Today HAWMC (Day 23) says we can write about whatever we like! Most excellent!
(You can start at HAWMC Day 1 here)
Today I'd like to focus on this year's theme for National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW): Don't Ignore Infertility. Since I'm a therapist, I naturally think in terms of self care and the psychosocial effects inherent in experiencing this emotionally-crushing disease.
Sometimes I'm struck by fellow infertiles who feel ashamed and embarrassed by their emotional reactions to the struggle to have a baby. It's so normal to feel that way! And yet, I am sometimes still stunned.
Just today I received a phone call from a wonderful friend of mine who is going for her first IVF consultation tomorrow (In vitro fertilization; Yes, another acronym. The infertility world is replete with them!). Over the last couple of years, she's had plenty of other things in her life to take care of, and making a baby went lower on the list; even though she diligently paid attention to her fertility health via diet, etc. So, going for an IVF consultation obviously brings the whole baby thing back to the forefront of her mind.
And on the top of her emotional list.
She described a scenario where she recently went to dinner with her husband and several of their close friends (couples). All of the other women there either had children or were pregnant, and as one can imagine, the ladies' topic of conversation leaned heavily on the whole being-a-mom thing. To make matters worse, the way the table was set up, she wasn't even sitting next to her husband!
Within a few minutes, my beautiful friend found herself excusing herself to have a good cry in the restroom. "I felt like such an a__hole!" she said. "It's so silly!"
But, it's not.
It's not silly at all. Can you relate?
I can't tell you how many people I've run in to over the years who felt like their intense reaction to others' conversations was silly; they feel as if they should not be reacting that way at all. They blame the hormones.
(Okay, hormones can play a part in it at times, too, but not always.)
Whether or not hormones are a part of the picture, one is still very much entitled to intense emotional reactions to all things baby when dealing with the inability to have that very basic thing that everyone else seems to have.
Even worse: It's taboo. People feel ashamed, embarrassed, and isolated, because they can't talk about it. They fear being pitied or told "just relax," or "go on vacation." They fear not being understood. They fear their inability to contribute to such conversations makes them appear rude or inconsiderate. Not only are they attempting to conceal their own agony, they are trying to make sure everyone else is okay by not having to console them or stop their conversation. They fear making the other person feel bad. When the agony becomes too much, they leave the conversation. They go to the restroom and cry.
So, in line with this year's theme, I'm going to say: Don't Ignore Your Intense Emotional Reactions to Infertility. Your feelings. They're important, and so are you.
You're not silly.
You're not a jerk.
You're not a loser.
You're not crazy.
You're not abnormal.
In fact you are the opposite of all of these things, and you deserve to feel your feelings just like anyone else.
So first, acknowledge those feelings. Write them down. Blog them! What are they? Here are a few I can suggest: Hurt, brokenness, anguish, jealousy, envy, shame, bewilderment, anger, depression, feeling lost, confusion, frustration, anxiety.
Second, Remind yourself that it's okay to feel absolutely everything you're feeling. Look at those feelings, and know they are transient. You will smile again (even before you have your baby or decide to live childfree).
Lastly, nurture yourself. Imagine that your baby is sitting in front of you feeling those feelings. Imaging him/her at 5 years old hurting just the way you're hurting. What would you do? Hug her? Take him for a bike ride? Go get some ice cream? Color? Dance? Whatever it is....Do. That. Thing.
Don't ignore your (valid, real, normal) feelings.
Acknowledge them (write them down). Embrace them (take them for ice cream). Then let them go (smile again).
You can learn all about infertility through the excellent resources given by RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association. Here are a couple of links to get you started:
What is Infertility?
National Infertility Awareness Week
Until next time...