Cheers, dear readers,
If you’re anything like me, you shake your fist at the day you were labeled “infertile.” What a horrible word that no one ever thinks will get attached to them. I know I didn’t – it was a shock. That word brings about feelings of hopelessness. And it seems so definitive, so final. But in reality, infertility is just a challenge to us. A journey that we are on with our partner, for better or for worse. Think of infertility as an obstacle to overcome… or perhaps to walk around.
You can do it. I believe in you. I did it and so can you.
As we round out the year 2015 and are on the brink of 2016, I would like to offer some New Year’s resolutions for you to consider as you traverse this path with your partner on your personal path to family creation. Maybe 2016 will be your year, and maybe it won’t. How you approach each day of your life is up to you. There are some things that we have control of, and others that we don’t. Take control of the things that you can while you are on this challenging journey. I write this piece for all of us fertility-challenged people out there. I have been there. I get it.
Before I get to the list, I would like to share a quote with you from my friend, the late Scott Dinsmore:
“These three pillars, they all have one thing in common – they are 100% in our control. 1) No one can tell you you can’t learn about yourself. 2) No one can tell you that you can’t push your limits and learn your own impossible and push that. 3) No one can tell you that you can’t surround yourself with inspiring people or get away from the people that bring you down … You can’t control a recession, you can’t control getting fired or getting in a car accident. Most things are totally out of our hands. These three things are totally on us.”
…and we can’t control being labeled “infertile” by our local fertility doctor. But we can control ourselves, our thoughts, our actions, what our tomorrow looks like. Consider the following as we enter into 2016.
1) Be kind to yourself – This is a biggie thus it takes the number one spot on the list. I used to blame myself, my body, my life decisions, my timing and my fate for not being able to get pregnant. The anger I felt toward my body and situation lead to negative self-talk, hopelessness and mistreatment of what was once sacred and beautiful to me: myself. This is self-defeating and totally unproductive. Don’t do this to yourself! Don’t treat yourself like a receptacle for garbage – be it negative thoughts or bad food.
2) Be gentle with your partner – Most of us aren’t in this alone (and my heart goes out to the potential single mothers who are!). On our worst days, it’s easy to treat our partners poorly. But it’s important to remember that they are on this journey with us, standing by our side. You are in this together. Committed. Not going anywhere. They care for you. Remember to care for them back, and not take them for granted. Don’t forget they have feelings too. This is a shared journey, a shared struggle. Show your significant other compassion for the hurt they are experiencing alongside you. Respect their journey.
3) Nix the Internet searches – Time for some tough love. I know we all do it – searching for answers on the Internet. But seriously, stop. Talk to your doctor instead. Get quality information right from the source that you can use today. Do what your doctor says. Feel free to get a second opinion but keep getting quality information from quality sources. Use your time well and find a good doctor that you trust.
4) Start a new hobby – Take this one to heart too! The routine of counting the days in our cycle, our period, our ovulation, our “baby-making” days, our two-week wait, our expected due date if we think magic has happened this month. The mania of it all and then rinse, repeat, again and again. It can be maddening – I know it was for me! It can also be highly frustrating and boring as all get out. Each month like the last, possibly focusing on the negative – a BFN at that! Instead focus on a new hobby to break up the monotony. What hobby can you take up in 2016? Have some fun! Stop living your life as if the only thing that makes you valuable is whether or not you can get pregnant. Give yourself some perspective and do something fun and different with your time.
5) Stop judging other parents – Speaking of “quit the negative stuff”, take note if you are overly judging other parents during your struggle. Are you getting ticked off at the “fertile fannies” out there? Are you thinking thoughts like “That pregnant woman is eating sushi / smoking! What a _____!” “I can’t believe he just said that to his son!” “She doesn’t even deserve those kids the way she treats them!” I know when I had these thoughts as it was a natural reaction to the frustration, sadness and feelings of loss I was experiencing. But that doesn’t make it right or helpful to me. Negativity begets more negativity. Put a lid on it and focus on practicing compassion for yourself and others instead.
6) Remember all loss is significant – As I mentioned in a previous post, there are some things in life that cannot be fixed. Any loss is just that: a loss. Whether it’s a miscarriage in the first trimester or the third. Whether it’s a stillborn baby. Whether a baby loses his/her life within the first year. Whether a woman can’t even get pregnant in the first place (like me). ALL loss is significant. Honor and respect that. For yourself and for others. If you need to minimize my loss (or someone else’s) to validate your own, please dig deeper. Remember that behind each loss is someone in pain. Acknowledge that pain.
7) Be attentive to your mental health – Make an active commitment to take better care of your mental health. This is huge as it will affect every day on your journey. Meditate. Spoil yourself with a bubble bath. Read a relaxing and enjoyable book. Discover new ways to laugh. Make new friends. Meeting new people who know nothing of the pain of your infertility struggles can be so refreshing! Try to remember who you are without this struggle in your life. You still have value whether or not you bear children. Treat yourself that way and love yourself. You are worthy of love, laughter and new friends. And most importantly, you’ll realize you’re not defined by your loss(es).
8) Take great care of your body – Don’t be so angry at your body that you fill it with trash! Your body is a temple whether or not you (or your partner) ever creates human life there. Treat it with respect, care and love. Stop feeding yourself crap, and nourish yourself. Learn what healthy food your body craves, and get moving. Go for a walk, run or a hike. Go to the spa and get a much needed massage. Have intercourse nowhere near your ovulation date this month – do it just for fun and the love of your partner, and let yourself truly enjoy it! Don’t look at it like the chore it often feels like.
9) Share your story – Please don’t suffer in silence, creating more isolation and loneliness. Reach out! Find a supportive friend who understands. Locate a group in your area or online where you can truly talk. And cry. And CONNECT with others on the same journey with you so that you feel less alone. Write in a journal or start a blog. Remember that sharing our story is an incredibly powerful tool that we can use to help us through the tough times. People out there need you, and you may not even realize it. I didn’t realize the positive impact I could make in the world until I started sharing my story. And I also didn’t realize how much I needed others to validate my struggles and let me also know that I am not alone. That I matter. Helping others in similar struggles has been one of my greatest joys, providing strength to me every single day. Thank you!
10) Don’t give up and keep trying – Yes this infertility journey that you find yourself on is difficult. Some days it’s downright heartbreaking. The start of a new year is a great time to remember to soldier on. We don’t know where each of our family creation stories will end. Maybe your journey ends in a healthy baby. Maybe it ends with an adoption. Or maybe it ends when you know you’ve had enough and just can’t do it anymore. And that you and your spouse are enough on your own. But until that day comes, keep trying. Onward and upward!
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.
This post is also available in: Arabic