Have you been struggling with complicated feelings about infertility?
This blog post is the first in my 2-part series on infertility. Here in Part 1, I discuss feelings that you may be experiencing if you’ve been struggling with infertility. In Part 2, I look at how you might tap into your creativity to help you manage and process your feelings about infertility. (There’s a link to Part 2 at the end of this article.)
So many feelings can get stirred up when you have been trying to have a baby, without success. Perhaps you sense that this difficulty is spilling out and affecting many areas of your life.
How can you make sense of things and find a way to feel more peaceful inside?
Notice and Feel
First, notice your feelings, and let yourself feel them. (This sounds simple, but if you find it challenging you’re certainly not unusual.)
One thing that can really help when you’re learning to connect to your emotions is to practice being as compassionate to yourself as you can.
Seeing a therapist for a while can also help you make sense of your feelings in a way that feels safely contained and boundaried.
Feelings about infertility can include:
If there’s still a chance that you might become pregnant, you have to live with the uncertainty about whether you’ll ever have a baby. You have to find ways of dealing with the ‘what if’ thoughts. The unease and anxiety can be enormous. Read this for some ideas on how to deal with anxiety.
Finding – and being comfortable with – your identity can also make you feel anxious: if you have always assumed you’d become a mother, you may wonder who you are/ will be, without that identity.
It’s not uncommon to feel a sense of shame around infertility, and you may feel that ‘there’s something wrong with me’ on quite a profound level. If this is a particularly strong one for you, it may be very important to work through that with a therapist. Choose someone who you feel is a good ‘fit’ for you.
Pretty much everybody finds shame the most difficult emotion to accept and tolerate. Brene Brown has some useful insights and tips on handling shame – take a look here.
You’ll probably feel different degrees of sadness at different times, and it can come in waves and catch you by surprise. Sadness can range from a slight moistening in the eyes and ache in the heart, through to full blown gut-wrenching grief. Grief over what you’ve lost, and what you may never have.
You may be able to grieve alone, or with a partner or friend, or you may benefit from finding a therapist to be alongside you in your grief – this can feel like a huge relief.
So many feelings can get stirred up when you have been longing to have a baby but find you can’t. Envy can feel agonising, especially if you feel envious of a dear friend or a sister who has a child.
And to make matters worse, it’s so hard to talk about – especially with the person you feel envious of! It’s quite a taboo topic. Often others tend to try to dismiss the envy, listing all the reasons why you “shouldn’t” envy them. It can be hard to find someone who can really acknowledge your envy, without trying to push it away.
Acknowledging and accepting your own envy – whether by yourself or with someone else who can be compassionate and understanding – is the first step towards healing, softening and integrating the envious feelings.
Anger can be a ‘cover feeling’ for something else (for example, without you even realizing it’s happening, you may use anger to cover up your sadness or envy).
However, anger can also be a basic, genuine, straightforward feeling in its own right. Remember, you don’t have to act on it; it may be enough just to ‘own’ the feeling and experience it. Lashing out may feel satisfying and releasing in the moment, but it may not always be helpful or constructive; try and introduce a pause for reflection and mindful breathing when you feel triggered into an angry outburst.
Joy may seem to be elusive. Perhaps you even feel, in your bleaker moments, that joy and happiness will only be available to you if you manage to have a baby.
But joy can be part of your emotional range even when things seem to be against you. Look out for moments of beauty, kindness and playfulness in your day. They’ll be there somewhere… And even if your overall mood is neutral or low, see if you can glimpse hints of joy here and there. Paying attention to the happy moments can prime your brain to respond more to them, and create a virtuous cycle.
If happiness completely eludes you, make sure you discuss your feelings with your doctor. I would recommend too that you find a therapist or counsellor and work with him or her for a while – therapy can make a big difference if you find someone good who you really feel you ‘click’ with.
All feelings are welcome!
You may distinguish all sorts of nuances and combinations of feelings. Maybe there’s love, hate, guilt, shock, peacefulness, stubbornness, greed, despair, hunger, relief… What other feelings would you add to the list?
See if you can develop an attitude of noticing and accepting your feelings about infertility, and you’ll gradually become better able to manage them and not be controlled by them.
To take a look at some practical ways you can tap into your creativity and use it to help you deal with your feelings about infertility, read Part 2, Infertility and Creativity.
Do you know of any useful resources to help women who are trying to come to terms with infertility? I’d love to hear about them. Just leave a comment below.