How to Give Yourself Over to Your Fertility Journey: 5 Steps for Letting Go of Your Sense of Failure
The fact that you’re struggling to get pregnant is probably one of your biggest secrets. It’s the thing that makes you feel the least like a woman and the most like something’s wrong with you.
That’s because, despite how common infertility is, it’s still one of the least talked about topics among women. Most people think that infertility is just about the inability to conceive or losing a baby, but there are other facets that come along with this emotional struggle, many of which women are not prepared for. Most of all, is the decision of whether to hold out and keep trying naturally or to seek professional help.
Going through fertility treatment is a rollercoaster of emotions. You invest so much energy, time, money, and heart, into having a baby and there’s little influence you have over the results. Every aspect of conceiving has been taken out of your control, which only creates more anxiety around the most delicate situation you’ve ever been through. You’re likely overcompensating for feeling so helpless by trying to control whatever you can, and often that ends up being elements of your life such as your diet, your lifestyle, and your thinking.
The human mind doesn’t like uncertainty. And when you are coping with infertility, you often end up trying to explain the situation by blaming yourself. So, believing that avoiding alcohol and eating a plant-based diet will help you get pregnant is an external way for you to put the blame elsewhere. Unfortunately, when you spend so much time and energy trying to influence your ability to conceive, you can end up feeling anxious and ashamed if the results don’t go your way.
Perhaps it plays out in your life like this…
You’ve been going through the IVF process for some time now and your latest transfer didn’t work.
You wracked your brain for what you could’ve done wrong. Your doctor had recommended diet changes and you followed them to a T. You eliminated dairy and gluten, and made healthy food choices at every single meal.
Your best friend got married during your cycle so you decided to let yourself off the hook just for that special day and you enjoyed some delicious, gourmet food.
Once you found out the cycle didn’t take, you instantly believed your indulgence was your fault and the reason IVF didn't work. Even though you were certain you had the answer for your failed cycle, this way of thinking didn’t empower you. Instead, it left you feeling like a total failure.
You’re not the only woman undergoing treatment to believe that every tiny thing you do is going to affect the outcome. But something I want you to know is that it’s really unfair to put all of this pressure on yourself. You are a fully capable and wonderful woman and your ability to carry a baby does not change that.
I know that your effort to control every aspect of the conception process is your way of helping yourself deal with the stress, anxiety, and sadness that comes with fertility treatment. But, if you can learn to let go of some of that control, you’ll realize that there are beautiful things about every part of life, even infertility, and if you can embrace this, you might just regain your sense of balance and find some peace.
Keep reading for five steps to letting go and releasing the stress around your fertility process.
The Self-Blame, Anxiety Monster
As the one receiving all the medical treatments and monitoring during your fertility journey, it can really start to feel like you are the reason why you don't have a baby yet. Even if the infertility issues are your husband’s, the fact that you are the home to your unborn baby, and the one to carry it to term, makes you feel like you should shoulder all of the responsibility for your failure to conceive.
Depending on how far you are in your journey, you might be feeling heartbroken and unable to bear any more disappointment. After several failed cycles or losses, it can be extremely anxiety evoking to think about the next round or transfer and for the future. This anxiety is what leads you to do everything you can to try to increase your chances of getting pregnant like spending hours Googling, chatting in infertility discussion forums, and obsessing about a healthy diet and lifestyle.
The biggest downside of not relaxing throughout your fertility treatment is that you start to feel like a failure. As if all the effort and rigidity you put forth is worth nothing. This can be incredibly difficult when you feel like everyone else’s life is passing you by.
At the very least, you continue to feel guilty and blame yourself for not being pregnant. And these negative feelings grow worse over time as your efforts are not getting you the result you desperately want. Living this way can also cause you to pull you away from your family, friends, and loved ones because you’re feeling so worthless. Your infertility has become your focus and it’s the only thing you can ever seem to talk about. You also may find yourself avoiding certain friends who are pregnant or have children because spending time with them just makes you feel too sad.
Control Is Just An Illusion
But infertility doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your happiness.
Although you blame yourself for your fertility struggles, it’s possible to incorporate some self-compassion by acknowledging your feelings and what is driving your behavior. When you do this you can start to accept that controlling every aspect of getting pregnant really is just an illusion and is not actually helping you in the way you hoped it would. When you choose to release control you will feel an immense sense of relief.
Letting go of your sense of failure is one of the best things you can do for yourself while on your fertility journey. It may seem so hard to imagine that anything is ever going to feel ok again, but your drive to influence every aspect of your life isn’t helping. When you choose to give up control you’ll be able to change the way you feel about yourself and stop living under the shadow of blame.
This will help you understand that as crappy as it is not to have all the answers, you will still be ok. You can make peace with your fertility uncertainty by not taking on all of the responsibility.
5 Steps To Letting Go Of Failure
Yes, it is true you may be feeling overwhelmed by your sense of guilt and blame but the key to achieving more peace in your fertility journey is to slowly begin to release control.
Here are five steps to give up control and be present in your fertility process:
#1 Explore your feelings
One of the reasons you try to influence everything in your life is because going through fertility treatments made you feel completely out of control. It makes complete sense that to ease your feelings of frustration and anxiety around getting pregnant you seek to sway every factor of the process.
But by examining these feelings, you can accept that you may have strong emotions about fertility treatment and that this is ok. Here at Postpartum Health & Harmony, we can help clients move through the process of exploring and experiencing their emotions without judgment. When you do this at home, you will be able to access all of your beliefs and feelings around infertility and set them free.
#2 Examine whether control is actually helping
It’s no secret that fertility treatments impact your hormones. Add this into the immense emotional investment you have in each cycle and it makes complete sense that you might act a bit more erratically or irrationally than you normally would. But the truth is, whatever control you think you have over the outcome of your treatment, you really don’t.
There are so many variables that can influence the outcome of every cycle and it would be impossible to control every single one. It feels better in the moment to try to be proactive and do something to help yourself, but there comes a time when this proactivity turns into anxiety. Rather than trying to focus on everything, clients at PHH work to shift their attention to things they actually can control like getting enough sleep and setting clear boundaries.
#3 Develop coping skills
When you’re going through fertility treatments you often forget to keep your mind on taking care of yourself because you’re so focused on getting pregnant. When you let your coping skills go, and stop taking care of yourself, you feel less like yourself and more caught up in the treatments. As a result, treatment success starts to dictate your emotions and self-worth.
When we work with clients going through fertility treatments, the first thing we do is begin implementing coping skills. Often the ones you have come to rely on like exercise and talking with friends have changed because of your fertility journey. In these cases, we work together to determine new ones.
#4 Discuss why you’re taking on all the blame.
Is this a usual pattern for you? Once you dissect whether this is something that shows up in other areas of your life, you can then work on challenging these thoughts and creating a more balanced perspective. This will also help you explore your relationship with your spouse and other loved ones.
At Postpartum Health & Harmony, we will often involve your spouse in sessions as needed. We work on acceptance by talking with your spouse about how you are feeling. If you are having trouble communicating right now, we can schedule a couples session to discuss this together.
#5 Find support outside of therapy sessions
This includes your spouse, a fertility support group, and circle of close friends. Fertility treatment can leave you feeling isolated and alone. By building a support network, you can take the blame off yourself because you will have people around who can help pick you up when you’re feeling down. By trying to do everything and shoulder the burden alone, you are putting an unfair weight on yourself. Recognizing that you alone are not 100% responsible for having a baby, frees you up to take care of yourself better and enjoy life more, even during this stressful time. You'll begin to feel less stressed and overwhelmed once you believe this.
If you are struggling to cope with infertility, it is ok to release some control and to reach out for support. Please schedule an appointment with Postpartum Health & Harmony today.