Are You Feeling Lost In Your Fertility Struggle?
If this picture is a familiar sight for you and the situation that surrounds it, then I can totally empathise. I’ve been there myself…far more times than I care to dwell on and I completely understand the intense roller-coaster of emotions that accompanies this: excitement, love, expectation, hope, nervousness, pre-occupation, anxiety, distraction, desire, disappointment, stress, fear, frustration, self-doubt, anger, helplessness, shame, grief…. the list goes on and is certainly not in any way limited to just those emotions I’ve listed. It’s different for everyone, some of you may have experienced a few of those feelings and some of you may be accustomed to many and for others there are a whole myriad of other emotions that come into play.
The journey for many of us to becoming a parent is unfortunately not always the straight forward fairy tale that it seems to be for many other people. The initial excitement of planning a family can easily turn to a major weight that bears down heavily on your life and changes everything you once knew to be true.
From the hundreds of probing questions that may begin as soon as you walk down the aisle such as: “Sooo, when will we hear the pitter patter of tiny feet?”, “When are you starting a family?”, “Don’t you want to have kids?”, to one of these pearly reminders: “Did you know that my friend (so and so) now has 5 grand-children already…”, you’ve no doubt been subjected to them all at some point in your own personal journey.
Add to this the well meaning friends and relatives who leave articles with conception tips in your house when they visit, or worse yet – “helpfully” suggest sexual positions that may work (!!!) and you can swiftly top up that list of emotions I mentioned earlier with a few more, followed by as many expletives as you like and a hearty dose of searches on lastminute.com for sanity escapes away from the pressures of external expectation and inappropriate conversations.
I don’t know about you but I found myself often thinking “When did friends, family and in fact the general public decide once the possibility of having a baby was on the table, that the offering of unwarranted advice and stepping over personal boundaries suddenly become acceptable?”. It’s a fair assumption that most of these comments and questions do not come from a place of pre-meditated intention to aggravate or offend but for those of us in the know, that’s precisely the effect they often have. And for fair reason, the stress accompanied by the excessive amounts of hormones surging through your body and the intensely personal nature of what you are dealing with puts such an incredible amount of strain on your system as a whole – physically, mentally and emotionally.
For those who have luckily never had to endure any of these struggles, they cannot possibly begin to understand what it is like for those who have. If anyone who falls into the first category is reading this now – you can’t. Just trust me on this. You may want to, but until you have walked in our shoes, you simply cannot. I’m not playing martyr or playing the victim, I’m just speaking the truth as someone who has lived and breathed it. For those lucky people who have not had to, I simply encourage them all to educate themselves on how to offer the best support and think before they speak in respect to friends and family who may be going through a difficult time in their fertility struggle. They should also know that we wholly support them in embracing and fully celebrating their own parental joy. I know I would not wish the assisted fertility process on my worst enemy. It is a long, hard and often lonely road to travel, which at times, despite having a partner in tow, felt like one I travelled alone, as I’m sure it did for him too at various stages.
There were so many times where I struggled to keep my head above water in the whole whitewash of treatment, friends’ baby-showers, work challenges, absentminded trips to the supermarket where I would find myself in front of the cold food section with no idea why, endless post-it notes in my handbag offering a lifeline of reminders for reasons for aforementioned trips to supermarket (lol), a diary full of medical appointments, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, Chinese herbs, vitamins, injecting myself 3 times a day and feeling like a black and blue pin cushion, deprivation of my beloved Pinot Noir, more poking and probing than an Alien at Area 51 has ever been allegedly subjected to, being so painfully restricted in any great forward planning of anything due to the unpredictable time-frame of medical procedures and the general uncertainty of basically…well…. everything it felt like.
I lost myself in this process, caught up in expectations, both mine and others’, the end goal becoming more important than the here and now. Ultimately, the pain of managing someone else’s disappointment, that was even greater than my own, the stress and the anxiety took its toll on my health and exhaustion levels, which took me years to build back up.
Amongst all this, I still have no regrets, just reflections. It would have been useful all those years ago, if I had more of the tools I needed at the time to fend off many of these situations better, rather than just muddling through myself with the natural know-how I possessed. It would have been helpful to have known how to be able to effectively remove myself from other people’s stuff to concentrate more on me, to care less about what people thought and to care more about what I thought and felt myself, to allow myself to sit with those feelings more and be OK with them, to be OK with putting myself first sometimes. And mostly, it would have been great to be reminded of who I fundamentally was, aside from the yet-to-be successful baby-maker that seemed to become my definition of all that I was and was not.
I pride myself on having resilience. I lost my Mum when I was six. I learnt to pick myself up and get on with things from an early age. And for the most part it worked. I survived the multiple unsuccessful IVFs, I survived my marriage breaking down as a result of the failed treatments, and I got on with things. Don’t get me wrong there were some shitty shitty times; there were also many drunk times; there were plenty of “fun” single times and I worked through many of those times using my own “self-confidence re-building therapy” which shall remain where they belong in a locked vault of secrets with a few of my trusted girlfriends, but ultimately, the thing that really got me through the latter part of my own healing and out the other side was the Life Coaching I undertook myself, as a client afterwards… post “personal apocalypse” let’s call it. I walked away not only feeling that “I am enough” but truly knowing who I am, what drives me, what makes me happy, what makes me sad. what my deal breakers are, what my “why” is in life, where my purpose lies, not just ‘liking’ but ‘loving’ who I am and what I have to offer. I appreciate having the peace, confidence and awareness to look back at the lessons that this whole crazy journey has taught me and still smile.
It would have been so great to have these tools earlier to make my fertility journey an easier path to walk (or ‘crawl’ at times and if we’re being completely honest, even just ‘be’ – stationary & immobile in those defeated moments where the numbing of a nice cold floorboard against a wet cheek seemed like a suitable remedy, until the moment passed and life had returned to shaky legs and a broken spirit).
It would have been great if I’d had someone reaching out to me when I needed it most, right at the beginning, as a proactive not reactive approach – coaching me, grounding me, helping me to be reminded of the who, what and why that makes up the sum of me.
My advice to any of you going through a similar struggle is: don’t get so consumed amidst the process that you forget who you once were, who you are now and who you still dream to be. I know this is easier said than done but with a little help it can be achieved.
I’m so passionate about helping women (and their partners) maintain a sense of self through the whole process, to remember their purpose, their lust for life, to remember that they are already “enough” regardless of the outcome. Helping people get to this place so much earlier in their journey than I did is so incredibly rewarding to me and that is why I do what I do, why I became a coach myself, why I share my story so openly and why I dare to be vulnerable in doing so, because I know from the feedback I get, it is helping others. Shared experience is such a powerful part of feeling connected and not alone.
If this resonates with you and you need some help, I’m here and I’d love to chat with you.
You’re not alone and you’re already stronger than you know.