Pestering Questions and Battling Feelings of “Not Enough”

BreneBrownQuote

Many times on our infertility journey, we may have to face pestering questions from well-meaning friends and family. There seems to be a formula that is accepted in society that goes something like this: We date, we meet a very special someone, we marry, we have kids, we watch them grow, we become grandparents, we retire from our jobs – rinse & repeat across families and generations. But what if things aren’t as easy for some of us somewhere along that prescribed journey? What if what seems so easy and elementary for some seems downright impossible for the unfortunate few of us? Estimates are that about 10% of us will experience some sort of difficulty with conceiving. So look around at your friends and family: One out of ten of them are probably having a tough time with natural family creation. What a sobering thought, and one that I hope inspires some room to pause before asking questions such as these to loved ones:

 

“So when are you and {your spouse} going to start having kids?”

 

“How long have you guys been married? Are children in your future soon? You guys would be great parents!”

 

“How old is your daughter? I bet she’d love a little sister or brother. Are you guys considering that?”

 

How we decide to live our lives, handle our marriages and households, and how we build families are very personal to each of us. In a free society, we all have a right to our own self-determination. To make sure that we are all on the same page on the meaning of that word, let’s look at some definitions together…

 

Self-determination – the freedom to make our own choices; the process by which a person controls their own life; a characteristic of a person that leads them to make choices and decisions based on their own preferences and interests, to monitor and regulate their own actions and to be goal-oriented and self-directing.

 

I have always enjoyed having the freedom to make my own choices about my life and my own journey. But it can be very easy for self-doubt and self-criticism to creep in along the way. That can be made worse by questions, judgments, and criticisms from others about our choices, or our indecision, or the amount of time it takes us to get to where we are trying to go. The speediness and ease of someone else’s journey may be very different to say the least from our own journey. And that is OK!

 

If we attach our self-worth to our actions and our ability to produce (in this case, produce children), we may be setting ourselves up for negative feelings such as shame. Don’t hand over your self-worth to what other people think. This is a recipe for disaster! It will only turn you into a prisoner of “pleasing, performing, and perfecting” all in an effort to win the admiration of other people over. But what about your own well-being? Your own self-determination for what is right for you, your life and your journey?

 

To continue the work around shame with Brené Brown from my last post, there are twelve categories from her research where shame can rear its ugly head. Here are the ones that affect those struggling through infertility:

 

— Appearance and body image

— Motherhood / fatherhood

— Family

— Parenting

— Mental and physical health

— Sex

— Aging

— Religion

— Surviving trauma

— Being stereotyped or labeled

 

Wow! Holy Moly! Out of twelve global “shame categories” ten are related to infertility! (I only left off “Money and work” and “Addiction”). NO WONDER we all can experience big bouts of shame going through this journey together! Sheesh!

 

Again to make sure we are on the same page, one definition for shame is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

 

The barrage of questions, judgments, criticisms from our friends and family about “when are we going to have kids” and “what’s taking so long” and “why are you getting IVF… just take a cruise and relax” can tweak those feelings that we are somehow flawed, unworthy of the love of our friends and family, and that we no longer belong. They have easily become parents whereas we have not. Why not? And woe is me!

 

Here is where mindset and taking a look at our self-talk comes in (as well as the “shame resilience” techniques I shared in the last post here). Take note of how you are talking to yourself. Are you speaking to yourself kindly, as if you were talking to a very good friend who is going through a struggle? Check yourself and the words you are using. Are you saying to yourself “There is something wrong with my body. I will never be a parent. I can’t give my parents grandkids and that makes me a bad person. I don’t belong anymore.” Or are you saying to yourself “I am doing the best that I can. Each day is a new day. Everyone has struggles that they deal with – infertility is just one of my particular challenges, and I will learn all I can, and take the appropriate steps to move in the direction that I would like to go. My self-worth is not attached to whether I can conceive or not.”

 

It is absolutely imperative that you believe in yourself throughout this journey. Believe that you have information, doctors and science at your disposal. Believe that you will be A-OK whether you have your own biological children or not. You are a valuable, important member of society. You are loved – first by yourself don’t forget! And you belong. We have your back, and we care. Come talk to us if you need to vent, ask a question or feel like you are part of a community.

 

Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.

Warm regards,
Cathy

 

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