End of year baby fever
When you don’t have a baby and you are trying to get pregnant, the end of year can be tinged with sadness. To some, it feels like another year of failed attempts. I know because I remember it well! Those childless years felt like a long and never-ending struggle for happiness. I can still remember the constant heaviness in my thoughts and in my life. I could feel my disappointment rubbing painfully against the inside of my ribs as if the pain was bigger than my rib cage. The pain sometimes felt bigger than me! Even as I write this, years later, I wonder if anyone can understand…
Feeling deprived of the experience of motherhood was a lonely experience. Sadness was my secret companion. Now, I can hear my toddler running, shouting and filling our home with her cheeky laughter. Yet I know there are others presently wondering, as I often did, if they’ll ever be parents. They might plaster a smile on their face and a carefree demeanour as they prepare for the seasonal festivities. Yet, behind the mask, in the quietness of their thoughts, there is a space that is not celebrating, but truly mourning another year of hope dying away.
The most common advice
The most common advice is also the most unhelpful one:”Just stop thinking about it and it’ll happen…” It may be a valid advice, but it’s useless to couples struggling to have a baby. For them, to “just stop thinking about it” is far too challenging. Their life is a roller coaster of emotions, which follows a monthly cycle. Even though they know the struggle and cyclical thoughts bring them nothing but anguish and heartache, it is difficult to stop.
In an article published by Reuters Health, Dr. Crawford said: “The relationship between depression and infertility is complex. Many women in our study screened positive for depression.” She led a study at the University of North Carolina. 416 women, more than half of which had been trying to conceive for longer than 2 years, responded to a questionnaire. Her study found that 50 percent of these women felt depressed most of the time, while 41% tested positive for depression.
In 2009, the Harvard Health Letter published an article mentioning two studies about the psychological impact of infertility. In one study, 200 couples visiting a fertility clinic responded. Half of the women and 15% of the men said that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives. In the second study, 488 women filled out a standard psychological questionnaire. This research concluded that “women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.”
Talk about it!
Worse than feeling pain is being intimate with pain. This quiet familiarity occurs when we choose to keep our difficulties close to our chest, like poker cards that must remain guarded and unseen. In the case of fertility, it is nearly impossible to hide a childless marriage or partnership. Sometimes, people around us – who love us – think that the topic of pregnancy and children is taboo. It becomes the forbidden subject! Other times, they mention it too insistently. Feeling under pressure, the couple might respond cuttingly. As a result, we just don’t talk about it properly!
The impact of such silence may be detrimental to some women. The combination of sadness and isolation can even bring about feelings of depression. As Dr. Crawford found in her study, women with fertility issues “who are depressed are less likely to proceed with fertility treatments.” It is as if there is point where the sadness, helplessness and isolation breeds more isolation. She suggests in her interview with Reuters Health that it might be helpful to “start a conversation.”
Sometimes, it helps to talk with a professional therapist or a doctor. It can be the first step to resolving a fertility issue. Some clinics are specialised in assisted reproduction technologies like IVF. In the complementary health sector, you can find counsellors, hypnotherapists, practitioners of energetic medicine, acupuncturists, etc… who are trained to help couples experiencing fertility problems.
Other times, it might be easier to open up to a friend or family member. Is there anyone with whom you can comfortably share your feelings about not having a baby? It should be someone who is naturally supportive, loving and compassionate.
The right person
In this clip, Dr. Brene Brown helps us discern the people who deserve to hear our stories. She refers to stories that make us feel bad about ourselves, and that we keep quiet, as our ‘shame’ stories. Not getting pregnant may not be a ‘shame’ story per se. However, the advice she gives is very applicable to anyone who feels socially isolated for not sharing their feelings about not having a successful pregnancy.
The right person to talk to is someone who:
- Accepts you as you are: they don’t expect you to be anyone but yourself, and sometimes your messy self!
- Listens with empathy: they are present and they understand your feelings but they do not pity you.
- Hears you with boundaries: your pain is not theirs and you do not need to reassure them that you’re okay.
- Allows you to tell your story as it is: they don’t try to convince you that it’s not as bad as you say it is.
- Listens without dismissing your story: they don’t compare it to “worse” events from their life.
- Keeps your story safe: they know it isn’t their story to tell anyone else.
Choosing the person you open up to carefully could help you have a conversation that leaves you feeling lighter, well supported and understood. Feeling better about yourself and your situation is an essential step towards resolving fertility problems.
Widen your focus
Although I practise acupuncture and hypnotherapy, with a special interest in fertility, the most important advice I can give you comes from personal experience. My greatest regret are the years I wasted not enjoying life. Trying for a baby can be mentally draining. It can occupy our thoughts incessantly and in a non-productive (and non-reproductive) way! When we obsess about not having a baby, we are constantly thinking of the lack in our life. It’s all we see and it’s troubling! To achieve a more peaceful mindset, we must balance our longing for a baby with thoughts that capture our interest and brings us joy. If we allow our mind to travel towards more cheerful thoughts, we start reaching out for a life that feels more satisfying. To bring this balance to our mind is to bring it to our body and to our life.
Focus on anything that makes you fall in love with life again!
To love life is to welcome it with open arms! So to welcome new life, you need to focus on what brings you joy. It could be a hobby, a purpose, walks in nature, meeting up with friends, travelling, etc… To widen your focus from conceiving to enjoying life may help you feel better both mentally and physically. If you have been focusing on conceiving and having a child, you might agree that it’s a method yielding limited results. It may be time to do something different! Shaking your life and adding to it new spices of happiness (moments of joy) would bring you closer to a mindset that invites the right resolution to the fertility issues you are experiencing.
Self-care is empowering
Experiencing stagnation in any area of life is challenging. It can makes us feel helpless, disempowered, frustrated, etc… The longer the stagnation, the less confident we become that we can overcome it. For this reason, you need to care for yourself as lovingly as you would care for a child who has been hurt. If you met such a child, would you ignore them or would you make sure they feel comforted, happy and more confident? Would you advise them to focus on what hurts them or would you perhaps treat them – just to put a smile on their little face?
Every now and then, remember to put a magical smile on your face! A smile that reminds you that you are not the person who doesn’t have a baby. No matter how your life looks, you remain a powerful spirit moving steadily towards a solution. For this journey to be easier, you must work at feeling positive and strong, so treat yourself with anything that makes you feel good, healthy and empowered. It could be a session of yoga, a book, a magazine, a delicious meal, a beauty treatment, etc…
You might still have some difficult days, but they will pass. When life feels like it is in limbo, it is best to pause, accept and acknowledge the temporary nature of that moment. The most important thing is the willingness to accept life as it is and to make the most of it! This willingness has the power to pull you away from struggling and trying. It pushes you instead into the arms of surrender – the quiet space where miracles are born!
My journey started years ago when I was younger, newly married and ready to start a family. Back then, I didn’t know that there would be unexpected encounters on my path. I first met doubt. Later, I shook hands with disappointment. As time passed, I befriended despair. To my surprise, fear and helplessness moved in casually and became long-term residents! However, I managed to turn my situation around and I had a few new encounters in the names of acceptance, surrender, empowerment and joy.
This post is my message of hope to all of you who are trying to have a baby. If you are feeling particularly sad as this year is ending, I’ve been there and I know what you are going through. It is a temporary problem. The resolution is already there, in the horizon.
There is so much more I want to express and I promise to write more helpful blog posts on fertility and conception. For now, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a new year full of hope, joy and renewal.
Kingston Hill Clinic offers acupuncture and hypnotherapy for fertility.
Murad Muhtaseb is an acupuncturist.
Fatima Muhtaseb practises acupuncture and hypnotherapy.