How to grieve and be grateful at the same time on your fertility journey.Jun 27, 2022
I don’t think anyone would argue with me when I say that, the emotions we feel as a result of infertility are complicated, right?
Sometimes they are so big that we can’t even comprehend them, or understand them, let alone process them. And trying to explain all of that to other people who haven’t been through it? Forget it!
But that doesn’t stop other people from having an opinion, does it?
One of the lines that gets thrown around so much, not just when we’re talking about infertility, but in life is……..just be grateful.
And it’s because of these three little words, that we feel an immense amount of guilt. Because those words insinuate that we aren’t grateful. And that line says that you shouldn’t feel anything but gratitude.
Which is where I call bullsh*t.
In the world of infertility, it is essential that we make space for both grief, and gratitude.
When I speak about grief, this could be made up of a mixture of emotions, such as disappointment, jealousy, sadness, anger, frustration, fear and longing. The emotions that we’re not comfortable feeling, and that other people aren’t comfortable hearing about either. But this is the path, and these are the emotions.
Forcing ourselves to just be grateful, is merely a band aid. Think of it like an ingrown hair. The grief is the ingrown hair, and in order for it to heal, we must extract the hair. Otherwise, it gets bigger and more infected (sorry for the visual). Eventually, if we don’t do something about it, it may be under so much pressure that forms a boil and it pops (sorry again). Yet people keep yelling at us to just put a band aid on it.
Let me give you a few fertility related examples so you can fully understand my point.
IVF is filled with grief and gratitude.
We are grieving the fact that we have to do IVF, that we can’t merely have sex with our partner and get pregnant. We are grieving the money that we have to spend, the guilt that we can’t do this naturally, and the shame. We are grieving that picture we had in our head, our innocence that getting pregnant would be so easy.
AND we are grateful that we have the financial means and the medical opportunity to do IVF in the first place.
Surrogacy is filled with grief and gratitude.
Throughout our surrogacy journey and our surrogate’s pregnancy, I grieved that picture I had in my head of my pregnant belly. I mourned the fact that I would never feel my son move around inside me. That I couldn’t do this myself. That I wouldn’t be able to forge that magic bond and get to know him before he was born. That I couldn’t breastfeed him or have a normal birth experience.
Yet I was immensely grateful that my sister-in-law had volunteered to have a baby for us. That after 5 years of fertility struggles, I would finally get to be a mother. That we had the financial means to go down this path.
Secondary infertility is filled with grief and gratitude.
We grieve that our family doesn’t look the way we imagined. That our first child wants a sibling and yet we can’t provide it for them. We grieve the time and enjoyment we’re losing with our existing child, because the pull to create another child is so great.
Yet, we are immensely grateful for our existing child/children.
Pregnancy after infertility or loss is filled with grief and gratitude.
You grieve the simple pregnancy filled with excitement and joy, because there is so much fear of loss. You grieve the fact that a positive pregnancy test doesn’t always equal a baby. You grieve the inability to announce your pregnancy and celebrate how you wanted.
AND you are also grateful to be pregnant right now.
Other people don’t understand, but I know you do. So, I am telling you this with absolute certainty.
You ARE grateful. There is no disputing this.
But you are also entitled to want more. This does not make you ungrateful.
Now, if you’ve been following me or reading this blog for some time (and if this is the first time you’re reading it, I suggest you go back and read a few of them), you know that I am about taking action.
HOW exactly do we create space for both grief and gratitude?
Well, here’s a quick exercise you can do to put it into action.
Firstly, grab a notebook and open it up. On the left-hand page, you’re going to write down all the things you are grieving right now on your path. The sadness, the anger, the jealousy etc. Don’t hold back. This is not a place to judge yourself. It is a place for honesty and self-compassion. Let it all out.
Once you’ve done that, on the right-hand page, write down all the things you’re grateful for. The support, the financial means, the opportunities etc. They could be as big or as small as you like.
This exercise is a great way to get balance on our journey. It’s important that we acknowledge and process the heavy emotions, but it’s also equally as important to understand that there are small moments and things to be grateful for too.
It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Because infertility isn’t black or white. It’s varying shades of grey, and a whole lot more.
Don’t let anyone tell you HOW to feel, or what you SHOULD be doing.
Because this is tough.
And it’s not as simple as just be grateful.
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