We’ve all had the moment(s). You are engrossed in something – working, exercising, conversing at a meal, folding the laundry while watching television – and all of the sudden a lightening bolt of a thought comes about trying to conceive. This is unfair. I can’t do this. This hurts! I’m scared. What if you never have a child?!?
You didn’t see the storm coming. Now it seems like lightening everywhere and flooding rain pouring down, but your electric circuits – your mind, emotional state, body – are now on fire. Or fried. Or both at the same time.
For sure there is a lot of insensitivity about infertility. Friends, colleagues, the media, and even doctors can sometimes trigger a huge feeling in you. There are also very real difficult realities you might face and hard decisions to make. The thoughts and the reality are not the same. That rush of lightening is the releasing of your own fears, insecurities, anxieties and doubts to the surface. Infertility and other family building challenges are full of ways to bring those out.
It makes sense to resist unpleasant thoughts or feelings. Who wants to think about another month of not knowing; spending time, energy or (a ton of) money on something that won’t lead to parenthood. Never being able to have a child! You want to be positive to keep your energy moving forward, to keep motivated to try again. Why entertain this terrible thought that leaves you paralyzed or depressed? Well, shouldn’t you consider the money spent or if this doesn’t work? What will you do?
And there it is. That lightening bolt became real. You are now thinking about what happens if this doesn’t work.
If you are in a conversation about planning, that is one thing. That is not the case when you are riding your bike, reading a book, or out to dinner.
Thoughts and feelings can be unpleasant for sure. They are the mind and body’s way of getting your attention and this time it worked. Pushing the thoughts away is not a solution. That can be as effective as using an umbrella in a flood. You may actually stop parts of your body from getting wet, for a while, but the water will keep rising. You can say you are just not going to think about [fill in a huge list of triggers and fears here]. However, that doesn’t actually make the fear go away.
You do not have to give yourself over to the thought or feeling either. Engaging with the thought may be like trying to remove flood water with a bucket. The feelings or thoughts can just keeps coming and growing.
The way to deal with a flood is to get to higher ground.
What is higher ground for infertility? First, it is accepting that the angry thought about your insensitive colleague or the painful feeling about your experience is a feeling and it is really there. As unpleasant as it is, though, it is just a thought or feeling. Noticing your thoughts and feelings for what they are is the higher ground. Noticing is the lightening rod that protects your body, the home on the hill for your soul.
The fears, pains, isolation, longing and complications of infertility are real. You need to feel those feelings at a time and place when you area able to encounter them. You need to make decisions about your care, your boundaries and your goals. In the meantime, enjoy dinner, a walk with a friend, watching a movie, dancing and generally staying on higher ground. When it’s time to approach the tough spots, you can put on your raincoat and boots and make your way.
If you are experiencing acute loss or grief, please speak with a licensed mental health practitioner for support.