Do You Have an Infertility Support System?
Last week, I had the privilege of attending a virtual women’s empowerment workshop. Hosted by a collective of successful business women, the various keynote speeches that they delivered offered a great deal of inspiration, encouragement and insight into what it takes to achieve both your life and business goals. I was quite uplifted by the pearls of wisdom I gathered from listening to their talks. In the midst of discussions about finding your purpose, the art of negotiation and owning your worth, one particular topic caught my interest. A speaker, Elana Africa-Brendenkamp, outlined the importance of having healthy and reliable support structures. As she explored how to find the right people for support to help push you forward in your endeavors, it dawned on me that this is just as relevant with infertility as it is in the world of work and business.
Infertility can be a lonely place. Although well meaning, family or friends who haven’t experienced infertility don’t always understand or empathise with what you are going through. So, finding and figuring out where your support structures lie is very necessary for your well-being. There are various kinds of support structures – medical support, emotional and mental support, marital support, career support, spiritual support and financial support, among others. Depending on where you are on your fertility journey and what unique challenges you may be up against, the kind of support systems that you need to draw on may vary from person to person. Many of us draw support from our TTC communities (both online and in-person infertility groups) where we are able to connect with like minded women who have firsthand experience and a clear understanding of what we are going through. This community is an amazing source of comfort, education and the connections that you make with other women who are also coping with infertility allow you to feel less isolated. It is a non-judgemental place where you feel heard and seen. However, sometimes you may still need to build additional support structures in other areas too.
This was something that I came to realise a few years into my fertility journey when I’d spiralled into a very low place. A big part of my problem was a lack of support. The doctor that I was seeing at the time offered me little insight into or guidance about PCOS, and the meal plan that I’d gotten from my then nutritionist wasn’t working for me. I felt helpless and as though I was doing everything that I was told, yet my efforts yielded little results. All of this changed when I realised that I had to be proactive in finding more suitable medical support structures for my own benefit. As I’ve written in previous blog posts, I educated myself, changed doctors, found an amazing naturopath and acupuncturist who specializes in PCOS and fertility related issues, as well as a knowledgeable health coach who supported me in making dietary changes that actually worked so much better for me. Finding the right support made a massive difference. At present, I am aware that it is time for me to make changes once again, so my husband and I have begun the process of trying to secure an appointment with a fertility doctor at a new fertility clinic. I know that once more, finding support that is a better fit for us is bound to have a positive effect in the long run.
When building your support structures, the idea is to create connections or set in place systems that allow you to address the resultant hardships of infertility and to make things a little easier for yourself. Your other support structures could take the form of finding a fertility support coach to help you navigate the unknowns of your fertility journey, or perhaps booking a therapy session to help you process what you are going through. It may take the form of going for couples counselling with your partner to support and strengthen your marriage, or seeking out spiritual guidance to help you find meaning in your struggles. Some may need additional career support structures to help find balance between achieving your work goals and going through the emotional, mental and financial strain that comes with infertility and fertility treatments. Or perhaps, you may need the support of a life coach to guide you when it comes to finding joy and focusing on personal goals that are separate from your fertility journey. Since the impact of infertility still isn’t spoken about, many don’t realise that they need these various levels of support until they are completely depleted or depressed. It is important to remind yourself that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. You deserve kindness and care. You also deserve the opportunity to cultivate balance, joy and positive experiences in other life areas too.
Do you have an infertility support system? What does it look like? Do you need support structures in other areas of your life too? What kind of support do you need, and how can you take steps to get it?