Infertility! It seems like everyone around you is getting pregnant. You wonder when will it be
my turn? I can relate to the painful, frustrating, and grieving experience of infertility. And then
in addition those painful feelings there is the old-fashioned notion we dare not discuss it due to
shame. As a therapist who has supported individuals through infertility and an individual who
has struggled with it herself, I wanted to share some coping skills and tools to help support you
during your own fertility journey.
Having read about certain superstitions to aid with greater fertility (e.g., the pineapple, the Mc
Donald’s French fries after egg retrieval, the low carbs to help with inflammation, acupuncture,
massage, or stand on your head and count to 20 after drinking 4 ounces of pomegranate juice –
ok the last one I made up), keeping track of what to do or not do and when to do it is
exhausting. To make things worse, the constant influx of the cortisol hormone makes it all even
more draining. One of the most important, yet simple tips I have is make sure you take a break
from research and engage in self-care. I know this may sound cliché, but it is so true! Take time
to do something relaxing or fun that does not have to do with IUI’s, IVF, and/or researching the
way to “get pregnant.” Sometimes it can feel like your whole life revolves around infertility. I
know for myself, I have spent the past six months talking about follicles, eggs and sperm more
than I had the rest of my life combined. If you have a partner, take time to do a date night and
talk about anything but fertility. Gottman has a card deck app you can download if you want
some ideas of topics or questions to ask. Engage in something you enjoy such as listening to
music, reading, watching tv, doing a creative art project, etc. It may feel like your life revolves
around infertility, but you have so many other parts to you then just that.
Talk about it!
Talk to your friends who are supportive, validating and are there to just listen. Let’s break the
stigma! Infertility is not something we need to hold shame around. Around 48 million couples
struggle with infertility. If you are a friend looking for a way to support your friend going
through this journey, the best thing is for you to do is listen and validate their emotions. Do not
feel like you have to go through this alone. Many people have likely gone through similar
journeys and may now feel able to share theirs with you. Let’s talk about it! Allow yourself to
get support. It makes the journey feel less isolating.
Remember, it is not your fault! I know I am guilty of feeling like I did something “wrong.”
“Maybe if I ate less carbs or did not forget to take a vitamin at lunch then maybe this IVF cycle
would have worked”. You may struggle with the thought, “my body is not doing what it is
supposed to, why is it failing me?” Your body is amazing! There is nothing it is “supposed to
do”. We all have different medical reasons for conceiving (or not) and sometimes there are no
easy answers to be found, but it does not mean you are broken. The things you may be putting
your body through to get pregnant are amazing, and adhering to this rigorous regimen shows
how brave and resilient you are. Talk to yourself as you would a friend. If you struggle with self-
compassion, here is a simple way to practice it, “I notice I am feeling __, this is a normal
emotion that many people experience, and it is okay for me to feel this way”.
Validate your own emotions
“You know what? I am angry! And I am sad and nervous”. If this is you, take time to validate
those emotions. It is okay to have so many different emotions within you. In “parts language”,
there may be a part of you that is hopeful, another part that is discouraged and tired, and then
a third part that is sad with yet another being angry. You are allowed to have all these feelings
and more simultaneously. Validate them, let yourself cry, and express your frustration.
I will end this by saying you are not damaged and while the process of IVF, IUI, and other
infertility treatments become a huge part of your life, these are not your complete identity.
Most important of all is to not forget to take care of yourself during this process. Allow yourself
to validate your emotions, talk to others and engage in self-care. Infertility is a journey that is
hard and exhausting, but not one that must be traveled alone or the only journey you take.
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