Infertility: 4 key ways to emotional healing
If you’ve been struggling with fertility problems, you may be finding that this difficulty is starting to spill out and affecting many areas of your life. Your relationships with your partner, your family, your friends, and colleagues at work might be affected, in one way or another.
You want to make sense of things and find a way to feel more peaceful inside. First in this article, we’ll explore some of the feelings you may be struggling with. Then we’ll take a look at the four keys to help you reach a more peaceful place in yourself: self-compassion, connection, creativity and counselling.
Lots of feelings and thoughts can get stirred up when you’ve been longing to have a baby but it hasn’t happened. These might include envy, uncertainty, sadness, confusion, and even guilt or shame.
It can be tough to manage your envy of other women who are pregnant or have a child. Envy in its rawest form can feel agonising and to make matters worse, it’s quite a taboo topic. Envy can be hard to talk about - especially with someone you feel envious of!
You might be used to hearing people telling you all the reasons why you “shouldn't" envy them. It can be hard to find someone who can sit alongside your feelings of envy and really acknowledge them. Often friends and colleagues will try to brush away and dismiss your feelings instead.
There’s also the difficulty that comes when you are fixated on a speculative time in the future: “When I get pregnant, then___; but what if it never happens?”. The sense of unease and anxiety accompanying this can be enormous.
Living with this kind of uncertainty can be very challenging. It may cause you to unconsciously seek other kinds of control (or apparent control). Some women in this situation may develop eating disturbances, chronic perfectionism, phobias or OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).
Shame and guilt
You might also experience flickers of shame or guilt around your fertility struggles, even though you know that it's not your fault that your body isn't doing what you long for it to do.
You may feel that ‘there’s something wrong with me’ on quite a profound level. Psychotherapy or counselling can really help with this. A mindfulness practice may be useful too, to help you deepen a core sense of who you are, and differentiate it from what your body does/doesn’t do.
Who am I?
Finding — and being comfortable with — one’s identity can also be problematic. If you have always assumed you’d become a mother one day, you may wonder who you would be without an identity of ‘mother’.
Grief is a biggie. There’s no way around it, for most women at least. There’s both the grief over what you’ve lost (especially if you’ve suffered pregnancy loss), and there’s the grief over what you may never have.
Don’t try to do all your grieving alone. Humans are not built for that. You may be able to grieve with a partner or friend, and/or you may benefit from finding a therapist to be alongside you in your grief. Expressing your grief alongside someone who is really able to bear it with you, can feel profoundly relieving.
The wonderful thing is, that when you have really found ways to grieve your losses, then even though some of that grief may always be in you, you will also be likely to find a new, lighter relationship with your feelings.
Four key ways to healing: self-compassion, connection, creativity and counselling
You are dealing with things that are at times incredibly hard, and it’s very important to learn to give yourself the deep inner support of self-compassion. You can find lots of free resources online; and most counsellors and psychotherapists will be able to help you with this, too.
Connecting to others - whether that’s loved ones, friends, and/or a support group - can be invaluable. The human nervous system is built to thrive in friendly connection with others - and that applies to introverts too!
You might be feeling so complicated and distressed about your fertility struggles that you feel more and more stuck and frozen inside. Opening up to your creativity can really help. Being creative - especially if you’re working with your hands, like sculpting, gardening, knitting, or pottery - can gradually help you to feel that on a bodily level you can generate something that feels really ‘vital’ and alive. Something real and meaningful.
Seeing a counsellor or psychotherapist can be a very valuable part of your process, as you grow into a new sense of who you are and what your life is about.
Trying to shut off from the difficult feelings and thoughts, and avoiding certain ‘trigger’ situations such as being around babies or pregnant women, is understandable. Your mind is only trying to help you.
But the trouble is, shutting off from feelings and thoughts just keeps them frozen and unintegrated, and leaves you feeling constricted and anxious. Avoidance of certain people or places has a tendency to snowball, making more and more things off-limits. At times you’ll probably get triggered anyway. Then the flood of emotion may feel overwhelming because it’s been suppressed for so long.
Your therapist can give you the space and support you need to work through all your feelings and experiences. Talking through your painful feelings with a therapist or counsellor can be an important first step towards healing, softening and integrating those painful emotions.
A good therapist will also help you recognise your strengths, and tap into all the potential for growth and transformation that lies within you.
I hope this has been helpful and has given you some pointers and ideas for how you can transform your lived experience of fertility problems into a journey of transformation, healing and growth.
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