Many women start to live every day ‘trying’ to get pregnant, when they are having difficulty doing so. I remember every day of the month was consumed by, and centered around getting pregnant, during my infertility journey. The first few days of the month, and by month, I mean menstrual cycle month. Those first few days are a reminder, “you are not pregnant!" The following days are the anticipation of ovulation phase. The hope that this month will be different. The ovulation sticks come out. Each morning it is a rush to the bathroom. And, the wait begins. Finally, you get that smiley face and the party starts. Those few days can be fun for some but let’s face it, sex during infertility can be stressful for many. And for others, the wait continues. They never get to see that smiley face. The worries and questions start bombarding your brain. The days after ovulation can be mixed with anxiety and hope. Each day you pay attention to if you feel any different. If you were like me, you obsessed over implantation bleeding. “Was that little spotting it?" and "I think I feel something happening” were both regular thoughts I had approximately 6-10 days after ovulation. You really want to believe but fear gets pretty loud as the days progress. Then, those ambiguous symptoms begin; cramping, tiredness, swollen breasts etc. The voice of fear and hope argue louder than toddlers fighting over a toy. Finally,…you get the news…dreaded 'Aunt Flo ' arrives and it all begins again.
When dealing with infertility, those days spent focusing on getting pregnant, turn into months and even years for some. That narrowed focus has now consumed your energy, time, concentration and possibly finances. It’s hard to realize the shift that occurs in your life because your attention is preoccupied with the dream of becoming pregnant.
You may have experienced some or all of these shifts along the way:
- Intimacy with your partner becomes strained.
- Your interests and hobbies are shelved.
- Optimism is threatened by fear.
- Every month the shift of focus has changed to what is not working or what’s wrong with your body (especially if you are getting medical treatment. Sometimes we want to blame the doctors for the bad news. However, their role is to look at what’s wrong and how they can fix it).
- Spirituality is questioned.
- You start to wonder if you deserve happiness.
- Shame becomes one of your main ingredient feelings.
- Frustration builds. “What’s wrong with me that I can’t get pregnant.”
- Friendships change.
- Isolation becomes your go-to escape.
- No one seems to understand.
- You can’t even enjoy the very thing you want so badly. Cute, adorable babies become triggers to sadness and reminders of your reality.
- If you hear another pregnancy announcement from a friend or on Facebook, you will most likely spend the rest of your night in fetal position, crying until your head starts playing some version of screeching, heavy metal music.
Does this sound like a life, dreaming of a beautiful baby or more like a nightmare? I would never ask you to give up dreams of becoming a mommy. However, I do ask you to pause and think about how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors have shifted, since you began trying to get pregnant. Seriously, take time to write these down, share them with someone you trust or consider finding a therapist for support. Honor these losses and changes.
It is very important to grieve the losses you experience along this journey. Stuffing or ignoring the losses only fuels the very feelings you are trying to avoid. However, what might happen if we allow optimism, joy, playfulness, lightness and the peace you experienced, in the beginning of your journey, back in to our lives? Yes, this is scary. Things may not go the way we want. We risk being hurt. Preparing for bad news prepares our fragile heart.
Can you see how pessimism is a way to protect us from getting hurt? Pessimism, isolation, anger, worry are only trying to do their job-protecting us from pain. What if that is not working for us any longer? We realize, as hard as we try not to feel pain, we are in pain-emotional, spiritual, mental and physical. What if pessimism and all the other protectors make us feel tight, 'on guard', waiting for something bad to happen, tense, and numb? How might these thoughts and body reactions be affecting our ability to conceive? I am not implying one can make or not make ourselves pregnant. I never saw getting pregnant as easy as "just relax" or "don't think that way." However, I think it is worth considering and tuning into the stress that may be residing in our bodies, for our own sake. For our own self-love. From my own experience, it was hard to let go of how I was doing things, even if they did not seem to be working. It was hard to let go of trying. Hard to let go of controlling. If you are feeling stuck and having difficulty shifting focus back to you, try this. In a blog I recently read, they quoted from the children's book Going on a Bear Hunt. "You can't go over it. You can't go under it. You can't go around it. You have to go through it." This little chant perfectly expresses how to deal with our feelings and challenges.
- Don't focus on what you want to stop doing (that creates resistance and effort). Focus on what you want to bring into your life. Once you include a new habit, interest or belief, what you wanted to stop doing, is usually long gone.
- Experiment and be open with activities, interests, and beliefs that make your body feel open, relaxed and connected.
- There are a lot of things we do not have control over during the fertility process such as the drug regimen, the schedules, and the results. Explore what you do have control over- breathing, doing something you enjoy for YOU, not with the expectation that it will lead to pregnancy.
- Giving permission to focus on you and what brings you joy is NOT giving up on your dream of having a baby. Rebuilding your relationship with yourself can only benefit your future baby.
- When you are running your hands through the grass or noticing, really taking in the sunset, check-in with your body. What is it sensing?
- When sex isn't an act to get the job done but a way to feel your partner's support, love, connection and reassurance, what do you experience?
- When you find the right person to share your story, one who can hold space and allow you to say and feel what you need to, without trying to fix or judge you, what happens?
You don’t have to give up on your dream but I encourage you to shift your focus and find YOUR bundle of joy again. Discover YOU again. Doing this may escort you right to the door of your dreams. When your heart is open, it can receive blessings bigger than your dreams. I invite you to allow for the messages and signs of love, reassurance and support, which are meant specifically for you. It is much easier when we are guided to our dreams rather than trying to force or control our way to our dreams. Find people who will allow you to share your feelings and listen with compassion. One, who doesn't try to cheer you up, tell you, "you shouldn't feel that way", what to do or compares your experience to another's. Know that you are not alone. I ask you, “What JOY do you want to discover or re-discover today?”
Please contact Shannon Schiefer to find out more information on the infertility support group - ‘Finding your Bundle of Joy’. She run this group periodically throughout the year. Find out when the next group starts. She also see individuals and couples, who are dealing with infertility issues.
Shannon Schiefer MA, LPC
4525 S. Lakeshore Dr. Suite 102
Tempe, AZ 85282