Shining A Light on the “Invisible Loss” of Infertility
Cheers, dear readers,
This past weekend, I was honored to take part in an educational coaching program from an institution called IPEC or the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. I am in the process of getting certified to become a coach, specializing in relationship coaching as well as transition coaching. When dealing with infertility, struggles often come up for the couple in regards to handling the rollercoaster of emotions as well as communicating lovingly and effectively with one’s spouse. This is where relationship coaching can be of great service. Transition coaching can help an individual navigate personal change, such as life after an infertility diagnosis, or life not turning out the way one had hoped (such as easily and naturally conceiving your own biological children). Many times we need help in gaining clarity and making the most of a new start. I am thrilled at the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life by helping them along an often scary journey of where they are now to where they want to be. Yes! I am so excited to be learning and fine-tuning these skills!
During our epic weekend together, we practiced the coaching skills that we were learning live which is incredibly valuable. Saturday morning, I woke up with the intention of offering to play the “client” that day offering to be coached. I was excitedly nervous about the prospect. We were in the process of learning about different energy levels, and my situation seemed like an excellent opportunity for teaching. The level of energy that we were discussing was about when we are “tolerating” and “settling for” a situation, such as when it’s “good enough” but not really optimal or where we’d like it to be. This is also the level of “responsibility” or “doing the right thing.” I decided that bringing up my struggle with infertility was the “right thing to do” here. Aha! What a great opportunity to learn myself with my fellow coaches, as well as give them an opportunity to coach on a challenging as well as “taboo” topic of infertility.
I realized that I was practicing a “coming out” of sorts – coming out about the fact that I had endured fertility treatments and all of the shame, anguish, and heartache that goes with it. Acting as the client (which I was), I started out by saying that this is not an easy topic to talk about to let them know that we were going to go to a heavy place together in this dialogue. Get ready, troops! I also was not certain if I was going to burst into tears or not – so I was preparing them (and myself) for that possibility. I began by explaining how infertility is a very isolating experience as one deals with grief around the struggle – how it is an “invisible loss” that is not readily accepted or understood by society. Whether it’s miscarriage or the literal inability to get pregnant (which was what happened to me – my eggs are “fried” afterall and my husband has “slow swimmers” to boot!), though others can’t “see” the loss (as contrasted with going to a funeral), it often gets overlooked and “stepped over.” I also went on to explain that many people just aren’t even willing to talk about it at all, thus not giving the one struggling with infertility a safe space to vent their frustrations or gain empathy and support from others. The first time I was told to “shut up” already about infertility, a part of me was shocked – yet another part was not at all. Often not only do our friends and family not know how to support us during this time, they also don’t want to talk about it – especially after some time has passed. Why keep talking about it? Why not brush it under the rug? Can’t we just leave well enough alone? “Now where were we…. Let’s talk about what I did with my kids last weekend…”
We all have the right to not only practice self-care in times of need, but also to live our truth. Your truth might be that you have three beautiful children, and you want to share with me about their supercool Halloween costume that they just wore. Well my truth may be to share that I am 90% healed from the trauma of my infertility struggles and journey, but there is 5% that is not, and 5% that will always be scarred from the experience. We all have scars, wounds, and skeletons in the closet. What helps take the sting and the emotional charge out of these topics is to TALK about them….like out loud… like with other people…possibly in an open forum even…possibly in a group coaching session.
How are we going to de-stigmatize these “taboo” topics if we don’t pull them out of the locked closet and shine some much needed light on them?
My fantastic, caring, and talented coaching friends asked me some great questions too. Questions like:
Cathy, what do you REALLY want?
Peace. Peace inside myself. Peace outside myself. Peace in the circles that I run in. Peace regarding feeling accepted and loved living without children in a baby-crazy world. A world where we hear over and over how parenthood is the hardest and most rewarding job. A world where it is easy to feel “broken” if your womb cannot create a human life, so that a woman can become a mother. That’s what are bodies are meant for as a woman, right? Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen as the saying goes.
Friends, there are so many ways to give back in life. One way that many willingly and consciously choose is being a parent. For some people, that path to the realization of the parenthood dream is easy. For others, the path is fraught with obstacles, twists and turns, and even heartache and trauma. For others who find themselves on a path they didn’t intend, they may just decide to get off that ride. We can all give back in our own way. Each blog post I write touches people in some way. I know because you amazing, fantastic people tell me so. I am a M.O.M. (Mentor Of Many) in the sense of using my talents and gifts via my writing, my art, my desire to create more joy in the world, and my blossoming coaching skills. I also am the proud god-parent to two wonderful little girls, and have many other young children in my life that I get the privilege of getting to know as I watch them put jam on the cat grinning to myself at my good fortune.
I am also here to let others know that they are not alone. You don’t have to be isolated. You don’t have to suffer in silence. After my sharing with my coaching group, not surprisingly (since about 1 in 8 suffer infertility), several people came up to share with me about their own struggles with infertility, their own journey to parenthood via adoption or other means, their own suffering of miscarriages. My friends, I can guarantee you that someone in your circle is struggling with the often challenging journey to parenthood (if parenthood is what THEY really want). Open your minds, and open your hearts to actively listening to their story. Ask them questions about their struggles. Let them know that you care about them. Let them know that you support them on their path. Give them the safe space to emote – that goes for men and women. When you give yourself permission to just be who you are – to share your triumphs as well as your struggles – you give others permission to do the same.
Please join us next week to hear more about our personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.