In this guide, infertility-warrior-turned-fertility-counselor Amira Posner shares seven ways to cope with infertility.
By Amira Posner
Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of pregnant bellies. I think they are absolutely beautiful. I didn’t always feel this way. When I was struggling with secondary infertility, the sight of a pregnant belly would make me want to run and hide. It was a major trigger that elevated my anxiety and reminded me of my own grief.
I coined the term “fertility inferiority complex.” Anytime I heard news of a pregnancy or anything related to pregnant women, it made me question my own capability. It made me feel less than, and not good enough. It immediately evoked my scarcity mindset.
Today, on the other side of infertility, a pregnant belly no longer makes me feel inferior. My perception has shifted. In fact, I am a fertility counselor and now help other women and couples create their beautiful families. Pregnant bellies now showcase some of my success! Imagine that!
As a fertility counselor, I compiled a list of helpful tips to consider as you move through your fertility journey. There are various techniques, or ways of thinking to help make infertility feel not so all consuming and a little less devastating.
1. Acknowledge the difficulty
Acknowledging that this is a difficult experience will provide you with a framework to help you cope. Seems pretty simple. You feel awful; so acknowledge it. It is completely normal to feel a sense of loss, anxiety, sadness, and a general sense of being overwhelmed. Going through fertility challenges is stressful.
Acknowledging and accepting that this is how you feel can help you move beyond. Simply saying this is difficult, this is hard, validates your feelings as you move through this fertility journey. There is no need to pretend this experience is easy. Recognizing the difficulties, even just to yourself, softens feelings associated with shame and not being good enough.
2. Let go of self-blame
One in eight couples struggle with infertility. It is very common. Although it may be hard to resist the temptation of self-blame, guilt, and negative thinking, staying in this negative place for too long is probably not serving you. Guilt will try to tell you that you shouldn’t have waited this long to start a family. Fear will cause you to look at yourself with questions like, why me? Will fertility treatment ever work? Doubt will make you question yourself and your own self-worth. I say to you: let go of self-blame. Imagine life without it. Shifting the negative self-talk from self-blame back to the present moment creates an instant recalibration.
3. Create a dream team
If you are going through fertility treatment with a partner, this could be your partnership. If you are seeking fertility treatment alone, creating a supportive network with close family and friends can be helpful. It’s up to you who gets to be on your dream team. You should know that men and women will often experience infertility differently. What you want to aim for is to work in alignment, as a team, to uncover practical ways to ride the waves of the journey together.
4. Make your bigger fertility plan
Some couples make the decision from the start as to how many fertility treatments they are prepared to do. Others will spend many years and a lot of money to get to the end goal of “baby”. Creating a fertility plan can help in relieving the stress from one treatment to the next. For example, going into an IVF transfer knowing that you will have more attempts, should the first one not be successful, can provide some comfort. For most, the financial aspect of fertility treatment can be a huge stress. Creating a comprehensive fertility plan takes into account how much you are willing to pay for each treatment and the associated cost. Putting the details on a big chart and adding on what insurance covers versus what you need to pay can help you feel more organized and in control of the process.
5. Seek support
Finding people who are also struggling with infertility is an excellent way to deal with infertility’s isolating impact. Participating in a fertility support group can help lessen feelings of self-blame, negative thinking, and hopelessness. When you have the support of others who are going through a similar journey, your experience gets validated and you don’t feel quite so alone. Research has demonstrated that women who have participated in a Mind-Body stress reduction group while going through fertility treatment have had more fertility success and felt better all around.
6. Check in with yourself
Checking in with yourself on an ongoing basis will make you feel like you are supporting yourself in a positive way. Checking in with yourself means to ask how you are doing and what you need in the moment. If certain celebrations are too painful for you, allow yourself to be okay with not attending. You don’t need to be anyone’s hero now by going to baby showers, or other family events that trigger your negative emotions. If you aren’t up for it, don’t go. But, also try not to feel the secondary emotions of guilt for staying home and avoiding certain functions. Be loving towards yourself.
7. Try big picture thinking:
Instead of being in the depths of despair or incredibly hopeful, put your energies into creating a balanced perspective. Equilibrium. A balanced perspective creates a more equal dynamic so that you don’t feel sad and not too optimistic. You are positive but without attaching to a positive result. Easier said than done and it may take some practice at first.
Assisted reproductive technology leads many couples to keep trying month after month, year after year. A balanced perspective can help create resiliency and perseverance as you work your way through fertility treatment. Mindfulness and relaxation exercises are excellent ways to cultivate a balanced perspective.
A balanced perspective can help create resiliency and perseverance as you work your way through fertility treatment.
Imagine if we could break down each day into moments? We would see the impermanence of our experience. Nothing lasts forever. Everything has a beginning, a middle and an end. It is difficult to grasp this concept while we are going through it. It’s hard to imagine not struggling with this problem. We may not remember what life was like before the struggle. If we slow down and remind ourselves that one day down the road, it will be something else, we will come to understand that this experience is humbling and comforting. So take some time to come back to yourself and see where you are so you can see what’s really in front of you.
Amira Posner is a mother of three miracles and Social Worker in Toronto, Ontario. She works in private practice with individuals and couples who are struggling with infertility. Amira facilitates the Mind-Body Fertility Group.