I’ll be happy when I’m pregnant. I’ll see those two little lines and all the anxiety, worry and grief of the last few years will be lifted like a huge weight from my shoulders. I will heave a great sigh of relief and feel like I can breathe again. I will have a permanent grin on my face, the world will become a beautiful rosy place and the sun will always shine!
I think I am more likely to take another deep breath in and start to hold my breath again, waiting to get to the ‘safe zone’ of the 12 week scan. Our mother’s generation did not believe that they were pregnant until they had missed 3 periods and (I wish I didn’t have to write this but as the 5 foot poster at Finsbury Park station shouts at me) 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. Devastatingly we also all know people who have gone much longer than 12 weeks and still not made it to the medical establishments ‘goal’ of a live birth.
So let’s start again, I’ll be happy when I’m leaving the hospital with my healthy bouncing baby. But the first few months are so overwhelming, I’ll be happy when he/she is a bit more robust and crawling…..…maybe walking….…maybe driving!
My mum will never stop being my gran’s baby, her youngest, in turn I will never stop being my mum’s baby and I will never stop loving and worrying about my child no matter what age. There is no destination to be reached in parenthood, a point in time when you can sit back and say “I’ve made it”, parenthood is a journey to be experienced.
Therefore I have a choice, spend my entire life in a state of perpetual anxiety or, if only for a few precious moments at a time, release the past and gently let go of my expectations and worries about the future and just exist in this moment, the present moment. In truth we only ever live in the present, our past is made up of thousands of present moments strung together and the future never arrives, it is always just now.
Ask yourself why do you want a child? The essence of any answer you give will boil down to:
“I want to be happy, to feel content in my life.”
If we envisage having a child to be a source of joy and we know that once we have a child there is no end-point, no goal other than to enjoy and experience parenthood itself, then does it not make sense that we should strive to feel happy and content on the journey to parenthood as well? Some of you may be shaking your heads and saying this is simply not possible when dealing with infertility. I’ve been there, I’ve been in a place where nothing can lift the darkness of what I am experiencing and everything that used to make me happy has no relevance as described in my poem “The Unborn Mother”.
It was a real eye-opener when a dear friend said to me:
“It sounds like what you are experiencing is grief.”
I have not experienced a miscarriage, I’m yet to see a positive pregnancy test, so what am I grieving for? When I started to think about it, it was so many things, the baby I have not yet conceived, the old me, my life before infertility, our relationship before infertility. A quick Google search brought up the five stages of grief.
This completely changed the way I viewed how I felt, this was normal, it was okay to feel like this. The model is not a set of rules for how everybody experiences a traumatic life experience, nor is it the set order in which you may experience these emotions, but it gave me something to work with. It meant that whenever I found myself back in a dark spot instead of panicking and thinking “I can’t cope with feeling like this” I could be sure that it would just be a matter of time before I shifted into a different emotional state. I felt like I was on a merry-go-round of the first four emotions, denial – “This cannot be happening to me”, anger “This is not fair what have I done to deserve this?” Bargaining “Just let me be pregnant this month and I promise that I will………” and depression where nothing felt real anymore.
Mindfulness is the key that allows me to reach a place of acceptance time and time again and it feels like a sigh of relief, I stop fighting what is. Acceptance of infertility does not mean in any way giving up my dream of being a parent. For me acceptance means being able to focus on the next stage of my journey. I had to come to a place of acceptance in order to proceed with IVF. I fought this step for months as I desperately wanted to conceive naturally. I cycled through each of the stages, denial that IVF was possibly the only way we would conceive, anger that this was so, bargaining, just a few more months it might happen and a major low after the doctors told me that if I did not commence IVF then I was risking the cysts returning and I may loose my ovaries. I needed to accept this reality in order to begin treatment rather than denying and resisting it.
We usually take it for granted that we are not in control of our emotions and for the most part our emotions control us. Mindfulness teaches us to notice how we are thinking and feeling and gives us the power to step back and realise that although we may not have a choice about what is happening to us, we do have a choice on how we respond to that situation. Mindfulness is in essence about coming to that place of neutral, the natural acceptance that being in the present moment brings. You are then in a position to move forward, making informed decisions from a balanced standpoint.
Sometimes what you really need is to accept that you feel angry, upset, jealous! I spent so long trying to fight how I felt, trying to talk myself out of it. Accept that you feel how you feel right now and you may find that the feeling eases. The 3 Minute Time Out exercise is perfect for this as is EFT, journaling or screaming!
Preparing an action plan of how to best take care of myself was part of my mindfulness course. You create a list of activities/mindful practices that will help you to keep happy but also to deal with negative situations/thoughts. My list includes activities such as writing, ringing my friends and having my own theme tune on standby! In films any change of mood is enhanced by a change in soundtrack. It is impossible for me not to feel at least slightly better after listening to “Rain on my Parade” really loudly! Listen/watch now for an instant pick me up! (If you have not seen the film our leading lady has just decided to join her lover who is taking a cruiser to Europe - hence the tugboat! This girl will not give up and neither will I.)
The trick is to not attempt to jump straight from anxiety to happiness, but to aim to shift your mood to a lighter one than your current standpoint. I’ve come to realise that when I have been unable to lift my mood I was just trying to make too big a leap! When you are feeling particularly angry trying to jump to happiness is like trying to go from 5th to 1st gear, you stall and it does not feel comfortable. Just do anything you can to ease how you feel. Ask the question “What can I do to feel less sh*t right now?”
Here is a scale of our emotions:
Love / Joy / Empowerment
Neutral - Acceptance
Grief / Fear / Powerlessness
There are obviously many more that I could add to the list but the above gives you an idea and allows you to place yourself somewhere on the ladder, your aim is simply to shift from where you to a slightly better feeling.
Keeping a gratitude journal has been really helpful for me. Each evening I list five things that I am grateful for. I started with the big things like my partner and family and then kept adding to the journal with anything and everything I am grateful for in life. My list includes the film Moulin Rouge, it's soundtrack and Ewan McGregor! You can include really simple things like gratitude for the dinner you have just had or the fact that the sun was shining. This can be really hard when you’re down, but it does help. A few weeks in and you will have a journal full of all the things you are grateful for in life and the book itself is a visual reminder of this.
In this journal is a statement I never thought I would write:
Today I am grateful for my infertility!
Today I am grateful for my infertility!
That is not to say that I don’t want it (infertility) to end immediately, but I would not rewind time to when we first started trying. If Marty McFly pulled up in the Delorean with the offer I would decline. I am so proud of myself for all the changes I have made and I wouldn’t give that up.
This journey has been the most difficult of my life and is not yet over, I am yet to be pregnant but it has also changed my life. I have changed the way I think about myself, about my relationships and about life.
I can now honestly say that I love and accept myself exactly as I am which is the complete opposite of a year ago when I could not meet my eye in the mirror as I hated myself and my body so much for failing me.
I am retraining and building a new career, one that I love, one that allows me to inspire and support others. My lifestyle is drastically different, I used to travel the country and work long hours arriving home exhausted and irritable. I lived my life on fast forward and only truly relaxed on holiday. I now work from home, walk in the woods every lunchtime and am attending college.
I am now truly grateful for all the good in my life whereas before I could only focus on the lack of. If I had fallen pregnant when we first started trying then my life now would be very very different. I believe that this journey has sculpted me into a better parent for my future children and even though I still have very low moments when fear creeps in, I am certainly a happier person overall.
I hope that this gives you inspiration and hope that you too can learn to embrace your journey to motherhood and remember, infertility is not a thing, in a way it is not real, it is simply a label of a period of time between when you decide to be a parent and when you actually get to be one xxxxxxxxx
I have included a list of activities/mindful practices/inspiring talks/websites/videos that help to lift my mood in the files section of the Mindful Mumas-to-be group page or email me if you would like a copy.