meditation moves you out of your head and into your heart which helps you make decisions, of which there are many. Meditation is free, available anytime and anywhere, with a multitude of different online options. Classes are an alternative, providing structure and connecting you with likeminded people. Meditation transformed my life and has the potential to do the same for you. I encourage you to try it.
Be Gentle with Yourself
Be your biggest cheerleader, not your worst critic. If you don’t have your own back, you can’t expect others to. Do one thing every day that nurtures you. Go for a walk, put moisturiser on, drink a cup of tea by the fire, relax in the bath. Just do something for you, you’ll be glad you did.
Find Your Tribe
Surround yourself with people who understand your journey. Find a local support group or chat to others online. My mission for my new Facebook group, Infertility – Hope and Inspiration, is to create a community that offers upliftment, it’s waiting for you to join. Welcome into your life those who’ll support you through your down days, hold space for you to cry and pick you up when you feel as though you’ve come to the end of the road.
Some days this seems like an impossibility but is necessary for your mental health. Having fun is not just for kids and life doesn’t always need to be so serious. Laughing changes your energy and helps you feel more positive. So whatever makes your heart sing, do it as often as possible.
Be prepared to feel your emotions rather than push them away because despite the discomfort, you’ll come out the other side much quicker. Talk about your feelings, without judging yourself. Know that others may not understand but share anyway. Start to remove the silence and stigma that surrounds this deeply personal subject, you never know who you could help.
Even though I didn’t realise it at the time, infertility was so much more than not being able to hold a baby in my arms. It was a journey to self-love and acceptance that I feel privileged to have been on. I learnt to love every part of me, warts and all, and surrendered to life. If I had the opportunity to press repeat, I would, but I’d do it with greater kindness and compassion, for self.