How do you deal with the disappointment of infertility and pregnancy lossOct 31, 2022
I have never been more deeply or frequently disappointed, than while I was on my fertility journey.
Infertility was like living in a constant state of disappointment. You’re disappointed that those around you don’t know how to support you, and instead offer you unhelpful advice. You’re disappointed that your fertility specialist can’t figure out what’s wrong with you, or won’t listen to you. You’re disappointed at your insurance company for making such ridiculous hurdles to jump over, for not covering enough out of pocket expenses, or for making you wait on hold for hours on end. You’re disappointed at God or whatever higher power is at play – because why can’t it just be easier?! And you’re constantly disappointed in yourself.
And when it happens so often, you start to expect disappointment. You do everything in your power to prepare for it i.e. not hoping, disconnecting yourself from the outcome, pushing it all down and denying it. I did all of the above. But no matter how much you prepare yourself, inevitably, you find yourself at rock bottom.
So what do you do when you get knocked on your ass time and time again? How do you deal with it, and how do you lift yourself back up again?
Here are some strategies for dealing with the aftermath of disappointment.
The first thing that used to happen when I was at rock bottom from a failed IVF cycle, a negative pregnancy test, or even on the receiving end of a pregnancy announcement from yet another person who “wasn’t even trying to get pregnant” was this. I would punish myself. I would list out all the reasons in my head why I wasn’t pregnant, or why others were.
It had to be because I had that glass of wine when we were celebrating my birthday. Or perhaps it was the couple of days I missed my pre-natal vitamin? It was because I didn’t meditate enough, and I was so stressed about that work project.
And then it would become more generalized. We waited too long to start trying. It’s probably because I’d make a terrible mother. It’s because I’m not worthy.
Or the big one…….it’s because I had hope. Here’s the thing I want to say about hope –
HOPE ISN’T THE ASSHOLE………WE ARE!!
Yes, we are the ones who make HOPE hurt so much, because we punish ourselves for having it – we call ourselves foolish, we feel like idiot’s because we were wrong. We can really start going into that territory of self-blame, and we feel sorry for ourselves. And then we get angry at ourselves. It’s a complete spiral.
Here’s the first thing I’d like to say about this. Firstly, if you sink down and get into that horrible place where you berate yourself, you’re not alone. I have never been meaner to myself than when I was deep in the throes of infertility.
The second thing I’d like to say about this, is that it’s preventable. THIS is the suffering that we place upon ourselves. It’s the thing that stings the most. So how do we stop this vicious cycle? And it is a cycle, because when you’ve been on this rollercoaster for some time, it becomes a habit. Those voices become the white noise in the background, and it can feel like we have no control over it. But we do.
Our emotions are a reflection of the thoughts that are going on in our brain. And no, I’m not going to tell you to “just stop thinking about it” because that’s impossible. But here are a couple of things you can do to prepare you for the aftermath of disappointment and self-punishment.
- Write a letter to yourself when you’re in your fertile window, or when you’re about to embark on your IVF cycle. For me, those were the moments when I was feeling hopeful (even if it was a little guarded). If you’ve been doing this for some time, you know exactly how you’ll behave on the other side, when you’re deep in the disappointment. And when emotions are high, intelligence is low. You can’t be logical when you’re devastated. In the letter, tell yourself everything you need to hear, to help you through it. If you had to make a hard decision about an IVF cycle i.e. doing fresh vs frozen, transferring one or two embryo’s etc, prepare for the doubts that may come up around this. Tell yourself in advance, why you made the decision you did, and why it was the right decision based on the information you had at the time. Remind yourself that you don’t have a crystal ball.
If you struggle with that, pretend that you’re writing a letter to your best friend who is going through exactly the same thing that you are. What would you tell her when she started to punish herself?
- Another great strategy is to write down all the things you did right. We always focus on the one thing we did wrong, instead of all the things we did right. So, get out your journal and write them down. Once you get started, you’ll realize just how many things you’re doing. Here are just a few to get you started – you ate a balanced diet / limited alcohol / did acupuncture / took supplements / exercised / saw a therapist or a fertility coach / charted your cycle / had sex in your fertile window etc etc. Then if you went down the path of IVF there are countless other things you did right – organized the cycle / injected yourself in the stomach / took the drugs / lived through the hormonal ups and downs without killing anyone / countless scans.
I could keep going, but I won’t. But you get the picture, right?
- The next thing is to have some affirmations or mantra’s to repeat when you’re deep in the disappointment. You can put them up on sticky notes around the house as a reminder. Choose some that feel good for you. It could be –
I will survive this disappointment, because I have before / With each disappointment I am gathering information and improving my chances / I don’t have to be perfect to get pregnant / I’m doing the best I can right now / It’s ok to feel disappointed, because this is important / This is not my fault / I am worthy of becoming a mother / This feeling is temporary / I am not alone.
- Another trap that we fall into is the anger cycle. Now don’t get me wrong, you have every right to be angry. This isn’t fair, and you deserve better. I spent the majority of my fertility journey angry. Actually, it was more like red hot rage burning through my veins. Which led me to ……….BLAME.
You will want to blame someone for your pain. It’s a normal reaction. If something happens in the world, who’s fault is it? Who needs to take responsibility for this, and fix it?
Which is why we feel anger toward people who announce their pregnancies in cute ways, and who don’t struggle. It’s why we want to hold our fertility doctors to task (and there is definitely a time and place for this). It’s also why we cannot move past the insensitive comment our mother-in-law made 2 years ago – that if you were a nicer person, you’d be able to be happy for your cousin who is pregnant. We have pain, and we want to lighten that load by handing it over to someone else. THEY are the reason.
The problem with this is that it keeps us stuck, it doesn’t actually make us feel better, and it gets us into the victim mentality. While we think it makes us feel strong, it’s ultimately making us feel weak.
And instead of spending our time and energy searching for a solution or a way out of our problems or our emotions, we spend it asking that question……..why me?
And when we answer that question, our mind goes back to self-punishment and self-blame, or blaming others. So instead of asking why me, let’s ask ourselves more empowering questions, like What now? What do I need to do to make myself feel better right now? What is the next step I need to take? How can I do this better?
When the disappointment hits, you’re allowed to sit in it. To feel the pain of the disappointment. This is not about taking away the disappointment, it’s about taking away the extra suffering and self-punishment we tend to pile on top of it.
If you’d like some help through this, you can find this through my 1:1 coaching program. Together we will create a strategy and tangible steps you can take to offload the suffering and take a more empowered approach to your fertility journey.
To learn more, head HERE
Would you like to know more about how you can work with me, so you can get back control of your life and start moving forward? My 1:1 coaching program is packed with information, tools and support. Find out how you can get on the wait list now.
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