The struggle with infertility is in many ways a journey. Perhaps it is a journey that you don’t necessarily wish to be on, but nevertheless, it is one in which you gain a greater insight, a deeper intuition, and an evolved sense of self.
I call it a “journey” because no matter what your timeline ends up being, before you are holding your child in your arms, the steps to getting there are certainly a passage through another place, often times physically, emotionally and sometimes even spiritually.
Part of what you learn about yourself through the journey is how you respond to struggle, uncertainty and your general relationship to yourself. It’s easy to get fixated on treatment protocols and ensuring you are doing everything to achieve a pregnancy. You can become your own worst critic,allowing your sense of self “as the problem” to dominate the experience. You may feel a sudden mobilization to fix the problem and there may not even be a problem.
Self-compassion is an integral component that can help make the journey towards motherhood a lot easier. Self-compassion makes everything easier because, instead of layering on more criticism and self-judgment, you choose to let it go.
Self-compassion makes everything easier because, instead of layering on more criticism and self-judgment, you choose to let it go.
Psychologist Kristin Neff was the first person to define and research “self-compassion”, and the benefits of it. She describes self-compassion as kindness toward the self, a gentle, supportive understanding as opposed to harsh judgment, criticism and rejection. This is precisely the approach that can help you move through this journey with more freedom and ease. Your own develop your own inner cheerleader and internal support system. You can do this as opposed to the thought that this will never work.
Over the last ten years, research has shown a positive relationship between self-compassion and psychological well-being. People who have self-compassion have better interpersonal relationships, emotional well being and overall happiness. The research also shows that self-compassion is correlated with less anxiety, shame, and fear of failure. Integrating self compassion on the fertility journey creates a healthy emotional environment during one of life’s most difficult journeys.
You can begin to befriend yourself again using these techniques below.
When you find yourself caught in self-criticism, it is often because you believed your negative thought to be true. That negative thought swept you away into the associated story and all the accompanying feelings. It’s important to remember that the mind has over eight thousand thoughts a day and many of the mare repetitive, automatic and not true. Mindfulness allows you to close the story and come back to reality in an accepting gentle way.
Most of us carry an inner critic that emerges at different times in our life. Tuning in and connecting to this part of yourself is important. Just noticing the inner critic and the tone is the first step before gently quieting it. With awareness you can move to some compassion for the critical voice. You can even thank it for its good intentions. The inner critic wants to ensure that you are on track and doing everything you can to achieve a pregnancy.
You are not alone:
Suffering is embedded into our human condition. You are not alone in this upheaval of emotions. Your suffering is channeled into the experience of trying to conceive. Life is not without suffering. Those around you are also suffering in their own way. Acknowledging that suffering is a part of shared humanity can reframe this experience that can often feel very isolating.
Loving kindness meditation:
If meditation were cheese, loving kindness meditation would be Swiss. Practicing loving kindness meditation can bring you balance, acceptance and authentic inner peace. It is a feel good meditation that puts you back in touch with your basic goodness and love. It helps to release the layers of self judgment towards yourself and others. The traditional loving kindness phrases are as follows:
May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger.
May I be safe and protected.
May I be free of mental suffering and distress.
May I be happy.
May I be free of physical pain and suffering.
May I be healthy and strong.
May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully with ease.
Our brains have the capability to learn self-compassion and develop new patterns of thought or behaviour which inevitably alter our experience. It just takes a little effort. Initially practicing self-compassion may feel unfamiliar, but if you stick with it you will strengthen your self esteem and resilience so you can continue your journey until the end.
Amira Posner is a social worker, with a focus on individuals and couples who are struggling with infertility. She has a private practice, and facilitates the Mind-Body Fertility Group at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. She is also the mother of three miracles. For more information, visit healinginfertility.ca and find her on Twitter and Instagram.
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