Lessons learned from a 7-year fertility journey.Jun 13, 2022
It’s been just over 6 years since we stepped off our fertility rollercoaster. To be honest, it feels like it was yesterday. We were blessed with two beautiful children as a result. But the lessons I learned during that journey, and as I continue to reflect on that time, keep on growing.
Because we are in a never-ending pattern of change. The world is changing, our experience changes, our perspective changes, our priorities change. And the lessons I learned along the way keep changing too.
So, I’d like to share a few of the epiphanies I’ve had recently – because they may help you on your journey too.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned as a result of our struggles, our losses, and our challenges along our path to parenthood. Because in order to do better, we need to know better.
I have learned that pushing and hard work is not the best way to get what you want.
It feels completely bizarre that I am saying this. Because I used to pride myself on being a hard worker. I used to love being able to say that I was “so busy”. I’m not saying there is something wrong with hard work. However there needs to be balance. And I was only ever about hard work.
And in my battle with infertility, everything became hard work. It became an obsession. It was all or nothing. I either did everything perfectly, or nothing at all. The only thing this did was confuse my body, and exhaust me. I wasn’t doing things at a maintainable level. Of course, I kept telling myself that I’d rest when we finally had our babies, but I didn’t. By then, it was a habit.
Pushing doesn’t work. Hard work isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Longer hours don’t equate to more output, just more time spent. On reflection, the times when things did go our way on our fertility journey, we had slowed down because we were so exhausted.
Today I am continuing to focus on slowing down. To break the bad habits that were created as a result of infertility. I’m taking better care of myself. Investing in myself with more (dare I say it), self-care. These are the things that are essential, especially on the journey you are on.
I have learned that how you speak to yourself matters.
This makes me a little sad to say out loud. Of course, it matters how you speak to yourself. Of course, you should be kind to yourself. But I wasn’t, and you probably aren’t either.
There comes a point on your fertility journey, when you’re so defeated, your self esteem has taken too many hits, you’re at rock bottom, and you feel like a failure. And when you reach that point, the inner dialogue is just plain ugly. You become your own bully.
Your sense of self worth is tied to your ability to become a mother, and nothing else you do or achieve matters.
That voice is a form of secondary pain. The primary pain is our journey – a miscarriage, a negative pregnancy test, a pregnancy announcement. Those are all painful, and there is no way to avoid the pain. But the secondary pain is the story we put around it and that voice in our head that says – it’s probably because of that piece of chocolate cake you had, or that glass of wine, or because you waited too long, or because you’re not meant to be a mother.
That voice is unnecessary. That self judgement is unnecessary. It causes us extra pain. For me, infertility brought all of that self-talk to the surface. It was loud. And if you accept shit from yourself, you’ll accept it from others too.
Being kind to yourself, and showing yourself some compassion needs to be a priority. Because this journey is hard.
I have learned there is no right or wrong way to feel, period.
We have emotions – some feel good, some feel uncomfortable and are unenjoyable to experience. But we must feel them. All of them. When dealing with infertility or loss, there are huge and conflicting emotions that come up every single day (and sometimes every single moment). There is no right or wrong way to feel or do this. Infertility and loss don’t come with a manual. We are all different.
You don’t have to feel positive or hopeful or optimistic. But it is essential that we feel something real. Because when we push it down and pretend to the world around us and ourselves that we are ok, we create some really bad habits.
I created those bad habits too. I pushed it down and didn’t acknowledge how hard this was and it compounded the trauma. Instead of feeling anything real, I felt numb. And that filters to all aspects of your life. That’s why it feels like you’re completely disconnected and isolated. Because you are.
And while we’re talking about emotions…….
I have learned that being strong doesn’t mean not crying or showing emotion.
So many people on my journey used to say…..you’re so strong. But I wasn’t. My definition of strength was a LOT different back then, to what it is now. Back then, strength was merely keeping up a façade. Pretending to be ok.
Today, for me, being strong doesn’t mean not complaining or acknowledging how hard this is. Or pushing through regardless. Strength is saying, I need help. Or I need a break. Or saying NO to someone and putting myself first instead. It’s being vulnerable. Admitting that you got it wrong. Calling people out on their bullshit comments and insensitivities. Walking away from those who don’t treat you well. Being able to pivot when the shit hits the fan. Giving yourself permission to sit in the sadness, and then picking yourself back up when you’re done.
I have learned that my opinion is the only one that truly counts.
People will always have an opinion. They will always judge you. You will never please everyone. They will tell you to go to that baby shower not knowing the true pain it will cause you, because they are completely oblivious to it. They will say things that make you question yourself. You know, those ridiculous statements of – you need to be positive; you should be able to separate your emotions and be happy for others and sad for yourself; or just be grateful. These comments are just that……ridiculous. Pay them no attention.
They will challenge your decisions and give you unsolicited advice. But no one has earned the right to have an opinion on your fertility journey. They have not been in your shoes, they haven’t experienced your pain, they have not been in the trenches with you. Therefore, they do not get a say.
It’s your right to choose what feels good for you, rather than what makes other people feel comfortable.
I have learned that I don’t know, is an acceptable answer.
While this is a difficult concept to grasp, because we like a closed loop, sometimes there is no known reason WHY. There will always be unanswered questions.
To this day, I don’t know why we had to go through 7 years of struggles and loss. Yes, you can get caught up in that bullsh*t line of “everything happens for a reason” if you like. But I don’t know why I was able to get pregnant naturally after 5 years of struggles. I don’t know why I had a miscarriage. And I don’t know how I was able to get pregnant naturally again and have a baby, after we’d used a surrogate for our first child. Was there a point to all the suffering?
Sure, I have a few suspicions on how it happened. But I will never know for sure. Because there isn’t an answer to that question of Why Me? And the more we need an answer, the more we fill in the blanks and draw the wrong conclusion.
Why are you going through this, and not your best friend or your sister? I don’t know.
I have learned that it’s ok to feel different from all of my friends who got pregnant easily and never dealt with loss.
Just after our little boy, Luca was born via a surrogate, I joined a mother’s group. We would meet once a week to talk about our babies and learn how to take care of them. Everyone was talking about breastfeeding, their birth recovery, and all the ins and outs of it. Given I hadn’t given birth to Luca and wasn’t breastfeeding, I wasn’t able to participate. I had a different perspective. And while they talked about the struggles they were having (and rightly so), I wished I had that struggle too. I wished I knew how hard childbirth and breastfeeding was.
For most people, a baby shower or a pregnancy announcement is a source of joy. But even today, I still have a pang of disappointment. Because I wasn’t able to fully enjoy those things. I have learned that it is ok that my reaction to these is different to other peoples – even today. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad person, it simply means that those things hold a different meaning to me than they do for others. Because I have a different experience.
So, there you have it. These are just a few of the things I have learned as a result of my personal journey through infertility, healing, and from coaching my clients through their journey’s too.
If you’d like to read ALL the lessons, you can find them in my book, The Injustice of Infertility – available at all major online retailers, or head HERE for a sneak peek.
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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