What narrative helps you cope with infertility?
In the four years I have been trying to conceive my first child I have had many different “tapes” play in my head about why I wasn’t conceiving. I have always been a balance of emotions and logic. Spirit and science. My father would probably say otherwise since he is UBER rational science man but I like to think that I balance my right and left brain fairly well. So, it would follow that my range of “tapes” have gone the full spectrum. From the most emotional “it’s my fault that this is happening because of x, y or z” to the most logical “you have a disease that causes infertility regularly and it is what it is”. From “maybe what people are saying IS true, that I’m not meant to be a mother!” (which incidentally is one of the crueler things said to me more than once…I’m a therapist for fuck’s sake and have 4 pets…I nurture 24/7) to “does this mean that I am destined for a different life and by not being a mother I have to fully utilize my other gifts?” (pressure anyone?) to “maybe you just got a shit hand reproductively and you can do with that what you want, but don’t spend your whole life being upset about one area of your body not working well when the rest works fine”. Thoughts like “nobody gets everything they want, nor should they” have been part of my more recent repetoire, meaning some of us get true love, some of us get great kids (or heck, kids, period) , some of us get a great career, some of us get to live in a great place, some of us get a great childhood, some of us get good looks and a healthy slim bod, some of us get a great sense of humor, some of us are great at math, some of us make perfect SAT scores, some of us are great athletes, etc. But the point is, noone gets all of that. And if they did I’m pretty sure I would have zero interest in knowing them. I have friends that have kids that have shaky marriages (and no not just because they have kids) or divorced, I know people that are incredibly intelligent but don’t have a lot of friends, I know people that are perfect looking but lack any real spiritual depth/self-knowledge. The list goes on. It doesn’t mean that we can’t all ASPIRE to have everything…but really…that would be foolish. Some traits are just in-born. Not everyone is going to be really smart, no matter how hard they try. Sorry but even the most gifted plastic surgeon can’t turn everyone into a Cindy Crawford or Brad Pitt. I like to think that we all have some gifts. I feel it’s important to work with what you’ve got. So I got a shit reproductive system. Okay, yes I acknowledge that I’d rather have a great reproductive system then let’s say have my sparkling smile (hey I got voted best smile in my senior class, whoo hoo!) but in all seriousness….I have a lot to be thankful for. My marriage, despite many tests, and some definite challenging times, is viewed by many as an extremely strong, happy and loving union, most of all by us. My husband is aging like a fine wine…getting more gorgeous, sweet and strong by the year. I have a master’s degree in a field I am passionate about and absolutely love what I do (I am a therapist with a focus on PTSD). I have pretty damn good hair. And teeth. I have a pretty killer style. I’ve got some great friends and family. My dog has a fan club he’s that wonderful. I have a really cute house on an island in Florida by the beach. I could go on. No I’m not bragging. Maybe I’m overcompensating 😉 but it really gets harder and harder to compete in the Olympics of Pain when I have so many things that I DID get. I think complaining and being a victim felt good for awhile. Infertility isn’t the first big slap I’ve gotten in life incidentally. I don’t know what I thought complaining would get me. Sympathy? Attention? Perhaps. I also think it just became a habit. To focus on how life had wronged me. Missing for so long, how life had righted me. Is there a balance in the universe? I really don’t know. But for now, after all the twists and turns of my thought processes, it feels like a better place to be.
I know it feels like this turned into a “be grateful” kind of post that minimizes the pain of infertility. Believe me that is not my intention. Although I practice cognitive therapy with many of my clients as well as myself, I am not a Pollyanna who believes that if you just think good the bad will “poof” disappear! I have suffered a hellish level of pain due to infertility. However I have decided that infertility is not going to beat me, EVEN IF I NEVER HAVE A CHILD. I have this one precious life to live and the thought of letting infertility define my feelings for the rest of my life terrifies me. I am fighting tooth and nail to dig myself out of this pit and find and reclaim myself and happiness.
What thoughts have you found to be the most damaging to yourself during this journey? The most calming? The most helpful?